Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Jon Rahm just won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour and Tommy Fleetwood was second. Ironically, they may also be the best two players in the world without a major. Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau would also garner a mention in that conversation. Which superstar in waiting do you think steps up in 2020 and wins his first major?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): All those guys you mention are excellent players. It’s amazing how majors can just elude good players, despite their worthiness. I think the player LEAST likely to win a major is Rahm, because he gets so intense and loses his cool too easily when he begins to falter down the stretch. Schauffele and DeChambeau aren’t quite yet in the B.P.N.H.W.M. category in my view (okay, that’s Best Player(s) Never to Have Won a Major), so that leaves Finau and Fleetwood. My dough says Tommy over Tony, but five years from now, I’m sure both will have succeeded at least once.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Honestly, I don’t see any of these guys coming in to win a major. Tiger is back and the competition is a little stiffer these days. If I had to pick one on talent though, its Rahm, he’s put some impressive W’s up. DeChambeau will think his way out of a Major win. Fleetwood I would love to see win, guy is as talented as any, but very few wins over the last year. Schauffele and Finau, I just don’t see it. I see good play, to finish top 5, but that’s where it ends. Rahm can finish, has the talent and mental toughness to do so, if its any of these gents, its him.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: This is a tough one to call because the guys I’ve been choosing the past couple of years are getting older and making huge amounts of money. They might be inclined to ease up a bit. However, I’m going to stick with them for a couple more years. I’m going with Tommy Fleetwood and Patrick Cantlay. In case, they don’t work out, I’m going to start betting on Joaquin Niemann and Sung-Jae Im. Both are already in the Top 10 on the FedEx points list and both are only 21 years old.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I’m sure you guys are getting tired of me throwing the same name out there time and time again but that’s is just how much faith I have in Patrick Cantlay and his game. The guy gets better every year and seems like he is on the brink of making the jump from one of the game’s best players to outright superstardom. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t claim his first major title in 2020.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I’ve said Rahm previously and still believe he’ll win one sooner than later, but if I had to put money one someone in 2020 it would be Schauffele. He’s been so consistent in the majors, isn’t scared of the pressure, and I think he’ll break through this year. I’d love to see Finau win one as well. If it’s DeChambeau, I’m not sure I’d stay awake long enough to watch the end of it!
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Have touted Fleetwood from the first weekend he got TV time, but given his length off the tee, the height that he can get on long iron shots into tucked Major pins, and his ability to get very hot with his putter, Rahm looks like he could win more than his first big one next year.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’ve been picking Jon Rahm as the next superstar for a few years now, so his latest “big” win is another step in that direction. Ironically, one of the others, I’d suggest Fleetwood or Schauffele, could nab a major before the big Spaniard, but I see Rahm as having all the tools for a sustained run at the top of the rankings and maybe rivalling Seve’s five majors.
As much as Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods hogged the spotlight in 2019, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose were all but invisible. Which one has the best bounce-back in 2020?
Deeks: Not sure I agree that DJ was all but invisible. He won a WGC in February, and every time I looked, he seemed to be at or near the top of leaderboards all season. I don’t think he’s done yet by any means, so I’d pick him as Best Bounce-Back in 2020. I like Justin Rose a lot, but I’d really like to see Jordan Spieth return to form. I really miss his electrifying golf, his sportsmanship, his humility, and his appreciation of what he does for a living… qualities that so many other Tour players lack.
Loughry: I think DJ has the bounce back year. I really thought Spieth was going to a superstar for a long time, but it would seem I will be wrong on that one. DJ just has too many tools to be kept out of the winner circle and I see him doing the most damage compared to Rose and Spieth. I say DJ does it early too, on the left coast and cruises into Augusta one of the favourites. Just avoid steps DJ, rent a bungalow for the week, we don’t want you WD’ing again!
Schurman: None of them! Each has played for a prolonged period and enjoyed fantastic success except Spieth. Spieth won so much so soon. He actually had a great career just compact. Justin Rose might have a little surprise in store for us yet.
Kaplan: I’m hoping for Spieth, but my gut tells me that it is DJ. The guy just has too much talent to struggle for an extended period of time. I expect him to resume him spot among golf’s pantheon of elite names by midsummer.
Rule: Crazy to think that $5.5M or $4.4M is being invisible, wish I was that invisible! I think they will all rebound next year to some extent. Spieth figured his putting out but really needs to hit the ball straighter off the tee to become an elite player again, not sure if/when that will happen. I can see DJ having a really big year again, perhaps another major. He’s just too talented, and if he gets the putter going, he’s tough to beat.
Quinn: Would like it to be Rose but he has already done so much and has so much in the offshore account down at Albany. I suspect that Spieth has gotten over his meteoric ascent and all its trappings and may be ready to stop blaming his caddy and the golf gods, look seriously into the mirror, and start playing some golf. That said, DJ’s the one to watch.
Mumford: At this level, invisible pretty much means no majors or no multiple win seasons. DJ was hot early in the season and only fell off in the latter half. He’s always been pretty streaky so a turnaround for him would be most likely. No explanation for Rose’s somewhat off year. He’s too good not to climb back on top at some point. As for Spieth, he’s fallen the farthest so a win or a major or both would be a huge recovery for him, and it looks like he’s getting closer. I think he has the “best” bounce-back in 2020. It certainly would be the most popular.
In honour of American Thanksgiving and the end of the 2019 golf season, it’s time to present our Annual Turkey Award. This year the nominees are: Sergio Garcia (Angry Turkey) for tearing up a bunker during the Saudi International; Hank Haney (Tone Deaf Turkey) for his culturally insensitive remarks about South Koreans and women golfers in general; Rory McIlroy (Deflated Turkey) for his opening hole quadruple bogey at the British Open after such huge expectations leading into the tournament; Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau (Brain Dead Turkeys) for their inexplicable play on the 12th hole at Augusta, despite mountains of advice not to aim at that Sunday pin, EVER; Bryson DeChambeau (Still Not Quite Ready Turkey) for multiple examples of laboriously slow play and his creative but ultimately lame explanations for why; JB Holmes (Even Less Ready Turkey) for even more bad examples of “ready golf”, highlighted by his agonizingly slow win at Riviera; and Brooks Koepka (Chip on his Shoulder Turkey) for his strange observation that there is no rivalry with Rory McIlroy. Who gets your vote for Turkey of the Year (and why) or is there someone else that should be on this list?
Deeks: Excellent list! And all worthy candidates (with the possible exception of Rory). My vote would have to go to Sergio Garcia, who’s a petulant little twerp in my view, a description that I would’ve used 20 years ago as well, and most of the years in between. Honestly, the guy’s 39 years old now, and he hasn’t learned a thing about bad behaviour?? Age, marriage, wealth, moderate success… none of these things seem to have matured him. In fact, I might even nominate him for Permanent Turkey.
Loughry: Extensive list of choices. Can I pick Reed, for no other reason of him just being a turkey? I’d go with El Nino destroying the bunker. It’s just uncalled for, and an outburst youngsters get to witness and think it’s ok. It’s NOT ok. Close second is double h Haney, what a buffoon. There’s no doubting that’s exactly what he thinks, that’s OK though, the market generally finds a spot for him and people like him.
Schurman: There’s no contest! The Turkey of the Year Award has to go to Don Cherry. Oops! I’ll bet you meant golf oriented. In that case, it’s CBS for the classless manner they fired McCord and Kostis.
Kaplan: The turkey of the year is clearly Matt Kuchar for stiffing his local caddie after winning the Mayakoba Golf Classic last November. Yes, this happened in 2018 but the tournament was technically a part of the 2018/19 season, so I think it’s fair game to include the incident in this Thanksgiving competition. Of the other contenders, only Hank Haney’s antics come close to matching this tone-deaf PR nightmare that followed Kuchar around for the next five months.
Rule: I would have to give it to Sergio for acting like a turkey a couple of times this year, the worst of which was his attack on the bunker in Saudi Arabia. What the heck was that all about? You would think that becoming a father would settle him down a bit, not make him more volatile!
Quinn: Who knows when the season starts or mercifully ends, but the biggest turkey this past 12 months was Matt Kuchar. Stiffing his caddy after winning Mayakoba — giving a bad name to one of the great Fairmont resorts — was bad enough (though not surprising to those who know him) but following up with a justification dripping with racism made it golf’s darkest episode and earns Kuchar Turkey of Any Year.
Mumford: My apologies for not including Matt Kuchar in the above list. Is there a “Dufus” Turkey category? That said, my Turkey of the Year has to go to the triumvirate of Molinari, Finau and Koepka. All three were in contention to win the Masters last April and each of them rinsed their tee shot into Rae’s Creek on the 12th hole during the final round by aiming at the pin. It’s almost a Rule that you don’t aim at the pin on the 12th hole on Sunday in the Masters. If you close your eyes and put a golf ball up to your ear, you can hear Jack Nicklaus saying that over and over. Or Tiger Woods. Or Jordan Spieth. Tiger should send each of these turkeys a signed piece of his latest green jacket.