2018 was amazing, we had Patrick Reed with an amazing Masters win, Brooks Koepka took two of the remaining three majors (US Open and PGA Championship winning the PGA player of the year), and Francesco breezed through untouched at the Open Championship. Brandt Snedeker shot a 59 (the ninth player to do so). Justin Rose took the FedEx Cup to add to his Olympic Gold Medal and Justin Thomas was the money leader for a second year in a row (the Arnold Palmer Award).
With a ‘new season ahead of us here are my bold predictions. As always, I know the season is already underway but I find it cleaner and easier to start January 1st.
For a 6th consecutive year, we have a different PGA player of the year
Justification: This means the 2019 player will NOT be: Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. In this day and age, the field is WIDE open and players are coming in strong. I could see it being Justin Rose, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau, or even Francesco Molinari.
Adam Scott or Matt Kuchar land inside the top 20 at year’s end
Justification: After a low year for both, I think one of them is going to rebound but I’m struggling with which one (maybe both). Adam should rebound but the putting rules will likely serve as an obstacle. Matt should rebound but the end of last season showed a serious decline and I'm hoping it was just a blip on the radar (he’s showing a strong rebound early this year).
Rickie Fowler wins a major this year
Justification: This is it. This is his moment. I said those exact sentences last year but I’m doubling down! He’s going to win one! With age comes the ability to finally close out the last round in one of the majors.
Abraham Ancer makes the cut in two majors and finishes in the top 10 in seven tournaments this season
Justification: I’m real bullish on his abilities, I think he is going to sit among the top 40 golfers at the end of this year! The 27 year old out of the University of Oklahoma is starting strong this season and sits 23rd in FedEx points right now.
Tiger sits out at least 3 tournaments specifically to nurse an injury
Justification: He’s been playing amazing but just about each year for the last six something creeps up on him. I don’t think an injury derails his season but he will take time to nurse something to ensure the longevity of his season stays intact.
If the story sounds familiar -- Tiger Woods returns from lengthy injury absence, immediately exceeds expectations, then just as quickly loses all momentum -- that's because it's eerily similar to his comeback at this very same event last year.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelTAN) December 2, 2017
Brooks Koepka DOES NOT win a major this year after winning three in the last two years
Justification: This does not mean he will be terrible, more that it’s real tough to keep this trend going and I think he will be a top 15 golfer in most but not the winner. If you see what happened to Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth they all had a group of wins and then since then a steady and consistent line of top 15 finishes. I DO think that despite all of this, Brooks finally starts to get the respect he deserves for being an elite golfer.
Keegan Bradley (9th last year) finishes outside the top 25 at the end of the year
Justification: I really like him as a golfer but he has a tendency to ebb and flow from year to year. Two top ten finishes in 2014 ,five top 10 finishes in 2015, 1 top ten finish in 2016 and then he finishes 9th overall last year. Finally remember, the new putter laws might hit him hard.
After experiencing a late-year slump in "true" sg:approach in 2017, Keegan Bradley caught fire with his irons throughout 2018. If he is able to sustain this level, he's just a cooperative putter away from a big 2019 (which is a big ask for him since the ban). pic.twitter.com/HlqMThMzGC— data golf (@DataGolf) December 31, 2018
Tony Finau doubles his current professional wins (2) in 2019
Justification: He is on the same steady trajectory that many of the elite golfers are. It’s not a jump to greatness but the small adjustments that make you better each year. Additionally, his best finish in three of the four majors occurred last year with a 10th place finish at the Masters, 5th at the US Open and 9th at the Open Championship.
Three of these five golfers land in the top 10 earners in 2019: Patrick Reed, Luke List, Charley Hoffman, Kyle Stanley, Daniel Berger
Justification: These are all guys who play in a lot of tournaments, have NOT landed among the top 10 in the last two years (close but not quite there) but with a big win or a few top 10’s, could sneak there way in there among the usual candidates: Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler etc…
Trivia time:— Jude DeLoye (@Jude_UT4) January 3, 2019
Other than Finau, Fowler, and Spieth only 3 other Americans finished top 20 at 3 of the 4 majors in 2018. One of them was top 20 at all 4. Can you name the 3 guys?
The prodigal Sungjae Im will be a great rookie but will NOT win rookie of the year
Justification: It could be Cameron Champ, it could be Martin Trainer, maybe Seth Reeves or maybe even Kramer Hickok. One thing I’m learning, despite being an amazing golfer coming into the tour, the courses have been changed and modified and different attributes play out differently here so anything can happen.
Recapping Last Years Bold Predictions
1.) Patrick Cantlay finished 29th last year in FedEx Cup Ranking with 296 points. He will finish in the top 10 this year.
Outcome: False – 20th.
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.
Outcome: Correct, he came in strong at the BMW Championship but faltered late in the playoffs finishing 15th.
3.) Rickie Fowler wins a major this year.
Outcome: 2nd at the Masters, 20th at US Open, 28th at The Open and 12th at PGA Championship, the curse continues.
4.) My obligatory – feed the casual fan prediction: Tiger Woods wins A tournament but not an important tournament
Outcome: Hey I got one right – the Tour Championship, I’ll leave it to you to determine the importance. It’s an important tournament given the playoff ramifications but for Tiger it didn’t do much more than net him some major money.
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.
Outcome: Turns out this was incorrect, for a second straight year Justin Thomas led the field in earnings.
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+)
Outcome: He increased by 50%, not 400% having 3 top ten finishes in 2018.
7.) EITHER Patrick Rodgers or Cameron Tringale get their first ever PGA win this year.
Outcome: Incorrect: Rodgers had three top ten finishes, Tringale had an ABYSMAL season.
8.) Hudson Swafford gets his second PGA win and finishes top ten in as many tournaments as he did in 2014-2017 (5).
9.) US wins second consecutive Ryder Cup for first time since 1991-1993.
Outcome: Sadly, no.
10.) Stephan Jaeger – PGA Rookie of the year. Not Austin Cook. Not Peter Uihlein.
Outcome: Curve ball – Aaron Wise..not Jaeger, Cook or Uihlein
Totals: a terrrrrrrible year: two correct and eight wrong.