PGA Tour season was swift but full of great story lines

USA TODAY Sports

PGA Tour season was swift but full of great story lines

Golf

PGA Tour season was swift but full of great story lines

By

From Kevin Tway’s season-opening win in the Safeway Open last October to Rory McIlroy’s season-ending victory in The Tour Championship, the condensed 2018-19 wraparound campaign was swift.

Some key numbers from the last ten months:

  • There were 46 events
  • $340 million in prize money was won
  • Another $70 million in bonus cash was handed out
  • More than 1.2 million shots were hit

So, as we count down to the 2019-20 season begins with the Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, here are some parting shots on this past season.

The new normal

After delivering the season’s greatest triumph – heck, the decade’s greatest triumph – Tiger Woods showed golf fans what his future might hold. And it didn’t look good. At 43 and following eight surgeries to his left knee and back, Woods couldn’t practice, play and train enough to be competitive after he won his fifth green jacket and 15th major title at the Masters.

Tiger Woods tees off on the first hole during the final round of the 2019 BMW Championship, his final round of the season. Photo: Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

He played just 17 rounds and six tournaments after winning the Masters in April, and he didn’t earn a trip back to Atlanta to defend his title in The Tour Championship, where he capped his remarkable return to the game after spinal fusion with a victory in 2018.

His play was mostly listless after he looked so robust among the Georgia pines. He missed cuts in the PGA Championship and Open Championship, withdrew from the Northern Trust.

Last week, Woods had a fifth surgery on his left knee to repair minor cartilage damage. He is scheduled to play next in Japan in October and said repeatedly this season that in an attempt to play more years, he will play less every year. Likely 10-12 events per season.

Woods has reinvented himself over the years, reworking his swing on multiple occasions. Now he has to create a way forward that will allow him to remain competitive while his reps are limited.

Big Bad Brooks

Brooks Koepka became the baddest man in the game, especially in major championships where he walked down the fairways like John Wayne in a western – confident, imposing and packing plenty of firepower.

Brooks Koepka at the 2019 U.S. Open. (Photo: Michael Madrid/USA TODAY Sports)

Koepka has been a force in most every major since winning his first in the 2017 U.S. Open. He bagged a second U.S. Open in 2018. Won the PGA Championship in 2018 and 2019, becoming the only player in history to ever hold back-to-back majors concurrently. After winning the last major last year, he went T2-1-2-T4 in this year’s majors.

He added his first WGC title, won another title last fall, led the Tour in prize money, is the No. 1 player in the world who will join Woods as the only players to win the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year award in back-to-back seasons in the past 25 years. And while he said some things that raised a few eyebrows, his voice in the game is now carrying considerable weight.

Rory roaring again

While he was silent in the majors – he had two top-10s but was never in serious contention and missed the cut in the Open – Rory McIlroy ended up giving Koepka a run for POY honors.

After struggling to close out tournaments in 2018 and earlier in 2019, McIlroy won The Players Championship, the RBC Canadian Open and The Tour Championship, where he collected the FedEx Cup full of $15 million. He won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average, had 14 top-10s in 19 starts, finished the year at No. 2. He was Rory McIlroy again.

What happened to…?

Jordan Spieth didn’t win for the second consecutive season and didn’t get to The Tour Championship for the second consecutive season. Struggling with weekend woes and looking lost at times off the tee, the three-time major winner had just four top-10s in 23 events.

jordan speith

Jordan Spieth at the 2019 AT&T Byron Nelson. Photo: Ray Carlin/USA TODAY Sports

Jason Day didn’t win, either, and had just six top-10s in 20 starts. He didn’t make it to East Lake, either. A caddie change to Steve Williams didn’t work.

And Dustin Johnson, after winning a WGC in Mexico and a European Tour event in Saudi Arabia, didn’t finish better than T-20 in his last eight starts after taking Koepka to the wire at the PGA Championship.

Three major champions, three former No. 1, three puzzling seasons.

Slow play

The PGA Tour is gradually moving toward a possible resolution to pace of play issues after another season featuring a few staggeringly slow incidents of play that lit up social media.

The PGA Tour will not be pressured to change anything by the European Tour’s introduction of a four-point plan that will start next season and is intended to speed up play. Some changes will be made. We just don’t know when.

Young guns

At 24, Cameron Champ was going to be the next big thing on the PGA Tour after he won the Sanderson Farms Championship last fall. Then he had one top-10 in his next 23 starts. Now the next big thing looks to be Matthew Wolff, or Collin Morikawa, or Victor Hovland, all three who were doing homework in college when the season started.

Wolff, 20, won the 3M Open in his third start as a pro; Morikawa, 22, won the Barracuda Championship in his sixth start as a pro; and Hovland, 21, earned his Tour card in the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs after winning low amateur honors in the Masters and U.S. Open, where he broke Jack Nicklaus’ record for the lowest 72-hole score by an amateur in the tournament’s history.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home