Each week, our panel of writers will be asked a question about the game of golf. Topics will range from their predictions for the Tour season to what they would order from the concession stand at Augusta National Golf Club. No subject is off limits for this esteemed group.
We all have our favorites on tour. Depending on how and when you’ve watched the game over the years, your experiences shape who you root for in big moments. We asked our writers who they’ll be pulling for this season.
This week’s question: If you could have any player win an event on tour this season, who would it be and at which event?
Frank Laterza: I’m assuming many will pick Tiger in some tournament for this, unless their name is Mike McNamara (PHILIP THE THRILIP). I didn’t grow up on golf, and my love for the game came when Tiger was still recovering from his surgeries. My love rose from the likes of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas (I do have the utmost respect for Tiger and a complete understanding of his impact in revolutionizing the game and his pure greatness). If he was healthy, my answer would be Steve Bowditch at literally any PGA tournament. Steve is my hero, and I almost got the chance to caddie for him – fun story. However, he is recovering from meniscus and back injuries, and I wish him the best. I would also love to see Buddy, my Buddy, win a tournament. I’ve followed Bud Cauley for a while as he was roommates with JT, and he absolutely has the talent and mental makeup to get it done.
But for this year, I’ll focus on my favorite tournament: The Masters. You see, as humans, we are drawn to domination. Love it or hate it, either way, you’re drawn to it. Jordan Spieth has dominated Augusta since 2014 when he posted a -5 to finish second. Since then, only fourteen people have been able to beat him in five years. One of the most dominant stretches the golf world has seen in a major. Some love it, some hate it, but everyone can see the recent struggles and agree something looks off. So who is the one player I want to win one tournament? Jordan Spieth at the Masters. When Jordan is playing well, along with the rest of the youth movement, and the addition of the OG’s Tiger and Phil playing some of the best golf in the world, Golf Nation is in a better place. People will forever debate where Jordan lies in the realm of historic greatness. Hell, the fact he’s discussed in that conversation at age 25 already proves his greatness. If he can find a spark and get back to his 2015 ways, well the golf world will all prosper. Where better to do it than Augusta? You don’t believe in him? Ok cool, hook ‘em.
Jake Mulholland: The 111th US Open was played at Congressional Country Club in 2011. Rory McIlroy was a mere 22 years old at the time, and over the course of four rounds managed to shoot an aggregate score of 268 (-16). This was a US Open Championship record that stood until Brooks came along in 2017 to tie the -16 record at Erin Hills. Rory was a stud. He wasn’t a stud via his looks and sponsorships, but rather through his game. Watch the final round of the US Open in 2011 on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. In the video you will spot a 22 year old with scraggly hair, wearing clothes that were a tad too big, rocking an unrecognizable sponsor. But the one thing that 2011 Rory had that today’s Rory does not is a winning attitude. This year, Rory has posted 4 top 5 finishes in his four starts alone, but hasn’t been able to close. Some of my peers argue that he has lost his drive to win and his confidence, and is instead preoccupied with how others view him. With all that said, if I could choose one man to win an event this year, I would choose Rory. The event he would take down would be the Masters. Jumeirah, Rory’s first sponsor, has a slogan that reads “Stay Different”… if Rory wants to return to his old winning ways, he will have to do just that.
Kevin Walsh: I’m going to be honest, I read this question and immediately thought of Tiger at the Masters. The combination of my favorite player at my favorite venue and the comeback story would be one for the ages. But that is too simple, so I will take the path less traveled. Instead, we will stay in Augusta, but I will change the victor. Rickie Fowler will claim his first major victory at the 2019 Masters. Rickie has long been one of my go-to guys on tour, and since Jordan already has a green jacket (should be 2 minimum but let’s not get into that), I will roll with Rick. A guy who has been ridiculed time and time again for not winning a major, even though he just turned 30 and one Phil Mickelson, among others, didn’t win majors until years later. Rickie battled his ass off in the 2018 Masters. The golf we saw from him was poised and precise, gradually picking away at Reed’s lead before he ran out of holes. He showed he is more than ready for a major. One of the most liked, if not the most liked, players on tour getting a green jacket would be a hell of a story. Joe Skovron, Rick’s caddy, told us on our show (https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2018/10/10/episode-26-with-joe-skovron/) they want The Masters the most of any tournament they play. Getting it done a year after such a close defeat would only make it that much sweeter, and a win for our buddy Skov as well? Don’t want it, need it.
Sean Carney: There are two answers to this question: Tiger at The Masters or Phil at Pebble (U.S. Open). Being a Tiger guy, I obviously have to go with him. While Woods did win the Tour Championship, you have to think this one has been circled a few times on his calendar. Being able to hoist the trophy at Augusta would not only validate all the work Tiger has done to get back, but also get the ‘can he win a major again’ talk to subside. You could insert Tiger at any Major Championship, but this would really set the tone for his year.
Sam Scherman: I thought about going off-brand and picking a young guy that is close to a breakthrough victory such as Daniel Berger at the PGA Championship, Tommy Fleetwood at the British Open, or a rising star in Wyndham Clark, whom is an old friend of mine from high school golf. However, I have to go with Tiger at Augusta. For him to come back from so many injuries (which I wrote about here: https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2018/09/24/hes-not-done-yet-tiger-woods/) and compete at the highest level again, and to then win at the greatest event the sport has to offer, would be nothing short of spectacular. Keeping it short and sweet, as most know my affinity for Tiger, a victory there would be one of his all-time great achievements as we factor in injuries, age, level of competition on today’s PGA TOUR, and once again getting it done like he has EIGHTY times before… LFG Tiger.
The PGA Championship
Mike McNamara: Wow, quite the question this week. I’m sure all of the other writers have already penciled me in for Phil at Pebble to complete the career Grand Slam. Surprisingly enough, that is not going to be my answer. While Phil has had his moments at Pebble, I have told people for the last few years that I believe it is destiny that he will win the 2020 US Open the weekend he turns 50 years old at Winged Foot Golf Club. Winged Foot was the site of his most memorable runner-up finish at a US Open, and in my opinion, his one true choke job. In my hardest of hearts, I believe Phil will avenge that choke next June in Mamaroneck, NY. With all this being said, I am still a diehard Phil fan, so he is still going to be in my answer. My selection will be for Phil Mickelson to win the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. The PGA Championship has become the toughest major for Phil to win because of the style of course that the event gets played at. This year feels like Phil’s last real chance to win the PGA and I believe he will be ready. I know he will win again at Augusta, and as stated above, I think next year is his year of glory at the US Open. I believe he has figured out how to play links golf at an elite level, which will give him a few more chances at the British. So where does this leave me? Phil gets #6 at the often forgotten major, the PGA Championship, as he wows the New York galleries once again.
The US Open
Tony Kasper: Simply put, Rickie is due to breakthrough at a major tournament. Nobody has come closer without getting a win over the last few years. He had an incredible run in 2014, finishing top five in all four majors, including two T-2’s. While The Masters is where he has had his best showing (solo second last year), his most consistent success in majors has been at the US Open, as he has three top ten finishes the last six years. Rickie has a reputation as a guy who can’t close, but he’s already won this year and contended multiple times, so it feels like that narrative is waning. He has also struggled at Pebble Beach during his career, but it just adds to the storybook finish. He could exercise a number of demons with a win this Father’s Day Weekend. It would be special to see Rick conquer golf’s greatest test in his home state and get over the proverbial hump for his first major victory.
The Open Championship
Jack Corrigan: I know what everyone’s thinking – Tiger at The Masters, Phil at the U.S. Open, Rory or Spieth completing the slam, Rickie getting his first…the list goes on. Ian Poulter at The British Open is something that comes out of a fairytale script. A boy raised in Stevenage, England from a working-class family who was a 4 handicap in his late teens, Ian was not the prodigy like Tiger, Phil, Justin Rose and almost all of the other top golfers. He was a tough kid that might not have been the most naturally gifted player. The mental toughness this guy has shown us for nearly two decades is uncanny, and his ability to make shots when you need to is as impressive as almost anyone. There is a reason this man has an opportunity to become the greatest Ryder Cup player ever. Although it is not in his home country of Great Britain, I believe Ian James Poulter hoisting that Claret Jug would be one those special moments where you know a man’s childhood dream finally came true!
Bear: For me, this stems from one of the first times I was ever all-in on a golf tournament — the 2015 British Open. I followed it entirely from way too early in the morning on Thursday through skipping work on Monday to watch the finish. I had Leishman in my DraftKings lineup that week. At that 2015 British, he fell just short of capturing a title, losing in a 3-way playoff at St. Andrews. I didn’t know much about him before the tourney, but I have since learned he is a fun-loving guy with immense talent and my personal favorite golfer to have not won a major. Give me Leish this year at Royal Portrush, and I’ll be very happy.
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