The 2019 Majors: Season Recap
The 2019 golf season is winding down and the 4 major championships have all been contested. This was the first year that The Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and Open Championship were all played consecutively over a 4 month period at a rate of 1 major per month. It definitely kept the action high but some have worried it has created fatigue among the golfers. However, the winners won’t care as they now have their names etched in the golf history books. The following is a recap of the 2019 major championships.
2019 Masters Tournament: Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods completed one the best comebacks in sports history to claim his first major championship in 11 years at the Masters. The win takes Tiger Woods to 15 major championships in total, trailing Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record by just 3. Woods showed himself a contender on the second day as he took his tournament score from -2 to -6, just 1 stroke off the leaderboard. A 3rd round score of 5 under par saw Woods in a tie with Tony Finau for 2nd, with Francesco Molinari entering into the final round with a 2 stroke lead. Watching the final round was a surreal moment, as Woods outclassed the younger generation of golfers he helped inspire as he methodically chased down Molinari to claim his 5th green jacket.
Molinari maintained a 1 stroke lead over Woods until the 12th hole, when a bad tee shot saw Molinari’s ball end up in the water as he carded a double bogey. This eroded Molinari’s lead and entering into the 15th hole, 4 golfers remained tied at -12. Molinari faltered further when his tee shot hit a tree and went into the water on the 15th hole. Woods would birdie the 15th and 16th holes, giving him a 2 stroke lead, and played a conservative bogey on the 18th hole to seal his victory by 1 stroke. Tied for second were Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele. The win took Woods to 81 PGA Tour wins, just 1 shy of Sam Snead’s record of 82.
2019 PGA Championship: Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka continued his stellar major championship form by winning the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course. The win made Koepka the first back-to-back PGA Championship winner since Tiger Woods in 2006-07. Koepka would end up leading the whole tournament, but his win ended up being a little less than comfortable by the final round. A first round score of 63 was followed by a second round 65 to give Koepka a 7 stroke lead over second place. Koepka would score an even 70 on the 3rd round, but rivals could not capitalize on his play as his lead remained at 7 strokes.
While he final round started well for Koepka, his game began to implode on the final 8 holes. Koepka would hit 5 bogeys during that stretch to allow Dustin Johnson to come within 1 stroke of the lead by the 16th hole. However, Koepka would hold on to his slim lead as Johnson would bogey 2 of the final 3 holes, allowing for a narrow 2 stroke victory. The win took Koepka to 6 total PGA Tour wins, with 4 of those wins coming at the majors.
2019 U.S. Open: Gary Woodland
The 2019 U.S. Open was held at Pebble Beach and much of the story going into the tournament was focused on Phil Mickelson. Mickelson had already won in 2019 at Pebble Beach, and needs a U.S. Open victory to complete his career grand slam. However, it was not to be for the 6-time U.S. Open runner-up, as Gary Woodland would claim his first major championship title.
Woodland ended the first round tied for 8th after a solid 68. He followed that up with a memorable second round score of 65 that included a 50-foot birdie putt on his last hole of the day. Woodland still faced stiff competition, and after 3 rounds maintained only a 1 stroke lead over Justin Rose, with several other golfers also still in contention. Woodland would hold his nerve, however, by carding a 69 to hold off a charging Brooks Koepka who finished 2nd after a valiant effort at a U.S. Open three-peat.
2019 Open Championship: Shane Lowry
I think it is safe to say that no one predicted Irish golfer Shane Lowry to win the Open by 6 strokes heading into the tournament at Royal Portrush Golf Club. The golfer had previously won 4 professional events, mostly on the European Tour with the exception being the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. However, Lowry had won as recently as January 2019, and while the media clamored for a Northern Irish favorite perhaps it was myopic to count out the Irishman playing so close to home. Indeed, pre-tournament favorite Rory McIlroy would shoot a disastrous +8 on the first round and miss the cut, along with fellow Northern Irish professional Graeme McDowell while Lowry calmly went about his business.
Starting strong, Lowry shot consecutive 67s to have a share of the lead with American golfer J.B. Holmes after 2 rounds. Lowry proved he was a real contender by shooting a 3rd round 63, the lowest score carded on the course since renovations in 2016. The final round started with Lowry 4 strokes in the lead ahead of England’s Tommy Fleetwood. The weather was atrocious and caused problems for golfers throughout the day. However, Lowry was able to maintain as he shot an even par on a day with few under par scores to win the title comfortably by 6 shots.