Major questions: What's next for Tiger, Phil and the rest of golf?

AP Photo/John Locher

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland -- Just like that, the major season in golf is over. That's what happens in this new, condensed schedule. There is still plenty left this season -- a World Golf Championship event this week in Memphis, Tennessee, the FedEx Cup playoffs and the Presidents Cup. But another major? Not for another nine months, when the world heads back to Augusta National for the 2020 Masters Tournament.

So what did we learn from this year's majors? What should we look forward to in the next year -- and beyond?

Here are the biggest questions and answers as golf begins its long major wait:

1. Going forward, in how many majors each year is it reasonable to expect Tiger Woods to be a factor?

Bob Harig: Given what we saw play out this year after the Masters, Woods is going to have a difficult time peaking every major week. Certainly we can expect him to give it a run, if healthy, at Augusta National. But the one-month turnaround to the PGA Championship has done him no favors, along with the change in temperature from August to May. The thought here is that Woods should be able to compete at The Open venues. They suit a more strategic outlook. Of course that, too, depends on weather and fitness. Bottom line, it's difficult to see him contending in more than two per year.

Michael Collins: One. The Masters. As great as the new condensed schedule is for some of the younger players, for Woods and his body, there just isn't enough time for both recovery and then proper preparation. Temperature will be such a big factor for Woods in the future, which we saw at the PGA and The Open. Don't expect it to get easier the older he gets. Even Woods said that the less he plays, the longer he can play. That's great -- except the cost will be competitiveness.

Ian O'Connor: I really don't think his credible chances will average out to one major a year. It will be more like one big chance every two or three years. That could still mean getting to Jack Nicklaus' record of 18, because Tom Watson should've won The Open at 59 and Woods is better than Watson ever was. Woods' window is still bigger than you think, as long as his body allows him to play a light schedule. But I could see his next major coming at age 46, the same age as Nicklaus' final one.

Mark Schlabach: I think if Woods is going to win a major -- and that's a mighty big "if" after what I've witnessed since his Masters victory -- it's going to have to be at Augusta National again. I think playing in the first major of the season in April gives him enough time to prepare his body and mind to peak at the right time. He loves playing there more than anywhere else, and he just seems to have a connection with the fabled course. After his performances at Bethpage Black, Pebble Beach and Royal Portrush, however, I think there are legitimate questions about whether he'll ever contend for a major title again.

Nick Pietruszkiewicz: Probably twice, at most. It's hard to imagine he won't be a factor at the Masters going forward. He can build his offseason around preparing for it. He knows the place so well. It's a smaller field. And, more often than not, the weather will be warm. Clearly, chilly conditions do not suit him. So put him in the mix at the Masters and maybe one more. His body just won't allow more than that.

2. Have we seen the last of Phil Mickelson being competitive in majors?

Harig: Mickelson has been so poor over the past few months, with the six-day fast thrown in for good measure, that it's easy to see this being the end. But he's also keenly determined, and I would not be surprised to see Mickelson take motivation from this admittedly poor run. He still has the ability to compete at Augusta, and Open venues are suited to experience over brute strength. And you can be sure Lefty will put plenty of effort into giving it a go next year at Winged Foot, where he suffered one of his more crushing U.S. Open defeats, in 2006. That is also the weekend he will turn 50.

Collins: Nah. He'll make a miracle run like Tom Watson did somewhere down the line. Probably at a PGA Championship because they are set up mostly like a PGA Tour event. Or if we play an Open venue that's burnt out and super dry again (like Muirfield was). He's done at the U.S. Open, though. There's just too much mental baggage now, like with Greg Norman at the Masters. Masters ain't happening, either, although it would be fitting if Mickelson made a Masters run when he was 50 only because he couldn't do any Instagram from the clubhouse. Even Mickelson won't break that rule!

O'Connor: I think we've seen the last of Mickelson winning majors. But I suspect he will make at least one more serious run at Augusta. If Fred Couples could get to the Masters weekend as a factor as long as he did, why couldn't Mickelson do the same? Contention? Yes. Winning? I think Lefty's gonna have to settle for five majors, which is pretty damn good.

Schlabach: Mickelson had big hopes for this season after winning the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. But after a good early run at the Masters, nothing seemed to go right. He tied for 18th at the Masters, 71st at the PGA Championship and 52nd in the U.S. Open. He missed the cut in The Open at Royal Portrush. He admits that he's probably not going to complete the career grand slam by winning the U.S. Open. Now he can't even make a cut, missing in five of his past seven PGA Tour events. Mickelson's body isn't breaking down like Woods', but age certainly seems to be catching up with him. He turns 50 next June. Time is running out for him to do it.

Pietruszkiewicz: It feels like the window has closed, doesn't it? He expected so much out of this year after the February win at Pebble Beach. He tied for 18th at the Masters, then had poor showings at the PGA, U.S. Open and The Open. He is a big name who moves the needle, one who engages both the die-hard golf audience and the casual observer. It would be good for the sport if he had one more run in him, but the game doesn't appear it's going to allow that to happen.

3. This year had some breakthrough winners. Gary Woodland won his first major. So did Shane Lowry. Which player will be the next one to grab that first major title?

Harig: Rickie Fowler. It is easy to lose faith in Fowler, who has been projected to win majors for 10 years and come up empty. But he's still just 30 -- Mickelson didn't win his first until he was 33 -- and has plenty of game. Fowler tied for sixth at The Open and was always too far back over the weekend to contend, but it was his 11th top 10. His time is coming.

Collins: Tony Finau. You can see him getting more and more comfortable in the big moments. He keeps getting closer and closer to winning a major. I expect next year he'll be holding one of the four major championship trophies on a Sunday evening. It's obvious from his record in majors that he's not afraid and definitely not a fluke or "one-hit wonder."

O'Connor: Jon Rahm. He's only 24 and already he's got seven PGA and European tour victories to his name, and three top-fives in majors over the past two years. I'd be surprised if he ends up being eligible for this question this time next year.

Schlabach: While there is a handful of strong candidates such as Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Xander Schauffele, Tommy Fleetwood and Rahm, I'll go with Finau as well. He seems to be getting more and more comfortable on golf's biggest stage, with five top-10 finishes in majors since the start of 2018. Only he and Brooks Koepka have more than four top-10s during that span. He also finished in the top five in three of them -- 2018 U.S. Open, 2019 Masters and 2019 Open. It's only a matter of time before he kicks down the door.

Pietruszkiewicz: I really have to stop doing this, but I can't help myself: I am going to keep saying Fowler until he actually knows down the door and holds a big trophy or a green jacket. There are some other significant names clearly ready to win one -- Rahm, Fleetwood, Finau quickly come to mind -- but Fowler is the biggest name among them. It has to happen someday ... right?

4. Which player had the most disappointing run at the majors?

Harig: Dustin Johnson. Yes, he finished second at both the Masters and PGA Championship, but in both instances he made a late run after being well out of it. Then he bombed at both the U.S. Open and The Open. Ranked No. 1 earlier in the year and now No. 2, Johnson still has that lone major title from the 2016 U.S. Open. He has 20 PGA Tour wins, but a frustrating run in the majors.

Collins: Justin Rose wasn't right all year. He blamed it on the schedule change. I am not going to disagree with him, but in my opinion that might be only 60 percent of it. Since the 2018 PGA Championship, Rose has one finish (T-3 U.S. Open) inside the top 19. For a guy who hit No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking early this year and seemed in such great form winning at the Farmers Insurance Open, I think Rose expected much more from himself than he got. It's a razor's edge between putting realistic and unrealistic expectations on yourself when you get to the top.

O'Connor: Rory McIlroy. Yeah, he had top-10 finishes at the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open. But he didn't make a run at the only major he hasn't won, the Masters, finishing outside the top 20. And then in the biggest tournament of his life, an Open he helped bring to his country for the first time in nearly 70 years, he quadrupled the first hole and missed the cut. It was sad to see him in tears afterward. Here's hoping he gets another crack at Portrush sooner than later.

Schlabach: Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson played well at Augusta National, at least in the final two rounds, but didn't do much of anything else in the majors this season. He missed the cut at the PGA Championship and U.S. Open and finished tied for 51st at The Open. That continues an alarming trend, as Watson has missed the cut in eight of the past 12 majors. Watson is among the longest hitters on Tour, but the rest of his game seems to be a mess.

Pietruszkiewicz: Justin Thomas. This felt like a wasted year, at least in respect to majors. He was 12th at the Masters. That was as good as it got. He had to withdraw from the PGA Championship because of a wrist injury. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open. Yes, he had an 11th-place finish at The Open, but even that came with a stumble down the stretch after a hot streak in the final round. He bogeyed the 14th hole and tripled the 17th to tumble off the first page of the leaderboard. This isn't an indictment. If you had to give me one player to pick as a consistent factor over the next five years, the first name out of my mouth after Brooks Koepka is Justin Thomas.

5. What moment will you most remember from this major season?

Harig: Woods' embrace of his kids behind the 18th green at Augusta National. Few, including him, could have seen that outcome just 18 months prior, when his career was in doubt. Not only did he win again, but he won a major, his 15th after an 11-year struggle without one. That result and the ensuing emotion will long be remembered.

Collins: I'll remember being in the caddie room at Augusta National on Sunday after Woods had won and seeing so many caddies waiting to greet Woods' caddie, Joe LaCava. Caddies from all over the world waited, chatted and watched the highlights. They wanted to congratulate a fellow caddie who is loved and respected by so many fellow loopers. I'll remember seeing LaCava's wife, Megan. Her giving me a big hug and starting to sob when she said how much work those two had put in to get to that point, which made me cry (again). I'll remember watching the caddies slowly disperse after an official came and took Megan LaCava to the clubhouse. Leaving that empty room, I'll remember wondering how so many guys could feel so good about losing? Then I remembered: Tiger and Joey.

O'Connor: Standing at the 16th hole on Sunday at Augusta with my brother Dan, who had never been to the Masters. We started at the tee, and then somehow worked our way greenside for a point-blank view of the putt that effectively won Woods the Masters. Man, did the earth ever shake. Best event I've ever covered.

Schlabach: Michael Collins jumping into the frigid Atlantic Ocean in Portrush, Northern Ireland. At least that's a moment my eyes will never forget. Woods winning the Masters was one of the most iconic moments in American sports history, but seeing Gary Woodland win the U.S. Open on Father's Day, after everything he and his wife endured, is one of the most emotional moments I'll remember. And it's impossible to not appreciate Brooks Koepka winning back-to-back PGA Championship titles and being in contention for two others, and Irishman Shane Lowry winning the first Open played on Irish soil in 68 years. So, yeah, I guess all of the major championship was memorable for me.

Pietruszkiewicz: There's a host to choose from, for sure, from Woods at the Masters and Woodland at the PGA and Lowry at The Open. There was the unprecedented consistency of Koepka across all four of the sport's biggest events. But what I will remember most were the venues. Think about the four stages that hosted the majors this year. Does it get any better? The Masters at Augusta National is always special. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black demanded brute strength to navigate all that real estate. There is no place more beautiful than Pebble Beach, and in a rare moment of clarity, the USGA didn't get in the way and allowed the place to shine. And finally, there was this gem in Northern Ireland. Few people had seen Royal Portrush, but the place provided a perfect backdrop for the year's final major and has more than earned a regular spot in The Open rotation.