I can’t believe I’m typing this, but a new PGA Tour season begins this week with a Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, which has moved from its summer date to September in the new schedule. This marks the return of the best league in golf after a lengthy two-week offseason. You might not be ready for all the golf — 52 events in 51 weeks (!) — but it’s time for some superlative predictions (which are all subject to change when I make my 2020 predictions in January!)
Let’s jump right in.
Best Player — Rory McIlroy: He’s unequivocally the best golfer on the planet. If you played a 100,000-hole simulation on any random assortment of courses, he would win. He would likely win by a lot. That doesn’t mean he will win the most tournaments or that he will be Player of the Year or that he will win a major, but in any given week, he should be the favorite to win any golf tournament.
Best Rookie — Viktor Hovland: This one is less close than the best player one. Hovland is anywhere between the 10th and 50th best player in the world. He’s potentially a top-five driver of the golf ball and was unbelievable in his first go-around on the PGA Tour. It’s kind of unfair that he still gets to be a rookie given that he played in nine PGA Tour events — including two majors — but he should cruise to the Rookie of the Year award.
Biggest Rebound — Kyle Stanley: He finished outside the top 70 from tee to green and outside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup. Those two things are (and for him, always will be) correlated. The 73rd-best ball-striker on the PGA Tour is not who he is, though, and I think he’ll bounce back with a top-40 ball-striking performance and challenge for more wins.
Biggest Dropoff — Matt Kuchar: The Jordan Spieth stuff is concerning. He finished second in putting — an all-time year! — and still didn’t challenge for a victory. I believe in him (mostly) though so I’m going with Kuchar. He’s a good player, but is he two wins and eight top-10 finishes good at this point in his career at the age of 41? Maybe, but I’m betting he regresses a bit. I think he still gets onto the Ryder Cup team based on his 2019 year and his history on that squad.
A Tiger Take: I am socially obligated as a member of the golf media to have at least one Tiger Woods opinion in articles such as this one. The way Tiger’s 2019 went makes me think the Masters was simply a one-off, magical week that only Augusta can produce. That was likely his “Nicklaus in 1986” moment, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time because he’s still relatively young. It’s easy to say this now that he had a bumpy end to 2019, but Tiger Woods is probably (probably!) done winning majors and won’t contend for one in 2020.
Run at No. 1 — Patrick Cantlay: McIlroy will eventually assume the throne again, I believe, but my sleeper pick to become No. 1 in the world for the first time in 2020 is Patrick Cantlay. He moved from No. 18 to No. 7 and only finished top five in one major (the PGA Championship). With health questions with Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods ahead of him, it’s not difficult to see him rising into the top five (or better) in 2020.
Picking the Majors: It’s always wise to pick major champs nine months before the first one, but this is how I would go if I had to do it today.
Masters: Jon Rahm
PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy
U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka
Open Championship: Xander Schauffele