The 2014 PGA Tour Season has officially ended, which means only one thing: the new season is right around the corner! Unlike other professional sports, the PGA TOUR only has an offseason of about 6 weeks. On the first weekend of January, the best players in the world will resume their careers in hopes of adding key wins and catching Rory McIlroy in the Official World Golf Ranking. So what is there to look forward to in 2015? Who will win the majors? Who will win multiple events? Who will surprisingly not win? FedEx Cup Champion? What will happen to Tiger and Phil? If you are curious in any of these answers, look no further; your 2015 preview has arrived.
On April 9, 2015, the world will turn their eyes to the Augusta National Golf Club for the first major of the year. Bubba Watson is the defending champion, capturing his 2nd Green Jacket by defeating Jordan Spieth in a final round shootout. Interesting statistic: Only 7 lefties have ever played in the Masters; three have won (Bubba, Phil Mickleson, and Mike Weir). Augusta National promotes a right to left ball flight, which comes much easier to lefties then it does righties. That is why I believe Bubba will defend his title at Augusta this year. Augusta National is Bubba’s playground (just google the shot that won him the tournament in 2012). No one has EVER made Augusta National look like a playground, but somehow Bubba cuts the corners better then anyone in the game. Rory McIlory will make some noise here in hopes of capturing his 3rd straight major and the Career Grand Slam, but I expect Bubba to put the jacket on himself come that Sunday Night.
The US Open
Chambers Bay, located in the Pacific North West, will make its debut as a Major Championship venue. The course is a beautiful, links-style course located right on the water. It boasts large amounts of fescue and other long rough, but many parallel holes create an opportunity for an occasional mishit off the tee. This type of golf course is suitable to many different playing strategies. Players such as Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, and Henrik Stenson have playing styles the ideally fit the course. However, there can only be one winner, and I believe that will be Rickie Fowler. Fowler, who finished in the top 4 of all 5 majors this past year, deserves a big trophy more then anyone in the game. His ability to find the fairway and his putting stroke will guide him to a career altering victory. Player who will not win no matter what happens: Phil Mickelson.
The Open Championship
The Old Course at St. Andrews will be hosting the Open for a record 29th time this coming year. The Old Course is perhaps the widest venue played on tour this year, but that does not make it easy. Strong winds, awkward pot bunkers, and large ridges on the greens allows the Old Course to beat you up in a matter of holes. The Old Course, which will be one of three links-style courses that are played in the majors this year, tends to lean towards a surprise winner, such as Louis Oosthuizen in 2010. However, I do not think there will be any shocker here: Rory McIlroy will defend his Open Championship title in a route at St. Andrews. Not only does the course suit his game perfectly, he has experience on the course too, shooting a 63 in the first round of the Open in 2010. Rory ended up finishing T3, and this previous success should see another Claret Jug travel his direction come July of 2015.
The PGA Championship
The Straits Course at Whistling Straits has hosted the PGA in both 2004 (Vijay Singh) and 2010 (Martin Kaymer), and the last major of the year will return to Lake Michigan once more in search of a fourth major winner. Whistling Straits, which is considered one of the most scenic in the world, sets up very similarly to Chambers Bay. The rugged links-style design of the course provides hefty amounts of tall grass, fescue, deep water hazards, and patches of bunkers. The PGA Championship often provides an opportunity for a young talent to showcase his game. However, I believe that will not be the case this year. My prediction is for Jim Furyk to capture his second career major title of his illustrious career. Furyk, one of the most consistent players on tour, constantly hits the ball straight, avoiding long rough when it presents himself. Furyk is also one of the best in the game from fairway bunkers, an advantage that will suit him very well at the Straits Course. Furyk may be aging rapidly, but he should be able to lift the Wannamaker Trophy as the dog days of summer come to an end.
Multiple Event Winners
Rickie Fowler: He was a model of consistency last year, though he failed to win. Expect for Fowler to break through and truly become the superstar he is capable of becoming.
Matt Kuchar: Kuchar is the tour’s top-10 king, and expect nothing less this year. However, this year will be different because Kuchar will capitalize on hist consistency.
Rory McIlory: Rory is the best player in the game still at such a young age, and there is absolutely no reason in the world he would not continue his winning ways in 2015.
Players Who Surprisingly Will Not Win
Billy Horschel: Horschel was the 2014 FedEx Cup champion, winning the last two events of the season en route to the 10 million dollar prize. Horschel is a fiery young athlete, but he has failed to show consistency in his career. He will most likely have a good year, but I do not expect him to lift any trophies in 2015.
Jason Dufner: Duff-Daddy is a personal favorite golfer of mine, but nagging injuries held him out of contest for a lot of the 2014 season. Dufner obviously has a lot of talent, but I am not sure if he still has what it takes to put together 4 great rounds in 4 days.
Hunter Mahan: Mahan is one of my least favorite golfers in the history of everything, so this may be biased. Mahan does not have what it takes to win on tour anymore. He shows incredible inconsistency in all facets of his game, and that does not sound like a winning formula to me.
Tiger and Phil
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are hands down the two greatest golfers of our generation. They have been role models to all young golfers since the turn of the century. However, the times are a changin’, and multiple players under the age of 30 have taken over the superstar roles on tour. Mickelson and Woods are still great golfers, and I expect at least 2 wins between the two of them this coming year, but I doubt they will be able to go at it week after week with top-10 after top-10. I love both Phil and Tiger, but they are both clearly at the latter end of their career, and it is now the age of RORY.
FedEx Cup Champion
I am not a huge fan of the FedEx Cup rules, considering whoever gets hot at the end of the year can win it (Billy Horschel last year). However, it does take a lot of consistency and a lot of tournaments to win the 10 million dollar prize, so look no further then Jordan Spieth to win the award this year. The 21 year old had an underwhelming 2014 season, raising no trophy’s until the Australian Open this past weekend. Spieth shows as much upside as anyone on the whole tour. He is also a top-10 machine, possessing the talent to contend in every tournament he enters. Spieth is a great example of a trend that will be very apparent on tour: youth is beginning to trump the veterans. The 2015 will be a fun ride with twists and turns almost every weekend, so we will just have to wait and see who reigns supreme this coming year.