The best, worst, and weirdest from the 2019 major season
It's not even August, and for the first time in recent memory, we have used up all our major championships for the year. On one hand, this is sad, especially in a non-Ryder Cup year. The FedEx Cup playoffs will be fun, but there's a void that will be left unfilled. On the other hand, we reaped the benefits of the schedule change with a jammed four months, starting with the Players Championship in March and ending with Lowry's victory at Royal Portrush. All in all, the new schedule was a success, and now that we've reached the conclusion of the major season, it's time to bestow some superlative honors.
It can only start with one man...
The Major Champion Golfer of the Year: Brooks Koepka
Is this award a subtle jab at the R&A? Mayyyybe. But more than that, it's a celebration of one of the great major seasons we've seen this decade. With a win at the PGA, a second at Augusta and the U.S. Open, and a T-4 to finish things off at the Open, Koepka became just the fifth golfer in history to finish top five in every major within a single year. It's been a fascinating two years for Koepka from a PR standpoint, as he's evolved from "potentially boring" to "expert grudge holder" to "actually a very interesting and smart human being," but the one unerring consistency has been his excellence at majors. If he's not winning, he's coming close, and his name strikes fear in his contemporaries. In 2019, he was the best of the best.
The Story of the Year: Yeah, Of Course, Tiger Woods
No one expected it. Most people doubted it. Some idiots doubted it very publicly. But in the end, it was Tiger stunning and delighting the golf world with his 15th major at Augusta. For the first time in his career, he won a major coming from behind on Sunday, and he did it with the wit and wiles of a veteran.
The Nervy Shot of the Year: Gary Woodland, Pebble, 17
Woodland eventually beat Koepka by three shots, but there was a moment on 17 when things could have gone very, very wrong. Instead, Woodland did this:
The Funniest Pairing of the Year: Koepka and J.B. Holmes, Open Championship
If there's one thing Koepka hates, it's slow play. We learned this year about his hilarious tactic of spending extra minutes in the port-a-johns to get his group put on the clock when he's paired with a slow player, but on Sunday at the Open, there was no escaping J.B. Holmes—a player so slow that when he won at Riviera earlier this year, most of the focus was about his pace of play. To make this unwanted partnership even more uproarious, Holmes went and shot 87. The whole thing was custom designed to infuriate Koepka, and it did—his post-round comments were a masterpiece of "I'm not mad, but actually, I'm furious." He even got annoyed that Holmes wouldn't put his glove on before his turn. These two should get a buddy sitcom.
The Feel-Good, Disaster-Avoiding Champion of the Year: Shane Lowry
It's very nice that an Irish champion won at the first Northern Irish Open since 1951, and watching the crowds surge in behind Lowry as he walked up the 18th green was goosebump-inducing. But I also want to point out that there was very ugly potential downside to the final round, and it hearkened back to the last time Lowry had a four-stroke lead heading into the final 18 holes. At the 2016 U.S. Open, he slipped and slipped and slipped some more until a final-round 76 cost him his chance at a first major. Experiences like that can be overcome, as Lowry proved, but they can also be repeated ... and when they're repeated, it's devastating to watch. Thank you, Shane, for granting us the happy time line, and thank you, Tommy Fleetwood, for your generous sacrifice.
The "Room For Improvement" Sunday Golfer of the Year: Justin Rose
Rose missed the cut at the Masters, surprisingly, so he didn't turn in a Sunday card at Augusta, but here's how he fared in the next three major Sundays: 75-74-79. Here were the scores he would have needed at those same events to tie the winning score: 62-68-65. So, OK, it wouldn't have been *easy,* and the PGA was impossible barring a record-tying major round, but he had a crack at both Opens before spiraling away.
The Nearly Man, First Half: Dustin Johnson
With a T-2 at the Masters and an outright second at the PGA—in which his Sunday charge ended the minute it seemed like victory was possible—Johnson remained stuck in the "that guy has only one major?" club.
The Nearly Man, Second Half: Brooks Koepka
Let's just keep giving him awards. Also, he needs something to get angry about for 2020—there's been far too much praise in the media lately to keep him motivated.
The Sneaky Four Made Cuts Man of the Year: Aaron Wise
This was almost Jim Furyk, but he missed it by one shot at the PGA Championship to go 3/4. Beyond Wise, the Four Made Cuts Club was small: Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Louis Oosthuizen, Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Cameron Smith, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Francesco Molinari, Rickie Fowler, Tyrrell Hatton, Brooks Koepka, and Tommy Fleetwood.
The Four Missed Cuts Man of the Year: Shugo Imahira
He was the only one!
The Disappointing No-Major-Win of the Year: Tie, Rory and Rickie
Rickie would get it if we just considered his results—two top-10 finishes and four made cuts—and the larger career context of still looking for that first major. But when you consider that Rory had a chance to compete the career slam at Augusta and win a home Open in Northern Ireland, and further note how expectations were ratcheted up by his Players Championship win ... well, this is at least a tie.
The Inspiring Friday Round of the Year: Rory
A beautiful moment of collective hope, probably made even more beautiful by the fact that it came up agonizingly short and evinced the two-way love between Rory and the crowd.
The Most Irish Celebration Possible: Lowry
A perfect finish ... as the Irish say, slainte: