Technically the PGA Tour is already eight frames into a full game this season. But as the calendar turns, it’s time for some bold (and not-so-bold) predictions for 2019:
Tiger Woods will win a major. Depending on which side of the hot take divide you reside, the newly-minted 43-year-old Woods is either miles from that elusive 15th major or just on the doorstep. The reason for the Grand Slam optimism has everything to do with location, location, location. Tiger has won majors at three of 2019’s major venues – Augusta National, Pebble Beach and Bethpage Black – and he also posted top-10 finishes at his last two majors. Fatigue was an issue for Tiger in 2018, but with history on the line don’t expect anything less then full focus heading into the year’s four biggest events.
A player(s) will violate the new rules on green-reading materials. Like nearly all rule violations on the PGA Tour these will be unintentional violations. And considering how the new regulation is written, a breach is inevitable. Consider that the scale and size of green-reading materials are now regulated, but also a player is allowed to use a book that would be in violation of the policy from the tee or fairway, just not the green. An inadvertent miscue is inevitable.
Tour golf will become a popular (and creative) platform for sports betting. With the introduction of federal gaming guidelines, expect to see a bump in interest in the Tour as gamblers begin to realize how much potential action is available during a round. As one Tour official recently explained, other sports feature a single ball and a single bat at any given moment. In golf there are potentially 78 balls and bats in motion at one time.
Cameron Champ will shatter last year’s long-drive record. And it will probably happen this week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. The rookie has already proven himself to be a singular talent who is capable of much more than prodigious drives, but last season’s mark of 433 yards set by Michael Block at the U.S. Open seems well within reach for Champ. “Because of his speed he can hit these shots that really aren’t efficient in flight that carry 300 yards,” said Champ’s swing coach Sean Foley.
Phil Mickelson will do something he regrets. As his stunt at the U.S. Open proved, Lefty is at the stage of his career where he has neither the time nor the desire to tiptoe around what some might consider acceptable behavior. As Mickelson explained to those offended after he slapped his moving golf ball with his putter at Shinnecock Hills, “toughen up.”
Royal Portrush will prove itself a major championship no-brainer. The Northern Ireland gem will host The Open for the first time since 1951 and the current generation is in for a treat. Strategically, Royal Portrush is the most intriguing layout to join the rotation in decades and, with apologies to Turnberry, visually the layout will be the Pebble Beach of all The Open courses.
Top players will skip some marquee events. The roll-out of the Tour’s new schedule will create an assortment of issues for the game’s best and the handwringing will begin early. Starting in late February, players will be faced with playing two World Golf Championships and The Players, which transitions back to March, along with must-play stops in Los Angeles, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Orlando. It will be a similar crunch to end the season and prompt some curious no-shows.
Brooks Koepka will win multiple events and will still be the most underrated player in the game. This isn’t a Koepka problem, this is a perception, with the world No. 1 proving time after time he’s deserving of star status. He may not be flashy on or off the golf course, but his game is good enough to win on any layout and against any field even if a portion of the golf world can’t see it.
The United States will win the Presidents Cup. Although this isn’t a huge surprise given that the last time the International team won the biennial event (1998) Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were just 5 years old. The event will not, however, be a blowout like the last match in 2017 when the U.S. side nearly closed out the visiting team on Saturday afternoon. Despite the move to Royal Melbourne and given the makeup of the International team, there really isn’t much of a home-field advantage. And without a dramatic format change, the event will remain wildly one-sided.
Spieth will end his victory drought. The Golden Child endured the worst year of his professional career in 2018, failing to win an event and not qualifying for the Tour Championship for the first time. There were a number of issues last season, from statistical drop-offs in his iron play to problems off the tee. But with Spieth, it’s always about his prolific putting, and in 2019 the guy who seemed to make every clutch putt returns.