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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - Year In Review

Hey guys and thanks for joining me here at RotoBaller! I honestly thought that last week's HFTC would be the last golf article I would write for at least a couple of weeks, but old habits die hard and here I am talking about the PGA even though the season is over!

Rory McIlroy capturing the FedEx Cup in Atlanta last week was a fitting end to a season that has been truly amazing. After a few years of less-than-expected results, Rory has re-established himself as one of golf's truly elite players. His win at the TOUR Championship came at the expense of Brooks Koepka, who captured one major championship this season and contended in three others. Koepka is known as a 'Big Game Hunter' and came extremely close to bagging a huge $15 million payday at East Lake.

The 2018-19 PGA Tour season was a great one for several reasons. With just a couple of weeks until the 'Swing Season' kicks off, I thought now was the perfect time to look back at some of the best moments from this year. Thanks for stopping by, let's tee it up!

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Tiger Woods Wins The Masters

In a world of 24-hour news cycles and instant reactions on social media, Tiger Woods pretty much broke the internet at this year's Masters. I still can't believe this really happened! TIGER WOODS WON THE MASTERS?!? Tiger's 2018 season was proof that he could play again, he was in the mix in a couple of majors and won the TOUR Championship to close out the season, but it was still unimaginable to most that he could really slip on another green jacket. A Masters win was hard to fathom not only due to all the personal obstacles he has overcame (divorce, a cheating scandal, repeated comebacks that ended badly, back surgery, and a DUI), but also because of the depth of talent the he would need to defeat in order to win a major championship.

Woods answered the call at Augusta National this year, winning his fifth Masters title and 15th major championship. His ascension to the top of the Masters leaderboard was a study in mental toughness. While Tiger of course played well, it was his ability to hold things together while everyone else fell apart that locked up the green jacket for him. Sunday back nines don't get much more exciting than what we witnessed at Augusta National this year.

While it was a huge emotional high for all golf fans, it's fair to wonder what the unimaginably-emotional win did to the man himself. Woods was largely a non-factor for the rest of the year. He missed the cut in two of the three remaining three majors, despite Pebble Beach and Bethpage Black being courses that he had previously conquered. It looked as though Tiger was set up perfectly for a major championship run in 2019, but he continuously looked both rusty and/or hurt.

Woods' season ended at the BMW Championship at Medinah and we are left with tons of questions as we look to what his future might hold. He'll captain the U.S. President's Cup team in December, but he never plays much golf over the winter. He finished 2019 with just 12 starts and it's fair to wonder how much golf Tiger will play going forward. Will he enter 2020 re-energized and healthy or will he be forced (or choose) to continue playing a drastically reduced schedule? No matter what we get from Woods in the years ahead, he without a doubt authored the signature moment of 2019 and one of the greatest victories in the history of any sport with his win at the Masters.

 

Brooks Koepka Dominates At Bethpage Black (And Pretty Much Everywhere Else)

Love him or hate him, you have to respect what Brooks Koepka has accomplished over the last two-and-a-half years. The 29-year-old has captured four major championships since 2017, including a display of absolute dominance at Bethpage Black en route to winning the 2019 PGA Championship. Koepka played near-flawless golf for 64 holes on the brutal New York layout that gave the rest of the field fits, before stumbling a bit down the stretch in the worst weather of the week.

The 'Big Game Hunter' didn't bag any other majors in 2019, but he was a constant on the leaderboards in all of them. Koepka recorded runner-up finishes at both the Masters and the U.S. Open, in addition to a T4 at the Open Championship despite a brutal final-round pairing with a slow and struggling J.B. Holmes. Koepka also answered critics that claim he only shows up to play in majors (Really? That's a critique?) by winning the swing season's CJ Cup and the WGC-FedEx St. Jude. Despite his two non-major wins this season, Koepka does remain something of an enigma for DFS players with his Jekyll and Hyde combination of a dominant upside and total indifference depending on the week.

 

Both Opens Produce Feel-Good Winners

We didn't see the world's biggest stars win at the U.S. or British Opens, but we got two winners that made us feel good. Gary Woodland's personal losses off the course have been well documented, and while his on-course talent has never been questioned, his ability to close out tournaments hasn't been great. After 54-holes of dazzling golf at Pebble Beach and the weight of a possible U.S. Open win on his shoulders, Woodland answered any doubters and held off an intimidating Brooks Koepka to grab his first major championship.

On the other side of the pond, an Irishman was supposed to win the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush...it just wasn't supposed to be Shane Lowry. Hometown favorite Rory McIlroy carried the hopes of Northern Ireland into this year's Open, but then the unthinkable happened when a horrifying opening-round 79 sent the Ulsterman home for the weekend. Ireland's Lowry, from a few hours south of Portrush, picked up the banner and ran with it. On the strength of a Saturday 63 that was one of the most amazing rounds of golf you'll ever see, Lowry claimed his first major championship in a drama-free final round.

 

The New Schedule & The PGA Tour Partners With DraftKings

After gaining lots of media attention, the new PGA Tour schedule appeared (at least in my eyes) to be a huge improvement. Wrapping things up before football always made sense and the leaner schedule gave us a huge tournament to look forward to basically every month. Sure, the players might complain about it, but let's be honest...the players complain about EVERYTHING. It may take golf's elite some time to tweak their schedules perfectly in an attempt to peak for the majors, but I think this schedule is great for the everyday golf fan (and for DFS players). A nice byproduct of the tighter schedule is a juicier-than-normal 'Swing Season' that is right around the corner.

In another (long awaited) fan-friendly move, the PGA Tour entered into a partnership with DraftKings that makes DK the official Daily Fantasy Sports partner of the Tour. The possibilities are endless with this partnership and it should help an already-growing PGA DFS industry explode in the future! What it means in the short term is that WE (PGA DFS players) will finally be gaining a level of acceptance from 'the establishment' after spiking their ratings over the last couple of years.

 

A Youth Movement That Can't Be Ignored

As DFS players, we're always looking for golf's "next big thing". Well, we weren't disappointed this season as an unbelievably-talented crop of young players exploded on to the PGA Tour. It's easy to forget now, but Cam Champ was THE story in golf at the end of 2018. Sungjae Im, AKA the new Vijay, played roughly 527 tournaments this season and showed the type of game that's built to last at the professional level. Last year's darling Joaquin Niemann overcame some putting struggles to finish the year strong. The trio of Matthew Wolff, Colin Morikawa, and Viktor Hovland (rightfully) grabbed all of the headlines during the second half of the season. Wolff and Morikawa both scored wins, while Hovland may actually be the best of the bunch and played very well in limited events (Hovland secured his Tour Card at the Korn Ferry Finals last week). These guys give me the feeling that golf, and the PGA DFS industry, has a very bright future.

 

Rory's (Kinda) Back

It's tough to knock a guy for not winning majors, as I truly believe it is one of the toughest times in the history of golf to win any tournament, so I'm not gonna drag Rory McIlroy too hard for not winning a major this year, but man he really came up small in the year's four biggest tournaments. He headed to Augusta as the prohibitive favorite, in great form, and fresh off a huge win at the Players Championship only to completely disappear at the Masters. He logged the backdoor-iest top-10 finish ever at the PGA after just making the cut and fizzled out at the U.S. Open after two sub-70 rounds to start the week. We all know about the disaster on his home turf at Royal Portrush, so the less said about that the better.

Still...even with his failures in the majors, Rory looked like RORY again in 2019. He won the Players, the RBC Canadian Open, and the TOUR Championship. He took home $15 million for his FedEx Cup triumph and was one of the few that had the nerve (or clout) to chime in on the slow-play issue, as well as continuing to be perhaps the most open and honest interview in golf. Overall, it was a very good year for Rory, one that gives us reasons to be optimistic about the future. Rory is one of the few current players that has a 'Tiger-esque' quality and golf is definitely better off when he's playing well.

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