1. A major champ from outside the USA or Europe
Ryder Cup-eligible players have shared the last 12 men’s major championships. You have to go back to Jason Day’s US PGA Championship victory in 2015 to find the last time that a player from outwith either the US or Europe won one of golf’s big four. That will change this year. The most likely candidates? Australia’s Marc Leishman or South Africa’s Branden Grace. Both have had their chances – this year, they may just take them. Don’t overlook Louis Oosthuizen, either. As well as winning the 2010 Open at St Andrews, Grace’s fellow South African owns the dubious distinction of having finished runner-up in all four majors. He recently ended a near three-year winless drought in December’s South African Open. If he can stay fit and on-form, he’s a far better bet for the Masters than his 50/1 current odds would suggest.
2. The Internationals winning the Presidents Cup
If the 2018 Ryder Cup proved anything, it’s that having the best team ‘on paper’ means absolutely hee-haw. In December’s Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne, the USA will, in all probability, have the best team on paper. However, if Ernie Els’ ‘International’ side can find a way to galvanise itself – hard to do when it has no obvious identity – it could well snap a seven-match losing streak in the biennial match. They’ll be underdogs, written off and little written about (to be expected with Tiger Woods captaining the US) but they can make all that work to their advantage. By the law of averages, they’re due a win… and God knows the match could use it.
3. Tiger breaking Sam Snead’s wins record
Winning the Tour Championship in September didn’t just end Tiger’s five-year global winless drought. It also got him to within two wins of matching Sam Snead’s record haul of 82 PGA Tour titles. Who would bet against the 14-time major winner getting the three victories he needs this year to eclipse that mark? Yes, the talent in the game Is deeper these days. Yes, Tiger has just turned 43. Yes, much will depend on him staying fit. Let’s put all that aside for a second. Tiger has had a minimum of three wins in a season 13 different times, most recently in 2012 and 2013, when he won three and five times respectively. Last season, as well as that win at East Lake, he also had two runner-up finishes and seven other top tens. He also had his best season scoring average since 2009, when he won six times. Bet against this happening at your peril.
4. Jon Rahm, world No.1
You sometimes have to remind yourself that Jon Rahm, above, has been a
professional golfer for little over two years. In that time, the
capricious Spaniard has won multiple times on the PGA Tour and European
Tour, rising as high as world No.2 in the process. He starts the year
ranked No.6 but, given the period of flux the top spot appears to have
found itself in, it would be absolutely no surprise to see him hit the
summit this year. How fitting it would be if he got there at the start
of April, matching the feat of his late compatriot Seve Ballesteros,
whose fifth and final spell at No.1 began that week 30 years prior.
5. A career grand slam winner
Rory McIlroy just needs the Masters and Phil Mickelson the US Open.
However, the smart money has to be on Jordan Spieth this year becoming
just the sixth player to win all four of golf’s men’s majors. By his own
exceptional standards, 2018 was a year to forget for the so-called
‘Golden Child’ of American golf. However, if he can rediscover his best
form, particularly on the greens, you have to think he’ll return to
winning ways in 2019 – perhaps at Bethpage, host of this year’s US
6. Europe winning the Solheim Cup
Everybody relax. Captain Catriona’s got this.
7. A golfer will win #SPOTY
What are your 2019 predictions?
Leave your thoughts on what may/may not unfold in golf over the coming 12 months in our Comments section below.