A Look Back On Golf In 2019
The world of professional golf took many twists and turns during 2019. We’re looking back at how 2019 unfolded with a review of the majors and the WGC Championships, as well as the highlights of the European and PGA Tours.
2019 Golf Majors Review
There was a new look to golf’s four majors in 2019, with the running order swapped around. The US Masters remained the first major of the season, but the US PGA Championship was moved from its long-standing position as the final major of the season in August to the second major of the 2019 golf season in May. The US Open then became the third major of the season in June, whilst The Open Championship became the fourth and final major.
The 2019 US Masters
There was an army of golfers waiting to win their first Green Jacket at Augusta in April. Major champions Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and Francesco Molinari all arrived in form, as did major-winner waiting to happen Xander Schauffele. All had chances to win, but the golfing gods had a different outcome in mind.
Many pundits and punters had written off the chances of Tiger Woods adding to his tally of 14 majors, and it had looked for a long time that he would remain four wins short of the total of 18 major victories set by Jack Nicklaus.
But this was to be Tiger’s Tournament. In the final round, he birdied holes, 13, 15, and 16 to take a two-shot lead and, though he bogeyed the last, a five was enough to secure victory by a single shot.
The 2019 US PGA Championship
Tiger Woods filled the headlines in the run up to the newly situated US PGA Championship, as it was being held at Bethpage Black in New York, the scene of one of his previous major victories. But the course was set up long and narrow, with the rough extremely penal just centimetres off the fairways. It was a layout that didn’t lend itself to Tiger’s errant driving and he missed the cut.
But a driving contest was music to the ears of one of golf’s biggest rising star Brooks Koepka, who showed just how good he is at blasting 300+ yard drives as straight as you like. Koepka lead after round one with a brilliant –7 under 63 and then blasted the field away completely by following that with a second round 65.
A level-par third round kept him well ahead of the chasing pack, but five bogeys in seven holes on the back-nine brought Dustin Johnson into the equation. But Koepka parred the final two holes to win by two shots, with a further four shots back to Cantlay, Spieth, and Wallace.
The 2019 US Open
The 2019 US Open returned to the iconic Pebble Beach Links for what the media were billing as a potential showdown between Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka.
The roars went up when Tiger birdied the fourth hole on the opening day, but a double-bogey followed on the fifth and he never bettered –1 until he birdied his 72nd hole, one of six birdies in his final 12 holes.
By Contrast, Koepka was four-under par after his opening six holes but, whilst he played the front nine in –10 for the week, his level par total over 36 holes on the back nine left him three shots short of another major win. That meant it was left for Gary Woodland to lift the Wannamaker Trophy. Woodland shot rounds of 68, 65, 69, and 69 to shoot –13 under to claim his first major title.
The 2019 Open Championship
The Open Championship travelled to Ireland for just the second time in its 148-year history, with the Royal Portrush Golf Club having the honour of welcoming the world’s best golfers and record crowds to County Antrim.
Rory McIlroy was the tournament favourite and he said it was a tournament that he wanted to win more than any other in 2019. But the pressure told and he missed the cut alongside Tiger Woods and Gary Woodland.
The ever-consistent Brooks Koepka was in the hunt again, with his chances bolstered by the local knowledge of his caddie who had learned his trade on the links of Portrush. But he had to settle for fourth place as Ireland’s Shane Lowry used his local knowledge to blitz closest rival Tommy Fleetwood by six shots with a stunning -15 under total, becoming the second first-time major winner of 2019.
The 2019 World Golf Championships
Class often rises to the top in golf’s WGC events and that was certainly the case in the 2019 WGC Mexico Championships in February. Runner-up Rory McIlroy finished five shots in front of the players tied for third, but he was the same distance behind an on-fire Dustin Johnson who shot –21 under.
The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play returned to Austin Country Club and the top 64 available players from the world rankings split into eight groups of four for a round robin format. The top player from each group progressed to the quarterfinals, with Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, and Sergio Garcia favourites to take the title. But it was Kevin Kisner that went one place better than in 2018 to beat Matt Kuchar in the final.
Players had to wait until July for the third WGC of 2019, with the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational taking place on the Southwind Course in Memphis the week after the Open Championship. Many thought that those who had played four rounds in the wind at Royal Portrush may struggle to readapt, but Brooks Koepka blew the opposition away with a three-shot victory.
The WGC-HSBC Champions was the fourth and final WGC of the 2019 golf season, but not many of the world’s best players made the journey to the Sheshan International Golf Club in China. Described as a ball-strikers paradise, it was no surprise to see Rory McIlroy beat the previous year’s champion Xander Schauffele in a play-off.
2019 European Tour Highlights
The 2019 European Tour schedule started in November 2018, when Aaron Rai captured his maiden European Tour victory with a win in the Honma Hong Kong Open. Kurt Kitayama then broke his European Tour duck with a win in the Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open.
Cameron Smith defended his Australian PGA Championship title, before Louis Oosthuizen won the South African Open before golf took its annual Christmas break.
Shane Lowry posted notice that 2019 could be his year with a win in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, before PGA Tour regulars Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson respectively plundered the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the inaugural Saudi International.
David Law and Ryan Fox then added their name to the list of first time European Tour winners in 2019 with victories at the ISPA Handa Vic Open and the ISPA Handa Vic Super 6. Kurt Kitayama then scored his second victory in the Oman Open.
Two more potential stars, Justin Harding (Commercial Bank Qatar Masters) and Guido Miggliozzi (Magical Kenya Open), got off the mark in March. Scott Hend and Stephen Gallagher than showed being over 40 is no barrier to success by rolling back the years to secure victories in the Maybank Championship and the Hero Indian Open. Jorge Campillo was yet another first-time winner when claiming the Trophee Hassan II, whilst Mikko Korhonen continued his progression with a win in the Volvo China Open.
The European Tour then ventured to England, where the British Masters took place at the Hillside Golf Club in Southport. Matt Wallace looked like he was going to win one of his country’s biggest events, but it was the young Swede Markus Kinhult that claimed the title.
Bernd Wiesberger showed that practicing his putting whilst he was injured had paid off with victory in the Made In Denmark. Guido Miggliozzi then showed he was just as good at matchplay by winning the Belgian Knockout.
The consistent Andrea Pavan made it a third win of the season for Italy in the BMW International Open, and Christiaan Bezuidenhout showed his star is in the ascendancy by having the audacity to beat Sergio Garcia at Valderrama.
It was then time for links golf as John Rahm won the Irish Open and Bernd Wiesberger won the Scottish Open, but neither featured in the following week’s Open Championship
The frustrating Thomas Pieters got back on track in the D&D Czech Masters, and Erik Van Rooyen became yet another first-time winner in the Scandinavian Invitation.
Sebastian Soderburg was then a surprise winner of the Omega European Masters.
September saw some of the best European golfers of the last 20 years step up to the plate, with Paul Casey winning the Porsche European Open and Sergio Garcia winning the KLM Open. Former US Masters Champion Danny Willett then confirmed his love of the big stage with a win in the European Tour’s Flagship event the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Those who knew French golfer Victor Perez was living with his girlfriend in Scotland may well have taken big odds about him winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Tournament. But John Rahm was one of the shortest priced winners of the season when winning the Open de Espana. Bend Wiesberger then became the first person to win three European Tour Events in 2019 with a win in the Italian Open.
Nicolas Colsaerts then retained his European Tour Card with a shock win in the Open de France, whilst Stephen Brown was another big-priced winner when claiming his maiden European Tour title in the Portugal Masters.
The final three events in the Race to Dubai saw Tyrell Hatton emerge from the doldrums to claim the Turkish Airlines Open. Tommy Fleetwood then threw his hat into the ring with a win in the Nedbank Challenge to set things up nicely for the final event of the 2019 season.
Bernd Wiesberger, Tommy Fleetwood, and John Rahm held the best chances to win the coveted Race To Dubai title going into the 2019 DP World Tour Championship. A slow start by Wiesberger put paid to his chances but Rahm and Fleetwood were tied second at the halfway stage behind shock leader Mike Lorenzo-Vera. Rahm pulled four shots clear of Fleetwood on day three and managed to cling on by a single shot to win over €5 Million for winning both the tournament and the Race To Dubai.
2019 PGA Tour Highlights
2019 on the PGA Tour kicked-off with the Sentry Tournament of Champions, with Xander Schauffele rising to the top of a field containing all the winners on the PGA Tour from the previous year.
Plenty of players broke their PGA Tour ducks in 2019, and the first of those was Adam Long in the Desert Classic. But there were also plenty of wins for old favourites, such as Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, and JB Holmes, who won in successive weeks before Martin Trainer and Keith Mitchell broke their ducks in the Puerto Rico Open and the Honda Classic.
Francesco Molinari won the Arnold Palmer Invitational before Rory McIlroy won the Players Championship, in its new earlier position in March. Paul Casey won at the Valspar, whilst Graeme McDowell travelled to the Dominican Republic to get back on the winners’ podium at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.
Corey Connors broke his duck at the Valero Texas Open, whilst C.T. Pan won the Heritage. Max Homa and Sun Kang then announced their arrival at the top table with wins in the Wells Fargo Championship and the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Kevin Na and Patrick Cantlay improved their dodgy wins to tournaments ratio in the Charles Schwab Challenge and the Memorial Tournament before Rory McIlroy added another win to his packed C.V in the Canadian Open. Chez Reavie proved that short and straight can get the job done in the Traveller’s Championship.
Nate Lashley was a heartwarming winner in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, having lost his family at the beginning of a promising career. Matthew Wolff, Dylan Frittelli, Jim Herman, and Collin Morikawa joined him by claiming their maiden PGA Titles.
The FedEx Cup Playoffs brought the 2018/19 PGA Tour season to a close, with JT Poston, Patrick Reed, and Justin Thomas winning the first three events. But though Rory couldn’t claim a major in 2019, he did add around $15 Million to his bank account by winning the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.
The 2019/20 PGA season started in September and there have already been plenty of first-time winners in Joaquin Niemann, Sebastien Munoz, Lanto Griffin, and Tyler Duncan, whilst Brendan Todd managed to get his first and second wins in the space of three weeks.
But it was Tiger Woods’ win in the Zozo Championship that raised the roof, as he drew alongside Sam Snead as the joint-most winning player on the PGA Tour with his 82nd win.