PGA Tour Players to Watch After Return
Drew Phelps discusses the PGA Tour Golfers you should be watching after they return to the course.
Hey there! Did you miss me? I know I missed you. No, Fantasy and DFS golf is not back for the foreseeable future but what’s the harm in talking “what ifs.”
What if the season was to return in time for say the U.S. Open in June? Winged Foot is a classic championship course which has hosted the U.S. Open five times. The last time it hosted was 2006 when Geoff Oglivy won his first and likely last major championship. Phil Mickelson finished 2nd for the 4th time in his career that year and has gone on to finish 2nd another two times in U.S. Opens. What if the season was to return in time for the Open Championship in July? Royal St. George’s Golf Course has hosted this event 14 times, yes, 14 times. The last time it hosted was back in 2011 when long time European Tour veteran Darren Clarke won everyone’s hearts in route to his first major victory at the age of 42.
These are the stories that golf fans love and will miss and long to see again. This article will focus on the golfers who could benefit and who could be hurt by this long layoff between professional events. We will discuss the players you may want to buy on the low end coming out of this situation and the players who you might want to sell high on before it is too late.
PLAYER HELPED BY THE STOPPAGE IN PLAY:
The 2019-2020 season for Tiger Woods was looking to be a banner year for the legend. He took down the ZOZO Championship during the Fall Swing of the PGA Tour to kick off his season. Then after taking a break for the holidays, he didn’t show any rust and finished with a Top 10 at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
Things seemed to be rolling along as we headed into the Genesis Invitational which he hosted for the first time this year. This is where the season took a turn as he made the cut but finished with a score of +11 which was good enough for 68th place. The back injury starts to rear its ugly head once again.
This man lost nearly three years of his career to his chronic back problems. After four surgeries, he finally returned to PGA Tour action back in 2018. He vowed to listen to his body more and when it said no, he would listen. Tiger withdrew from the Players Championship a few weeks ago saying on twitter “It was not an easy decision,” he added, “I have to listen to my body and properly rest when needed.” Obviously that event did not finish due to the coronavirus outbreak.
You have to feel like this forced stoppage will give him all the time he needs to rest and get that back right. We know he has a flair for the dramatic and what better way to write another chapter in his legendary story than coming out of this quarantine and win the first major returning to action, getting himself that much closer to catching Jack Nicklaus.
Brooks Koepka has played out of this world over the last two seasons on the PGA Tour. Just last year he finished 2nd at the Masters, won the PGA Championship, 2nd at the U.S. Open and 4th at the Open Championship. The fact that he wasn’t named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year is criminal. Rory McIlory won the Players and the Tour Championships and he was given the award. Since he finished 3rd behind Rory at the Tour Championship and was snubbed for Player of the Year, it hasn’t been smooth sailing.
The start of the 2020 season has been rough for Brooks. He missed the cut at the Shriners and then withdrew with a knee injury at the CJ Cup in October and missed the Presidents’ Cup in December. In January, he admitted that his knee injury was fully recovered and would play in Abu Dhabi. The question is now, do we believe that he’s really 100 percent? In the four tournaments that he’s participated on the PGA Tour this year resulted in a 43rd, a Missed Cut, a 47th and 37th at the Players before they called the event.
This delay in play could work to his advantage in the long run. He can tell us until he’s blue in the face that he was fully recovered but the results speak for themselves. The rest can only help his knee. If you are thinking that he needs to play through this, that’s a possibility but rust will be a problem for all players on the PGA Tour.
Did you know that this former number one player in the world did not finish inside the Top 20 in any of his final eight events to end the 2019 PGA Tour season? Dustin even missed the cut at the Rocket Mortgage as well. The start of the 2020 season has been a roller coaster ride with two Top 10 finishes and three finishes outside the Top 30. This is a situation where I don’t know if the break from the game will help him get his head back on straight or push him further away from where he used to be.
Johnson is now four years removed from his major championship breakthrough victory at Oakmont in 2016. He does have two 2nd place finishes at the PGA Championship and the Masters in 2019 but hasn’t been able to get back over the hump. Dustin is a family man now and isn’t getting any younger as he’ll turn 36 this June. I know that doesn’t seem old but you don’t see many guys win majors after the age of 40. There is a really good crop of young hungry players joining the PGA Tour every season and he’s definitely got a target on his back. I am not saying he can’t notch another major or two before he calls it a career but the clock is ticking.
PLAYER HURT BY THE STOPPAGE IN PLAY:
The reigning 2019 PGA Tour Player of the Year did not waste any time getting right back to business in 2020. After winning the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup Playoffs, he took a two month break and finished 3rd at the ZOZO Championship and won the WGC-HSBC. The terrific play didn’t stop once the calendar flipped to 2020 as he finished 3rd, 5th, 5th, and 5th over his last four events before the stoppage in play. The number one player in the world currently sits 3rd in the FedEx Cup standings and his stats speak for themself, 2nd in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, 2nd in Driving Distance, 1st in Scoring Average, 1st in Scrambling, and 5th in Birdie or Better Percentage,
This is a guy who wanted to keep his momentum rolling into Augusta and hopefully finally complete that career grand slam. Rory currently has four major titles, 2 PGA Championships and one of both the U.S. Open and Open Championship. The best he has finished at the Masters is 4th back in 2015. All the pressure was on him heading into the 2019 Masters being the odds on favorite and after a terrible start he had to scramble to finish inside the Top 25. The way Rory was playing this season gave us all hope that this could have been the year and now his challenge will be to keep his form up until he does finally get that next chance.
I don’t think there was a hotter golfer on the PGA Tour than Bryson DeChambeau to start the 2020 season. He has four Top 10 finishes in six starts including his last three events before the stoppage in play. He currently sits 13th in the World Golf Rankings and 16th in the FedEx Cup standings. When you look over his stats, he ranks 1st in Driving Distance, 5th in Scoring Average, and 10th in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. It is hard to imagine that he won’t be impacted by not being able to play over the next couple months.
It’s a real shame because this whole off-season all anyone could talk about was his body transformation. The 26-year old gained 25 pounds of muscle (220 lbs now) to his 6-foot-1 frame. Bryson was quoted saying, “I actually had to get my wrists stronger,” he added, “I had to train, do farmer walks, 70 pounds in each hand and move them like that when I walk to get my grip strength up. Did a lot of pull ups with just the fingers, hold on with my palm, just doing a couple other things, inflexion, flexion stuff, internal, external rotation of the wrist.” As I mentioned before, he is currently ranked 1st on the PGA Tour in Driving Distance, so all the hard work has paid off this season.
How special do you have to be to make your PGA Tour pro debut at the age of 22 and finish inside the Top 15 in that event? Well, that’s what Cal-Berkeley alum Collin Morikawa did just last June at the 2019 RBC Canadian. You know what’s even more impressive for this young rising star? He has yet to miss a cut on the PGA Tour since turning pro. Collin actually has the current longest running cuts made streak on the PGA Tour. During this current streak, he’s got 5 Top 10 finishes and another 5 Top 25 finishes. While his stats are not as gaudy as McIlory, Koepka, and DeChambeau, they are solid throughout the bag. He ranks 8th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, 4th in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green, and also in the Top 50 in Total Driving and Greens in Regulation. That is all extremely impressive for a kid not even through his first full season on the PGA Tour.
If we had to talk about one area of improvement, it would be putting. The flat stick has been the pain in the side of a lot of great golfers over the years, just look at Rory. McIlory has struggled with the putter for years but when he gets hot on the greens, there is no one on the tour that can touch him. I firmly believe he’ll improve that part of his game as he becomes a veteran on the tour and gets to know these regular PGA Tour stops. The problem is he can’t get to know these greens on tour sitting at home. I was really looking forward to seeing him tee it up at the Masters for the first time this season