I’ve already given up on all my New Year’s resolutions. No gym. No saving money. No laying off the beers. It’s all gone and it’s Jan 2nd. My focus, golf (and betting the NFL playoffs). There’s nothing I love more than making some preseason predictions so I can look back in October and see how stupid I actually am.
Kevin Chappell wins a major this year. I said BOLD. It’s very early, but Chappy is 2nd so far in SG Tee to Green but near last in putting (202nd). Last year, he struggled with the flat stick finishing 108th in putting average. Thing is, he straight up performs when the putting gets tough. He’s made the cut in 10 of 13 career majors. Think about that stat for a second. He made the cut in his first Masters and finished t-7 last year? He fits the mold.
Rickie Fowler doesn’t win in 2018 or contend at a major. Nobody likes this prediction. Like every other red-blooded American male, I want Rickie to take over the Phil role in our lives and start winning. I completely admit this is more narrative-driven than golf, but Butch Harmon’s chat with Rickie last year got me thinking. I think some guys handle the off-the-field-stuff better than others. I get he just won, but he’s picked up a new girlfriend (good work by the way) and doesn’t really seem to be taking to Butch’s advice. He just seems distracted to me.
Patrick Cantlay is this year’s Justin Thomas. I don’t think we’ll see anyone repeat the year JT had anytime soon, but I love Cantlay to fill that “wow, that came out of nowhere role.” Cantlay made the cut at all 12 of his tour events last year. All. Of. Them. He bagged a few top 10’s and contended at some tough tracks (Innisbrook, Harbor Town, Sawgrass). What I really love is how he closed (and opened) the year. He battled in the FedEx Cup and bagged his first win a few weeks ago at the Shriners.
Jon Rahm suffers the dreaded sophomore slump. I’m really not sure how to define “slump” since the expectations for Rahm are so crazy high, but let’s say he slips outside the top 20 WGR by the end of the year. Like Rickie, this is narrative-driven. He’s a head case and if he has a few bad weeks I could certainly see him slip into a deep slump. Look at how he’s performed at the majors (and major-like events). He missed at the US Open and struggle at the others (again, by his high standards). When things get tough, he seems to fold and I feel like in your second year you may start to grind-especially if the results aren’t there.
Gary Woodland win the FedEx Cup. I’ll admit it. I love Gary Woodland. I always have for some reason. It’s hard not the pull for the guy after some of the personal stuff he dealt with last year. Despite all that he had a decent year. He made 22 out of 26 cuts with 5 top 10s. Last year he was 13th in driving distance, 15th in GIR and finished 27th on the money list without a win. Why the FedEx Cup? He seems to play well at the end of the year and on the Cup courses. He’s made East Lake 4 out of the last 5 years. I think he racks up a win or two this year and breaks through at East Lake.
Russell Henley makes the Ryder Cup. How many guys made the cut at all 4 majors last year? Well, add Henley to that list. This guy just pops from a statistical prospective. He can bomb it off the tee and is a great putter. He’s a great DraftKings pick in the major because he’s always underpriced. I think he has a breakout year.
Patrick Reed doesn’t make the Ryder Cup. This is unfair to me because even if he doesn’t automatically qualify I’m sure he’ll be on the top of any captain’s choice list, but I am predicting a down year for Reed.
Stephan Jaeger is that weird European who comes out of nowhere and everyone will know by the end of the year. He’s got a tour card this year after finishing 5th on the Web.com money list. He also made the cut at the US Open last year. He’s also German. I’m not sure if that matters, but seemed like it should be mentioned.
It will be a quiet year for the Europeans…. Until the Ryder Cup. Rory, Rose, and co. will have a quiet year. Rory could make me look foolish because he has the talent to rip off multiple majors any year and Rose? He seems motivated, but he’s getting up there in years. And….
Jordan Speith wins multiple majors and becomes the “Tiger Woods” figure of our generation. This isn’t exactly bold and some could argue he’s already there but I think this year will be different. I’m a Patriots fan and believe it or not a few years ago people used to debate Brady vs. Manning (not so much anymore). My take on this argument (aside from my overwhelming pro-Brady bias) is that numbers don’t make legends—moments do. At the end of the day, all the stats blend together but the only thing that will matter in 20 years is this. Jordan, like Brady, just has it. He’s clutch. He’s likable. He has his shit together. He has the best caddie in golf. He’s ready to take that next step to legendary status. Enjoy the ride.
Obligatory Tiger Wood prediction. I think this is real. Everything about him just seems different, including the personal note he wrote on his blog last week. Like everyone else in the world I would love to see him play a real event, but all systems are go for me. The issue is expectations. He contends early and at the Masters to get everyone going, but doesn’t win until later in the year. The real key is he has a successfully HEATHY 2018 and is back.