PGA 2019-20 Season Preview: The Majors
For all the schedule changes, FedEx Cup Playoffs, Olympics, and World Golf Championships events that have changed professional golf over its long history, four events still carry a level of unmatched significance: the majors.
They are the reason some, perhaps ridiculously, still refuse to concede that Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of all time. They are the dividing line between the good and the great, and as Brooks Koepka might say, they are what makes rivalries on the PGA Tour.
Below we'll dive into each of this year's tournaments and venues, and based on history and course fit, lay out which favorite is worth backing, what golfer can breakthrough for an overdue major win, and which long shot makes for a viable dark horse. Some of these odds are posted on FanDuel Sportsbook.
The Masters (April 9 - April 12)
Course: Augusta National Golf Club
Par: 72 | Distance: 7,475
Ah, Augusta. A tradition unlike...well you know. Arguably the signature venue in the sport once again opens its doors this spring as qualifiers vie for the iconic green jacket. Woods' win here last year was undoubtedly the highlight of the season, a statement that Tiger could once again defeat anyone if he's on his A-game.
The undulating fairways and lightning fast bentgrass greens are part of the most picturesque television broadcast of the year. Two factors here lead to it being one of the most driver-heavy courses on Tour -- the lack of rough means you won't be trapped if it's not dead center of the fairway, and the optimal angles to almost every green require a certain remaining distance.
Rory McIlroy (+700) - Truly the only thing missing from McIlroy's sterling career is the elusive green jacket, and with his primary contemporaries (Koepka and Dustin Johnson) both finishing runner up here last year, he has a tall order to complete the career Grand Slam. The game is nothing short of pristine to enter the year, coming off Player of the Year honors and three straight top-5s to end 2019, McIlroy should be tailoring his entire early schedule to prep for Augusta.
Rickie Fowler (+1800) - Fowler's price is tough to swallow given the lack of major championships on his resume, and while for most of his career it's seemed more a matter of "when" than "if," we've now entered the stage of his career where it is worth asking the question -- Can Rickie actually get it done? He has back to back top 10s, including a runner up in 2018 that would have been good enough to win most years. His putting stroke and all-around game are served well at Augusta, and even with a surprisingly strong Open Championship record, Fowler's best shot at a major is this one.
Cameron Smith (+8000) - Smith was among those nipping at Patrick Reed's heels in 2018, ultimately settling for a T5 finish on the back of a Sunday 66. Smith was steely in this month's Presidents Cup, representing his native Australia well, including a head to head win against Justin Thomas in the Sunday singles. Both Royal Melbourne and Augusta National were designed by Dr. Alister McKenzie, making Smith a great bet way down at 80/1.
PGA Championship (May 14 - May 17)
Course: TPC Harding Park
Par: 71 | Distance: 7,169
Primetime major championship golf! We were blessed with the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach last year, and the San Francisco-based TPC Harding Park will continue the trend in 2020. Last seen on Tour for the 2015 WGC Match Play event, Harding Park is a far cry from last year's venue, Bethpage Black. Where distance was essential at the behemoth in New York, far more finesse will be required this time around. McIlroy won the Match Play, with a trifecta of Brits showing well enough to consider that the more strategic European style could well suit this venue. The Americans easily trounced an outgunned International side in the 2009 Presidents Cup at Harding Park, so there is plenty of bomb and gauge potential as well.
Brooks Koepka (+850) - Who else? Dominant in back to back PGA Championships, Koepka will be the man to beat, assuming he suffers no lingering issues from the knee injury he is currently nursing. He has not finished outside the top 15 in any of the last six PGA Championships, saving his best for the strongest fields.
Paul Casey (+4400) - One of the aforementioned Brits, Casey held on for 21 holes before McIlroy bested him in the 22nd to earn the title in the final. Casey profiles exactly what we are looking for at TPC Harding Park, a solid total driver who is money with his irons.
Danny Willett (+10000) - Another Englishman who was in the mix right up until the end in 2015, Willett has regained the stroke he found en route to Masters glory in 2016. He had a phenomenal 2019 to climb all the way back up to the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking, including a win on the European circuit at the BMW PGA Championship.
U.S. Open (June 18 - June 21)
Course: Winged Foot Golf Club
Par: 70 | Distance: 7,264
The site of one of the most gut-wrenching scenes in major championship history, Phil Mickelson blew in his best chance to complete the career Grand Slam when his drive on the 72nd hole landed in the hospitality tent. Conventional thinking, analytics, and player talent have changed so much since 2006 that few now would blink an eye at pulling driver in that situation, but Mickelson's errant tee shot still stands out as a cautionary tale to those who would grip and rip. The beneficiary was Geoff Ogilvy, who won his only major championship with a very U.S. Open score of +5.
Jon Rahm (+1600) - Rahm is offered at twice the odds of McIlroy, but come June, there may be no better player in the world than the 25-year-old Spaniard. Rahm closed 2019 on a high note, with a runner up at the Hero World Challenge preceded by consecutive wins on the European Tour. He would be a strong play at the PGA as well, but we'll give Brooks his respect and favor Rahm to earn his first major in New York.
Tommy Fleetwood (+3300) - Fleetwood was the hot name the past two years at majors, making him a perfect candidate to target this year after the public has lost money on him. He is always a threat to be the low man in the field, especially at a major. If Winged Foot plays as difficult as it did in 2006, Fleetwood has solid credentials, having finished runner up to Koepka at Shinnecock Hills in 2018, another grizzly New York test.
Viktor Hovland (+6500) - Quite possibly the best young golfer in the world, Hovland was low amateur at both The Masters and U.S. Open in 2019. He'll need to qualify between now and June, but if he does, he will come in way lower than 65/1.
The Open Championship (July 16 - July 19)
Course: Royal St. George's Golf Club
Par: 70 | Distance: 7,211
Last the host of The Open back in 2011, Royal St. George's is an English club that hosted its first Open in 1894. Darren Clarke was the winner that year, well ahead of the field at 5-under par. Royal St. George's rated out as the most difficult course on Tour that year, the last time The Open achieved that distinction. It is a traditional coastal layout, with no foliage to speak of except tall native grasses, and packed with deep pot bunkers.
Tiger Woods (+1600) - An old guy won last time! Woods struggled mightily with the conditions and weather at Royal Portrush, but a more conventional track awaits in 2020. Woods was T4 at this venue in 2003, and while he didn't compete in 2011 due to injury, there is clearly a precedent for the old eating the young here. If he wants another Open, it's either here or the Old Course next year. Maybe both?
Tony Finau (+5000) - Finau has finished T27 or better in each of the past four years, including a T9 in 2018 and a solo-third last year. Finau still wears the collar of no "real" wins on Tour, and it would be just like him to make a major his first. His all-around game suits any course, and his unflappable nature is ideal for links golf. A terrific come-from-behind effort to halve his Singles match at the Presidents Cup should right-set his otherwise iffy form, and he could get hot and seem a major bargain at this number come July.
Tyrrell Hatton (+7000) - Hatton might be the best links golfer in the world. With fellow Englishmen Justin Rose, Fleetwood, Casey, and Willett soaking up the attention, Hatton offers terrific value as he does in most contests, due to his lack of a signature PGA win. Hatton hardly qualifies as a dark horse, but if the books are going to price him here, we should pounce before they wise up.