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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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Podcasts

Mondays Off: U.S. Open wrap-up | Steve plays against the new assistant pro

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Would Woodland have won the U.S. Open if he had to hit driver on the 18th hole? Knudson doesn’t think so. Steve loved the U.S. Open, but he didn’t really love the commentator crew. Also, Steve tees it up with the new second assistant pro at the club, how did he do?

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

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What’s your short game handicap?

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Well, that was a U.S. Open for the ages, in my book. Hallowed Pebble Beach held its own against the best players in the world and proved that small greens can really give these guys fits. Kudos and congratulations to Gary Woodland for putting on quite a show and outlasting all the others. And to Brooks Koepka for giving us reason to believe a three-peat could really happen.

To me, of course, what stands out is how Woodland elevated his short game for this event. Coming in he was ranked something like 165th on tour in greenside saves but went 16-for-20 last week. Of course, that also means he hit 52 of those small greens in regulation, which certainly outdistanced most of the field. Justin Rose was putting on a scrambling clinic for three days, but his inability to hit fairways and greens finally did him in. So that brings me to today’s topic – an honest assessment of your own “short game handicap.” Regardless of skill level, I have long believed that the key to better scoring is the same for us as for these tour-elite players – improving your ability to get up-and-down.

Almost all reasonably serious golfers have a handicap, just to allow us to keep track of our overall improvement with our golf games. But wouldn’t it be more useful if that handicap was such that it told us where we could improve the most? Unfortunately, that’s not the purpose of the USGA handicap program, so I’ve devised my own “Short Game Handicap” calculation to help golfers understand that this is where they are most likely going to improve their scoring.

The premise of my short game handicapping formula is the notion that once we get inside short iron range, the physical differences between golfers is increasingly neutralized. For most of us, our physical skills and abilities will never let us hit drives and longer approach shots like the best players. But I believe anyone can learn to execute good quality chips and pitches, and even full swing wedge and short iron shots. It really doesn’t matter whether your full-swing 9-iron goes 140 or 105, if you can execute shots from there on into the green, you can score better than you do now.

So, the starting point is to know exactly where you stand in relation to “par” when you are inside scoring range…regardless of how many strokes it took you to get there. Once your ball is inside that range where you can reach the flag with a comfortable full-swing 9-iron or less, you should be able to get up and down in 3 strokes or fewer almost all the time. In fact, I think it is a realistic goal for any golfer to get down in two strokes more often than it takes more than three, regardless of your skill level.

So, let’s start with understanding what this kind of scoring range skill set can do for your average score. I created this exercise as a starting point, so I’m encouraging you guys and ladies to chime in with your feedback.

What was your last (or typical) 18 hole score? ______

_____ Number of times you missed a green with a 9-iron or less
_____ Number of times you got up and down afterward
_____ Number of other holes where you hit a chip or pitch that ended up more than 10’ from the cup

Subtract #2 from #1, then add 1/2 of #3. That total ______ is your short game handicap under this formula. [NOTE: The logic of #3 is that you can learn to make roughly 1/2 of your putts under 10 feet, so improving your ability to hit chips and pitches inside that range will also translate to lower scores.]

I believe this notion of a short game handicap is an indication of how many shots can potentially come off your average scores if you give your short game and scoring clubs the attention they deserve.

I would like to ask all of you readers to do this simple calculation and share with the rest of us what you find out.

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Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the U.S. Open

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In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. On Sunday, Gary Woodland claimed victory at the U.S. Open in spectacular style, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action at Pebble Beach.

Hot

Gary Woodland produced a masterclass both with his irons and flat-stick all week long at Pebble Beach to claim his first major title. The 35-year-old gained 8.4 strokes over the field for his approach play and a monstrous 7.2 strokes over the field on the greens at Pebble Beach. Check out the clubs Woodland used on his way to victory last week in our WITB piece here.

Brooks Koepka continues to impress on the biggest stage, and the American’s play tee to green was once more outstanding in California. Koepka gained 14.4 strokes tee to green last week, which was the best in the field in this area.

Viktor Hovland has just about every golf fan excited after watching his brilliant display at Pebble Beach. Hovland was second in the field for strokes gained: tee to green at the U.S. Open, gaining a whopping 12.6 strokes in this area. All that was holding the amateur back was his putting, where he lost almost four strokes to the field

Cold

Justin Thomas continues to struggle after his comeback from his wrist injury, with the American missing the cut at last week’s U.S. Open. Thomas lost 2.7 strokes to the field on the greens at Pebble Beach, and worryingly for the 25-year-old is the fact that he has now lost strokes with the flat-stick in his last six consecutive events.

Dustin Johnson’s performance on the greens cost the 34-year-old dearly at last week’s U.S. Open. Johnson came into the event as one of the favorites, but a poor performance with the putter, where he lost 6.1 strokes, put paid to his chances. It was the worst performance for Johnson on the greens since 2017.

Bubba Watson continues to struggle, and last week it was his short game which was woefully misfiring. Watson dropped a combined 10 strokes to the field for his play on and around the greens at Pebble Beach for the two days he was in town.

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