Experts roundtable: Five burning questions entering the 2019-20 season
September 09, 2019
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- September 09, 2019
Matthew Wolff's winning highlights from 3M Open
The new season is here. Lots of rookies to watch. A bunch of hungry second-year players. Veterans seeking to bounce back. Presidents Cup spots on the line. And the biggest fall schedule since the PGA TOUR went to a wraparound season.
So yes, there are plenty of discussion points entering this week’s season-opening A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. We’ve picked out five questions and had our PGA TOUR experts weigh in. Feel free to rebuke or ridicule their answers in the comment section below.
What’s the biggest storyline that intrigues you this fall?
SEAN MARTIN, Senior Editor: The same storyline that captured us this summer: the new kids on the block. I’m curious to see how Matthew Wolff, Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa perform in their first full season as PGA TOUR members. There’s no reason to think they won’t continue the impressive pace with which they started their pro careers.
Morikawa is one of six members of the 2017 Walker Cup team who will play on the PGA TOUR this season. Cameron Champ, Doug Ghim, Maverick McNealy, Doc Redman and Scottie Scheffler are the others. It’s pretty impressive that, just two years after their big win at Los Angeles Country Club, six of the nine members of that team who turned pro are already on the PGA TOUR.
BEN EVERILL, Staff Writer: Who plays where. The fall portion of the season gets longer for 2019-20 and this means players who think they can skip most of it will start well back in the FedExCup chase. I am excited to see the big names come out of hibernation a bit more to take on the youth brigade Sean speaks of above. If I was to guess, I think the Safeway Open in Napa and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas could be two of the tournaments to get a nice boost in who turns up.
CAMERON MORFIT, Staff Writer: I want to know if Brandt Snedeker can avenge his loss at the Safeway Open, which I'll be covering. I'm also curious about how good Scottie Scheffler is after he won both the season-long and Finals points tallies on the Korn Ferry Tour.
ANDREW TURSKY, Equipment Insider: All eyes will be on Hovland, Wolff and Morikawa, but there's a few of the big stars who need a bit of a resurgence. Surely Jason Day, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth weren't thrilled with their 2019 performances, and I'm curious to see how much they decide to play in the fall to try and build some confidence.
ROB BOLTON, Fantasy Insider: From the fantasy standpoint, it’s playing time. There’s another month’s worth of action before the holiday break than in the first six wraparound seasons, so any residual notions that the last 3-4 months of the year are for rest need to be updated with focus to play at least a couple of times to put FedExCup points on the board. With that initiative, some surprising things will happen.
MIKE McALLISTER, Managing Editor: There are eight weeks before the captain’s picks will be made for the Presidents Cup. I’m curious how much Tiger Woods and Ernie Els will make their picks based on fall performances. I’m especially curious if Tiger still considers himself as a potential player-captain. We may not know until early November.
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Presidents Cup top 8 qualifiers set
Name the one player you’ll keep your eye on the most in the next three months?
MARTIN: Hovland. His worst finish in his last six starts is T16. Wolff and Morikawa already have wins and I think Hovland will join them in the fall.
EVERILL: Sean is on the money with Hovland … be keen to see him cash in soon. But I’ll be watching Jason Day very closely. After missing the TOUR Championship and auto selection for the Presidents Cup Day is at a crossroad of sorts. Can he get back to his best and push back towards the top echelon?
MORFIT: Hovland looks like a star in the making. I liked the way he went about his business at the end of last season and didn't bemoan how close he came to wrapping up his PGA TOUR card. He just quietly got it done in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and seems golf-wise beyond his years.
TURSKY: Sungjae Im is fresh off an impressive season being the only rookie to make it to the TOUR Championship. He said he's going to play in six events in the fall, so it will be interesting to see if he can pick up his first win. He's already proven he can withstand a full PGA TOUR schedule.
BOLTON: Coming right off a brilliant season on the Korn Ferry Tour, I'm eager to see how Scottie Scheffler bridges. There’s always a carryover of momentum of recent grads, so it’d be shocking if he doesn’t threaten for his breakthrough title and enter the holiday break as no worse than a co-leader in the clubhouse for the Arnold Palmer Award.
McALLISTER: While you guys look at the youngsters and newbies, I’ll concentrate on the veterans seeking to bounce back. For instance, Bubba Watson won three times in 2018 but didn’t have a top-3 finish in 2019. Bryson DeChambeau hasn’t won in nearly a year. Zach Johnson had 16 consecutive calendar years with at least one worldwide top 10 … until 2019. Jordan Spieth – well, you know his ups and downs. Can a veteran start his bounce-back this fall, much like Matt Kuchar did last fall?
Who will be the first first-time TOUR winner a la Kevin Tway and Cameron Champ a year ago?
MARTIN: Hovland. He just hits it too good. When you drive it as well as he does, you make every golf course exponentially easier. He would have finished second on TOUR in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee if he had enough rounds to qualify for the statistical rankings.
EVERILL: The smart money is on Hovland. But I am going to plump for Sungjae Im. His rookie season was ultra-impressive and the experience gained from the 35(!) starts he had will help him over the line.
MORFIT: Hovland or Tom Lewis, who is riding a whole lot of momentum right now. We've seen guys come off hot finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour and go on to win on TOUR straight-away.
TURSKY: Hovland will win first of the first-timers next season. As Sean said, Hovland is one of the best ball strikers on TOUR, and a win is only a matter of time. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he wins more than once next season, either.
BOLTON: If not Scheffler (as mentioned above), then Wyndham Clark. The PGA TOUR sophomore had a taste of contention as the 54-hole leader of The Honda Classic and he ended the season with a flourish. He's been through the rigors of life and he pays off power with sublime resolve on the greens. It's just a matter of time before he's posing with some hardware.
McALLISTER: Abraham Ancer is ranked 37th in the world and had his best PGA TOUR result during the FedExCup Playoffs when he finished runner-up to Patrick Reed at THE NORTHERN TRUST. Now that he’s secured a spot on the International Team, he might feel a bit less pressure this fall.
Viktor Hovland secures first PGA TOUR card via Korn Ferry Tour Finals
How important will performances be for players seeking a Presidents Cup captain’s picks?
MARTIN: I would love to see Wolff and Morikawa play well and throw their name into consideration, but I think their lackluster performances in the FedExCup Playoffs hurt their candidacies. Nos. 9-12 in the U.S. standings – Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed -- are pretty solid picks. Someone can play their way onto the team with their performance in the fall, but they’re going to have to really show something. I think Ernie Els is willing to go outside the box with his picks, so I think the race for the International Team’s picks is more wide open.
EVERILL: For the International team … very important. Els is using an analytical approach to his four captains picks and as such good form and performance is imperative for those looking to get to Royal Melbourne. Jason Day is likely already penciled in for a pick so that means three players can show Els what they’re made of and how keen they are to play. They need hot hands. For the U.S. team, there is probably one spot available for someone who gets super-hot given the fact the current best four players not inside the team are inside the world top 20.
MORFIT: The fall is going to be bigger than ever for the Presidents Cup, what with how late the biennial team event falls this year, and how expanded the fall schedule is. The margin would be so small for the International Team to win, Els has more riding on his picks. Woods can better afford to free-roll with it, to use a Jordan Spieth term. Speaking of which, I'm going to go out on a limb (as will Woods) and say Spieth somehow gets himself a pick.
TURSKY: I think Finau, Woodland, Reed and Fowler are essentially locks to be on the U.S. team, so something drastic would need to happen for them to be left out. Like Ben said, Ernie may be more willing to go with hot hands, so fall performances from the International players not already on the team will be important.
BOLTON: It'd be pointless if they didn't matter, but it depends on what Ernie Els and Tiger Woods have up their sleeves. I still want to see one of these team competitions put all of the onus on the leaders. Make it like gym class so that all members are captain's picks. In the very least, it'd allow chemistry to grow organically and from the ground up. A radical idea like that might be what the Internationals should consider.
McALLISTER: See my comments in the first question. I think it’s vital, especially for any young Internationals lacking prior Presidents Cup experience. Els needs to see some hot hands; otherwise, I think he’ll rely on proven players. Tiger could easily go chalk on his picks, but I suspect at least one American captain’s pick will be rewarded for his fall performance.
Where does Tiger finish at The ZOZO Championship?
MARTIN: Does it matter? I just want to see that he’s healthy.
EVERILL: Who cares as long as he does finish. After a long layoff, we will just want to see he can get through four rounds. And that will let us know if he is a chance to pick himself for the Presidents Cup.
MORFIT: I'll say he finishes in the top 15-20 but doesn't contend. It's hard to imagine Tiger out toiling on his game right about now.
TURSKY: Echoing the sentiments above, I just hope he finishes. If he does, I'll guess and say he finishes in the top 20-25 range and hit just enough great shots to make fans wonder if he should pick himself for the Presidents Cup.
BOLTON: He makes the cut! OK, OK, that’s cheating. (There isn't one.) The better answer is to ask me during the week of. If he’s in the Power Rankings, it’ll be because there’s zero doubt in the wake of his latest knee surgery. The problem is that it’s hard to think of the last time I didn’t have any concern over his health.
McALLISTER: Anywhere inside the top 20 would be encouraging, especially given how he ended the season. Actually, I’d take just seeing him play 72 holes without grimacing in pain.
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