2017 was quite a season - Justin Thomas came off a career year and usurped Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day last year. We saw emotional wins by Wesley Bryan and Kevin Chappell in back to back weeks, we saw a well overdue major win from Sergio Garcia, Brooks Koepka ran away with the US Open, Jordan Spieth added a 3rd win to his major titles at the Open Championship (putting him 5th among active PGA Tour golfers), Xander Schauffele won the Tour Championship and ran away with rookie of the year and the likes of Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar continue to tread very close to a major championship without winning one (the three combined for: 2nd (twice) 4th, 5th (three times), 9th, 11th (twice), 15th, 16th and 22nd …nary a missed cut amongst them).
1. Patrick Cantlay finished 29th last year in FedEx Cup Ranking with 296 points. He will finish in the top 10 this year. The handfull of breakout candidates last year included Kevin Kisner, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele. Well count Patrick among those who I think are going to be great this year. I’m expecting big things here, a handful of top 10 finishes, maybe 2 wins, reduction of missed cuts, the works.
2. Xander Schauffele who finished 3rd last year in FedEx points including a win at the Tour Championship, will fall OUTSIDE the top 10 this year.
The sophomore slump is a thing on the PGA Tour. 2016 Rookie of the Year Emiliano Grillo (11th) dropped to 67th this year; 2015 Rookie of the Year Daniel Berger (11th) dropped to 26th in 2016 and 2014 Rookie of the Year (49th) dropped to 98th in 2015. It’s not that any of these guys are bad and I might even argue Xander is the best amongst these but it’s tough to repeat the performance, especially when you are young and on a hot streak. Finally that win gave him 2,000 points which vaulted him from outside the top 10 to inside the top 10.
3. Rickie Fowler wins a major this year.
This is it. This is his moment. After 3 years of teasing him: 2017: 5th (PGA Championship); 22nd (The Open); 5th (US Open); 11th (Masters). 2016: 33rd (PGA Championship); 46th (The Open); Missed Cut (US Open); Missed Cut (Masters). 2015: 30th (PGA Championship); 30th (The Open); Missed Cut (US Open); 12th(Masters). That is 4 top 15 finishes and 9 made cuts out of 12 major tournaments.
4. My obligatory – feed the casual fan prediction: Tiger Woods wins A tournament but not an important tournament
The likeliest candidates are the places where he has a history of success: Bridgestone Invitational (8 wins); Arnold Palmer Invitational (8 wins), Farmers Insurance Open (7 wins), Mexico Championship (7 wins) or the The Memorial Tournament (5 wins). Think about this factoid – those 5 tournaments accounted for 35 of his 79 wins. That’s 44%. There’s 48 events, that means that 11% of the events accounted for 44% of his wins.
5. My ‘bold but not very bold’ prediction: BOTH Dustin Johnson AND Jordan Spieth finish above Justin Thomas in earned money and FedEx Cup rankings this year.
I like Justin and he’s still a top 5 golfer but for me, the classics still have it and I think Justin was on a run which could not be stopped. The season has restarted and now Dustin and Jordan will step confidently back into the 1 & 2 spots atop the Golf rankings.
6. Bounce back candidate: JB Holmes had only 2 top ten finishes last year, he will have at least 4x that amount this year (8+)
He had 8 top ten finishes in 2016 & 2015, he was down last year as his approaches to the green and putting were atrocious (a two year trend now). This bit him a few times (especially the Players Championship where he collapsed on Sunday). He used to sit in the 50’s and 60’s in approaches and he fell to well below 100 over the last two years. His driver has always gotten him out of trouble but I think in the off season this is an obvious point of work where even a slight improvement could vault him back up to a contender again.
7. EITHER Patrick Rodgers or Cameron Tringale get their first ever PGA win this year.
Cameron seems to be slipping further down the rabbit hole as the years pass but even amidst a number of missed cuts last year he had an 8th place finish at Genesis, a 9th place finish at AT&T Byron Nelson and 6th place at Barbasol Championship. In 2016 he was 2nd at Shriners Hospital and in 2015 he wsa 5th at Shell Houston Open and 2nd at Zurich Classic of New Orleans and 7th at BMW Championship.
Patrick on the other side is on the upswing, he’s looking better but unlike Cameron he hasn’t come as close (his closest came 4th at Farmers Insurance Open and 2ndat John Deere Classic last year).
8. Hudson Swafford gets his second PGA win and finishes top ten in as many tournaments as he did in 2014-2017 (5).
I’ve been pushing it and for anyone who is meticulously watching, it’s happening. 2014: 146th in FedEx Cup Ranking; 2015: 81st; 2016: 64th; 2017: 38th. 2014: 1 top ten finish; 15 missed cuts; 2015; 2015: 1 top ten & 11 missed cuts; 2016: 1 top ten & 8 missed cuts; 2 top tens (1 win) & 8 missed cuts.
9. US wins second consecutive Ryder Cup for first time since 1991-1993.
USA! USA! USA! The quality of US golfers has because overwhelming between Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas is coming in stronger thant he likes of Rory McIlroy, Tyrell Hatton and Matthew Fitzpatrick.
10. Stephan Jaeger – PGA Rookie of the year. Not Austin Cook. Not Peter Uihlein.
While Austin Cook and Peter Uihlein are the popular picks Stephan is the more slow and steady player and I trust that as a rookie. The German native made cuts in 4 of his first 5 tournaments this year finishing in the top 30 in 3 of them. Last year he made the cut in 2 out of 3 – half the battle is staying in the fight through the weekend. Peter already has two top ten finishes this year and Austin has made all four cuts with a win at the RSM Classic. It’s my guess that the other two will have faltering moments but Stephan will be the slow and steady that maintains through the season.
Who will be the best 2018 PGA Golfer?
This poll is closed