Tiger Woods encore, Jordan Spieth’s rebound and more 2019 golf storylines to watch
By Kyle Porter
What will take place over the 12 months as the schedule changes and new superstars are assimilated
The 2018-19 PGA Tour season already started, but it really starts next week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That’s when a lot of the big-name winners from 2018 will play at Kapalua to start off the 2019 golf calendar year. Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson will be there, and Tiger Woods might even make an appearance.
Regardless, with a condensed 2019 calendar for the PGA Tour, things are going to be fast and furious for the next nine months leading up to and including a revamped Tour Championship. There are approximately 1 million storylines for the coming year, but I tried to cull that down to nine (or so) that I’m most intrigued by as the calendar flips. Here they are.
1. Tiger Woods’ encore: Obviously, this will top everybody’s list this time of year. While it’s my No. 1 personal preference, what Woods does in 2019 is so overwhelmingly interesting that it engulfs both any other stories I might be partial to and pretty much everything else in golf. The interesting part about Woods in 2019 is that everything is kind of still on the table. When the variance is that wide-ranging and the subject that famous, it makes for the greatest drama.
2. Jordan Spieth’s rebound: Of all the players who were down in 2018, Spieth is both the best player and also the one most likely to rebound in 2019. Again, all of this is relative because his 2018 wasn’t that bad, but his first few months as the Masters comes into focus is something I’ll be diving into pretty vociferously.
3. Will Brooks be beloved (and will he get his third straight U.S. Open)? I both get it and don’t get it. Maybe it’s dumb to have a storyline like this this high on my list, but if Brooks Koepka keeps up the pace he’s on and the general public continues to not care, we’re going to have a pretty unprecedented situation on our hands. He’ll go for his third consecutive U.S. Open victory at Pebble Beach in June. Nobody has ever won three in a row, and only six golfers ever have won three total.
4. This year’s Koepka: There are so many candidates for who could win a pair of majors or, say, win five PGA Tour events. Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm … the list goes on and on. Maybe the answer at the end of 2019 will simply be “nobody,” but nearly every season is owned by one guy. Last year it was Koepka. Before that, it was Thomas with five wins and a major. Dustin Johnson with three and a major before that. Spieth with five and two majors. You get the point. I’m curious to see who that person is in 2019.
5. That major rota! (and the new slate): The new PGA Tour schedule has the Players Championship in March and the PGA Championship in May. That will be interesting and, I think, provide a better rhythm for the year. It also allows the European Tour to backload its schedule, which will be better for the health of golf globally. Oh, and look at these four major courses:
- Masters: Augusta National
- PGA Championship: Bethpage Black
- U.S. Open: Pebble Beach
- Open Championship: Royal Portrush
That’s three of the top 40 courses in the U.S. according to Golf Digest, and the No. 7 non-American course.
6. Justin Rose vs. D.J.: This is kind of a weird one because nobody to my knowledge ever talks about Dustin Johnson vs. Justin Rose. However, their career resumes are pretty similar. Rose has won 23 times worldwide, has 15 top 10s at majors, one major win (a U.S. Open) and is one of 23 players who has been ranked No. 1 in the world. Johnson has won 20 times worldwide, has 15 top 10s at majors, one major win (a U.S. Open) and is one of 23 players who has been ranked No. 1 in the world. The big question for me for two of the five best players alive is whether one of them can get to two or three major championships. That would set that player apart from what has become a pretty comparable peer.
7. More money matches: With the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson match in the bag and others apparently on the horizon, I have a lot of questions. Will there be undercards? Will Lefty and Woods face off again? Does there always need to be $9 million on the line? It’s a sideshow, sure, but it might be the most interesting sideshow going in golf right now, and where it lands in 2019 could tell us a lot about where it lands for the next decade.
8. Cam Champ’s trajectory: He’s probably the most well known of the mega young potential superstars, although he might not be the most likely candidate to step into the role (can I introduce you to Norman Xiong and Matthew Wolff?). After a win in the fall, he’ll create a buzz in Hawaii when Tiger (if he plays) and others start talking about how spectacularly long he is off the tee. Anything is possible for somebody who seems to be just stepping into who he’ll become.
9. Equipment rollback? I’m sort of bored by this because it seems like we talk about it every year, but nothing ever really happens. The drum beat did seem a little louder in 2018 than it has before. Will 2019 bring about change? Probably not, but it means we’re a little closer to whatever the eventual solution will be.
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