Tiger Woods' 2019: Golf insiders agree multiple wins, including majors, within reach
Let’s be honest: No one really knows. A year ago as Tiger Woods prepared to tee off in his first PGA Tour event of 2018, few projected he would skyrocket up the World Ranking, seriously contend in two majors and win his first tour event in more than five years. Back then the goals were still modest: stay healthy, make some cuts, show at least a few flashes of his old self.
Now, though, as Woods prepares for another return at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, the stakes have been raised. After playing a full schedule, reporting no ill effects to his surgically repaired back and displaying enough of the ball-striking prowess and short-game mastery of his prime, Woods likely won’t be content just showing up.
So what are reasonable expectations for the 43-year-old Woods in 2019? Well, it’s worth noting when we put the question to our Twitter followers, 90 percent of respondents said they expect him to win at least one tour event, and 67 percent said he’ll win at least two. Furthermore, 51 percent said he’ll win at least one of the four majors—in part, perhaps, because three of the four this year (Augusta National, Bethpage Black and Pebble Beach) are being contested at venues where he’s won before.
Of course, that might just be typical social-media hyperbole, which is why we also sought to canvas a range of golf insiders that includes tour players, coaches, commentators, and other golf executives for their predictions for Woods this year. Most were optimistic that Woods would build on the momentum that began last year, but some were more bullish than others. Below is a sampling of their responses.
(Note: Not everyone chose to offer a concrete prediction. For those who did, the number of wins indicated includes major championships.)
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Paul Azinger, 1993 PGA Champion, TV analyst: I've always thought Tiger talked with his face. So far we've seen business faces, in-pain faces, best celebrations faces and smiles. I look forward to seeing all of them except the in-pain reactions. Hopefully we get longevity face, if that's a thing. Prediction: 1 major, 2 wins overall
Alan Bratton, Oklahoma State men’s golf coach: I say Tiger wins two times with zero majors. I will adjust my major prediction if he wins at Torrey Pines. Whenever he is himself he wins at Torrey so should he win there, then I say he wins three times, with one being a major
Dan Brooks, Duke women’s golf coach: I think Tiger will win three times, and one major. The three wins I'm confident in. The major, maybe wishful thinking. This would be the fewest wins in a year he's won a major, but I just have a feeling. Having won the Tour Championship will fuel his confidence. Prediction: 1 major, 3 wins
Brandel Chamblee, former PGA Tour player, Golf Channel analyst: The big question for 2019 is will Tiger play like he did winning the Tour Championship in 2018. If he does, anything is possible, including breaking Snead’s all-time wins record and winning another major. More likely his driver and putter will hold him back, but he remains almost peerless with his irons. Prediction: 0 majors, 2 wins
'I think he gets back to No. 1 in the world,' — Hank Haney
David B. Fay, former USGA executive director: Tiger will win the 2019 U.S. and British Opens. Apart from any exhibitions he may play in (e.g., that Hero event and any Bruno Sammartino-like "wrazzling" events), I don't believe Tiger will win any other tournaments this year. Prediction: 2 majors, 2 wins
Damon Hack, Golf Channel host: The seal was broken in Atlanta, and in 2019 the Big Cat remains healthy and happy, playing golf fueled by gratitude and the continued outpouring from the masses. Prediction: 1 major, 3 wins
Hank Haney, Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher, Woods’ coach from 2004 to 2010: Everything I've seen from Tiger tells me he's going to win more this year. I think he gets back to No. 1 in the world. Prediction: 1 major, 2 wins
Butch Harmon, Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher, Woods’ coach from 1993 to 2004: I think Tiger will win in 2019, maybe multiple times, depending on his schedule. I'm excited to see what he can do and how much he plays. Three of the majors are at courses where he's won before—Pebble, Bethpage and Augusta—which bodes well for him. But it's going to be tough for him to win a major; it's tough for anybody to win one. I hope he proves me wrong. I think it would be the greatest thing for our game.
Billy Horschel, 2014 FedEx Cup champion: It will be a great year for Tiger in the New Tiger Era and average year in the Old Tiger Era. Prediction: 0 majors, 3 wins
Dan Jenkins, Golf Digest Writer-at-Large: He will win one tour event, if nobody else shows up. He will not win a major for the 11th straight year.
David Leadbetter, Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher: I expect Tiger to perform well this year based on last year's showing. It's tough to predict anybody winning a major these days, unlike in the past where Tiger was a prohibitive favorite. As long as he is able to maintain his health, he obviously has a chance of winning tournaments and possibly a major. My guess is that he will win maybe a couple of PGA Tour events and come close in one of the majors bearing in mind that he has a great track record at three of the courses.
Mark Loomis, executive producer, Fox Sports golf coverage: If Tiger is healthy and playing well when we get to Pebble Beach, he will be on the short list of favorites, but I think experience is a little overrated in golf. There are so many young players at the top of the sport, I think they’ll be hard to beat at the majors. Prediction: 0 majors, 2 wins
Nancy Lopez, LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer: I think it definitely depends on his physical health. People need to understand that no matter how good Tiger is, there is lots of pressure on him from press, the golfing world and himself. I wish him the best! PGA golf is more interesting when Tiger is in the mix. Saying that, I still love watching PGA golf even without Tiger. Prediction: 0 majors, 2 wins
Jim McLean, Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher: Tiger’s game is at the highest level. I love what I see in his putting. Prediction: 1 major, 3 wins
Dan Murphy, President and CEO of Bridgestone Golf: Gambling on sports has been a hot topic recently, but golf marketers have been betting on players' performance for a long time. We're betting big on Tiger in 2019, having him star in 5 spots in this year's ad campaign. My prediction is that in 2019, Tiger wins his 15th career major which would be his 13th career major won using a ball made by Bridgestone. We’re proud he’s trusted us for so many years and excited to partner with him in the next stage of his great career.
Nate Radcliffe, former head of golf club R&D for Nike Golf: The world should have learned by now to never bet against Tiger. I would set the line at three tour wins and two top-fives in majors. Healthy, driven, refocused and only 43, I think Tiger rules the Sunday coverage more often than not in 2019. Prediction: 0 majors, 3 wins
__Annika Sorenstam, LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer: I think he will win, I’m not sure what tournament. I was one of the people who thought he wouldn’t come back, I think it’s impressive that he has. I’m even more amazed at his skills after this. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won a major with his determination. He’s going to be in the hunt. And whatever he does is good for the game. It’s great to have him back.
Sadghuru, Indian yogi, mystic and visionary: If Tiger spends more time upon himself, he should be able to win two to three majors in 2019.
Ed Stack, CEO, Dick’s Sporting Goods: It was amazing to see the adoration and love the golf fans showed Tiger as he walked up the 18th at the Tour Championship. The fact that the golf world loves Tiger again, and all want to see him win, will help him get in the winner's circle three times this year. It will be great for Tiger and even better for golf.
Stan Utley, Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher: I don't think it's going out on a limb to say he's going to win on tour in 2019. He did it last year, and almost did it a few other times. He looks physically there. The majors are at great courses for him, but there are a lot of good players out there. I put him at 50-50 for winning one of those.
Max Adler, Jerry Tarde, Ryan Herrington, Keely Levins, Alex Myers, E. Michael Johnson, Mike Stachura, Brian Wacker, Peter Morrice, and Matthew Rudy contributed to this report