Hey readers, Troy Klongerbo here. We’re looking into breakout golfers.
In this blog, Dillon Friday and I will dive into the predictions world yet again, taking a look at the 2016 golf season.
With 2015 in the books, it’s time to look ahead. With the crop of young players starting to make their stamp on the game evermore evident, 2016 is poising itself to be another exciting installment of PGA Tour golf. How do you top 2015, though?
I don’t think you can.
But if anyone can help do it, we think these 6 (well, 8) golfers have the ability to do it, to be the breakout golfers.
No Tiger (unfortunately), no Phil (in this article, at least) and the only person over the age of 30 is 38 years old (Tiger is 39, so no, it’s not him).
He made his name on Big Break and solidified it at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits where Finau pounded the fairways on his way to a T10 finish.
Now some are wondering how far Finau’s talents can take him—and us. His ability with the driver gives him an outside shot of teeing it up at Hazeltine next fall so long as the results continue.
With his win in Malaysia, Thomas finally got the monkey off his back. I say finally loosely. At the age of 22, Thomas didn’t have to wait long, although his college resume and early success on Tour indicated a win would come.
His age, 22, was eerily representative of how much money he won in 2015–$2.2 million.
Thomas game will take another jump forward in 2016, where he’ll likely exceed 10 top-10 finishes and a trip to East Lake and the Tour Championship. Ahh, let’s not burden the kid. Let him play and watch, the results will come.
The List: 6 Golfers to Watch in 2016
1. Jordan Spieth
Let’s ignore the obvious for a moment. We’re all eager to see how Spieth follows up his monstrous 2015, which included five victories, two majors, the Tour Championship, four runner-up finishes and more prize money than any golfer in history. That he did it all in his age 21-22 season made it more impressive.
But the more I think about Spieth in 2016, especially through the lens of last year, the more I consider alternate paths.
There are no guarantees in golf just as there are no guarantees in life. What I mean is, 2015 could very well be the best season Jordan Spieth ever has. Are we prepared to accept that? At this young age, Spieth’s earned patience to go with the expectations. Still, how he performs in 2016 and beyond shouldn’t change the legacy he’s already left.
[bctt tweet=”But the more I think about Spieth in 2016, especially through the lens of last year, the more I consider alternate paths.”]
2. Brooks Koepka
As if the semi-prospect of a mustache above isn’t enough of a reason watch Brooks in 2016. Well…the tweet below shows the full-blown ‘stache.
— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) December 1, 2015
A group of rising young stars decided to take their golfing talents to Europe when they turned pro a few years ago now. Among them was Brooks Koepka. It became an attractive place to learn how to become a professional. It was the theory of getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. Koepka, with others, did that.
And for the Koepka camp, it’s paying its dividends.
The 2015 season was Brooks’ first full season on the PGA Tour. With a win in February in Phoenix and great play all summer, including great finishes in the majors, he vaulted his name to inside the world’s top-20 players.
Regardless of how you feel about the official world golf rankings, Koepka’s play has been among the best in the world. With his distance (4th on the PGA Tour in 2015), he has the talent to be elite. If his iron play and his putting can match that of his peers, he’ll be a household name by next year this time.
[bctt tweet=”the theory of getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. Koepka, with others, did that.”]
3. Rickie Fowler
“Two impressive victories in 2015, c’mon people what more do you want!” — Rickie Fowler, probably.
Each of the past two years, 2014 and 2015, could be classified as Rickie’s “career year.” In fact, ever since bursting on the scene as a loudly-dressed, flamboyant motor star on the Tour in 2009, Fowler has continued to improve.
Now the 5th-ranked golfer in the world, the only thing missing from his resume is a major championship–aside from a Ryder Cup. He famously notched top-5s in every single one of those pesky majors in 2014. In 2015, he won thrice (three times) worldwide.
As for 2016, Fowler sits just outside today’s “Big 3” of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. He’s proven he can compete on any venue, in any conditions and under any amount of pressure. It’s the adrenaline junkie in him.
I think Fowler’s the guy to watch for a few different reasons:
- He’s going to win a major this year
- …and if he doesn’t, the microscope will get bigger and bigger
Both are reasons to watch Rickie in 2016.
4. Paul Casey
The second-best English golfer won’t sniff the Ryder Cup Team in 2016. That’s because Paul Casey relinquished his status on the European Tour (which given multiple stops in the Middle East, South Africa and Asia isn’t all that European anyway).
Casey went fulltime on the PGA Tour in 2014 to ease the stress of travel. In doing so, he removed himself from Ryder Cup contention. Casey had already played for the Europeans three times (04, 06, 08), winning twice. So perhaps the competition didn’t mean enough to him anymore.
At any rate, Casey turned in his best season in a long while in 2015. He made 20 of 24 cuts, finished second twice and posted eight top-10’s, including a T6 at Augusta. I have him winning The Masters in 2016. If he does, it’ll be interesting to see where the conversation about Casey and the Ryder Cup goes.
[bctt tweet=”I have him winning The Masters in 2016.”]
5. Ollie Schniederjans
After narrowly missing out on qualifying for the Web.com playoffs last season, which would have given him a chance to earn a PGA Tour card for 2016, Ollie Schniederjans now faces a more difficult path to obtain tour status.
Like Spieth before him, he’ll rely on sponsor exemptions to play in a select number of PGA events. It’ll be worth watching how the former Georgia Tech star, and hatless wonder, reacts.
Spieth was able to earn his place thanks a stunning run of early results that included a win at the Quad Cities. We now know that his maturity and poise under pressure drives his game as much as his physical talent. Like Spieth, Schniederjans is a 22-year-old Texan. We don’t know, however, if Schniederjans carries the same traits.
His pursuit of qualification was derailed by a series of missed cuts last summer. Can he respond in 2016 playing an inconsistent schedule?
6. Matthew Fitzpatrick
If the topic of Fitzpatrick arose in August 2015, conversation points would include his winning the 2013 U.S. Amateur with a baby face and an English accent. He turned professional after a stint at Northwestern in Chicago and was learning the professional game. Outside of that, which I know is already a lot, there wasn’t much.
But he took a big jump in October.
At the British Masters, Fitzpatrick held off well-known European Tour stars Shane Lowry, Fabrizio Zanotti, and Soren Kjeldsen to win his first professional tournament. Rounds of 64-69-68-68 were enough for a two-stroke victory. And if you think he’s done winning, I think you’re wrong. He’ll keep winning.
Admittedly, I think he would be the most hilarious looking superstar in golf if he doesn’t start to age. Even now, 1994 seems generous for a birthdate (which it actually is). He looks like a 1998 baby. But his talent can’t be questioned.
Fitzpatrick is the player I would like to formally include as the 6th breakout player to watch in 2016. 2016 will be the first season where Fitzpatrick finds contention in a big event or two stateside. His game is making the jump. Will his mind follow suit?
[bctt tweet=”I think he would be the most hilarious looking superstar in golf”]
That’s all. Thank you for reading!
Do you agree with our players to watch? COMMENT BELOW.
We’ll check back next year at this time…