PGA TOUR 2018 Recap and 2019 Preview

2017-2018 Season Recap

The past PGA TOUR season was a memorable one for both hardcore followers of the sport like myself as well as for the casual golf fan who tunes in to watch the majors and when some of their favorites like Tiger, Phil, Spieth, or Rickie are competing. We saw Brooks Koepka capture two major titles, a repeat US Open and the PGA Championship, we saw Francesco Molinari capture his first major title after having one of the hotter streaks in the summer I have ever seen, we saw Patrick Reed hold off incredible 4th round runs from both Spieth and Rickie at the Masters to capture his first major title, we saw what I call unlikely domination of Webb Simpson at the PLAYERS Championship, and finally… how could I stay on brand and not mention that we saw TIGER WOODS win his first tournament in over 5 years. We saw some fan favorites have an “off-year,” we saw many players improve parts of their game that we hadn’t seen before, we saw some newcomers on the scene who were either first-time tournament winners or dominant contenders, we saw players win who hadn’t finished off a tournament in many years, and we saw so many close calls and heartbreaks that makes this sport so damn exciting.

My 2017-2018 PGA TOUR Highlights (in chronological order):

Tiger Tour Champ 2018

 

  • Patton Kizzire wins twice in 5 weeks towards the beginning of the season (OHL and Sony Open)
  • Dustin Johnson continues his previous season dominance by winning the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January
  • Jason Day captures an exciting Farmers Insurance Open victory on a Monday morning playoff
  • Gary Woodland gets his first victory in a few years at the Waste Management following, “the most difficult year of his life,” in which he lost one of his twins to a miscarriage and saw the other born several weeks premature
  • Ted Potter Jr. holds off Dustin Johnson to win the Pebble Beach Pro-Am
  • Justin Thomas holds off Luke List (long time PGA DFS favorite) to win the Honda Classic
  • Phil Mickelson beats JT in a playoff at the WGC Mexico for his first win in over 5 years
  • Paul Casey gets his first win in many years as he holds off both Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods at the Valspar Championship
  • Rory McIlroy puts on a putting clinic at the Arnold Palmer and torches the field
  • Ian Poulter captures the final spot in the Masters 4 days before it starts as he beats the young Beau Hossler in a playoff
  • Sergio hits about 800 balls in the water on the 15th, making a 13 on the hole and taking himself out of any sort of competitive round and missing the cut (not a “high” light but a memorable moment for sure)
  • Patrick Reed captures the Green Jacket
  • Webb Simpson beats the rest of the PLAYERS Championship field by a convincing 4 shots after leading by a whopping 7 shots going into Sunday
  • Bryson DeChambeau wins a thrilling playoff at the Memorial to kick off a red-hot summer
  • Brooks Koepka wins his 2nd straight US Open title
  • Kevin Na wins his 2nd PGA Tour event, and first since 2011, at the Greenbrier
  • Francesco Molinari holds off the likes of Justin Rose and Tiger Woods to capture his first career major at Carnoustie in Scotland
  • Brooks Koepka captures his 3rd major title in 2 years, and 2nd of 2018, as he holds off a charging Tiger Woods, who comes up just short after a 64 on Sunday
  • Brandt Snedeker fires a 1st round 59 at the Wyndham and goes on to get his first win since 2016
  • Bryson DeChambeau won back to back at the Northern Trust and Dell Technologies to capture his 3rd title of 2018
  • Tiger Woods wins his 80th PGA TOUR event, his first in over 5 years, and one of the most incredible spectacles on the 18th green that this sport has ever seen

Notable Improvements from the 2017 Season to the 2018 Season (via GolfWeek and Fantasynational.com)

-Keegan Bradley finished the 2017 season ranked 80th in SG: Approach and finished ranked 2nd at the end of the 2018 season

-Emiliano Grillo finished the 2017 season ranked 139th in SG: Putting and finished ranked 12th at the end of the 2018 season

-Webb Simpson, historically a weak putter, started the season ranked 88th in SG: Putting and finished ranked 6th at the end of 2018

-Austin Cook saw tremendous improvement from 2017 to 2018 as he moved up 126 in SG: Short Game, 103 spots in SG: Around-the-Green, and 122 spots in SG: Putting

-Bryson DeChambeau improved from 118th ranked in SG: Total to 7th; he moved from 110th in SG: Approach to 8th; he moved from 149th in SG: Putting to 36th

Notable Disappointments from the 2017 Season to the 2018 Season (via GolfWeek and Fantasynational.com)

-Jordan Spieth fell from 37th in SG: Putting from the 2017 Season to 144th in 2018; this was also Spieth’s first non-winning year since the 2013-2014 season

-Jason Dufner had a tough year as he dropped from 14th in SG: Approach in the 2017 Season to finishing 147th in SG: Approach to close out 2018

-Ollie Schniederjans was showing a ton of promise in 2017 but after a tough start to the 2018 season he saw a rocky road as he improved his short game but fell 106 spots in SG: Off-The-Tee from 80th to 186th and fell 111 spots in SG: Ball Striking from 54th to 165th

Young Guns Primed for the 2018-2019 Season

Some of these names have already played a few tournaments in the “swing season” at the end of 2018 but I want to highlight some of these guys who either crushed it on the Web.Com tour or already have played on the TOUR and have showed incredible promise. Also, there are a ton of writers who make the “best rookies” or “best sleepers” for the season so I’m going to combine mostly newer players or rookies and add some young guys whom have been on the TOUR but haven’t exploded yet.

  • Peter Uihlein: So much of success on the PGA Tour seems to be guys who can run hot and get their wins, Top 5s, and Top 10s in spurts, and we usually see that with younger players compared to guys who have been on the Tour for 10+ years. Peter Uihlein is an example of someone whom I think has immense talent and has shown flashes many times but hasn’t been able to finish the job or put together a true “hot streak.” Uihlein’s 2018 was a mixed bag as he started off the year in good form before missing a few cuts, finishing in the top 50 of tournaments, and then proceeded to finish 5th at the Wells Fargo, 21st at the Byron Nelson, and 5th at the Memorial. After a semi-decent May/June, he missed a few cuts in a row, including all 3 majors, and fizzled off. Uihlein plays a ton on the Euro Tour so he is not an unknown but definitely not a household name either. He saw his approach game falter a little bit this past season so if he can get that on track and continue above average putting I can see him making a move towards the Top 50 FedEx Points by the end of the year and mix in some Top 5s, or even a win, by year’s end.
    My Prediction: 2 Top 5s, 2 Top 10s at the end of 2018; Top 50 in FedEx Cup Points

  • Julian Suri: Here is another predominantly Euro player who can be hard to figure out because his stats and results aren’t as easy to analyze since the Euro Tour doesn’t keep extensive SG stats, etc. like the PGA Tour. Suri made 9 official PGA Tour starts last year, and in those, finished 8th at the Shell, 29th at the Memorial, 28th at the Open Championship, and 19th at the PGA Championship. Across in Europe, he finished T2 at the HNA Open de France and T5 recently at the Sky Sports British Masters. He currently sits at 75th in the World, and like Uihlein, I could see him continuing to improve, hopefully his putting, and contending in both Europe and United States this year.
    My Prediction: A win on the Euro Tour and a Top 10 at the Open Championship

  • Wyndham Clark: A definite newcomer, and I’m a little bias here because he is an old friend of mine from Colorado, but this kid has been something special since the age of about 10. He recently finished a year on the Web.com where he had 3 Top 5s, a T11, a T12, and actually finished Top 20 at the Sanderson Farms 2 seasons ago in one of his few PGA Tour starts. There is still a lot of unknowns about how he’ll compete against the World’s best, but I see Wyndham having a successful season and keeping his TOUR card with a few Top 20s or better mixed in. Wyndham is a bomber as well, averaging about 321 yards off the tee on the Web.com and is a fantastic putter as well (tied for 6th in birdie conversion rate). My following prediction may not seem like much but when considering the quality of talent some of these young guys are up against and how much more difficult these courses are… it’s damn impressive to be making the cut and finishing in a Top 20 or Top 10 position.
    My Prediction: At least 2 Top 20s and at least 1 Top 10

  • Anders Alberton: This young kid just finished 5th at the Sanderson Farms about a month ago in only his 5th career start on TOUR, which includes an Amateur status start back in 2016. Albertson started out his year on the Web.com with 3 straight Top 25s and continued on to grab a win, three Top 10s, a T11, and 5 more Top 20s. This kid is damn good, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a win very If he can get his putter working, which he should considering he finished 2nd in Average Putts per Hole last year, he will be in prime position (he finished 5th a month ago while losing 3.3 strokes to the field putting). Alberton was 5th on the Web.com in 2018 in birdies made, 2nd in birdie conversion %, tied for 2nd in total cuts made, and 10th in total earnings… I’m excited to watch him play.
    My Prediction: A win in a field opposite a WGC or Major (I.e. Puerto Rico Open, Barbosol, etc.)

  • Kramer Hickok: I can’t wait for the PGA Tour announcers to shove down our throats that Hickok roomed with Jordan Spieth at Texas… not. He did, and that’s cool, but I hope after this year he’s known for much more than that. Much like Albertson, Hickok had a fantastic 2018 Web.com season that included 5 Top 10s (including a T8 at the Web.com Tour Championship) as well as a win towards the end of the season. Hickok has played 4 times on the TOUR in the swing season and after missing 2 cuts in a row, has found some form with a 23rd and 29th in the last few weeks. He actually quietly sits at 161 in the World Golf Rankings, which is pretty impressive since he’s mostly played on the Canadian and Web.com tours and only 8 PGA Tour starts to his name. On a side note, I think Hickok will be a great DFS play in 2018 and I look forward to seeing how he can continue to grind as the season goes on…
    My Prediction: A Win or Top 5 in a field opposite a WGC or Major

  • Sam Burns: Here is where we probably start getting into names that everyone knows and Burns should definitely be one of them; after all, he’s the guy that played with Tiger Woods in the last round of the Honda Classic and beat him. Impressive stuff. Burns actually ended up finishing 8th overall at the tournament and was hit best finish of the 2018 season until the Sanderson Farms several weeks ago where he finished 3rd. Burns is an absolute stud who was #1 on the Web.com last year in average putts per hole (1.7), 8th in Driving Distance (321.2), 6th on the overall earnings list, and 1st in birdie conversion % at 40%. On the Web.com last year, he had 4 Top 10s, a win, and a T8 at the Honda Classic on the PGA Tour and a T12 at the Valspar on the TOUR as well. Further, Burns played in the U.S. Open and made the cut at a course that saw a plethora of professionals get crushed by the set up and winds. Burns has already proven himself as he remained calm and collected while playing with Tiger and I think he’s set up to have a stud year.
    My Prediction: A victory in either the Florida or California swing of the 2018 Season

  • Daniel Berger: This one may stick out since he already has victories on TOUR (twice at the FedEx St. Jude Classic) and also contended for much of Saturday and Sunday at the 2018 US Open. However, for the most part, Berger had an off year in my opinion. Besides his 6th place finish at the US Open and 12th at the PGA Championship, Berger didn’t have any “stand out” performances and I’m looking for that to change in 2019. Since 2014, Berger had a least 1 2nd place finish, or a win, and last year his best finish was at the U.S. Open with a 6th. Berger is obviously extremely talented so making a prediction is tough since he can realistically win anywhere and can compete well in even the strongest of fields. Compared to 2017, everything for Berger tailed off a little bit, SG: T2G, SG: OTT, SG: ARG, etc. but nothing just collapsed so I like him as a great bounce back candidate for 2019.
    My Prediction: A victory in the Florida Swing and/or PLAYERS Championship contender with at least 2 Top 5s mixed in throughout the season

Sungjae Im

  • Sungjae Im: This guy. Not exactly a secret stud anymore as everyone seems to have written about him, heard about him, or been astounded by him. You know when a guy is already a “chalk” play in DFS this early that he’s going to be a contender moving forward… here are some Web.com tour highlights from 2018: 1st in Earnings, 1st in Birdies made (312), most Top 10 Finishes (7), tied for 2nd in total cuts made. He had 2 wins in the season, 2 2nd place finishes, 2 Top 10 finishes, and has recently finished T4 at the Safeway Open in October and T15 at the Shriners Open several weeks ago. This guy is insane from Tee to Green and if he doesn’t win this year I would be genuinely shocked. Im currently sits at 98th in the World Golf Rankings and I expect him to continue to climb and make the Top 50 in FedEx Cup Points by year’s end, at the minimum. I look forward to seeing what he can do against these pros come 2019…
    My Prediction: A victory this season, Top 20 at a Major, and Special Exemption to the Masters

  • Cameron Champ: Well here’s a guy who’s already made a name for himself. Champ has already become mega-popular and has been on the scene for about 6 minutes. Champ won the Sanderson Farms several weeks ago and in the 2018-2019 swing season hasn’t missed a cut and has that win, a 25th at the Safeway, a 28th at the Shriners, a T10 at the OHL, and most recently a 6th place finish at the RSM. While Champ is known for his insane distance and ball speed (averaged 343 yards off the tee last year on the Web.com and has about 190 MPH ball speed), he possesses an incredible short game that will make him dangerous for years to come. He ranked 4th for birdie conversion % last year (36.7%) and racked up 5 Top 10s, along with a win. Already a Top 100 player in the world, I expect him to get to around 50th or better in the OWGR and I’m excited to see him battle with the likes of the top studs in 2019.
    My Prediction: Another victory, made cut in at least 3 of 4 Majors, and Top 30 in FedEx Cup

Joaquin Niemann

  • Joaquin Niemann: Perhaps the buzz of the PGA Tour last year (maybe besides Tiger), was this kid who just a month ago turned 20 years old and has one of the brightest futures on the PGA Tour. I’m not sure how many people have earned Special Temporary Member Status on the PGA Tour ever, but I would be willing to bet the list is pretty small; what I would also be willing to bet is that whoever did get that status took more than 5 starts to get it. Niemann earned an exemption from a 2017 Latin Tour victory to the Masters and after unfortunately missing the cut there, he declared professional and immediately finished T6 at his first tournament as a professional. He then held a lead for a good portion of the Memorial Tournament, ultimately finishing T6 again. Niemann ended up earning 4 Top 10s in just 8 starts and earned his 2018-2019 TOUR, joining just Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm as the only players to ever completely bypass the Web.com Tour Finals and earn their TOUR cards with no status. Unbelievable. Niemann is going to win, and he’s going to win a lot. In his first season on tour, and very limited rounds, he finished 12th in SG: OTT, 5th in SG: Approach, and 15th in SG: T2G. Niemann is one of the few guys, like Champ or Burns, where it’s not if he’ll win but when and I hope it’s in spectacular and dominating fashion.
    My Prediction: A victory in the California or Florida swing; Top 10 at the PGA Championship

2019 Major Predictions

2019 Masters (as of December 2018, THESE CAN CHANGE)

  • Top 20: Gary Woodland, Adam Hadwin, Pat Perez, Joaquin Niemann
  • Top 10: Tiger Woods (he’s actually winning), Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama
  • Top 5: Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth
  • Winner: Rickie Fowler

 

2019 PGA Championship (as of December 2018, THESE CAN CHANGE)

  • Top 20: Patrick Reed, Sam Burns, Sungjae Im, Phil Mickelson
  • Top 10: Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Adam Scott
  • Top 5: Jordan Spieth, Brandt Snedeker
  • Winner: Bryson Dechambeau

 

2019 US Open (as of December 2018, THESE CAN CHANGE)

  • Top 20: Jimmy Walker, Zach Johnson, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Adam Hadwin
  • Top 10: Cameron Smith, Gary Woodland, Tyrrell Hatton
  • Top 5: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson
  • Winner: Dustin Johnson

 

2019 Open Championship (as of December 2018, THESE CAN CHANGE)

  • Top 20: Daniel Berger, Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel, Bryson Dechambeau
  • Top 10: Xander Schauffele, Henrik Stenson, Jon Rahm
  • Top 5: Paul Casey, Jordan Spieth
  • Winner: Marc Leishman

Spieth

Bold Predictions

  • Tiger Woods wins at least once
  • Brooks Koepka wins a tournament in dominating fashion… that’s not a major
  • Rickie or Hideki win a major
  • Jordan Spieth wins at least twice
  • Dustin Johnson wins at least twice
  • T. Pan gets a victory
  • Tiger Woods is in a final group at a major
  • We get at least 3 first time winners
  • Smylie Kaufman makes a cut!
  • Harold Varner III gets his first win
  • Cameron Champ gets paired with DJ to see who can bomb it farther
  • Jason Day wins multiple times

Looking forward to the start of the season in just a few short weeks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s