The best, worst and most absurd things from golf's four majors


Tiger Woods won another green jacket. Brooks Koepka won another major. And there were two more first-time major winners.

The 2019 major season might have seemed like a blur with golf's new condensed schedule, but there's plenty to unpack after four months of unexpected results and surprise champions.

Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the major season, as we start the long, nine-month wait for the next one at the 2020 Masters.

Best moment: Tiger wins the Masters

At Augusta National in April, Tiger Woods started the final round of the Masters trailing leader Francesco Molinari by 2 shots. After 11 holes, he was 3 behind.

For the first time in his career, however, Woods came from behind to win a major and claimed his fifth green jacket and his 15th major championship. He also ended a 14-year drought at the Masters and became the second-oldest champion there, behind only Jack Nicklaus, who was 46 when he won a sixth green jacket in 1986.

"This is a very special moment in the history of the game of golf, and of Augusta, and of Tiger himself," two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer said.

Feel-good moment: Gary Woodland wins the U.S. Open

Woodland has been a PGA Tour regular since 2009. He is one of the game's longest hitters. But he hadn't won very often and had struggled to close after taking 54-hole leads.

But at Pebble Beach in June, Woodland put everything together in the 119th U.S. Open. He held off a late charge from two-time defending champion Koepka and won his first major by 3 strokes.

It was fitting that Woodland's win came on Father's Day. In March 2017, Woodland and his wife, Gabby, announced they were expecting twins. Later that month, Woodland said they'd lost one of their babies.

Their son, Jaxson, was born 10 weeks premature in June 2017, and he's doing well. Woodland and his wife are expecting twin girls in only a couple of weeks.

Best player: Brooks Koepka

No one has been more dominant in golf's biggest events than Koepka, the No. 1-ranked player in the world. Koepka won a major title for a third straight season, something only Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Peter Thompson and Ralph Guldahl accomplished during the Masters era.

Koepka was in contention to win his first green jacket until he had a double-bogey on the 12th and his putter went cold over the final three holes. He finished in a tie for second, 1 shot behind Tiger.

He won his second consecutive PGA Championship, at Bethpage Black in May, despite nearly blowing a 7-stroke lead in the final 18 holes. It was his fourth win in nine major championships.

At the U.S. Open, he nearly chased Woodland down, even though he struggled on the poa annua greens throughout the tournament. And at The Open, while again struggling with his putter, Koepka finished in a tie for fourth.

Best shot: Woodland's chip on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach

Woodland had a 2-shot lead with two holes to play when he hit his tee shot on the iconic 220-yard, par-3 17th hole to the right side of the green. His ball was 91 feet, 3 inches away from the back left pin.

Instead of putting, Woodland pulled off the most dramatic shot of his career, chipping off the green with a 64-degree wedge. He clipped it remarkably cleanly, and the ball bounced a couple of times before settling 2 feet from the hole. He knocked in the putt to save par.

"If I putted it, I don't think I could have got within 20 feet," Woodland said. "Fortunately I did have that shot earlier in the week. And I was just trying to get it down there, trying to get it past the hole so I could be putting back uphill, and it came off perfectly. I clipped it nicely."

Worst shot: Zach Johnson's practice swing at Augusta


Johnson re-tees without penalty after clipping ball on practice swing

Zach Johnson accidentally makes contact with the ball on a practice swing, but is allowed to re-tee without penalty.

It was a practice swing unlike any other -- and one of the funnier moments of the major season.

Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, stepped to the tee box on the 13th hole at the tail end of Amen Corner during the second round of the Masters.

Johnson inadvertently hit the ball on his practice swing, sending it caroming off the tee marker on the right. The ball ended up about 3 or 4 yards in front of Johnson, who scooped it up and re-teed. Under the rules of golf, the "swing" didn't count because Johnson didn't intend to hit the ball.

"Shoot, they got that?" Johnson said after the round when told video of the swing existed. "Yeah, that was a good one there. That's a first. I thought I'd done it all, but now I know I've done it all."

Oddest sight: John Daly riding in a cart at the PGA

Daly, the 1991 PGA Championship winner, was the only man in the 156-player field to use a golf cart at Bethpage Black. The PGA's American with Disabilities Act committee granted him permission because of osteoarthritis in his right knee.

The cart was packed with Diet Cokes and cigarettes, but it didn't seem to help much. Daly missed the cut after going 75-76.

"It's very awkward," Daly said. "It's to a point where it's almost embarrassing. But I love the PGA, and I'm a past champion. There's no way I could walk it. But I feel like I belong to play since I'm a past champion, and I just feel obligated. I really want to play."

The R&A denied Daly's request to use a buggy at Royal Portrush, so the 1995 Open winner withdrew.

The number that mattered most in each major

The Masters

The PGA Championship

The U.S. Open

The Open

Best homecoming: Shane Lowry wins The Open

Irishman Shane Lowry, who won the Irish Open as an amateur 10 years ago and was in danger of losing his PGA Tour card only a year ago, was an unlikely winner at the first Open played on Irish soil in 68 years.

Lowry, 32, missed the cut in each of his previous four appearances at The Open, but this year he joined Tiger Woods and Louis Oosthuizen as the only players in the past 40 years to win the tournament by at least 6 strokes when he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush.

Lowry became the lowest-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking (No. 33) to win the event since Ernie Els (No. 40) in 2012. He's only the second player from Ireland to win the event, joining Padraig Harrington, who won in 2007 and '08.

As Lowry held off Tommy Fleetwood and the rest of the field in the final round, the galleries cheered and serenaded him.

"Everyone knows we're all one country when it comes to golf," Lowry said.

Most disappointing homecoming: Rory McIlroy misses the cut at The Open

The Open's return to Royal Portrush was also supposed to be a homecoming celebration for McIlroy, who grew up in nearby Holywood.

It quickly turned into a disaster for McIlroy, however, as he drove his opening tee shot out of bounds en route to making 8. He also had a double-bogey 5 on No. 16 and a triple-bogey 7 on 17. He shot 8-over 79 in the first round.

Inspired by the home crowd, McIlroy made an admirable comeback in the second round, shooting a 6-under 65. He needed a birdie on the final two holes to make the cut, but didn't get one.

"Today was probably one of the most fun rounds of golf I've ever played," he said after the second round. "It's strange saying that and standing here having had a bit of success and [having] won this championship before, but to play in front of those crowds today and to feel that momentum, you really dig in.

"It's going to be a tough one to get over."

Worst hole: David Duval takes a 14 at The Open

Duval, the 2001 Open winner, had a forgettable opening round at Royal Portrush that included a whopping 14 on the seventh hole. His round of 91 also included a triple-bogey and quadruple-bogey.

On the seventh, Duval hit two tee shots that were poor enough to cause him to hit provisional shots. When the first two balls couldn't be found, he was lying 5. After hitting a shot up to the green, another caddie asked Duval if he was playing the correct ball.

Duval realized he wasn't. He assessed himself a 2-stroke penalty and went back to the tee. After hitting what was his eighth shot, Duval needed 6 more shots to get down for a 14 -- one of five players to make a 12 or worse at The Open in the past 20 years.

"Just done something I've never done as a professional," Duval said. "It was a long day, a rough day. A very unique, awful situation."

Show me the money

Worst round: J.B. Holmes' final round at The Open

Holmes was the 36-hole co-leader with Lowry at The Open and was in second place after three rounds at 10 under.

But then Holmes had perhaps the worst round ever by a contender in the final round of a major. He shot 16-over 87, which dropped him into a tie for 67th and cost him nearly $700,000 in prize money.

Holmes made a double-bogey on No. 1 and four more bogeys on the front, and then had a triple-bogey, three double-bogeys and two bogeys on the back nine.

It was worst finish ever by a 36-hole leader at a major, and the highest final-round score at The Open since Lew Taylor had an 87 at Muirfield in 1966.

Over the past 35 years, Holmes' 87 is the highest final-round score by a player who sat inside the top 5 through three rounds. The previous high was when Jodie Mudd shot an 86 at the 1983 Masters.

So who went low?

Biggest break: Tiger avoids disaster (and a sliding security guard)

Woods nearly missed having a chance to win his fifth green jacket when an excited security guard clipped his right knee after slipping on the wet grass during the second round of the Masters.

The near-disaster happened on the 14th fairway at Augusta National, after Woods hit his tee shot into the left trees. After hitting his second shot, patrons in the gallery started to surround him. An officer serving on Woods' security detail ran toward Woods, but then realized he was about to run into him. The officer slammed on the brakes, but slid past Woods on the slick, muddy grass and clipped his right ankle. Woods later said he felt contact around his right knee.

Woods hobbled for a few steps, but recovered to birdie the hole and win in a dramatic final round on Sunday.

"It's all good," Woods said. "Accidents happen. I've had galleries run over me. It's just, you know, when you play in front of a lot of people, things happen."

Best use of social media: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson had some fun at Matt Kuchar's expense before the third round of the Masters.

Before playing with Kuchar in the third round, Lefty shared a video of himself driving down Magnolia Lane to the Augusta National clubhouse. In the video, which Mickelson posted to social media, he said he was looking forward to playing with Kuchar, but didn't anticipate gambling with him.

Kuchar was criticized mightily earlier this season for not paying his fill-in caddie enough after he won the Mayakoba Golf Classic in November.

The replacement caddie, David Giral Ortiz, complained about only receiving $5,000 from Kuchar, who earned more than $1.2 million for the victory. Ortiz reportedly requested $50,000 from Kuchar.

Kuchar later apologized to Ortiz and agreed to pay him $50,000. Kuchar also made an unspecified donation to the Mayakoba Classic's charity.