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Rory McIlroy will fail to break major drought due to pressure (and 4 other predictions for 2023)

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1. Viktor Hovland will rise to world No. 1

Although he’s yet to turn his enormous potential into a major championship as of yet, Viktor Hovland has all of the tools to become the best golfer in the world. Since his win at the 2018 U.S. Amateur, the Norwegian has been racking up the accomplishments. Since 2020, he’s had three PGA Tour wins, two DP World Tour wins, and two wins at the Hero World Challenge.

Hovland’s biggest weakness remains his around the green game. However, he’s shown some signs of improvement and there have been plenty of courses that he’s been able to excel at when it comes to chipping. I have no doubt that he will eventually figure that aspect of the game out, and when he does, it will be a dangerous total package. At still only 23-years-old, Hovland is an elite player off the tee and with his iron play. If he’s able to reel off a few big wins in 2023 he undoubtedly can grab the top spot in the OWGR.

2. The European Team will win the 2023 Ryder Cup

After the last Ryder Cup blowout at Whistling Straits and last year’s Presiden’s Cup at Quail Hollow, the United States team looks almost unbeatable. The depth and star power on the team will make them pretty sizable favorites by the time we get to Italy.

With past European Cup players like Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Bernd Weisberger now with LIV and most likely ineligible to compete, the Europeans will need to depend on young and inexperienced players to step up.  Rasmus Hojgaard, Nicolai Hojgaard and Thomas Pieters will likely find their way onto the team, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Italians Guido Migliozzi and Francesco Molinari played their way onto the roster to compete in their home country. No matter how you slice it, the depth on the European Team pales in comparison to the United States Roster.

However, let’s not forget how difficult it is for the U.S. to win a Ryder Cup on European soil. The European team has won the past six Ryder Cups on their home turf and will be able to set the course up to their liking. Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are still two of the best players on either team and can do much of the heavy lifting with help from Viktor Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick who should all be good course fits for Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.

3. Dustin Johnson will win a major championship

Dustin Johnson will turn 39 in June and will inevitably put his best golf behind him at some point in the near future. His decision to join LIV Golf have lefty plenty of people wondering how much competitive drive he has left at this point in his career now that he’s really cashed in.

I believe he has another elite season of golf left in him. The insistence that he only cares about money and not about legacy will drive him to be in peak form come major championship season. At this point, the only thing that can really impact DJ’s on-course legacy is majors, and I’m of the opinion that he needs one more for his career to not be viewed as a slight underachievement.

The major championship venues should suit Johnson very well this year. Los Angeles Country Club for the U.S. Open should be a favorable layout for the former U.S. Open Champion, as he still hits it far and straight which is always the recipe for success on a tough track. His U.S. Open history speaks for itself as he’s had five top-six finishes in his past nine tries. Augusta National is always a great fit for DJ and the PGA Championship will be in the Northeast (New York) where he already has a handful of wins.

If Johnson is able to win another major championship, he’d join notable golfers such as Payne Stewart, Padraig Harrington, Jordan Spieth and Vijay Singh as players who’ve captured three majors in their career.

4. The Masters will see a drastic uptick in TV ratings

In 2020, The Masters had the least number of viewers since 1993. In 2021, much more people tuned in, but it still fell 13% short of the 2019 Masters where Tiger Woods emerged as the surprise winner. Even then, ratings from the final round were a good deal less than they were back in 2010-2013.

While the emergence of LIV Golf has seemingly fractured golf fans as a whole, I believe it will make the Masters (and to an extent the other majors) appointment television. With Masters Chairman Fred Ridley saying that LIV players with already existing exemptions have gotten their invites compete at The Masters, there’s a good chance that we get a prominent PGA Tour member going head-to-head with a LIV golf representative down the stretch on Sunday.

The addition of LIV to the golf landscape has had a negative impact on the depth of the PGA Tour, but it should make Sunday at Augusta National even better.

5 Rory McIlroy will remain stuck at 4 major championships

We head into 2023 with Rory McIlroy once again the favorite at The Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship and sits behind only Jon Rahm on the odds board of the PGA Championship. He won’t win any of them.

The common theme for those who’ve followed McIlroy since his last major championship victory in 2014 is: “this is the year”. He’s such a dynamic all-around golfer that it’s almost shocking he’s come up empty in his past 30 attempts at the four majors. There appears to be a mental hurdle for the 33-year-old, as he’s either started slow or finished shaky in all of the majors where he’s had high finishes.

He enters the season in arguably the best form we’ve seen him in in three plus years and is the current number one player in the world. The major venues will once again be favorable to the Northern Irishman, and the Open Championship will be at Royal Liverpool, where he won in 2014.

As each year passes, the pressure for McIlroy to win another major championship continues to increase. That intense pressure is precisely the reason why he’ll come up short for the 9th consecutive season.

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19th Hole

Ben An reveals the pros and cons of being a professional athlete on social media

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While speaking with GolfWRX, Byeong Hun An discussed the pros and cons of being a professional golfer on social media.

“I just like reading some, you know, funny rumors here and there looking at the, the news, I guess, you know, it’s the things you cannot get from the mainstream news, you know, like the little gossips here and there”

“I hear a lot of support, you know, a lot of friendly messages from, from the followers and everything. I think those are the pros, right?”

“[A con] is that it takes a lot of energy out of you.”

An also said that he doesn’t understand the tribal fighting between PGA Tour fans and LIV Golf fans.

“You know… there might be some messages that’s a little aggressive or you can hear some nonsense from other people… There are a lot of fights going happening on Twitter these days between the, you know, the pro PGA (Tour) fans and pro-LIV fans and just listening to them is exhausting.”

“To be honest, I don’t know why they’re so mad about. Not having LIV golfers on PGA Tour or like, you know, why they’re so mad about.”

“We (the players) have been quiet, but I see all the fans kind of fighting each other. There’s no point.”

“They’re not doing the negotiations, you know, the, the pros are or the, you know, investors are.”

“It’s a very weird world. I think that Twitter especially, it’s very weird.”

An added that there is no animosity between LIV and PGA Tour players.

“I saw Dean (Burmester) last week, I saw (Joaquin) Niemann last week I saw many guys…They’re on a different tour, you know, it’s not like we’re at war.”

“I mean, maybe some guys maybe think that, but I don’t because it’s a choice they made and then, you get to see them in the majors.”

An will tee it up next at the Memorial Tournament in two weeks.

Check out the interview in full below:

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19th Hole

Ben An on why he feels he as an advantage over other players on harder golf courses

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While speaking with GolfWRX, Byeong Hun An discussed why he feels he has an advantage on other players on tough golf courses.

GolfWRX: “Do you think you have a better chance of winning or an advantage on a hard, of course, because your ball striking is so superior to so many of the players?”

An: “Yeah, I agree. Like especially the ball flight. I hit the ball really high. I have a lot of spin on the ball. I definitely have the advantage because, you know, I was able to stop the ball in the green quicker than other people, especially when the pins in the front or something.”

“So having a distance in a, in a ball striking, it helps in a tougher golf course.”

With his knack for playing well at tough courses, we asked him if he thinks he can contend at Pinehurst for the U.S. Open.

“I played there a long time ago, 2008 us amateur. So I don’t remember any, any of the holes…I know there went to a lot of changes after that and for 2008,” An said. “I think so I haven’t seen the course but I know it’ll be firm and like almost like linksy because the last time when Martin Kaymer won, I think the course was very dry and he was putting it off the greens from everywhere .So yeah, the firmer, you know, obviously it’s tougher, right?”

Prior to the U.S. Open, An will be teeing it up at the Memorial in two weeks.

Check out the interview in full below:

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Charles Schwab Challenge betting preview: Tony Finau ready to get back inside winner’s circle

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After an action-packed week at the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour heads back to Texas to play the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth.

Colonial Country Club is a 7,209-yard par-70 and features Bentgrass greens. The difficulty of the event this week will be influenced by course setup and/or wind. The last four seasons have all produced winners with scores between -8 and -14, with the two most recent playing extremely difficult. Last year, Emiliano Grillo won in a playoff against Adam Schenk at -8, and in 2022, Sam Burns edged out Scottie Scheffler in a playoff at -9.

After last season’s event, the course was renovated by Gil Hanse. I expect the course to stay true to what the original design intended, but will improve in some areas that needed updating. Jordan Spieth, who is one of the most consistent players at Colonial, told Golfweek his thoughts on the changes.

“I always thought courses like this, Hilton Head, these classic courses that stand the test of time, it’s like what are you going to do to these places? I think that’s kind of everyone’s first response,” Spieth said. “Then I saw them, and I was like, wow, this looks really, really cool. It looks like it maintains the character of what Colonial is while creating some excitement on some holes that maybe could use a little bit of adjusting.”

The Charles Schwab Challenge will play host to 136 golfers this week, and the field is relatively strong despite it being the week after a major championship.

Some notable golfers in the field include Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Tony Finau, Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa, Min Woo Lee, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth and Akshay Bhatia. 

Past Winners at Charles Schwab Challenge

  • 2023: Emiliano Grillo (-8)
  • 2022: Sam Burns (-9)
  • 2021: Jason Kokrak (-14)
  • 2020: Daniel Berger (-15)
  • 2019: Kevin Na (-13)
  • 2018: Justin Rose (-20)
  • 2017: Kevin Kisner (-10)
  • 2016: Jordan Spieth (-17)

Key Stats For Colonial Country Club

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Colonial Country Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Approach will be a major factor this week. It grades out as the most important statistic historically in events played at Colonial Country Club, and that should be the case once again this week.

Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.09)
  2. Ryan Moore (1.00)
  3. Tom Hoge (+0.96)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+0.85)
  5. Greyson Sigg (+0.83)

2. Strokes Gained: Off The Tee

Both distance and accuracy will be important this week. Historically, shorter hitters who find the fairway have thrived at Colonial, but over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of the players in the field use big drives to eliminate the challenge of doglegs and fairway bunkers.

The rough can be thick and penal, so finding the fairway will remain important.

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.11)
  2. Keith Mitchell (+0.90)
  3. Kevin Yu (+0.87)
  4. Alejandro Tosti (+0.81)
  5. Min Woo Lee (+0.80)

3. Strokes Gained: Total in Texas

Players who play well in the state of Texas tend to play well in multiple events during the Texas swing. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over past 36 rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.16)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.97)
  3. Tony Finau (+1.91)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+1.68)
  5. Justin Rose (+1.62)

4. Course History

Course history seems to be much more important at Colonial Country Club than most other courses. The same players tend to pop up on leaderboards here year after year.

Course History per round Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.31)
  2. Justin Rose (+1.70)
  3. Harris English (+1.66)
  4. Webb Simpson (+1.54)
  5. Collin Morikawa (+1.47)

5. Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass)

The Bentgrass greens at Colonial are in immaculate condition, and putters who roll it pure are at an advantage. Historically, great putters have thrived at Colonial.

Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass) Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Denny McCarthy (+1.08)
  2. Justin Rose (+0.93)
  3. J.T. Poston (+0.87)
  4. Maverick McNealy (+0.85)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.74)

Charles Schwab Challenge Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: OTT (25%), Strokes Gained: Total in Texas (14%), Course History (17%) and SG: Putting Bentgrass (17%).

  1. Scottie Scheffler
  2. Chris Kirk
  3. Tony Finau
  4. Billy Horschel
  5. Daniel Berger
  6. Maverick McNealy
  7. Adam Schenk
  8. Collin Morikawa
  9. Austin Eckroat
  10. Sepp Straka

2024 Charles Schwab Challenge Picks

Tony Finau +3300 (FanDuel)

Tony Finau hit the ball incredibly well at last week’s PGA Championship. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, gaining 9.3 strokes in the category, which was his second-best performance on approach this season (Farmers T6). Finau’s tie for 18th at Valhalla is ideal considering the fact that he played very well but didn’t have the mental and emotional strain of hitting shots deep into contention in a major championship. He should be sharp and ready to go for this week’s event.

Finau has been phenomenal in the state of Texas. He ranks third in Strokes Gained: Total in the Lone Star state in his past 36 rounds and just recently put up a T2 finish at the Texas Children’s Houston Open last month. He also has success at Colonial. He finished 2nd at the course in 2019 and T4 at the course in 2022. He missed the cut last year, however, that seems to be an aberration as he hasn’t finished worse than 34th in his seven other trips to Fort Worth.

Finau has gained strokes off the tee in 10 of his 13 starts this season, and his ability to hit the ball long and straight should give him an advantage this week at Colonial. He’s also gained strokes on approach in 11 of his 13 starts this year. His tee to green excellence should work wonders this week, as Colonial is a challenging test. The concern, as usual, for Tony, is the putter. He’s in the midst of the worst putting season of his career, but with a target score in the -8 to -13 range this week, he should be able to get away with a few mistakes on the greens.

Finau is one of the most talented players in the field and I believe he can put it all together this week in Texas to get his first win since last year’s Mexico Open.

Sungjae Im +5000 (BetRivers)

Sungjae Im is really starting to play some good golf of late, despite his missed cut at last week’s PGA Chmapionship. Im missed the cut on the number, which may be a blessing in disguise that allows him to rest and also keeps the price reasonable on him this week. The missed cut was due to some woeful putting, which is atypical for Sungjae. He gained strokes slightly both off the tee and on approach, therefore I’m not concerned with the performance.

Prior to his trip to Valhalla, Sungjae was beginning to show why he has been such a good player over the course of his career. He finished T12 at Heritage and then won an event in Korea. He followed that up with a T4 at Quail Hollow in a “Signature Event”, which was his best performance on the PGA Tour this season. At the Wells Fargo, the South Korean was 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and showed his skill around and on the greens.

Sungjae has had some success at Colonial. He’s finished T10 and T15 with two missed cuts scattered in between over the past four seasons. When he is in form, which I believe he now is, the course suits him well.

Im hasn’t won since 2021, which is an underachievement given how talented I believe he is. That can change this week with a win at Colonial.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout +5000 (FanDuel)

I absolutely love this spot for Christiaan Bezuidenhout. The South African is having a fantastic season and this is a course that should suit his strengths.

Prior the PGA Championship, Bez hadn’t finished worse than 28th in six consecutive starts. He’s not the type of player who can get to -20 in a “birdie fest” but can grind in a tougher event. He is a terrific player in the wind and putts extremely well on Bentgrass greens. Bezuidenhout has also had success both in Texas and at Colonial. He ranks 16th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course and 10th in Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over his past 36 rounds.

Part of what has made Bezuidenhout play so well this year is his increase in ball speed, which has been the recipe for success for plenty of players, including the winner of last week’s PGA Championship, Xander Schauffele. Bezuidenhout’s coach shared his ball speed gains on Instagram a few weeks back.

https://www.instagram.com/p/C6FCvK3S97A/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Now at close to 170mph ball speed, that isn’t enough to compete at the monstrous major championship courses in my opinion, however it’s plenty to contend at Colonial.

Bezuidenhout has been one of the most consistent performers on the PGA Tour this season and a win would put an exclamation point on what’s been his best year on Tour to date.

Brendon Todd +12500 (BetRivers)

Brendon Todd is the type of player that’s hit or miss, but usually shows up on the courses he has a strong history on and plays well. Todd finished T8 at Colonial in 2021 and 3rd in 2022. He’s also flashed some Texas form this year as he finished T5 at the Valero Texas Open in April.

Todd doesn’t contend all that often, but when he does, he’s shown in the past that he has the capability to win a golf tournament. He has three PGA Tour wins including a win in Texas back in 2014 (TPC Four Seasons).

Todd is a player who can rise to the top if some of the elite players aren’t in contention after a grueling PGA Championship.

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