With 2017 right around the corner, the PGA Tour season will ramp up. With the PGA Tour switching a couple years ago to a wrap around schedule, we have seen glimpses of what the 2016-2017 season has in store. However, most of the top players in the world don’t start their season until the new year. I will count down the top 10 players to watch this upcoming year.
10. Rickie Fowler: Rickie had a disappointing 2016 campaign which included only 2 made cuts at the 4 majors with his best finish being T-33rd at the PGA Championship. He also failed to make it to the Tour championship. Rickie is due to repeat a year like he in 2015 and already looks to be in good form. He tied for sixth in his only event of the fall portion of the season and had two top-3 finishes in nonofficial events, including the Hero World Challenge.
9. Tiger Woods: Tiger returns after over a year off from the sport. He looked good in the Hero World Challenge where he made the most the most birdies in the field, which consisted of 20 of the world’s best players. That is a good sign for Tiger who will be using a new ball and likely new equipment when he tees it off to start the 2017 season.
8. Brooks Koepka: The young kid from Florida State really stepped up his game this past summer. He emerged as one of the young stars on Tour and made his first Ryder Cup team this fall. He place in the Top 25 in all 3 majors he played (missed The Open Championship due to injury) and had a chance at winning The PGA Championship. He already has a second place finish in fall portion and I think he will build on his year last year and have a multiple win year.
7. Patrick Reed: Patrick was the star for the USA team in this fall’s Ryder Cup. Reed is still looking to break out in the major championship department and needs to prove he’s not this generation’s Sergio or Westwood. The man plays with a fire. Coming off a 3rd place finish in this past FedEx Cup shows that Reed has the talent to be one if the best on Tour.
6. Henrik Stenson: Arguably the best ball striker on Tour. We saw at The Open Championship what can happen when the Swede’s putter catches fire. Henrik seems to be getting better with age and I don’t expect that to stop.
5. Hideki Matsuyama: He is the hottest golfer on the planet right now and probably the best golfer that nobody knows about. He has a first and second place finish in his two official events this fall to go along with a victory at The Hero World Challenge. He has climbed to #6 in the World Golf Rankings. This 24 year-old has seemed to have found his footing on The PGA Tour and that is scary for every other golfer out there. This kid can flat out play and has the talent to win multiple major championships.
4. Jordan Spieth: He couldn’t pick up another major this past year after he gave away The Master’s. He will look to rebound this year. He is already the best putter on Tour and that will be key each and every week. He switched his irons to the most recent model of the Titleist AP 2’s (had been using the 2014 version) at the Australian Masters and won. He seems to be confident again in his ball striking. I see Jordan adding another major this year.
3. Jason Day: Next time we see the #1 player in the world, he will be wearing a swoosh. Day signed a contract worth about $100 million this fall to sport Nike apparel on the course this upcoming season. Jason Day has won 8 times over the past year and a half including a PGA Championship and a Players Championship. He is one of the most well rounded players of this generation and he is just now coming into his prime. I don’t see him winning any less than three times this year.
2. Dustin Johnson: This was the year of first time major champions. The most fitting of those was Dustin. He has been so close for the last few years and he finally was able to clinch one at the U.S. Open. The USGA got rid of the rule that almost cost DJ his major so he won’t ever have to deal with that again. I think big things are on the way for Dustin this year. The man has it all, you can’t bet against him.
1. Rory McIlroy: The number player to watch this year is Rory. Coming off a victory at The Tour Championship and winning the FedEx Cup, he cemented his place as the most dominant player since pre-injuries Tiger. He is the 2nd ranked player in the world behind Day and already has a T-4th finish in his one start this season. Rory can dominate any golf course and with his freedom to use any clubs while he is a equipment free agent, he can find the set up that works best for him, including a putter that works. I believe Rory will challenge Day of the #1 spot this year bring home at least one major in 2017.