Insider: Mid-season PGA TOUR scorecard
Rookie of the Year update, Presidents Cup developments and weirdest moments
April 10, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- Former FedExCup winner Justin Thomas is trending nicely as the second half of the schedule gets underway. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – The 83rd Masters Tournament marks the start of the second half of the 2018-’19 PGA TOUR season, making this a natural time to hit the pause button and reflect on what we’ve seen.
Who’s winning? What has surprised us? And what does it all mean going forward?
Herewith, a scorecard, of sorts, on the first half of the season.
PGA TOUR Rookie of the Half Year
Three rookies have won, and among them Cameron Champ (Sanderson Farms Championship) is highest in the FedExCup at 28th, followed by Adam Long (Desert Classic, 32nd) and Martin Trainer (Puerto Rico Open, 68th).
Keep an eye on Sungjae Im, though. Last year’s Web.com Tour Player of the Year hasn’t won yet, but at 20th on the FedExCup table he’s higher than the three who have, and he’s knocking on the door for that first victory.
FedExCup alumni update
Who is doing the best among the 11 former FedExCup champions? Rory McIlroy, the 2016 winner, won THE PLAYERS Championship and is second in the current standings.
Justin Thomas (the 2017 winner) is also doing well at ninth this season, while reigning FedExCup champion Justin Rose won the Farmers Insurance Open and is 12th. Jim Furyk (2010) has been the biggest recent surprise, finishing runner-up at THE PLAYERS to jump-start his season. He’s at 21st, while Brandt Snedeker (2012) is up to 33rd.
All but three of the elite FedExCup champions club would qualify for the Playoffs if they began today, and Henrik Stenson (2013) is not far back at 137th. The biggest surprise continues to be 2015 FedExCup champion Jordan Spieth, who is languishing at 170th this season.
Presidents Cup developmentsInternational Captain Ernie Els could lean on some young talent this year. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Captain Ernie Els’ team could also benefit from a youth infusion, as Cameron Smith, 25, looks likely to make the team at fourth in the current standings. Canada’s Corey Conners, 27, won the Valero Texas Open to jump to 10th in the International Team standings. Haotong Li, fifth in the standings and only 23 years old, would be the first player from China to make the team. Abraham Ancer, sixth and 28, would be the first player from Mexico.
Meanwhile, Tiger Woods looks like a potential player-captain, and even his assistants, especially Fred Couples and Steve Stricker, have talked like it’s already a done deal. But will Spieth find his game in time to make the team that will fly to Royal Melbourne in December? And what about Patrick Reed, who will defend his Masters title this week but has made recent swing changes?
Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas will be there. One other player who really might be a lock: World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play champ Kevin Kisner.
Best proof that the Golf Gods are watching
Coming into this season, Johnson was the most recent player to make an ace on the way to a victory, at the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. That was a long time ago.
This season, though, it’s already happened twice: J.B. Holmes made a hole-in-one on the way to winning the Genesis Open, and Francesco Molinari had an ace while winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard.
Si Woo Kim was on track to match them, making a hole-in-one and threatening to win his third TOUR title before struggling in the final round (72, T4) at the Valero Texas Open.
Coolest comeback story
This one is photo finish between two major winners who were once at the top of the game but who had recently struggled to get into elite tournaments.
Furyk, 48, was iffy on getting into THE PLAYERS Championship but was the last man in the field before finishing solo second to Rory McIlroy.
Graeme McDowell, 39, won the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship for his first TOUR win since 2015.
Biggest shocker (player)
Again, this one is a photo finish.
Only 1.1 percent of brackets had Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark getting out of the group stage of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, but he announced himself as a formidable talent in beating Tiger Woods on the way to the semifinals.
At the Valero Texas Open last weekend, Canada’s Corey Conners became the first Monday qualifier to win a TOUR event since Arjun Atwal at the 2010 Wyndham Championship.
Biggest shocker (shot)
After watching playing partner Eddie Pepperell drain a 50-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole at THE PLAYERS Championship, Jhonattan Vegas made his own trans-continental putt, this one from just shy of 70 feet, touching off a deafening roar and a wild celebration.
The long-distance birdie surpassed Bernhard Langer’s birdie from just shy of 60 feet at the 2008 PLAYERS Championship. Vegas and Pepperell each tied for third.
Weirdest momentRickie Fowler at THE PLAYERS Championship in 2019. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
In the drizzly final round at TPC Scottsdale, Rickie Fowler had placed his ball on the bank behind the 11th green and gone up to the green to look around. That’s when the ball, independent of his actions, rolled back down the bank and tumbled into the water.
After some discussion, it was determined that he would be assessed a penalty shot (his second penalty shot on the hole, after his second water ball). Having converted just one of his prior six 54-hole leads/co-leads into a victory, Fowler seemed to be losing it this time, too, but after dropping again and chipping up to the green, he made a 17-foot putt for “a really good triple.”
After steadying himself coming in for the win, he uttered another odd quote for a winner.
“I hope I never have to go through that again,” Fowler said.
Best shout out to Jay-Z
FedExCup No. 1 Matt Kuchar, 40, wins this one easily, even if he didn’t get the lyric right.
“I think it might’ve been Jay-Z that said 40’s the new 20,” Kuchar said after shooting a final-round 66 to win the Sony Open in Hawaii, his second victory in his first three starts of the season (Mayakoba Golf Classic). Well, close enough.
It was later pointed out that the line is actually, “30’s the new 20,” but the point is Kuchar is playing as well as ever. So is Paul Casey, 41, who later successfully defended his title at the Valspar Championship and said afterward that he feels like he’s getting better. (He’s FedExCup No. 4.)
Incidentally, Kuchar has four top-10 finishes in 12 Masters starts, with his best a third in 2012. Casey, a popular pre-tournament pick this week, has racked up five top-10s, his best a fourth in ’16, also in 12 Masters starts.
We’ve seen a lot over the first half of the season; now it’s time to buckle up for the rest. We can hardly wait.