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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 @giancarlomag

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

The Gear Dive: Vokey Wedge expert Aaron Dill

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In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with Titleist Tour Rep Aaron Dill on working under Bob Vokey, How he got the gig and working with names like JT, Jordan and Brooks.

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: Is your driver the first “scoring club”?

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I was traveling Sunday and didn’t get to watch the end of the PGA Championship, so imagine my shock Monday morning when I read what had happened on that back nine. Like most everyone, I figured Brooks Koepka had his game and his emotions completely under control and Sunday’s finish would be pretty boring and anti-climactic. Man, were we wrong!!?

As I read the shot-by-shot, disaster-by-disaster account of what happened on those few holes, I have to admit my somewhat cynical self became engaged. I realize the conditions were tough, but it still boils down to the fact that Koepka nearly lost this PGA Championship because he couldn’t execute what I call “basic golf” – hitting fairways and greens – when it counted. And Dustin Johnson lost his ability to do the same just as he got within striking distance.

I’ve long been a critic of the way the game has come to be played at the highest levels; what we used to call “bomb and gouge” has become the norm at the professional tour level. These guys are big strong athletes, and they go at it harder than anyone ever did in “the old days”. Watch closely and you’ll see so many of them are on their toes or even off the ground at impact, especially with the driver. Call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t see how that can be the path to consistent shotmaking.

So, my curiosity then drove me to the year-to-date statistics on the PGA Tour website to dive into this a bit deeper. What I found was quite interesting, and I believe can be helpful to all of you readers as you think about how to lower your handicap this season. Follow me here, as I think there are some very helpful numbers from the PGA Tour.
I’ve long contended that golf is a game of ball control . . . let’s call it shotmaking. Your personal strength profile will determine whether you are a long hitter or not, and there’s probably not a lot you can do (or will do) to change that dramatically. But PGA Tour statistics indicate that accuracy, not distance, is the key to better scoring.

The Tour leader in driving accuracy is Jim Furyk, the only guy who is hitting more than 75% of the fairways. The Tour average is under 62%, or not even 2 out of 3. That means the typical round has the tour professional playing at least 4-5 approach shots from the rough. I’m going to come back to that in just a moment and explore the “cost” of those missed fairways.

The Tour leader in greens-in-regulation is Tiger Woods at 74%, almost 3-out-of-4 . . . but the Tour average is less than 66%, or just under 2-out-of-3. I believe enlightenment comes by breaking that GIR statistic down even further.
From the fairway, the Tour leader in GIR is Justin Thomas at 85% and the worst guy at 65%, three points better than the tour average for GIR overall. Hmmmmm. From the rough, however, the best guy on Tour is Taylor Gooch at 63.4%, which is not as good as the very last guy from the fairway.

But let’s dive even a bit deeper to better understand the importance of driving accuracy. Is it true these guys are so good from the rough that hitting fairways doesn’t matter? Not according to the numbers.

From the rough in the range of 125-150 yards – a wedge for most of these guys – the tour’s best hit it 25-27 feet from the hole and only 30 tour pros are averaging inside 30 feet from that distance. But from the fairway, 25 yards further back – 150-175 yards – the tour’s best hit it inside 21-23 feet, and 160 guys are getting closer than 30 feet on average. Even from 175-200 in the fairway, the best on tour hit it closer than the best on tour from the rough 50 yards closer.

So, what do you do with this information? I encourage any serious golfer to really analyze your own rounds to see the difference in your scoring on holes where you find the fairway versus those where you don’t. I feel certain you’ll find throttling back a bit with your driver and focusing more on finding the fairway, rather than trying to squeeze a few more yards of the tee will help you shoot lower scores.

If you have the inclination to see what more fairways can do to your own scores, here’s a little experiment for you. Get a buddy or two for a “research round” and play this game: When you miss a fairway, walk the ball straight over to the fairway, and then 15 yards back. So, you’ll hit every approach from the fairway, albeit somewhat further back – see what you shoot.

Next week I’m going to follow up this “enlightenment” with some tips and techniques that I feel certain will help you hit more fairways so you can take this to the bank this season.

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Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the PGA Championship

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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, Brooks Koepka made it four wins from his last eight appearances at major championships, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action at Bethpage Black.

Hot

While Brooks Koepka’s play off the tee was excellent at last week’s PGA Championship, the American utterly dominated the field with his deadly approach play. The 29-year-old led the field in New York for his approach play gaining 9.5 strokes over his competitors. In case you were wondering, this represents Koepka’s career-best performance with his irons. Check out the clubs Koepka did the damage with at Bethpage Black in our WITB piece here.

Jordan Spieth finished T3 at last week’s event, and the Texan was streets ahead of anyone for the four days with the flat-stick in hand. Spieth gained a mammoth 10.6 strokes over the field on the greens of Bethpage Black, which is over three strokes more than anyone else achieved. It was the best-putting display of the 25-year-old’s career thus far, and Spieth now heads to Colonial CC ranked first in this week’s field for strokes gained: putting over his last 12 rounds.

Dustin Johnson came agonizingly close to capturing his second major title last week, and encouragingly for DJ is that he gained strokes in all of the significant strokes gained categories. Johnson also led the field for strokes gained: off the tee, gaining 7.2 strokes over the field – his best performance in this area this year.

Cold

Bubba Watson endured a wretched two days on the greens at Bethpage Black. In just 36 holes, Watson lost 6.8 strokes to the field with the flat-stick. Even more frustrating for Watson is that he gained 6.5 strokes for the two day’s tee to green. A tale of what could have been for the two-time Masters champion.

Phil Mickelson faded badly at last week’s championship, and it was a poor display with his irons that did the damage. Lefty lost 6.3 strokes to the field for his approach play in New York, which is his worst display in this area for 2019.

It was a quick exit for Tiger Woods at Bethpage Black, and though the 15-time major champion was far from his best off the tee (losing half a stroke), it was Woods’ putting that was his undoing. Woods lost almost a stroke and a half on the greens at Bethpage – his worst display with the putter since last August.

 

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