The Majors 101: Where they are, when they are and what the top storylines will be
If you're a fan of professional golf, is there anything better than speculating about how the majors will unfold? Aside from actually watching those majors play out, I don't think so.
The first major championship of the 2018-19 season tees off with the Masters on Thursday, April 11.
Here's a closer look at the 2019 major championship venues, when they are and what we're guessing the top storylines will be.
The Masters, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia, April 11-14, 2019
The venue: The same as it's been since this tournament began in 1934 — the immaculate Augusta National Golf Club. The beauty of this jewel is that there are typically numerous changes made from year to year to the grounds, be it the course, the practice facility, or new buildings, yet each April when you arrive it looks as though those changes had been in place for years and years.
Because the Masters is held at the same place every year, experience is typically a huge plus.
While Augusta National has become considerably longer through the years, it's still not uncommon to see older players — specifically "past champions" — make a run during tournament week. We've seen this from Jack Nicklaus in 1998 (T6), Fred Couples (top-20 finishes from 2010-2014) seemingly every time he tees it up there and Bernhard Langer in 2014 (T8) and Tom Watson (T18, 2010).
An adage that never gets old at Augusta National is, "the Masters doesn't start until the back nine on Sunday." That usually holds true. Just ask Jordan Spieth about No. 12 in 2016, which costs him a tournament he was in control of at the time; ask Rory McIlroy about the 10th hole disaster in 2011, where the television audience was treated to moving pictures of cabins they probably didn't even know existed on the property thanks to McIlroy's wayward tee shot; or, on the flip side, how about Charl Schwartzel's four consecutive birdies to close out a win in 2012; or Phil Mickelson's miraculous shot on No. 13 in 2010 that set up a birdie that allowed him to get some distance from the field? A lot can happen — and has happened — for better or worse on those final nine holes.
RELATED: Updated 2019 Masters field list
Top storylines for 2019:
- This will be the first of three majors in 2019 where we could potentially see a career grand slam completed. For that to happen at the Masters, Rory McIlroy would have to slip into a green jacket on Sunday evening. He hasn't won a major since the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla.
- Can Rickie Fowler put together four consecutive low rounds and capture his first major? Fowler finished in the top 12 in four of the past five years at Augusta.
- How will Patrick Reed perform in his first turn as a defending champion in a major?
- Can PGA Champion Brooks Koepka make it two major victories in a row and three of the past four? A Masters win would put him one Clarett Jug away from the career grand slam.
The PGA Championship, Bethpage State Park Black Course, Farmingdale, New York, May 16-19, 2019
The venue: "Warning! The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers."
Those are the words on the famous sign that sits behind the first tee of the Black Course at Bethpage State Park on Long Island, NY. This year, the most skilled golfers in the world will take on this incredibly challenging golf course as the PGA Championship enters its second century of play.
The Black Course has hosted major championships on two other occasions: The 2002 and 2009 U.S. Open's won by Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover, respectively. Additionally, it played host to The Barclays in 2012 and 2016 as part of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Nick Watney won in 2012 and Patrick Reed found the winner's circle in 2016.
Top storylines for 2019:
- The PGA Championship makes its debut in the month of May as part of the revamped PGA Tour schedule. Will the shift into the heart of the golf calendar allow a new wave of contenders to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy?
- Will the third time be the charm for Jordan Spieth as he continues his quest to capture the career grand slam?
- Can the eventual Masters champion make it two-in-a-row in the majors?
The U.S. Open, Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California, June 13-16, 2019
The venue: For the sixth time in its history, Pebble Beach and the famed shores of Monterey Bay, will play host to the national championship.
2019 marks the 100th anniversary for one of golf's most revered courses that sits at or near the top of just about any golf bucket list.
From the often treacherous tee shot on the par 3 seventh hole to the famed 18th hole along the shoreline, Pebble Beach is sure to provide an exciting and beautiful setting for this year's championship.
Graeme McDowell was the last player to win a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. That happened in 2010 when he edged runner-up Grégory Havret, of France by one stroke.
Pebble Beach also was the site of one of the most legendary U.S. Open — and major championship — performances in history when Tiger Woods dominated the field to win his third major in 2000. He won by 15 shots, which still remains the largest margin of victory in any major championship.
Top storylines for 2019:
- As is always the case in a U.S. Open, all eyes will be on Phil Mickelson. Lefty, who will turn 49 years old that week, has finished second on an agonizing, record six occasions in the U.S. Open. It's the lone major in which the 5-time major champ has yet to win. Therefore, just like McIlroy at the Masters and Spieth at the PGA Championship, Mickelson will have the chance to complete the career grand slam at Pebble Beach, where he has won the Pebble Beach Pro-Am four times and finished T-4 at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
- The greens were again the main storyline at Shinnecock in 2018. We will look to Pebble Beach — which annually hosts the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, including this year in February — where the storylines shift back to the players and their performances, as opposed to the course being the focus.
- Can anyone stop Brooks Koepka at a U.S. Open? The long-bomber has back-to-back championships to his name now, in addition to a PGA Championship. Another historic course that shouldn't give too much advantage to the long hitters awaits Koepka's clutch short game.
The Open Championship, Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, Northern Ireland, July 18-21, 2019
The venue: The oldest of golf's major championship returns to Northern Ireland for just the second time in its history. The 1951 edition of The Open Championship was also hosted by Royal Portrush, with Englishman Max Faulkner capturing the Claret Jug for his only major championship.
The Open will be held on the club's Dunluce Links. There are several signature holes on both sides, in particular are the 4th, 5th and 16th holes. The 14th hole should provide for a difficult challenge as the par-3 known as "Calamity Corner" plays into the wind with little room for error.
The course underwent some significant renovations in preparation for this championship to lengthen the course as well as add some more bunkers. Overall, the traditional links-style course will provide plenty of challenge for players who stray from the fairway and the weather always plays a factor.
Rory McIlroy holds the course record for a championship round with a 65 during the Amateur Open Championship in 2005.
Top storylines for 2019:
- Will we get a fourth chance at a career grand slam contender? A Brooks Koepka win at the Masters would open up the career grand slam opportunity at Royal Portrush.
- The Open becomes the final major of the season in 2019. Will any of the potentially previous three winners be able to double up their major count? It would be the fourth time in the past six years a player captured two majors in a calendar year (Koepka, '18; Spieth, '15; McIlroy, '14).
- Can Rory McIlroy or Graeme McDowell represent for Northern Ireland and win The Open in front of their home crowd?
- Luck of the draw always comes into play at The Open Championship. Which wave will be the lucky one?
- Only three times since 2010 — Francesco Molinari in 2018, Henrik Stenson in 2016 and Darren Clarke in 2011 — has a player won The Open without previously winning a major. Can a first-time major winner prevail again at Carnoustie in 2019?