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The 5 players without a PGA Tour victory who are most likely to break through in 2019

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Earlier this month, I covered the five players without a major who I believe are most likely to change that in 2019. Now it’s time to take a look at the budding stars, as well as some late bloomers on the PGA Tour without a victory who are primed to make the breakthrough in 2019.

*Being 13th in the Official World Golf Ranking and on the list of five players without a major who are most likely to win in 2019, it didn’t feel necessary to include Tommy Fleetwood here.

5. Luke List

Luke List came agonizingly close to becoming a winner on the PGA Tour in 2018, with only a clutch performance from Justin Thomas at the Honda Classic preventing him from doing so. In the 2017/18 season, the 34-year-old proved that he belongs on the PGA Tour claiming five top-10 finishes, and with two top-five finishes in just five events played in the 2018/19 season, List looks ready to make the breakthrough in 2019.

What has prevented him from winning so far in his career? Well, apart from an inspired Justin Thomas, List’s putting has been very costly. The American finished 176th for strokes gained putting in 2017, and last year he came in at 181st. So far this season, List sits 50th, which shows a significant improvement, and with the talent he possesses, it may just take one strong week on the greens for him to get his hands on a trophy in 2019.

4. Beau Hossler

In 2018, Beau Hossler was on the receiving end of a dagger of a putt from Ian Poulter on the 18th green at the Houston Open. The putt, as well as the subsequent collapse in the playoff, prevented the Colin Montgomerie doppelgänger (in swing and apparel, at least) from entering the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour and booking his ticket to Augusta National in the process. But in that event, as well as subsequent ones, including the Travelers Championship where he finished T2, Hossler showed he has the game to win on the PGA Tour.

With so many tournaments on the Tour being decided by who can putt out of their skin for four days, Hossler’s streakiness on the greens could well be the catalyst to the 23-year-old getting his first win. In 2018, Hossler gained over five strokes over the field in seven events. To put that in perspective, one of the best putters on Tour, Jason Day, only achieved that feat three times last year. Continuing to have red hot weeks on the greens may allow Hossler to record a victory in 2019.

3. Alex Noren

Sitting 21st in the Official World Golf Ranking, a win on the PGA Tour is surely around the corner for Alex Noren. Just like Luke List, Noren came within touching distance of capturing the Honda Classic last year and had it not been for J.B. Holmes waiting until Christmas to hit his layup at the Farmers Insurance Open, Noren may well have tasted victory at Torrey Pines in 2018.

10 wins on the European Tour show Noren’s pedigree, and with him now plying his trade full time on the PGA Tour, it looks to be more of a question of when and not if the Swede will win a title stateside.

2. Sungjae Im

Not a household name as of yet, Web.com Tour graduate Sungjae Im is making his debut season on Tour, and the 20-year-old has begun very impressively. Im has already notched two top-20 finishes in his three appearances so far in 2019, and he also claimed a top-five finish at the beginning of the wraparound season at the Safeway Open.

In 2018, Im was the only player on the Web.com Tour to win multiple events, and what’s more, Im also claimed three runner-up finishes. The South Korean is undoubtedly a name to look out for in 2019, and at his current trajectory, he has every chance of emulating his slightly older countryman Si-Woo Kim, and becoming a PGA Tour winner very early on in his career.

1. Abraham Ancer

At just 5′ 7″, you probably wouldn’t think that Ancer is one of the top performers on the Tour off the tee. However, entering this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, the Mexican sits fifth in the field for strokes gained off the tee over his previous 50 rounds. With this significant weapon in his arsenal, Ancer’s results continue to grow, and with it, my belief that a first win on Tour is just around the corner for the 27-year-old.

Ancer ended his 2017/18 season with two top-10 finishes in his last five events, and in his seven subsequent events to begin the 2018/19 season, the Mexican has recorded four top-25 finishes, including top-five finishes at both the CIMB Classic and Shriners Open. Look for Ancer to get his maiden win on Tour 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

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  1. B

    Jan 29, 2019 at 11:27 am

    Tommy Fleetwood?

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TG2: New Titleist irons, utility irons, and hybrids! Top amateurs turning pro this week!

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Titleist has some new irons, utility irons, and hybrids coming out and we talk about the new names and how they fit in the lineup. Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland both making their pro debut at The Travelers! Rob is loving the new TaylorMade Original One and Knudson has some clubs drying for testing!

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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The Gear Dive Special Edition: Ping Tour Rep Christian Pena on signing Viktor Hovland

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In this special edition of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with Ping Tour Rep Christian Pena on the recent signing of Top Ranked Amateur Viktor Hovland of Oklahoma State University.

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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Squares2Circles: Course strategy refined by a Ph.D.

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What do you get when you combine Division I-level golf talent, a Ph.D. in Mathematics, a passion for understanding how people process analytical information, and a knowledge of the psychology behind it? In short, you get Kevin Moore, but the long version of the story is much more interesting.

Kevin Moore attended the University of Akron on a golf scholarship from 2001-2005. Upon completing his tenure with the team, he found himself burned out on the game and promptly hung up his sticks. For a decade.

After completing his BS and MS degrees at the University of Akron, Kevin then went to Arizona State to pursue his Ph.D. Ultimately what drew him to the desert was the opportunity to research the psychology behind how people process analytical information. In his own words:

“My research in mathematics education is actually in the realm of student cognition (how students think and learn). From that, I’ve gained a deep understanding of developmental psychology in the mathematical world and also a general understanding of psychology as a whole; how our brains work, how we make decisions, and how we respond to results.”

In 2015, Kevin started to miss the game he loved. Now a professor of mathematics education at the University of Georgia, he dusted off his clubs and set a goal to play in USGA events. That’s when it all started to come together.

“I wanted to play some interesting courses for my satellite qualifiers and I wasn’t able to play practice rounds to be able to check them out in advance. So I modified a math program to let me do all the strategic planning ahead of time. I worked my way around the golf course, plotting out exactly how I wanted to hit  shot, and minimizing my expected score for each hole. I bundled that up into a report that I could study to prepare for the rounds.

“I’m not long enough to overpower a golf course, so I needed to find a way to make sure I was putting myself in the best positions possible to minimize my score. There might be a pin position on a certain green where purposely hitting an 8-iron to 25 feet is the best strategy for me. I’ll let the rest of the field take on that pin and make a mistake even if they’re only hitting wedge. I know that playing intelligently aggressive to the right spot is going to allow me to pick up fractions of strokes here and there.”

His plan worked, too. Kevin made it to the USGA Mid-Amateur at Charlotte Country Club in September of 2018 using this preparation method for his events just three years after taking a decade off of golf. In case you missed the implied sentiment, that’s extremely impressive. When Kevin showed his reports to some friends that played on the Web.com Tour and the Mackenzie Tour, they were so impressed they asked him to think about generating them for other people. The first group he approached was the coaching staff at the University of Georgia, who promptly enlisted his services to assist their team with course strategy in the spring of 2019. That’s when Squares2Circles really started to get some traction.

At that point, UGA hadn’t had a team win in over two seasons. They also hadn’t had an individual winner in over one season and had missed out on Nationals the previous two seasons. In the spring of 2019, they had three team wins (including winning Regionals to advance to Nationals) and two individual wins (including Davis Thompson’s win at Regionals). Obviously, the credit ultimately belongs to the players on the team, but suffice it to say it appears as though Kevin’s involvement with the team was decidedly useful.

“One of the things we really focused in on was par 3 scoring. They finished 3rd, 2nd, 4th, and 3rd in the field as a team in their spring tournaments. Then at the SEC’s they struggled a bit and finished 6th in the field. At Regionals, they turned it around and finished 1st in the field with a score of +6 across 60 scores (186 total on 60 par 3’s, an average of 3.10).”

Sample Squares2Circles layout for the 18th hole at Muirfield Village. Advanced data redacted.

Kevin is available outside of his work with UGA and has been employed by other D-I teams (including his alma mater of Akron), Mackenzie Tour players, Web.com Tour players, and competitive juniors as well. Using his modified math program, he can generate generic course guides based on assumed shot dispersions, but having more specific Trackman data for the individual allows him to take things to a new level. This allows him to show the player exactly what their options are with their exact carry numbers and shot dispersions.

“Everything I do is ultimately based off of strokes gained data. I don’t reinvent the wheel there and I don’t use any real new statistics (at least not yet), but I see my role as interpreting that data. Let’s say a certain player is an average of -2.1 on strokes gained approach over the last 10 rounds. That says something about his game, but it doesn’t say if it’s strategy or execution. And it doesn’t help you come up with a practice plan either. I love to help players go deeper than just the raw data to help them understand why they’re seeing what they’re seeing. That’s where the good stuff is. Not just the data, but the story the data tells and the psychology behind it. How do we get ourselves in the right mindset to play golf and think through a round and commit to what we’re doing?”

“Even if you’re able to play practice rounds, this level of preparation turns those practice rounds into more of an experiment than a game plan session. You go into your practice round already knowing the golf course and already having a plan of attack. This allows you to use that practice round to test that game plan before the competition starts. You may decide to tweak a few things during your practice round based on course conditions or an elevation change here and there, but for the most part it’s like you’ve gained a free practice round. It allows you to be more comfortable and just let it fly a lot earlier.”

Kevin is in the process of building his website, but follow @squares2circles on Twitter for more information and insight.

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