It has been a magical year in the golf world. We have so much to be thankful for as fans of this wonderful. As we move through the holiday season, I’ll take a look back at that magic before casting my trained eye on the future and the incredibly tantalizing scenarios that might be revealed as we usher in a new decade.
The top story of the year was a movie we have watched many times before. To be honest, this viewing may have been the best because it has been 11 years since its last showing. Of course, I’m talking about Tiger Woods winning his 15th major championship at the Masters. The number is not the big new,, but that it opens the floodgates for endless conversations as to whether Tiger can equal or surpass Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships.
To pass the Nicklaus record, Tiger must win four more majors and, put into perspective, only 10 players in the history of the game have won four or more in their careers, and three of those took place in the 1800s. There are two players, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, that already have four major trophies in their display cases. With only four major championships per year, does Tiger have enough time to add four more to his tally and can he do it? Will he even win one more? Smart money says no, but I know Tiger has different thoughts.
The major championships of 2019 had so many highlights. One of my favorites took place at the Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. The last time the Open had been played in the area was 1952. The whole country was just bubbling with excitement before the start, and grew more excited as Shane Lowry brought home the Claret Jug. Plenty of congratulatory pints were consumed as Lowry held the trophy overhead. Undoubtedly, it was the most popular victory I have ever witnessed.
The U.S. Open was also terrific. How could it not be when contested at Pebble Beach? I often refer to Pebble as Maidstone West. Another first-time major winner took home the trophy when the likable Gary Woodland got the job done.
Defending champion Koepka secured his fourth major title in his back-to-back PGA Championship win. If he returns fully fit from his current knee injury, and I expect he will, I think he has a realistic shot at winning double-digit majors.
One player still seeking his first major is Matt Kuchar. The always-smiling Kuchar is always around the top of the leaderboard, but so far, just hasn’t been able to close the deal for the win. Over the last 10 years, Kuchar has played in 244 events, finishing in the Top 10 86 times. In fact, in the last decade, he has made the cut in 91 percent of the events he entered.
Earlier this year, the 2016 Open Champion Henrik Stenson lost his form and his world ranking plunged. At the end of 2018, he was ranked 26th. Coming into the Hero World Challenge, it was down to 42nd. Well, a win cures most ills, and Stenson is trending upward once again and is back to where he started this year, at 26th.
Pete Cowen, Stenson’s longtime instructor and one of the best teachers in the game, had a most unusual plan to help him regain form. I must admit it was a strange sight watching Stenson hit balls on the range while wearing a blindfold. I think that earns the tagline, “Don’t try this at home.”
This week, the biennial team competition, The Presidents Cup, will take place in Melbourne, Australia. In the 13 previous cups, the U.S. has won 11, tied one, and lost just one. On paper, before the competition begins, the U.S. is expected to win quite easily, however, as we all know, anything can happen. I’m going to thoroughly enjoy watching Tiger manage his dual role of player and captain.