The 10 greatest things that *could* happen in golf in 2019
The end of the year is a time to look back and evaluate all that transpired in the previous 12 months, and though the internet is littered with “best of” lists, let’s be honest: a decent share of our assessments are based in regret—things that could have happened, that nearly happened, but in the end did not. Or, worse, terrible things that completely go against our greatest hopes. A year gone by is a graveyard. But the year ahead? That’s a sown field! Anything could happen, anything could grow, and it is far more fun to look forward with optimism than to look back in judgment.
So now that the calendar has flipped, let’s put an end to our sad reconciliations with 2018, and let our imaginations run wild. What follows are the 10 greatest things that could happen in golf in the coming year. Will they all transpire? Will any of them? The answer is, you can’t prove that they won’t.
1. There will be at least one incredible final round duel at a major
Like it or not, golf is the most anticlimactic spectator sport, and the major finishes we got in 2018 were typical. Rory McIlroy blowing up at Augusta and brief salvos from Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler fizzing out; Brooks Koepka snuffing out the field at the U.S. Open; Spieth laying a Sunday egg and nobody rising to Francesco Molinari’s challenge at the Open; Koepka snuffing out the field at the PGA. Real drama, good drama, is a rare commodity. The last really good two-man duel we had was probably Henrik Stenson vs. Phil Mickelson, but this year, let’s hope for even more. Let’s hope for something Arnie and Jack never quite gave us, and ditto for Tiger and Phil. Let’s hope the two best players in the world, whoever they are, face off in a Sunday showdown that lives up to and exceeds the hype.
2. Bryson DeChambeau will win a major championship
It’s time to face reality: Aside from Tiger Woods—who holds the title in perpetuity—Bryson DeChambeau is the most exciting person in golf right now. With Rory smack in the middle of his “pick-your-favorite-polite-synonym-for-choking” phase, and Spieth still mired in his technical woes, DeChambeau is the man who could rescue us from the Koepka doldrums. What sets him apart is that he has the game and the personality—he’s part brilliant scientist, part egotist, part snake-oil salesman, and all showman. He loves the stage, and judging by the polarizing reactions he provokes, the stage loves him back. It would be terrific for golf if he broke through at a major in 2019.
3. Tiger Woods will win a major championship
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4. One of the new “Big Four” will win another major
A lot of major talk, I know! But majors really tend to overshadow everything else, especially in a non-Ryder Cup year, so you’ll have to deal with it. Earlier this year, I calculated that there are four young(ish) players with a faint-yet-not-entirely-unrealistic hope of reaching the vaunted 10 major mark: Koepka, Spieth, McIlroy and Justin Thomas. If you believe as I do that golf is better when familiar faces are winning majors, and better yet when at least one or two is chasing some kind of historical mark, than you should want one of these guys to take home another trophy.
5. The USGA will somehow top themselves in the “infuriate everyone” department
Watching professional golfers rage against the USGA for the most petty grievances imaginable is one of my favorite annual pastimes, and Phil Mickelson’s performance-art piece on the 13th green on Saturday last June at Shinnecock Hills (Title: “The Funniest Way For a Rich Guy to Pout”) was a highlight not just of that year, but any year. It will be incredibly disappointing if the USGA doesn’t up the ante. And frankly, driving a handful of whiners to say “they’ve lost the course” in their most solemn tones isn’t good enough. I want disappearing holes, or six-foot greens, or birds that are trained to pick up errant balls and fly them back to the tee. I want Mike Davis in a jester’s cap, dancing a jig on a raised platform every time a four-foot putt runs 15 feet past. Embrace your identity, USGA!
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6. The International Team will win the Presidents Cup
The obvious reasoning behind this is that the Presidents Cup is a bore, it’s not going to be fun until the U.S. stops dominating. Unfortunately, that seems surpassingly unlikely since language barriers on the International side make a mockery of any “team” concept for the “rest of the world”. But I have another selfish reason I’d like to see the Americans stumble: the U.S. needs to hit rock bottom before it can start winning Ryder Cups, and in hindsight, after the Paris debacle, Gleneagles 2014 looks more and more like a false rock bottom. Everything that happened since has been band-aids on a massive festering wound, and until the wound itself is addressed (hint: it’s going to involve a ton of soul-searching and revolves around how we, as a country, conceive of team events in golf), history is just going to repeat itself. Which makes me an accelerationist, I guess, but my motive is genuine: let’s make the reality of team play unbearable until somebody has to fix the problem.
7. The U.S. will not suffer another Ryder Cup defeat
I need at least one thing on this list to come true, OK. This is not cheating, this is preparing for success.
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8. The new PGA Tour schedule is going to work out amazingly for everyone
Seriously, I really think it will! The only real problem for the majors was that the PGA Championship lacked a bit of prestige, and from decent slogans like “glory’s last shot” to achingly desperate ones like “this is major!”, nothing really caught on. However, the PGA’s move to May is genius—nobody’s burned out on golf, you can ride those sweet Masters tailwinds, and your stock inevitably goes up … right? No other big tournament suffers for it, either, and in fact the Players benefits from getting to go first. At a time when professional sports leagues seem to be in a constant state of foot-in-mouth, it’s weirdly thrilling to see PGA Tour absolutely nail it, and I hope it’s as good in reality as it looks in conception.
9. Someone extremely cool will emerge
Maybe it’s Cam Champ? I don’t know, but I’m longing for a dynamic figure to throw down the gauntlet this year. Some combination of Tiger and Miguel Angel Jimenez, but young. Someone like we momentarily thought Brooks Koepka might be, until he turned out be either boring or resentful, depending on the day. Someone like Sergio, but without the debilitating neuroses. Someone like Phil, but with an ounce of impulse control. You get the point.
10. The “ball goes too far” brigade will be slightly less tiresome
Look, I’m not saying they don’t have a point. But it’s a little like complaining about how the Internet has destroyed society in 2019—you’re absolutely right, but you’re also years and years too late. Nothing’s changing now, amigos! You’re the proverbial old man yells at cloud meme! Enjoy the bombs!