18 bold predictions for 2017-18
October 04, 2017
By Ben Everill and Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- October 04, 2017
Inside the PGA TOUR
2017-18 season preview
The engraving is still warm on Justin Thomas’ FedExCup but we are away again on the PGA TOUR. And with the start of a new season comes the fun of trying to be Nostradamus-like and predict ahead of time just what we can expect this time around.
We are coming off an incredible year that was basically owned by the youth brigade. There were 18 wins last season by players under 25, smashing the old record of 10 set in 2000. Nine of those 10 wins were from Tiger Woods so you can see it has been a long time since we had this sort of talent firing so early.
Without further ado, here are our 18 bold – and not so bold - predictions for the new season. Amazingly, we agree with each other, so will claim each other’s success when proven right.
18 – PLAYERS champion Si Woo Kim finds his consistency and becomes a regular threat on the PGA TOUR.
Although he was already a PGA TOUR winner prior to 2017, Kim came from nowhere to become the youngest player to win THE PLAYERS. In his 18 starts before TPC Sawgrass last season he had seven missed cuts and four WDs. In the 11 starts after the win he missed four cuts and had two more WDs. Back troubles were partly to blame but after a stint on the International team at the Presidents Cup we see Kim finally figuring it out more often. – Ben Everill
17 - Phil Mickelson breaks his win drought.
Ben failed on this one last year, but I predict a Phil bounce-back this season. We’ve been waiting since 2013 when he won The Open Championship, but Mickelson made giant strides with his health late last season. He came within a shot of making it to the TOUR Championship, and went 3-0-1 with his brother, Tim, on the bag, his best result of the post-Bones era. He will find a win this season and make his way onto the Ryder Cup team to extend his record to 24 straight USA teams. – Cameron Morfit.
16 – Three players will have a taste at World No. 1.
Given Dustin Johnson still holds a healthy lead at the top of the world rankings and I think he will maintain in great form, this is a long shot. But Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas particularly have it in them to mount a challenge to the top spot, and we can’t rule out Hideki Matsuyama or Jon Rahm making even further waves. Not to mention the possibility of Rory McIlroy or Jason Day recapturing their best form. The game is in a great place. – Ben Everill
15 - Rose will bloom, and win, among the azaleas.
Justin Rose’s record at Augusta National is remarkable: T5 in 2007, T11 in 2011, T8 in 2012, T14 in 2014, T2 in 2015, T10 in 2016, and a runner-up to Sergio Garcia last April. Rose, 37, is a closer, having won the U.S. Open and the Olympic gold medal in Rio. And it’s only a matter of time before he wins the green jacket. So why not this year? I say Rose will add a little something to his wardrobe in April 2018. – Cameron Morfit
14 - Hideki Matsuyama wins a major
Japan’s biggest star was so close last season, finishing inside the top 14 of all four majors including being runner up to Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open and battling Justin Thomas on Sunday at the PGA Championship. The latter hurt his confidence but also refueled his drive. Despite the enormous pressure he faces to break Japan’s major drought I see Hideki coming through the other side and making history. – Ben Everill
13 - Rookie of the Year Schauffele will keep on going.
Xander Schauffele could have just had a good week when he won The Greenbrier Classic, but when he won the TOUR Championship, as well, there was no denying that we were seeing a special player. Xander’s star will continue to rise as the former San Diego State and Mountain West Conference standout picks up his third win early in 2018, most likely on the West Coast Swing. – Cameron Morfit
12 - Tiger Woods plays again on TOUR
Last year I boldly said he’d win an event. After the injury revelations of the last 12 months, expectations have been tempered but we are hopeful Woods can at least produce enough of a recovery to tee it up again. At this stage, that would be a huge victory for us all. Currently the 79-time PGA TOUR winner can only hit 60-yard shots and is uncertain he will be able to get beyond that. He’d not only need to be able to get back to a full swing, he’d need to retrain his body to swing in a way that doesn’t hurt him further. And he’d need to test all new clubs and technology all over again. Personally, I just want to see Woods happy, so if that entails playing on TOUR I’m all for it. – Ben Everill
11 - Someone will play late Sunday with the career Slam on the line.
And it will be Jordan Spieth at the PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis. When Bellerive hosted the 1992 PGA, Nick Price won, three ahead of Nick Faldo, Jim Gallagher, Jr. and Gene Sauers. None of those guys was an overly long hitter, and Spieth has considerably more momentum than other career Grand Slam hopefuls Rory McIlroy (needs the Masters) and Phil Mickelson (U.S. Open). – Cameron Morfit
Inside the PGA TOUR
2017 Safeway Open preview
10 – Sangmoon Bae makes the FedExCup Playoffs – and so does a Chinese player.
The season-opening Safeway Open has multiple storylines but one of the best is the return of former winner Sangmoon Bae. We last saw Bae at the 2015 Presidents Cup in Korea right before he left the game to fulfil his mandatory two years of military service in South Korea. Having done his patriotic duty Bae returns to the USA and the TOUR. It might take a little time to work off competitive rust but Bae will find his feet and return to the FedExCup Playoffs. In other big International news, at least one of the two Chinese players will also create history to make the Playoffs. Marty Dou and Xinjun Zhang are the first Chinese-born players to earn PGA TOUR cards via the Web.com Tour. We could also see Hao Tong Li claim special temporary membership. – Ben Everill
9 – Justin Thomas will keep narrowing the gap between himself and Jordan Spieth.
In 2015, Thomas said of his pal Spieth, “I have a lot to do to get to his level. I mean, a lot.” Fine. In 2017, Thomas won five times, including the PGA Championship, and claimed the FedExCup and Player of the Year honors. Both players look like they’ll win a lot next year, but I’m most intrigued to see what Thomas does in 2018 now that the proverbial floodgates have opened. – Cameron Morfit
8 - Expect two or three wins from amongst this quartet: Maverick McNealy, Beau Hossler, Aaron Wise and Cameron Champ.
McNealy and Champ aren’t even PGA TOUR members yet but we have big faith in both to make it on the big stage. McNealy has finally gone pro after being the best amateur in the world and should have no trouble getting his seven sponsor invites. Champ, who remains amateur at this stage, came to my consciousness at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills. He is the new breed of length. Want to see someone easily outdrive Dustin Johnson? Watch this kid. He gets a sponsor invite at Safeway, near his hometown Sacramento. Hossler and Wise join the TOUR from success on the Web.com Tour and would not be out of place in the winner’s circle. – Ben Everill
7 - Anirban Lahiri will use the Presidents Cup as a springboard to win on TOUR.
Lahiri made two late birdies to keep the International Team from getting mathematically eliminated before the final day at the Presidents Cup at Liberty National. More clutch still, he won the final two holes of his singles match against Kevin Kisner to salvage a halve. To watch Lahiri is to realize he is good enough to win, and to talk to him is to know he won’t be satisfied until he does. – Cameron Morfit
6 – Jason Day and Adam Scott return to winning form.
For the first time since 2012 at least one of the Australian wins on TOUR did not come from out of this duo. Down under had to rely on two wins from Marc Leishman and a win each for Cameron Smith and Rod Pampling. But this season will see a resurgence from Day and Scott. Scott will resettle after baby No. 2 and Day will recapture his passion to be the best. – Ben Everill
5 - U.S. Team will win the Ryder Cup in France.
In 1993, Tom Watson led the U.S. to a 15-13 victory, still the last win on foreign soil for the Americans. Since then the Yanks have endured a whole lot of misery overseas, from the K Club in Ireland to Celtic Manor in Wales to Gleneagles, Scotland and the strangest news conference ever. France will be different. As the Internationals can attest after the Presidents Cup blowout at Liberty National, this bunch of young, dynamic American players are talented and driven, cohesive and clutch, and they won’t be going away for a long, long time. – Cameron Morfit
4 - We will have a three-peat winner.
The only question is which player will get it done first. Justin Thomas will get the first crack at it at next week’s CIMB Classic, followed by Hideki Matsuyama at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. When you consider those two played easily the most spectacular singles match at the Presidents Cup, with Matsuyama prevailing 3 and 1 despite Thomas’ eight birdies, I say it’s one of them. And if not, then it’ll be Daniel Berger at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. – Ben Everill
3 - Justin Thomas will win THE PLAYERS Championship.
OK, fine, predicting who will win at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is a tall order, but considering Thomas made history with 10 birdies in one round on the Stadium Course in 2015 (he faded with a final-round 75 to finish 24th), maybe it's not that crazy, after all. – Cameron Morfit
2 - There will be another first-time major winner along with Hideki.
Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, Marc Leishman, Matt Kuchar, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner, Daniel Berger, Thomas Pieters, Si Woo Kim… these are just some of the names who could become first-time major winners. The talent is deep my friend. – Ben Everill
1 - The 25-and-under brigade will equal if not better their numbers from 2017.
Sure, it'll be tough for Thomas to rack up five wins including a major, plus the FedExCup, in winning Player of the Year. But I'm guessing Jon Rahm has some multiple-win seasons in him, which would make up for any dip. And let's face it: J.T. and Spieth aren't going away, Xander could be a star, and Daniel Berger and Si Woo Kim could easily have multiple-win seasons as well. – Cameron Morfit