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2019 Primer: Will Tiger get his 15th?

Masters.com

The big question for 2019: Will Tiger win a major this year? Showing no issues with his back, Tiger got stronger as the year went along in 2018. In fact, he closed out with a bang, winning the Tour Championship Tournament, proving he can compete with the young guns. What follows is my bold predictions for the Majors and other things to watch for in 2019.

The Masters-April 11-14: Rory McIlroy

Last year the golfing world cried when Sergio Garcia put the green jacket on Patrick Reed's shoulders. The fans will be happy to see anyone but Reed win this year at Augusta National, and no one will be happier to take the green jacket from Captain America than Rory McIlroy. Rory told the press that he will focus on playing more golf in the states this year, as well as playing the week before every major, something that he has never done before. And since he has changed to a spider putter, his putting, long a weak part of his game, has made tremendous strides. With just a decent week with the flat-stick, Rory will complete his career grand slam at the Masters.

PGA Championship-May 16-19: Matt Kuchar

A different look for the PGA Championship this year, as it changes from the last major of the year to the second. The tournament is headed to the big apple, where Bethpage Black hosts the tournament for the first time. Bethpage Black was the host of 2 US Opens (2002, 2009) as well as the Barclays (2012, 2016).

With massive crowds likely on hand, the prediction here is that they will be chanting KOOOOOCH on Sunday. Mr. calm, cool and collected will finally break through to win his first major.

Kuchar's great ball-striking and tremendous putting are a good fit at Bethpage, where the fairways and greens are relatively small. Kuchar has already won twice this season, with a win in Mexico at the Mayakoba Classic and the Sony Open in Hawaii, so he looks to be in good form already. If that form keeps up, it will be Matt Kuchar hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy on May 19th.

US Open-June 13-16: Tiger Woods

Pebble Beach hosts the US Open this year, and the scoring should be much lower than last year's debacle at Shinnecock Hills. Pebble Beach plays into the games of two of the most prominent golfers in the world: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Tiger looks to get his first major win since 2008. In the 2010 US Open Tiger finished T-4 here and won in 2000 by 15 strokes. Pebble sets up for Tiger's game, and there is no better time for Tiger to show he is back than at a course which he eats up. Tiger's "frenemy", Phil Mickelson, also loves the coast of Cali and is looking to breakthrough for his career grand slam on his birthday. It would not be a shock to see Tiger and Phil battling it out on Sunday just like old times. No one is better at closing tournaments than Tiger Woods, and if he has the lead going into the back nine on Sunday, Tiger looks to add another major win to his milestone.

The Open Championship-July 18-21: Xander Schauffele

This is going to be the year of Xander Schauffele. He already won the first tournament of the year at Kapalua and really has no flaws in his game. He hits it long and low along with a phenomenal short game. Last year at The Open, Xander finished 2nd to Molinari and in 2017 had a top-25 finish. Granted, Carnoustie and Royal Birkdale are different from Royal Portrush, but Xander enjoys taking the trip across the pond and playing links style golf. The Irish will be all over the home favorite Rory McIlroy, so Xander will be under the radar going into The Open. Do not be shocked to see Schauffele taking a sip out of the Claret Jug by the end of the weekend.

Other:

A new year brings along new rules for the 2019 PGA Tour season. One major rule change includes keeping the flagstick in while putting. Bryson DeChambeau is one of the few golfers who is using the new rule change to his advantage. We'll see whether the science in DeChambeau's head has gone too far, as the former SMU golfer looks to add on his 6th career win.

Another question mark going into the new year is what will happen to Jordan Spieth? Jordan had his first "human" year on the PGA Tour in his short but phenomenal career. Will he bounce back or will the yips haunt him for another year? 2019 is in store for some wild finishes and controversy, but with so much talent brewing, it could be the best year in golf history.

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

As things continue to relax as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, a return to a semblance of normalcy seems imminent. The NBA has some parameters in place for a potential return. Training camps are set to open late this month and the season is supposed to open July 31. Whether that's the rumored Disney-centered one-stop shop or another form, they have a plan in place to return. There's also no argument between the league and players going back and forth about money either (MLB could learn a lesson here).

So when it comes to the potential return, how does that fare for the local team? The Rockets were 40-24 and tied for the fifth seed in the West when the season was shut down. Since they're getting ready to return potentially, we need to be looking at what chances they may have in making a run in the playoffs towards an NBA title.



Harden's new physique

According to his new trainer, James Harden has done more cardio workouts and lost some weight. Specifically, he's done more football player workouts as opposed to basketball player workouts. There was a pic of Harden floating around showing an obvious loss of weight. His new-found cardio and weight loss could mean more late-game and late-season success for Harden and the Rockets.

Westbrook's edge

Russell Westbrook has a competitive fire that can't be put out. It's like one of those never-ending burning torches you see at monuments. He wants nothing more than to prove he's a winner on a high level. Given that he's reunited with a long time friend in Harden, his competitive nature could help fill the gap where Harden may lack. These two have proven they can coexist very well this season. Now could be their time to take surge.

Small-ball

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela, they fully committed to small-ball. There were times they didn't have a guy in the lineup over 6'5. The tallest guy that gets regular time is roughly 6'8. The smaller, quicker lineup is an advantage on the offensive end, but can be a huge liability on the defensive end. Given the stoppage and restart of the season, it could help them. Suppose other teams are sluggish and can't get their chemistry straight. Houston's advantage is that they go through one or two guys and eat off their shooting. Shooting can be worked on during times like these, whereas other aspects of your game can't.


I'm not saying the Rockets have a built-in advantage, but they have as good a shot as they've ever had in the past. The field is wide open to any team that's in the playoff hunt. No team will have a built-in advantage over others. With the Rockets' unique brand of ball, they may be able to make a run at a title this season. Couple that with Harden's weight loss and Westbrook's competitive nature, it could be very interesting. Whenever the NBA comes back this season, which I believe they will, I think this team has a legit shot at winning it all.

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