Toss out your 2013 calendars and flip to 2014! With a new season comes new hopes, dreams and expectations. At USGolfTV, we entered the “predicting business”, sitting down and asking ourselves some questions regarding the 2014 PGA Tour season…Here’s what we thought were some interesting story lines come 2014:
Who will be a first-time major winner in 2014?
Dillon Friday – Henrik Stenson was playing the best golf at the end of 2013 and he could easily slide into this category. But I like Dustin Johnson here. DJ struggled with injuries and inconsistency in 2013, but rallied late in the season to finish strong. He bested a tough field to win in early November at the HSBC Champions in China. Now, he’ll look to carry that momentum into 2014. With a Ryder Cup spot on the line and a couple of Major courses- especially the nearly 7500 yard Valhalla track that will host the PGA Championship in August- that fit Johnson’s bomber style, he is poised for a big season.
Levi Smith – Jason Day. The 16th ranked player in the world has come close to winning a major before, including twice in 2013. Day was right in the thick of things at Augusta, and if not for a rough finish could have replaced Adam Scott as the first Australian to win the green jacket. Day ended up finishing third at The Masters, and followed up in a tie for second place at the U.S. Open in June and a T8 finish at the PGA in August. The 26 year old Aussie has already show us he has what it takes to compete in a major, and I expect him to break through and win one in 2014.
Troy Klongerbo – I love the selections of both DJ and Day, but I’m going to go with Brandt Snedeker here. He’s flirted with a green jacket on two different occasions – 2007 and 2013 – coming up short on Sunday in both. His game is historically, Augusta-proven. Two more wins in 2013 and a OWGR of #5, Brandt has vaulted himself to the top of today’s game. A T17 at Merion along with relevance at the British Open indicates the versatility of Brandt’s game. I believe his experience gained, coupled with a complete game will translate into a major championship for Brandt in 2014.
Who will be the Web.com Tour Graduate to make the biggest splash on PGA Tour in 2014?
Dillon Friday -How about Peter Malnati? The 26 year old former Mizzou Tiger played mini tours before earning a place on the Web.com Tour in 2013. Malnati will compete on the PGA Tour on 2014 by virtue of an 18th place finish on the minor circuit. Malnati won the News Sentinel Open this summer and finished under par at ten of his first twelve Web.com events. He’s already proven he belongs on the PGA Tour. In his second start of the season at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, Malnati shot -11 to finish in the top 15. His remarkable rise from mini tours to the PGA in a single year will draw attention to the rookie. I imagine his game might just impress as well.
Levi Smith – Patrick Cantlay. Patrick Cantlay is used to the spotlight. In a career that has seemingly been destined for success, the former UCLA Bruin compiled one of the more impressive amateur golfing careers we’ve seen in recent memory. His success continued in 2013 for Cantlay, with a win and a runner up finish on the Web.com Tour. Cantlay only played in nine events on the Web.com Tour in 2013, but earned over $240,000 – landing him at 13th on the money list, and giving him his PGA Tour card for 2014. While he is still very young, I could see a Jordan Spieth-like year from Cantlay in 2014.
Troy Klongerbo – Give me John Peterson. The LSU graduate and former NCAA Champion (2011) already has made his splash. Remember the 2012 U.S. Open? Peterson finished 4th and electrified the nation with this shot and celebration:
Peterson earned the top spot in the Web.com Tour Finals and flashes the type of confidence similar to that of a Rickie Fowler. He’s bold. He could be described as cocky and brash by those who read his tweets and watch his antics on the course, but I see his personality as an intense self-confidence. He’ll ride that confidence to a fantastic rookie year on Tour. I firmly believe he’ll win an event as well. John Peterson, the biggest splash.
Will Tiger win #15 before 2015?
Dillon Friday – Yes. Tiger will win 15 and 16 in fact. He was a freak bounce off the flag stick (and an illegal drop that ensued) from contending at Augusta a year ago. He’ll win there this April. I also like Woods to win The Open Championship as well. He carved up Royal Liverpool in 2006 to the tune of an -18, 270 to win by two strokes over Colin Montgomerie. Woods is still the best golfer in the world. This is the year he reinvigorates the chase for 18.
Levi Smith – Yes. Sure Tiger is #1 in the world again, making it much easier to think that he’ll finally win another major in 2014, but I wouldn’t dare have the audacity to bet against Tiger even if he wasn’t #1 again. I thought Tiger would win one in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Not only do I think Tiger will win one in 2014, I think he’ll win one in 2015, 2016, and 2017. I can’t bet against Tiger, I just can’t.
Troy Klongerbo: Three for three. Tiger will win this year. Every year when the major courses are announced, people echo Tiger’s successes at each course. Where hasn’t Tiger had success. Tiger winning majors isn’t about the venues – its about Tiger.
I agree with everything in Dillon and Levi’s assessment. Tiger gets on the board in 2014.
Any predictions for a surprise American Ryder Cupper in 2014?
Dillon Friday – This is a tricky question. If you treat the Presidents Cup as a tune up for the Ryder, then Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk, and Rickie Fowler, all of whom have played in Ryder Cups before, would qualify as surprises. The uber talented Jordan Spieth could garner a surprise spot on the American team, but then again is anything he does surprising anymore? Instead, I’ll suggest Hunter Mahan. Mahan did play on the victorious Presidents Cup team, but many would consider the ex-Oklahoma State Cowboy a borderline Ryder Cup candidate at best. Still, Mahan always seems to play well. He finished in the top ten at both the US and British Opens in 2013. And at 31, Mahan is just entering his golfing prime. Watson and Jason Dufner broke through in their early 30’s. So too will Mahan.
Levi Smith – Billy Horschel. Billy Horschel is coming off of a great year in 2013, which included his first PGA Tour win, and I think he’ll be even more successful in 2014. He’s currently the 35th ranked player in the world, and possesses a qualities that we often times see more on the European side of the event. Horschel is fiery, sometimes emotional, and extremely competitive – all things that I think the US team could use a bit more of. Not only do I think Horschel will have a good enough season in 2014 to land him a spot on the Ryder Cup Team, I think he will be an instrumental part to the US winning the cup in 2014.
Troy Klongerbo – John Peterson. I’m a John Peterson guy in 2014. Let’s dig deeper into his statistical season on the Web.com Tour in 2013. From August 25th on, John didn’t finish outside the top-5 in a single event. He only missed two cuts all season. Making multiple starts in 2013 on the PGA Tour, he notched a top-10 at the Zurich’s, finishing T8. He’s got a complete game with the type of confidence to make it extremely effective. He would be a fantastic teammate in partner golf. Ryder Cup 2014.
Dark Horse 2014 Player of the Year?
Dillon Friday – A couple of names come to mind here- Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, and Jason Day. Johnson, to me, is especially intriguing. He put forth another solid season last year with a win and eight top tens. But I’ll say Day has the best chance to snag player of the year honors. He’s played too well in the big events, i.e. majors, to not have won one yet. That will change this season.
Levi Smith – Rory McIlroy. Traditionally you wouldn’t say the 6th ranked player in the world would be a dark horse to win Player of the Year Honors, but after the struggles he faced in 2013 I consider him just that. McIlroy had an amazing 2012, but followed it up with a win-less 2013 plagued by equipment changes, management changes and courtroom visits. With all of that behind him, I see Rory bouncing back in 2014 with multiple wins and a shot at the 2014 Player of the Year Award.
Troy Klongerbo – I could say John Peterson again, as I am a believer in his game, but I’ll be taking a different route in my dark horse candidate for Player of the Year. I’ll reiterate Levi’s thoughts on the former Florida Gator Billy Horschel. Completely healthy now, he’s ready to start his dominance on Tour. Billy is one of the Tour’s pure talents. He’s spirited and fiery. I say two wins in 2014 for Billy and agree with Levi’s prediction of a Ryder Cup birth.
2014 is here, golf fans!
The USGolfTV Staff