The 2018 Majors continued to be dominated by the Americans with world No.2 Brooks Koepka winning both the US Open and the PGA Championship. But they also produced some surprise winners as Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari won their first Majors at the Masters and The Open respectively. It was also a year in which Tiger Woods announced his return to the top stage with fine performances at The Open and the PGA Championship.
However, it proved to be a season of disappointment for former world No.1 Jordan Spieth, who missed the cut at the US Open and fell away dramatically in the final round of The Open.
Reed got his season off to a flyer with a final round of 71 to edge out compatriot Rickie Fowler by one shot and take the Green Jacket at the Masters at Augusta in April. Despite a poor start on the final day, bogeying the first hole, Reed recovered to clinch victory in fine fashion.
In June, Koepka successfully defended his US Open title at Shinnecock Hills, New York, becoming only the third player to do so after seeing off a strong challenge from Tommy Fleetwood by one stroke. However, the tournament was tinged with controversy when Phil Mickelson putted a moving ball on the 13th, causing outrage in the Hamptons. Molinari also wrote his name into the history books with a two-stroke victory over the chasing pack of Kevin Kisner, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Xander Schauffele to lift the Claret Jug at The Open at Carnoustie in July.
Woods briefly threatened, leading going into the back nine, but coming from three shots behind at the start of the final round, Molinari finished on a birdie to post a total of 69 and become the first Italian to win a Major.
Koepka was at it again in August at the PGA Championship at the Bellerive Country Club, Missouri, winning by two strokes over Woods and becoming the first player since his fellow countryman in 2000 to win both the US Open and PGA in the same year. His 72-hole total of 264 also set a PGA Championship course record.
This year, with a change to the schedule and venues of some of the Majors, not to mention a host of new talent on show, the competition has never been fiercer.
The biggest change sees the PGA Championship, which will be held at New York’s Bethpage Black Course, moved to May as the first Major of the season. The US Open switches to Pebble Beach, while The Open will be hosted by Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, 68 years since the tournament was last held there.
Among this year’s frontrunners, three players will be looking to complete a career grand slam with McIlroy chasing his first Green Jacket at the Masters, Mickelson out to capture the elusive US Open in his home State of California, and Spieth after the PGA Championship. With American winners in the previous two US Opens held at Bethpage Black and with eight top-five finishes to his name, Fowler looks to be a strong contender for the PGA Championship, as does Spain’s Sergio Garcia, who has placed well in all his three appearances on this course.
For the US Open, it’s hard to look beyond Woods, 19 years on from his famous 15-shot victory at Pebble Beach, although Tony Finau could be a surprise challenger.
Home advantage should also help McIlroy’s cause at The Open, but you can never rule out American starlet Bryson DeChambeau who enjoyed a stellar season in 2018.
It was also a year of firsts in the women’s game with England’s Georgia Hall winning her first Major at the Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes in August. Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg too won her first Major at the ANA Inspiration at the Mission Hills Country Club, California in April after a nail-biting playoff with South Koreans Inbee Park and Jennifer Song, as did American Angela Stanford at September’s Evian Championship in France. Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn and South Korean Sung Hyun Park also picked up their second Majors at the US Women’s Open and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship respectively. The Asian contingent will be hotly fancied again in 2019 with the top three of Jutanugarn, Park and So Yeon Ryu all in contention. Hall can’t be discounted either after an outstanding 2018.
With such an open field, the 2019 Majors could be the most memorable in recent history for breakthrough stars and returning greats alike.