Welcome to Moxie Sports 2019 PGA Tour season preview. Although the season has started already, I like to think the season really turns up during and after the Waste Management Open. A place that I love and have been to the past two years, will be going again this year with some friends (look for the guys in the Hawaiian shirts on Friday). The tournament is unlike any tournament and I’d say the majority of people that are there on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to just party.
With this preview we are gonna take a look at some of the bigger story-lines in golf this year including Tiger, schedule changes, first time major winners, rule changes, and a few players who could make a big splash this year.
In part two of the preview we’ll take a look at some betting odds for tournaments, who I think can win, and who has some good value for specific tournaments.
1. Tiger Woods
This is the obvious number one story in all of golf. Tiger made a full recovery last year and made it through without re-injuring himself and played great at the end of the year. A lot is going to be expected of Tiger this year to win at least one major. If he is in contention during a final round in a major this year, I don’t know if the pressure will have even been as big on him. For some dumb reason Tiger is favored at every major this year because the public are morons. Hi is a +900 bet for every single major this year, the best odds of anybody in any of those tournaments (odds from MyBookie). In 2018 Tigers finished T32 at the Masters, CUT at the U.S. Open, T6 at The Open, and 2nd at the PGA Championship.
So lets look at Tigers major chances this year. He has won four times at the Masters. Augusta will probably always be his best chance to win his first major since 2008. He does have some other good shots during the year though, Pebble Beach is a place he’s won at twice and is hosting the U.S. Open this year. Bethpage Black he won in 2002 at the U.S. open will be hosting the PGA Championship this year. So, three out of the four major courses he has won at. The Open is a wild card because Royal Portrush (main picture) hasn’t hosted the Open since 1951. Where do I like him to win this year? I think he wins multiple tournaments this year including the The Open.
Tiger is still the biggest draw in golf also and one of the biggest in all of sports. As long as he is healthy and playing, everyone who even remotely enjoys golf is going to tune in on Sunday afternoon if he is in contention.
2. Schedule Changes
Lots and lots of schedule changes that could affect who wins what tournament. Lets start with the two major ones.
The PGA Championship is moving from August to May. The PGA Championship will no be played May 13-19 at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course. So what does this mean? Well the PGA is no longer the final major at a time when most casual viewers are all golfed out. It will now be the second major played after the Masters in April and before the US Open in June. The Open (or British Open) will now be the final major of the year and I love it. Cap off the final major.
Because the PGA has moved to May, golf’s “5th Major” The Players will now be played March 11th-17th. This was a good move to move it to this date in March. Although conference tournaments will be going on in college basketball, this is the weekend before the NCAA tournament 1st round. I also like that we now have another big tournament the month before the Masters. Before this, the only “big” tournament would get the WGC-Dell Match Play.
The FedEx Cup playoffs will just be three events now, instead of four which means it will now end in August instead of September. Those three tournaments will include The BMW Championship, The Tour Championship, and the Northern Trust which will rotate between TPC Boston and New York City every year.
Some good news for those Midwestern folks, who tournaments have been added in Michigan and Minnesota. The Rocket Mortgage Classic will be played in Detroit, MI from June 24th-30th and The 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities will be played from July 1st -7th in Blaine, MN. The 3M Open used to be a PGA Tour Champions tournament and is the first one to make the jump to a PGA event.
Some other various tournaments have moved around: WGC-Mexico Championship moves from March to February, the Texas Open moves to before The Masters instead of after, The RBC Canadian Open moves from July to June, and The Houston Open and The Greenbrier will be played during the fall.
3. Will Any Majors Be Won by First Timers Again?
Since 2015, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth are the only two players to win a major that won one previously. There are some big name out there that do not have a major win that will be favorited in all of these majors. Guys like Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Cameron Champ, Paul Casey, Bryson Dechambeau, and Tommy Fleetwood are the biggest names that have yet to win a major.
All of these guys have a great shot but some will have more pressure to win one sooner than later. We are looking at Rickie Fowler for the guy who hasn’t won one with the most pressure. In 2015 Rickie finished T5 or better in every major, finished T5 in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in 2017, and finished second at the Masters last year. More and more you are going to hear how Rickie is a good player but hasn’t gotten that Major win from commentators. There are a lot of older players who don’t have one, but Rickie is a young gun who has been around for awhile and is considered one of the best. The other young guys like Reed, Speith, Thomas, Koepka, and DJ have all found a way to win one, the pressure on Rickie is only going to grow with every tournament. Historically he’s played well at every major tournament. He’s only missed one cut at the Open Championship, PGA, and the Masters, he’s finished top 2 in each of the them but the PGA, and has finished top 5 in all four multiple times.
The other big three I would take from that list are Jon Rahm, Bryson Dechambeau, and Xander Schauffele. Rahm was a hot pick last year to win a few tournaments and only managed to in the CareerBuilder Challenge in the fall but did finish 4th at the Masters and T4 at the U.S. Open. The other two majors, he missed the cut. Dechambeau on the other hand didn’t do well in Majors last year but he did win the Northern Trust and Dell Technologies Championship in August, and already has one win this year at the Shrines Hospitals for Children Open. Dechambeau is coming into 2019 hot and will be looked at as a guy to do well at majors even though he only has three top 25s in six major appearances. Finally, Schauffele will be another name you’ll be hearing a lot of this year. He already has two wins on tour in 2019 at the World Golf Championship – HSBC Champions and Sentry Tournament of Champions. Schauffele in majors has been good – in six appearance he has finished T5, T6 at the US Open, and in 2018 finished T2 at the British Open.
The guy I like to win a major first is Tommy Fleetwood who, fun fact, hasn’t even won a PGA Tour event. Fleetwood has played great these past two years on the PGA but hasn’t been able to finish a tournament win. Fleetwood played great at the U.S. Open the past two years, finishing 4th in 2017 and 2nd in 2018, he will be hot pick to win it this year behind two-time champ Brooks Koepka. Fleetwood played well at the end of 2018 finishing T12 at the Open, T6 Canadian Open, T8 BMW Championship, T11 Tour Championship, and in the Ryder Cup paired with Francisco Molinari ,they became the first ever pair to win all four of their matches. I like Fleetwoods confidence coming into this year, and I think he wins multiple tournaments including a major.
4. Rule Changes
Golf changes rules every year and there are tons to sift through so I’ll try to narrow down some of the major ones here. I have no doubt some odd new rule will come to play in a big moment that nobody has heard of.
- You now have to drop the ball from knee height, instead of shoulder height. This would seem like a good rule change for the majority of people, no more watching Phil Mickelson bend over 5 different times re-dropping his ball because it moved too much when dropped it from shoulder height. This rule has already come into play this year, Bryson Dechambeau is not a fan of it saying “I think that you should be able to go from knee height to shoulder height. There should be no issue with that, whatever you want to do, honestly. There’s a lot of questions about that.” I agree with him.
- Another important one is if you accidentally move your ball or ball marker on the green, there is no penalty stroke. This rule also applies while looking for a lost ball, if you accidentally kick it while searching for it, the ball goes back to its original location. So something like the video below with Dustin Johnson in 2016, wouldn’t have cost him a stroke.
- Players can now leave the flagstick in the hole while putting, from anywhere on the green. Going back to Dechambeau, he has said he may leave the flagstick in on short putts too because he believes he has a better shot of making a putt with it in. Other players have said the flagstick may help some putts not go racing past the hole.
- There is no longer a double hit penalty. If you accidentally hit your ball twice on the same short, you are not subjected to adding another stroke to your score.
- Players can use range-finders or GPS systems unless a specific tournament bans them.
- No more water hazards, everything is now penalty areas. In these areas players can move loose impediment/obstructions and ground their club. However you still cant user your club to improve conditions around your ball, or touch the sand in a bunker with your club.
- Players only have three minutes to try a find a lost ball.
- Players get relief from an embedded ball anywhere but the sand.
- Once a player takes their stance for a stroke, their caddie cannot stand behind them.
- Players should make their shots within 40 seconds to keep up on pace of play. Players can also play “ready golf.” Meaning playing out of turn: if player A is closer to the hole than player B, Player A can hit their ball first if Player B is not ready for their next shot. This should have been adopted long ago. We’ll see how many guys actually stick to the 40 seconds rule.
5. Can Golf’s Two Other Big Stars, Rory McIlroy & Jordan Spieth Get Back on Track?
Behind Tiger Woods, Rory and Spieth and golfs two biggest names and both had sub-par years in 2018.
Rory played in 18 events last year on the PGA tour, made 14 cuts, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitations, took second at The Open, and had a handful of top 10’s also. However, Rory is one of the best players in the world. He has not won a major since 2014. He has played awful in the U.S. Open, a tournament he won in 2009, missing the last three cuts. He has also played poorly at the PGA since winning it in 2014 finishing 17th, CUT, T22, and T50. The one major that has eluded Rory is the Masters. He’s been close the past five years but last year may have been his best shot ever. He entered the final round in the final pairing three shots back of Patrick Reed. Rory shot a two over 74 and ended up finishing T5. Not the best performance from him. It’s time for Rory to win another major if he wants to be considered one of the greats, he needs to end his four year major drought. Maybe Rory needs to go back to being out of shape-curly haired Rory.
Jordan Spieth had a down 2018 also, more so than Rory. Although Spieth had some good performances, a 3rd place finish at the Masters, T9 at The Open, and also had four other top 10 finishes. However Spieth missed cuts at big tournaments such as the Waste Management Phoenix Open and shooting 9 over in two rounds at the U.S. Open. Spieth finished 31st in the FedExCup standings. Just like Rory, fans expect better performances out of Spieth. For the first time in his professional career, Spieth has gone an entire calendar year without a win. So what has been the issue? His putting. Last year he ranked 123rd in putting stats and missed the Tour Championship. Many people have pointed out that Spieth has the yips. Just awful, he has the yips just like all us average golfers out on the course. If Speith gets back to his winning ways, his putting will be much better this year.
If Rory, Spieth, and Tiger all have above average years in 2019. This will be the best PGA Tour season in a very long time.
Look for tournament previews starting with the Waste Management Open every week coming out on Wednesday or Thursday mornings.
PGA Tour Schedule