Bold predictions for 2019-20 season
September 11, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
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The 2018-19 season was a great one on the PGA TOUR. Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy standing tall as Wyndham Rewards Top 10 and FedExCup winners, respectively. An incredible spattering of rookies not only playing great and announcing themselves as future stars but actually winning quickly out of the gate. The Tiger Woods Masters fairytale. The Gary Woodland U.S. Open breakthrough. Corey Conners winning as a Monday qualifier. Emotional wins from Nate Lashley, Charles Howell III and Shane Lowry. The list goes on.
Can we expect the same things out of the new season that starts this week at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier? Can we put on our best Nostradamus hat and predict what is coming?
Well, here you go … 18 fearless (and some not so fearless) predictions for the new season, this time counting backwards.
18. We will see a hole-in-one on a par-4 for the second time in PGA TOUR history, this time without an assist.
Andrew Magee remains the only player in the history of the PGA TOUR to make an ace on a par-4, doing so on the 17th hole at TPC Scottsdale during the 2001 Waste Management Phoenix Open. It happened in incredible circumstances, bouncing off Steve Pate’s putter and into the hole. Pate was part of the group ahead on the green. This season we will see it happen in more conventional style as the TOUR provides multitudes of risk-reward drivable par 4s.
17. Viktor Hovland will win twice.
Viktor Hovland secures first PGA TOUR card via Korn Ferry Tour Finals
By the end of last season, we had seen Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa each win in one of their first few starts on the PGA TOUR. Another guy right up there close with them was Hovland. The U.S. Amateur champ clearly has a winning pedigree and a phenomenal attitude. His smile is infectious and his game is elite. We see a big year ahead for the Norwegian star who is still a few weeks shy of his 22nd birthday.
16. A career grand slam will be attainable with nine holes to go at one of the majors.
Will it be veteran Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot, where he famously let a U.S. Open slip from his fingers with a disastrous 72nd hole in 2006? Or will Jordan Spieth be back in form by the time the PGA Championship hits TPC Harding Park? Both are distinctly possible. But the most likely is Rory McIlroy making the turn at Augusta on Sunday with a shot at the green jacket and the career slam.
15. Phil Mickelson will break golf social media at some point with epic content.
This might be the least bold prediction of the lot considering how awesome Mickelson’s foray into social media has been over the last year or so. From his Phireside chats to his great stories from yesteryear to his fitness recommendations, Mickleson is fast becoming a Hall of Fame poster as well as player. But we predict somewhere along the line he will do something so epic it will cross into the mainstream and go viral outside of just our sport.
14. We will get a sub-60 round somewhere on TOUR.
Last season there were two 60s on TOUR coming from Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker and 11 players shot rounds of 61. As players get better and better and more aggressive with their play, we are certain to see the sub-60 barrier cracked again. Can someone threaten Jim Furyk’s record 58? Well one of the Korn Ferry Tour graduates – Rhein Gibson – once shot a record 55 at his local club. Of course the TOUR set-ups and courses are a little tougher than what Gibson faced but that’s not to say it can’t be done.
13. There will be half as many first-time winners as last season.
That sounds like we are suggesting it will be tough going for the rookies on the PGA TOUR and those still looking for a breakthrough. But with an incredible 14 first-time winners last season, it still means seven guys will change their lives. Look for the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland and Sungjae Im to be part of the new winner crowd with a handful of others joining them.
12. THE PLAYERS Championship will bring us another sublime Sunday but this time a playoff will be needed to determine the winner.
Rory McIlroy wins THE PLAYERS Championship
Rory McIlroy was brilliant on his way to winning at TPC Sawgrass last season on a Sunday that saw eight players have a taste of the lead at some point. There will be similar theatrics again in 2020 but this time the three-hole playoff across the closing stretch will be enacted. Can you imagine the likes of McIlroy and Koepka or others fighting it out over the epic stadium stretch? Will be must-see golf.
11. Dustin Johnson will rebound from surgery and keep his win streak alive.
Everyone was surprised with DJ’s finish to his season but we were given an insight into perhaps a reason for the struggle when he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage damage on his left knee. The 35-year-old Johnson won the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship to continue his streak of having won at least one time in every PGA TOUR season since his 2008 rookie season, but in his last eight starts he failed to produce a top-10 finish. He was over par in all four rounds of the TOUR Championship, the first event he’d played like that in six years. But we don’t expect the injury will curtail him very long and assume Johnson will return normal service. Expect more inevitable trophies.
10. Sungjae Im will be revealed as a cyborg after he wins his first event.
We are being a bit facetious but Im played an incredible 35 times in his rookie season, missing just two starts on his way to making the TOUR Championship. Now he might not have won like some other rookies but he was clearly the most consistent across the season. His ability to continually play to a high standard – he missed just nine cuts and had 16 top 25s – was amazing. We predict he will break through and win sooner rather than later but even so will continue to churn up appearances. He might not hit 35 again but he will go close.
9. Someone from 21st-30th in the FedExCup will make a huge run at the title at the TOUR Championship but ultimately fall just short.
In the first season of the new FedExCup format, the Starting Strokest head start ultimately did not play much of a factor as Rory McIlroy was the lowest score of the week and the ultimate winner. This time, someone will make a huge push from well back and be among the contenders but will ultimately fall just short of our predicted winner. To see who that is … continue reading.
8. Someone will threaten, and perhaps achieve, the three-win battlefield promotion from the Korn Ferry Tour straight to the PGA TOUR.
With so much talent these days coming through the feeder tour, it is about time we saw another battlefield promotion. The last one came in 2016 through Wesley Bryan and before him it was 2014 with Carlos Ortiz. Prior to that, you have to go all the way back to Michael Sim in 2009. While the final makeup of the KFT is yet to be decided prior to upcoming Q-School, it is hard to pinpoint possible players to do this. But our KFT experts have thrown up the likes of Kevin Dougherty and Charlie Saxon as possible stars. Of course the youth brigade that find a way through qualifying will also be candidates. Will standout amateur Brandon Wu be forging his way on KFT this coming season? Or maybe someone like Ryan Ruffels can force his way on via PGA TOUR Latinoamerica. Clearly a lot of water to go under the bridge yet but we sense something special coming from somewhere.
7. A first- or second-year player on the PGA TOUR will finish inside the Wyndham Rewards Top 10.
2018-19 Wyndham Rewards Top 10 winners
It was the familiar names in the inaugural Wyndham Rewards Top 10 last season headed by Brooks Koepka. Nine of the 10 players had wins during the season and all 10 of them had won on TOUR prior to this season. There were some young guns in Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay and Jon Rahm among them but they were all in at least their third full season. This year someone will gatecrash the party as either a rookie or near-rookie. Think the likes of Im, Hovland, Wolff, Morikawa …
6. Jason Day and Jordan Spieth will start a climb back towards their 2015 selves.
Every season there are a few players who for one reason or another don’t hit the heights you’ve come to expect from them. In 2015 Spieth and Day were the clear stars on the PGA TOUR, winning five times each. They’ve had good stints at times since then also but last season saw the pair fail to find a way to win. They both missed the TOUR Championship; for Day it was the first time since 2012. Alarmingly for Spieth, he had a great putting season -- one of his best with the flatstick -- but still struggled due to his iron play. Both missed out on automatic qualification for the Presidents Cup, something that would have seemed so improbable during the previous iteration of the event that any suggestion of it at that time may have had you committed. This season represents a chance for them to start fresh, mentally and physically recharge, and start the climb back. They won’t hit the 2015 heights, but they will make significant strides towards it. Both will find the winner’s circle at some point.
5. There will be a one first-time major winner.
Given the stack of depth of players yet to win a major, the boldest part of this statement is that there will only be one. Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman, Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama, Bryson DeChambeau, Paul Casey, Patrick Cantlay, Matt Kuchar are just some of the names looking to break through. One of them – or perhaps someone else – will do just that. Last season there were two in Gary Woodland and Shane Lowry, but there will only be one in 2020.
4. Rory McIlroy will break his major drought.
The FedExCup champion last season was super-impressive with 14 top-10s on the PGA TOUR from 19 starts. It led him all the way to Player of the Year honors. But one thing still irks McIlroy -- he hasn’t won a major championship since claiming his fourth in 2014. That will change in 2020. McIlroy is always a chance at Augusta National if he’s firing at the right time of year, and then the PGA Championship will be held at TPC Harding Park where McIlroy won the 2015 World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play. He’d also fancy his chances at Winged Foot and of course Royal St George’s. The stars will align somewhere.
3. Tiger Woods will tie Sam Snead’s record 82 PGA TOUR wins
Inside the PGA TOUR
Tiger Woods is Chasing 82
The incredible Masters win for Woods last season – to get to 81 PGA TOUR wins – showed us two things. It showed us that Woods can still find the magic over a week despite a body that gets older and harder to manage by the second, and it showed us that being a consistent contender is going to be extremely difficult. Woods couldn’t find the extra gear again after the Augusta National triumph, as he posted just one top 10 in six starts post-April. He has since had minor knee surgery but plans to be back for the ZOZO Championship in Japan. Now while I’d love to say he will break the record this season, his limited schedule and unknowns with the body mean it is bold enough to suggest he will tie it.
2. The International Team will provide a huge upset and win the Presidents Cup.
Not since 1998 at Royal Melbourne has the International team won the Presidents Cup outright. It remains their only win. The last time out in New Jersey in 2017, the U.S. Team obliterated the Internationals 19-11, very nearly clinching before Sunday singles began. The U.S. team is already stacked and has Tiger Woods leading it. But despite all of this, Ernie Els will manufacture a Royal Melbourne miracle in the middle of December. The Australian fans will create a cauldron atmosphere, leaving their golf etiquette to one side for four days and instead will bring their Aussie rules, rugby league and cricket-style tribalism to the contest.
1. Brooks Koepka will win two majors and the FedExCup.
This prediction said at least one major just days ago until the results of the Player of the Year vote came to pass. Koepka, who won three times last season including the PGA Championship and the World Golf Championships-Fed Ex St. Jude Invitational, came up short to FedExCup winner Rory McIlroy. McIlroy also won three times, including the PLAYERS Championship and the TOUR Championship on his way to the FedExCup and had a TOUR high 14 Top-10s. Koepka was inside the top four of all four majors. So he had a decent claim for winning Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. But here’s the silver lining for Koepka. He plays his best when he feels slighted. So this vote by his peers will fire him up – and you can probably engrave his name on the FedExCup right now.