The 2018-2019 PGA season officially started in October of last year, but no one really starts watching golf until the Waste Management Open which concluded on Super Bowl Sunday. “The Greenest Show on Grass” or “The People’s Open” has enough booze flowing to break the Hoover Dam. And if I didn’t live across the country, I would certainly attend every year.
Rickie Fowler has been great in recent years at this event, but he really took it to the next level this year. As I drove home from The Chatter’s headquarters in Pittsburgh, I listened to his entire round. He’s been known for falling apart on Sundays, and it looked like he was going down that road once again in a rare rainy day in Scottsdale. After taking a triple bogey on hole 11, he let everyone back into contention with seven holes to play. Luckily he got it together and played the remaining holes -1, which resulted in the man with the smoothest swing on tour hoisting the trophy for Fowler’s fifth win of his career.
Golf made a lot of rule and scheduling changes in the start of 2019. It will be interesting to see the results of these changes. In terms of rule changes, the biggest is the ability to keep the flag in the hole for putts. It’s unknown if it gives you an advantage, and we will leave that up to the Tour’s biggest nerd, Bryson Dechambeau to figure out. Besides that, the only other rule change worth talking about is being able to ground the club in bunkers. It gives the golfer an idea of how fluffy or firm the sand is, and it was about time that they made this move legal.
The PGA also made some changes in the order of the majors this year. The PGA’s “fifth major”, The Player’s Championship, moves to March. That is followed by the Master’s in April, PGA Championship in May, US Open in June, and British Open rounding out the majors in July. It gives the season more of a flow and allows for The Player’s to be ramp-up rounds in preparation for the four majors. I think the rule changes and schedule changes will do more good than harm, but we will see how the golfers end up liking them after the season ends.
With the PGA season finally underway, The Chatter’s Senior Golf writer will give a preview since I have the lowest handicap in the company (which isn’t saying much). But before we dive into a preview of the PGA season, it is worth noting that The Chatter’s Commish is seeking a breakout year on the links. Possessing a swing that only a mother could love, he has come a long way since he started hacking around local golf courses a couple years ago. I have been his personal mentor along the way, and I can see Commish breaking 100 at least once this season. But if he doesn’t, I know he will finish first in beers consumed every round. So he can at least hang his hat on that one.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s focus on the guys who will be launching balls for the ProTracer on NBC every weekend from now ‘til the fall. I’m going to feature five golfers in this post, then at least one other post will follow with previews for five more golfers.
Obviously the biggest name in golf is back and poised to have a year circa 2008. It’s crazy to think Tiger hasn’t won a major in 11 years. But it’s time to forget about the last decade of his career and focus on what’s ahead of him. I made a bet with a college roommate in 2015 that he would never win another major. Unfortunately for me he has come back from his injuries and personal issues far better than I expected. I don’t know if he will win a major this year, but I think he will muster up at least one more before the end of his career. He will certainly be in contention come Sunday in one of the majors this year. After finishing the 2017-2018 season on a high note, he comes into the season with momentum. It will be interesting to see how his infused back will hold up, and if he will participate in enough tournaments to give himself a shot at the Fed Ex Cup. Tiger is in fact “back”, and it’s great for golf. I expect ratings to skyrocket in the tournaments he participates in. Hopefully that viewership will carry over to the other tournaments as well. At his peak he was the best player the golf world has ever seen. I don’t think he will ever get back to that level he reached in the 2000s, but even a shell of himself is capable of winning golf tournaments.
Prediction: 2 wins, 2 top-10 major finishes, and will reach top 10 in the World Golf Rankings.
The defending Fed Ex Cup champ comes into the season with heavy pockets, as he won $10 million for his consistent play throughout last year. It’s tough to follow up a year like last with another solid one, but if anyone can do it it’s Rose. He shoots low scores by doing nothing special but everything right. Rose avoids trouble with his accuracy, and if he somehow finds the bunker, he’s top 10 in sand saves. You could call him somewhat of a birdie machine, since he ranked second in birdie percentage during his run last year. Rose isn’t that exciting to watch, but he is a great golfer to model your game after. The first PGA event I ever went to he hit a ball at Congressional into the rough right by me and joked with the crowd after he hit. After that he instantly became one of my favorite golfers. I think he ends up with another solid year in 2019, but not quite up to the caliber of his 2018 season. As Justin Thomas showed us last year, it is very tough to repeat as Fed Ex Cup Champion. Rose is going to be in contention for a few majors, and I could see him sneaking a victory at the British Open.
Prediction: 3 wins, 1 major win, finishes top-5 in World Golf Rankings
The young Spaniard is currently ranked #6 in the World Golf rankings. I expect a big year out of Rahm, and I think he has a legitimate chance at winning the Fed Ex Cup. He already has four top-10 finishes in 2019. His swing is atypical for a PGA Tour player, as he only goes back about 3/4 of the way, but still averages 300+ yards in driving distance. He gets most of his power from his tree trunk legs and the rest from his big upper body. Rahm’s short backswing allows for less variables at contact and is comparable to Tony Finau’s swing. Personally, I don’t really enjoy watching him because of his temper tantrums and odd swing that you can find at your local golf course. But he has shown much potential in his young career, and this could end up being his best season yet. Keep an eye out for this fiery man in every major this year, as I believe he has a good chance of winning the first of his career.
Prediction: 2 wins, 1 top-5 major finish, remains in top-10 in World Golf Rankings
Phil has been the second-best player of the past three decades behind the Big Cat, of course. He’s a few years older than Tiger, but Phil proved he is still a top-tier talent after winning “The Match” in the offseason and finishing first at Pebble Beach this past weekend. His swing still looks the same as it did in the 90s, but it’s clearly stood the test of time. Phil and Fowler possess the most fluid swings on tour in my opinion. Mickelson is currently ranked 17th in the World Golf Rankings, and it’s a pretty fair ranking based on how he did last year and has performed this year. He has already moved up 15 spots in 2019, and I expect him to keep moving up the board if Finau and other guys in his way keep struggling. After winning the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the storyline leading up to the US Open at Pebble will be that it’s Phil’s year to complete his career grand slam. I’d love to see that happen, as it would solidify his already illustrious hall of fame career.
Prediction: US Open win, finishes top-15 in World Golf Rankings
Dustin comes into 2019 sitting at the peak of his career. He has amassed 19 PGA Tour victories, including one major win at the 2016 US Open in Oakmont. Johnson is currently #2 in the World Golf rankings and should stay in the top 3 all year if he performs up to his ability. Him and Keopka have the rawest ability and athleticism on tour, and it’s great to see these athletes live up to their potential in the past couple years. Dustin has always been able to hit moonshots off the tee, but the most improved part of his game has been from 100 yards in. The only characteristic that holds him back is his competitiveness. Johnson is an absolute robot on the course, which isn’t bad when you have the lead and need to remain calm to close out a tournament. But when he enters the final nine holes down by a stroke or two, I don’t think he possesses the will to win like a professional should. I hope he proves me wrong before he gets past the climax of his career because I hate to see a generational talent go to waste because of his intrinsic motivation. In 2019, he will likely be the favorite in every tournament besides the US Open because of Koepka’s recent success in them. Johnson has a decent chance in every major, but I just don’t think this is his year to win his second.
Prediction: 2 wins, 2 top-5 finishes in majors, remain in top-3 of World Golf Rankings