PGA Tour Preview Part II

The Genesis Open concluded Sunday with an unexpected winner in J.B. Holmes. Justin Thomas was in control of the tournament for the first three days but ended up with a disappointing 4-over 75 on the final day of the tournament. Conditions were brutal throughout the weekend. Thursday’s round was postponed due to rain, and the players essentially were forced to squeeze 72 holes into three days. The wet conditions of the early rounds didn’t phase JT. It was the howling wind on Sunday that he couldn’t handle. Wind is no excuse for Thomas, as Holmes was in his final grouping and had to deal with the same obstacles. Holmes knew that conditions would be tough on Sunday and said that he thought -15 would win the tournament. He finished one stroke behind that at -14 and a final round score of 70 to clinch the victory. Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Jon Rahm also played well and finished top-10.

Now, let’s look at another five golfers and my predictions for their 2019 campaign.

JUSTIN THOMAS

JT, the 2017 Fed Ex Cup Champion, is looking to get back to his winning ways of two years ago. 2018 wasn’t a letdown year by any means, but he certainly didn’t perform up to the caliber of his previous year. Thomas is the best player on tour under the age of 26. I’d say he’s the best player under 30, but Brooks Koepka’s recent success on the big stage would cause quite the debate. Either way, JT is a phenomenal young golfer and is only going to get better with age. He doesn’t have a body type near the likes of DJ or Koepka, but he somehow generates enough power to have an average driving distance just under 300 yards. You can credit his steep swing for the power off the tee. He practically comes off his feet when he makes contact with the ball. Anybody with a small frame who wants to generate more distance with their clubs should take notes on Thomas’s unorthodox swing. He doesn’t go as steep as Bubba Watson, but they do share some swing similarities to generate power.

Thomas is off to a hot start in 2019 with four top-5’s already. I think he will recover from last year and climb back into the top-3 of the world golf rankings. He’s currently #4, but a win in the next month would probably shoot him into the top-3. I expect a year more like 2017 from Thomas, and I think he is more than capable of winning a major. Look out for him at the PGA Championship, as he already has one win under his belt and placed sixth in another.

Prediction: 3 wins, PGA Championship win, finish top-3 in world golf rankings

Brooks Koepka

What a run Koepka has been on in majors the last two years. He has won 3 of the last 7 and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. It will be hard to keep his current pace of winning, but I wouldn’t count out the 29-year-old to win one this year. Three of his five PGA tour wins have been majors (2 US Open, 1 PGA Championship), and if he came to play more often on the small stage he would be the #1 golfer in the world. Koepka doesn’t look like your usual golfer, boasting a weight of over 200 lbs at a height of 6 feet. He definitely has the biggest biceps on tour, and he isn’t afraid to show his pipes off in the shmediums he rocks every weekend. No disrespect, though, because if I had arms that looked like that I’d do the same. Brooks hasn’t performed up to his ability yet in 2019, but he already has a win this season at the CJ Cup back in October.

Koepka doesn’t possess the power of Dustin Johnson, but they both are the most physically imposing golfers we have ever seen on Tour. Koepka has a swing that is more armsy rather than relying on the body to produce power. Which he can get away with because of his size. He has a well-rounded game that has led him to three majors before his 30th birthday. Brooks is level-headed on the course and about as cool as you can find at the professional level. I think this is one of his best traits. Where he differs from calm and collected DJ is his will to win. Koepka has already put together enough majors to put him in the hall of fame, but he needs to solidify his career with consistency and winning tournaments that don’t mean as much. I think Koepka will slow down a bit this year, and go winless in the major column for 2019. I have already predicted winners for every major besides the Masters, and I just don’t see Koepka putting on the green jacket this year. The Masters has been won by guys ranked out of the top-10 recently, and I believe that trend will continue in 2019. Koepka already has enough majors anyway, and he should focus on winning non-majors in the upcoming years.

Prediction: 2 wins, remains in top-5 of world golf rankings

Rory McIlroy

Then there’s Rory. He looked like he was going to take the reins from Tiger and be the world #1 for awhile in the early 2010s. He amassed 4 majors from 2011-2014 but has been on a dry spell ever since. Why hasn’t he maintained his winning ability throughout the entire 2010s? PUTTING. The flat stick has not been his friend for the last five years, while his ball striking is arguably the best on tour. All he has to do is limit his number of putts, and he could be the best player in the world. He knows it. Everyone who watches golf knows it. He’s #1 off the tee and #3 in tee to green this year. Then his putting comes in at a whopping 60th. Watching Rory off the tee is one of the most beautiful sites in golf. Yesterday he drove the green on a 307 yard par 4 with a 2 IRON. Putting is holding him back from winning in the years that should be the peak of his golf career. Figure it out Rory. We all want to see you win.

Will he win a major this year? I could see it. Wearing his first green jacket would be great for golf and his career. I’d watch out for him there and the British Open. I have always felt that he thrives when he doesn’t have to play against Tiger. Woods wasn’t around for any of McIlroy’s majors, and since Tiger has returned the last few years, Rory has struggled. He idolized the Big Cat growing up, and I think there is something going on mentally that holds him back when Woods is playing in the same tournament.

Prediction: 2 wins, finishes top-10 in world golf rankings

Rickie Fowler

Fowler is one of the most flamboyant dressers on tour, but he has the game that allows him to be. He used to be the young, long-haired guy from Oklahoma State wearing all orange Puma gear. Now he’s clean cut and 30 years old and entering the prime of a golfer’s career. He has only won five times in his decade long career, which isn’t enough given his golfing ability. Fowler has struggled to close out tournaments, but he proved the skeptics wrong two weeks ago with a win at the Waste Management Open.

I’m a huge fan of Rickie’s swing. His rhythm is that of a catchy R&B tune. He keeps his club flat at the top of his swing which is followed by a shallow downswing. It’s really a thing of beauty, and if I had his flexibility I would emulate his swing. Unfortunately, most people’s core isn’t built like a rubber band. I’d like to see Fowler win his first major in 2019, but I just don’t think this is his year to do it. I could see him winning the Player’s in March, which is looked at as a tournament that means more to tour members than the PGA Championship. But it still doesn’t count as a major. Fowler’s major win will come, but I think we will have to wait for the 2020s to see it.

Prediction: 1 win, finishes 10-15 in world golf rankings

Jordan Spieth

I see Jordan’s career being similar to Rory’s so far. They bursted onto the scene winning early in their careers but haven’t maintained their winning ways. Spieth is a PGA Championship away from his career grand slam. Two of his majors came in 2015 and one in 2017. Jordan is a golfer that has to play mistake free golf because he doesn’t drive the ball far or do anything exceptionally well. Him and Justin Rose are similar in that way. They both know how to work their way through a golf course and stay out of trouble. Spieth isn’t at a great place in his career currently. He’s barely in the top-25 in the world golf rankings and isn’t ranked better than 90 in any important statistic for the 2019 season.

His career has gone south ever since his collapse on hole 12 in the 2016 Masters. He chunked a few balls into the water and lost a five shot lead. It really took a toll on him mentally, and he still hasn’t really recovered from it. I’d love to see him come back into prominence on the PGA Tour, as it would be great for the game of golf. But the game is in a great state still and has a boatload of talent even without Spieth performing at a high level. Spieth will be in contention come Sunday in a couple majors, but I just don’t see him getting number four this year.

Prediction: 1 win, 2 top-10 major finishes

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