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Once again, the 2018 PGA Tour season was full of excitement, drama, major moments, a heralded comeback, and Ryder Cup glory. We saw first time major winners (Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari), a repeat US Open champion in Brooks Koepka, 47-year-old Phil Mickelson win for the first time in nearly five years, and a stunning Ryder Cup upset as the European team ran away with the victory in Paris over a stacked American team.
And of course, Tiger Woods put an exclamation on his comeback season with an unforgettable win at the Tour Championship, as throngs of fans followed him up the 18fairway in a surreal moment that many thought we may never see again.
After the dramatic end to the season, it’s always great to have some downtime to enjoy the much-needed offseason and reflect on all we witnessed in 2018. But not so fast my friend. After only two weeks off, the new season is upon us, and we’ve already crowned our first winner, as Kevin Tway outlasted Brandt Snedeker and Ryan Moore in a playoff to grab his first career win at the Safeway Open in Napa.
With the 2018-19 wraparound season underway, it’s time to take a peek at what to keep an eye on as we look ahead to what promises to be an epic year ahead, with our Top 10 Stories to Watch for 2019.
What some describe as the forgotten major will now have a prominent place on the schedule, as the PGA Championship moves back from August to May (May 16-19), ideally situated between the Masters and the US Open. This move is seen by some as a bit of a risk, as holding the event in more northerly locations may prove difficult with unreliable weather conditions. That theory will be put to the test straight away with the 2019 version played at Bethpage’s notoriously difficult Black Course in New York State, where spring weather often brings rain and cooler temperatures.
Players Championship Now Front and Center
Also on the move is the Players Championship, the unofficial fifth major. For over 30 years, this championship was played in March. However, in 2007 it moved to May. The move was not a popular one with players, due in part because of the increased heat and poorer course conditions in the month of May in Florida.
However, with the PGA Championship moving to May, the Players will now take its rightful place in March (March 16-19), and with that change, potentially an even bigger audience as it will be the most high profile tournament ahead of the Masters in April.
New Tournaments and Other Schedule Moves
For the first time since 2009, a PGA Tour event is coming back to the state of Michigan. The Rocket Mortgage Classic will be played from June 27-30 at the Donald Ross-designed Detroit Golf Club. And PGA Tour golf is also coming to Minnesota, with the 3M Open played July 4-7 at TPC Twin Cities. Notably, this marks the first PGA Tour Champions event to make the jump to PGA Tour status.
Other schedule moves include the RBC Canadian Open moving to June, while the Houston Open and the Greenbrier will become fall events as part of the 2019-20 wraparound season.
And the popular WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron is no longer. This event will now be the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and takes place in Memphis in late July the week after the Open Championship. With its new position after a major instead of before, and a less than ideal calendar slot of July in the sweltering heat and humidity of Memphis, it will be interesting to see how players react and whether or not some of the top players forgo their spot in the tournament.
Grand Slam Glory
Three players have another shot at the career grand slam this season – Rory McIlroy at the Masters, Jordan Spieth at the PGA, and Phil Mickelson at the US Open. With each passing season, the pressure continues to ramp up on each player to get it done, but time seems to be truly running out for Lefty. Can he put himself in contention at storied Pebble Beach in June?
Brooks Koepka is perhaps the most un-talked about multiple-major champion on Tour. The Florida State product is coming off a two-major season, but it’s still guys like DJ, Jordan, and JT who get most of the pub. Koepka, with his laid-back personality, doesn’t seem to mind, and won’t mind a bit as he heads into next June’s US Open at Pebble Beach looking to become the first three-peat champion since Scotland’s Willie Anderson over 100 years ago in 1903-05.
Tiger is Back
He answered every question about his game, his health, and his mindset this past season, and capped it off with a historic win at East Lake in the Tour Championship. Now the question is not whether he can win a major, but when he’ll win a major. Having proven to himself he still has what it takes to hang with the younger generation and win on the PGA Tour, and already the betting favorite for Augusta, Tiger will have the major championships firmly in focus heading into the 2019 season.
Rookie Watch – Attack of the Camerons
Leading a solid group of rookies onto the PGA Tour, Cameron Champ and Cameron Davis are poised to contend immediately and be front-runners for Rookie of the Year honors. Champ, coached by Sean Foley, is one of the longest hitters in all of golf. His massive drives draw wide eyes and envy from fellow pros, but Foley says he has the accuracy and short game to match.
Meanwhile, Australian Cameron Davis had a fantastic Web.com Tour season, with four top 10s and a win in his first 15 events. He’s dipped his toes in the major pond with a T39 at the Open Championship, and will defend his title in November at the prestigious Australian Open. Davis has a solid game from top to bottom and could be a staple on leaderboards throughout the season.
Don’t Break the Rules
In an effort to make the game’s rules easier to understand and enforce, as well as speed up play, the Rules of Golf have been updated and will go into effect on January 1, 2019. These include areas of the rules like “Ball at Rest,” “Ball in Motion,” and “Taking Relief.” For example, now when dropping a ball, players may drop it from knee height as opposed to holding it out straight in front of them for the drop. Players will now have just three minutes, instead of five, to search for a lost ball. And if the player accidentally steps on the ball while searching for it, there’s no longer a penalty.
For a summary of important rules changes, click .
Changes to the Playoffs
Since its inception, PGA Tour officials have faced the challenge of having their marquee playoff schedule going head-to-head with college and NFL football for TV ratings. The most important playoff event, the Tour Championship, sees its dramatic Sunday finish going up against the start of the NFL season.
One of the key reasons the Tour moved the PGA Championship back to May was to free up that spot in order to move the playoff schedule up and avoid conflicts with football. This season, they also cut the format from four playoff events to three, and will institute a new scoring system which sees players start with a pre-determined score for the Tour Championship based on their FedEx Cup ranking. We’ll have to wait and see whether this controversial move amps up the drama on Sunday or takes all of the theater out of it.
Fresh off a resounding defeat at the Ryder Cup in Paris, the Americans gear up for their biennial matchup with the International stars. What has been somewhat of an uncompetitive snooze-fest in favor of the US may in fact have a bit of interest this year, with the comments made after the Ryder Cup by Patrick Reed about not getting to play with his usual partner, Jordan Spieth. Unless hashed out by the two between now and then, things could get awkward in the team room come September.