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The 5 players without a major who are most likely to break through in 2019

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With the opening event of 2019 in the books and the first Masters commercial’s beginning to air, it’s hard not to look ahead to this year’s major championships. A whole host of top players will be looking for their maiden major this year, and here is a look at five players who I feel have the best chance of breaking through in 2019.

5. Tommy Fleetwood

Fleetwood’s heroics at the Ryder Cup back in September, combined with his back-to-back close calls at the last two U.S. Opens make him a serious contender for major glory in 2019. His lack of a victory stateside is the obvious concern, but beginning 2018 his good friend Francesco Molinari hadn’t won on the PGA Tour either.

Most likely major to win?

Fleetwood may still be searching for his first win in the states, but four wins on the European Tour, in some of the biggest events on the Tour, proves just how good Fleetwood is. Trending at the tournament and buoyed by the crowd who will undoubtedly be behind him in July, Fleetwood’s best chance of glory to be at this year’s Open Championship.

4. Jon Rahm

Winner on the PGA Tour in both 2017 and 2018, Rahm has all the hallmarks of a future major champion. After last year’s Masters where he got his first taste of the heat of battle on the back nine of a major, the fiery Spaniard now has the vital championship experience to go alongside his impressive game.

Most likely major to win?

Rahm’s form in Ireland cannot be ignored. The 24-year-old finished T4 at last year’s Irish Open, while in 2017, Rahm dominated the same event and won by six shots at Royal Portstewart. Just a 15-minute drive from that venue is the 2019 Open Championship host course Royal Portrush, and it’s an event that the Spaniard must be targetting.

3. Xander Schauffele

With four wins on the PGA Tour, including last week’s stunning victory in Kapalua, Schauffele has announced himself as one of the best young talents in the game. Three top-six finishes in just seven major championships played shows that the 25-year-old can perform at the highest stage.

Most likely major to win?

With back-to-back top-six finishes at the U.S. Open, Schauffele’s national championship may look like the obvious best bet for the 25-year-old. However, lack of course experience compared to his competitors hurts his chances, while the PGA Championship has become synonymous with being the event which players achieve their breakthrough. Expect Schauffele to feature at Bethpage Black.

2. Rickie Fowler

Fowler and his fans must be sick of the sight of his name appearing on these lists. Fowler came within touching distance at last year’s Masters tournament, and his clutch back nine finally proved that he has it in him to raise his game at the crucial moments. The confidence provided by that final round at Augusta in 2018 may make all the difference for the 30-year-old.

Most likely major to win?

The Masters. With four top-12 finishes at the year’s opening major in the last five years, Fowler has shown that he has the perfect game to capture a green jacket. Solo second last year, and with the way he’s capable of putting, he has every chance of going one better this April.

1. Bryson DeChambeau

The astronomical rise of Bryson DeChambeau in the past six months has been spectacular to watch. Four wins on the PGA Tour since June speaks for itself, as the American has developed into a ruthless closer. Lack of form in the majors isn’t overly concerning due to the level of play he has shown since August. DeChambeau is a far better player now than he was when he last teed it up in a major championship.

Most likely major to win?

You can make a case that DeChambeau could compete at all four this year. The 25-year-old would love to taste victory at Augusta more than anywhere, and he may well do it. But as with Schauffele, the PGA Championship’s more conventional set-up now offers the best opportunity for those in their 20’s looking to get their first major. Therefore, DeChambeau’s best chance is likely to come at Bethpage Black.

Notable Absentees

Hideki Matsuyama – Almost any other year Matsuyama would be number one on the list. However, a frustrating recurring injury has set the Japanese star back, and this year’s major championships may arrive too early.

Tony Finau – Still with just one victory on the PGA Tour, Finau has begun to lag a little behind some of his peers. Despite being in the final group at last year’s U.S. Open, the 29-year-old never looked likely, and the question marks over his ability to close remain. Finau’s time will come, but it’s not expected to happen in 2019.

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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giannimosquito

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Laurence Deveney

    Jan 9, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    Enough already – Fowler is winning no majors!!

  2. blahblahblah

    Jan 9, 2019 at 3:00 am

    waste of time article – golfers really needs to do some proper well researched articles

  3. Craig

    Jan 8, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    Leishman??

  4. Linkslover

    Jan 8, 2019 at 9:15 pm

    Portstewart is not “Royal”

  5. Rich Douglas

    Jan 8, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    I like BCD for the US Open. It requires a precise level of shot-making, more so than the other majors. But….

    BCD’s weakest part of the game is putting, and putting is a very big deal at the US Open, more so than even at Augusta. And he’s on record as saying that leaving in the flag with US Open pins is out, which I believe is already giving him an advantage elsewhere.

    I also like him for the Open Championship. Less emphasis on putting, but more on creative shot-making.

  6. Skip

    Jan 8, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    “this year’s major championships may arrive too early.” The PGA’s late in the summer, TF’s he talking about?

  7. 2putttom

    Jan 8, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    Cameron Smith b 4 DeChambeau

    • Luke Kitzan

      Jan 8, 2019 at 3:52 pm

      Cam Champ > Cam Smith

    • BJB

      Jan 9, 2019 at 1:57 am

      I’ll take any of the guys on this list plus the two at the bottom PLUS Cam Champ before I took Cameron Smith

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Golf Hall of Fame resumes—what does it take?

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We are back from last week, and Knudson is finally a father! Steve asks what it takes to get into the Golf Hall of Fame, how much do majors count? Knudson talks about his last round and how much fun he had. Finally, we talk about the Rory and Keopka beef that is starting to play out.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Getting more out of your wedges

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When I started SCOR Golf in 2011 and completely re-engineered the short end of the set, I took on “the establishment” and referred to our line of clubs not as “wedges” but as “scoring clubs”—I felt like the term “wedge” had become over-applied to clubs that really weren’t. While I’ve tempered my “respectful irreverence” a bit since then, I still think we are shackled by the terms applied to those high-loft clubs at the short end of our sets.

Think about this for a moment.

It all started with the invention of the sand wedge back in the late 1930s. This invention is generally credited to Gene Sarazen, who famously had metal welded onto the bottom of a niblick to give it bounce, and introduced the basic “explosion” sand shot. Over the next few decades, the sand wedge “matured” to a loft of 55-56 degrees and was a go-to staple in any serious golfer’s bag. In his 1949 book, “Power Golf”, Ben Hogan described the sand wedge as a very versatile tool “for certain shots” around the greens, and listed his maximum distance with a sand wedge as 55 yards.

Even into the 1970s, the pitching wedge was considered the ‘go-to’ club for short recovery shots around the greens. And because the typical pitching wedge was 50-52 degrees in loft, it was very versatile for that purpose. I remember that even as a scratch player in the 60s and early 70s, I would go days or weeks without pulling the “sand wedge” out of my bag—we didn’t have bunkers on that little 9-hole course so I didn’t feel like I needed one very often.

Fast forward into the 1980s and 1990s, people were hitting sand wedges from everywhere and the wedge makers began to add “lob wedges” in the 60-degree range and then “gap wedges” of 48 degrees or so to fill in for the evolutional strengthening of iron lofts to a point where the set match pitching wedge (or P-club as I call it) was 44-45 degrees typically. Along the way, the designation “G”, “S”, “L” and “P” were dropped and almost all wedges carried the actual loft number of the club. I think this was a positive development, but it seems we cannot get away from the pigeon-holing our wedges into “pitching”, “gap”, “sand” and “lob” nomenclature.

So that history lesson was a set-up for suggesting that you look at all your wedges as just “wedges” with no further limitations as to their use. I think that will free you up to use your creativity with each club to increase your repertoire of shots you have in your bag…more arrows in your quiver, so to speak.

For example, long bunker shots are much easier if you open the face of your 50- 54-degree wedge so you don’t have to swing as hard to get the ball to fly further. You’ll still get plenty of spin, but your results will become much more consistent. Likewise, that super-short delicate bunker shot can be hit more easily with your higher lofted wedge of 58-60 degrees.

When you get out further, and are facing mid-range shots of 40-75 yards, don’t automatically reach for your “sand wedge” out of habit, but think about the trajectory and spin needs for that shot. Very often a softened swing with your “gap” wedge will deliver much more consistent results. You’ll reduce the likelihood of making contact high on the face and coming up short, and you can even open the face a bit to impart additional spin if you need it.

Around the greens, your lower-lofted wedges will allow you to achieve more balance between carry and roll, as almost all instructors encourage you to get the ball on the ground more quickly to improve greenside scoring. For the vast majority of recreational/weekend golfers, simply changing clubs is a lot easier than trying to manipulate technique to hit low shots with clubs designed to hit the ball high.

Finally, on any shots into the wind, you are almost always better off “lofting down” and swinging easier to help make more solid contact and reduce spin that will cause the ball to up-shoot and come up short. Too often I watch my friends try to hit hard full wedge shots into our all-too-common 12-20 mph winds and continually come up short. My preference is to loft down even as much as two clubs, grip down a bit and swing much more easily, which ensures a lower trajectory with less spin…and much more consistent outcomes. It is not uncommon for me to choose a 45-degree wedge for a shot as short as 75-80 yards into a breeze, when my stock distance for that club is about 115. I get consistently positive results doing that.

So, if you can wean yourself from referring to your wedges by their names and zero in on what each can do because of their numbers, you will expand your arsenal of shots you can call on when you are in prime scoring range and hit it close to the flag much more often. And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?

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Opinion & Analysis

Autumn golf is the best golf

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For many, golf euphoria occurs the second weekend of April when the flowers start to bloom, courses begin to open, and the biggest tournament of the year is on television. But I believe the absolute best season for golf is the fall.

Let me explain.

SPRING

Spring is the season of hope and rebirth, and for most golfers, it’s the first opportunity to break out new clubs or take the game you’ve been working on all winter to the course for the first time in many months. Depending on where you are in North America or around the world, golf courses are just opening up and the ground is drying out from a winter filled with snow and ice.

Yes, spring is fantastic, you can shrug off the occasional mud ball since it’s probably your first round in four months and you’re willing to cut “the super” some slack for the slow greens, because you’re just happy to be out on terra firma chasing around a little white ball. Your game is rusty. Courses aren’t quite there yet, but it’s golf outside, and you couldn’t be happier.

SUMMER

The dog days. This time of year is when golf courses are the most busy thanks to the beautiful weather. But high temperatures and humidity can be a real deal-breaker, especially for walkers—throw in the weekly possibility for afternoon “out of the blue” thunderstorms, and now you’re sweating and drenched.

Unless you are a diehard and prefer the dew-sweeping pre-7 a.m. tee time when the sun breaks on the horizon, rounds tend to get longer in the summer as courses get busier. And you’ll often find more corporate outings and casual fairweather golfers out for an afternoon of fun—not a bad thing for the game, but not great for pace of play. Summer makes for fantastic course conditions, and with the sun not setting until after 9 p.m. for almost two months, the after-dinner 9 holes are a treat and you take them while you can.

FALL

As much I love nine holes after dinner with eight clubs in a Sunday bag and a few adult beverages in June, nothing compares to the perfect fall day for golf.

The sun’s orbit, paired with Mother Nature, allows you to stay in your warm bed just that little extra, since you can’t play golf when it’s still dark at 6:30 a.m. The warm, but not too warm, temperatures allow you to pull out your favorite classic cotton golf shirts without fear of the uncomfortable sweaty pits. We can’t forget that it’s also the season for every golfer’s favorite piece of apparel: the quarter zip  (#1/4zipSZN).

Courses in the fall are often in the best shape (or at least they should be), since player traffic and corporate tournaments are done for the season. As long as warm afternoons are still the norm, firm and fast conditions can be expected.

Last but not least, the colors—reds, oranges, and yellows—frame the green fairways and dark sand to make them pop in the landscape. Fall is the final chance to get in those last few rounds and create happy thoughts and mental images before the clubs go away for the inevitably cold, dark days of winter.

Fall is meant for golf! So take pictures, smell the smells, and make great swings, because golf season is quickly coming to a close, and now is the time to savor each moment on the course.

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