By Garrett Jones
We’ve reached the most awkward point in the PGA Tour calendar.
In a year where the major championship schedule was shuffled- the PGA Championship moved to its traditional August to May- this dry spell is prolonged.
Each of golf’s four most important weekends are behind us with the conclusion of Shane Lowry’s dominant showing at The Open Championship at Royal Portrush last weekend. It puts a wrap on what was a year rife with parity, nostalgia, and dominance. Here are a few observations and superlatives from the year so far.
Tiger Woods pulls on all of our heart strings, wins 2019 Masters
I’ll be the first to say: Tiger Woods’ fan club bothers me. I think the conditional appreciation that those who hinge themselves to his success and only bat an eye when he’s in contention is unfair to the sport. His well-chronicled past mistakes in his personal life bring in plenty of criticism from the public.
But the first part is not Tiger’s fault. And his win at Augusta in April did something that sports fan so rarely see in 2019: it united us in sentiment.
Clad in his patented victory red attire, Woods fired a 70 Sunday round to finish off a dominating weekend on golf’s biggest stage. No matter what you feel about him, Tiger turns heads. The television broadcast was the highest rated in years.
It was amazing to see him tap into the player he once was, and rekindle some of his fans’ fondest memories with his dominance. It was the arguably the most consequential win on his elusive pursuit of Jack Nickalus’ record 18 majors, and an unprecedented summit on the most remarkable comeback story for one of the biggest stars in American sports history.
Brooks Koepka was the best player in golf this year
He’s the best player in the world right now, and he has been for over a calendar year. It’s criminal that he doesn’t get more media coverage or national recognition.
Yet, Koepka continues to fly under the radar and contend in every major, no matter what the course, nor the stage. He won the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in May, and narrowly missed out on finishing top-three in every major after a tied for fourth place finish last weekend.
Once an unknown, Koepka has firmly established himself with prolonged success and certainly can keep it going into next year. He finishes the major championship season atop the World Golf Rankings.
Spieth, McIlroy spin their tires in different ways
Another year into their careers, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are taking a similar trajectory.
Both had dominant seasons within the first three years and rose to international superstardom. Both won three of golf’s four majors in that time, just short of the elusive career grand slam.
And, unfortunately for them, both struggled through 2019.
For Speith, the once-automatic putter took a turn for the worse. He hasn’t recorded a win in two seasons. McIlroy dominated at The Players, but slumped in the four majors, culminating with a missed cut at the British Open, but finished ranked No. 3 in the WGR.
Is next year the year for these two to complete their elusive career quests, or have we already seen the best from these two shooting stars?
First-time major winners
If you picked Gary Woodland and Shane Lowry to win the 2019 US Open and Open Championship respectively, go buy a lottery ticket.
That’s not a knock on either player by any means. Both have put together nice careers in the middle of the PGA Tour pack to this point.
But each of their wire-to-wire wins in their respective major championships were nothing short of impressive. It will be interesting to see if the wins catapult them into contention like Francesco Molinari and Koepka next year and years to come.
A new guard right on the doorstep
It was a quiet year out of big names like Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, and Henrik Stenson, but some of the PGA Tour’s young guns stepped right up and pick up their slack.
Tommy Fleetwood, Xander Schauffle and Patrick Cantlay each grabbed the golf world’s attention with a top-three finish in a major, and seem right on the cusp of winning one themselves next year. Other big names like vaunted prospect Bryson DeChambeau rose to 7th in the WGR and contended in majors as well.
No matter which way you turn, It was a big year for golf. See you back for the FedEx Cup in September.