As we say goodbye to what turned out to be an epic year of golf in 2019, it’s time to look ahead to the new year. With Tiger Woods's return to form and a PGA Tour stocked with both established and young up-and-coming stars, the excitement surrounding the game couldn’t be greater.
Here are five bold predictions for the 2020 PGA Tour season:
Tiger wins four times
Coming off a year in which Tiger Woods returned to glory at Augusta and then tied Sam Snead’s all-time wins mark of 82, the expectation level surrounding Tiger may be a bit inflated.
Expect Woods to once again pick and choose his way through the PGA Tour schedule according to how his body is feeling and where he feels the most comfortable. Even so, Woods will come up short of adding to his major title total of 15 in 2020, but he will easily set the all-time wins mark–by adding four more titles to his total and bringing him to 86.
After sitting out the Arnold Palmer Invitational a year ago, Tiger returns to Bay Hill to win for a ninth time. He’ll also be victorious at Jack’s place at The Memorial, The Northern Trust at TPC Boston and the Tour Championship.
Rory goes back-to-back
As good as 2019 was for Rory McIlroy, 2020 will be the year of Rory. The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year will be looking to build on a season in which he won three times and racked up 14 top-10 finishes. The one thing missing was a major championship. In fact, Rory has been stuck on four major titles since the 2014 PGA Championship, something Brooks Koepka reminded him of this fall.
That all changes in 2020. After compiling five career top-10s at Augusta National, McIlroy finally breaks through and completes the career grand slam at The Masters.
The Northern Irishman has a tendency to win in bunches, so look out if he hits his stride. Expect him to add another major title to his mantle at the PGA Championship in May. This year the PGA visits TPC Harding Park, outside of San Francisco–a course where McIlroy captured the WGC Match Play title in 2015.
Phil comes up short–again
The narrative has already been written. On the weekend of his 50th birthday, Phil Mickelson will be playing in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, the site of his most infamous Open collapse.
It was 14 years ago when Mickelson, holding a one-stroke lead on the 72nd hole, stepped to the 18th tee, just over 400 yards away from an elusive U.S. Open victory. After slicing his tee shot off a hospitality tent, Lefty made a complete mess of the hole, ultimately making double bogey and handing the title to Australian Geoff Ogilvy.
In all, Mickelson has finished runner-up at the U.S. Open six times. This year, the Open returns to the suburbs of Manhattan and Winged Foot for the first time since the catastrophe. The script is set up for Mickelson's redemption, but it's hard to see it actually come to fruition.
Since winning the AT&T Pebble Beach last February, Mickelson has looked lost. He’s compiled just one top-20 finish over the past 10 months (at The Masters, no less) and has missed eight cuts. Unless Phil’s game has a complete rejuvenation in 2020, his U.S. Open pain will continue.
Royal St. George’s produces another first-time major winner
England’s most historic Open Championship venue hasn’t hosted the tournament since 2011, when it last produced one of his multitude of first-time Open winners. Darren Clarke last hoisted the Claret Jug at Royal St. George's, capturing the emotions of the golf world by winning the British at age 42. Players like Ben Curtis and Sandy Lyle have also been victorious at the storied course.
In July, that trend of first timers will continue, as Tony Finau will capture the first major title of his career on the southeast coast of England. The 30-year-old is primed to win a major, having six top-10 finishes in majors, including a third-place finish a year ago at Royal Portrush.
Finau’s game sets up perfectly for links golf in England and Scotland, and the American’s years of grinding it out on mini tours will finally pay off on the major stage.
Dustin Johnson returns to dominance
As Koepka and Rory battled it out for PGA Tour supremacy in 2019, former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson took a back seat. DJ found the winner's circle in 2019 at the WGC Mexico Championship and was runner-up at both the Masters and PGA Championship, but the second half of the year was a disappointment. He disappeared from the world No. 1 conversation after failing to notch a single top-10 finish since the PGA in May.
In September, we received some clarity on what may have been plaguing him. Johnson underwent knee surgery in the fall and sat out three months prior to joining the USA's Presidents Cup team in Australia.
Rested and presumably healthy, Johnson will storm back onto the scene in 2020, looking to reclaim the No. 1 ranking that Koepka currently holds.
Entering 2020, there are three players on tour who can completely dominate for extended periods of time: McIlroy, Koepka and Johnson. He won’t say it publicly, but the idea of being left out of that discussion and turning into the forgotten man in 2019 didn’t sit well with D.J.
Look for Johnson to rejoin that conversation by winning multiple times and contending at all four majors in the year ahead.