New faces mix with superstars in PGA Tour

Aug 29, 2019 3:02 AM

Like any great TV series, we’ve got to close out the PGA Tour season with a wrapup episode of the wrapround season and then look ahead to the plot twists and turns in store for next year.

This wrapup includes a season where potential one-hit wonders (Adam Long, Martin Trainer, Keith Mitchell, Nate Lashley to name a few) came into their own — if only for one week. There were, amazingly, 37 different winners during the season.

There was also the return of an all-time great in Tiger Woods and a season-ending jackpot for the ages — a $15 million prize for FedEx Cup champ Rory McIlroy.

For the upcoming 2019-2020 season, we’ve got to answer a few nagging questions. Can McIlroy go back-to-back in the FedEx Cup race? Is Brooks Koepka always going to be ‘The Major Guy’? And the biggest question that is on everyone’s mind: Will Tiger win The Masters — or any other tournament —again?

The easy answers: Yes. Yes. Probably not.

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Now before you start spitting your coffee over the keyboard about the Tiger Woods outlook, hear us out.

Remember, Tiger needed a lot of help to win at The Masters. Four of the final six players on the course drenched it in on No. 12 to open the door and Tiger waltzed right through it and slipped on another green jacket.

Otherwise, during the remainder of the season, it was the hopes of the guys and gals in the TV broadcasts that kept him relevant. After his win at Augusta, he managed just one top 10 (a T9 at the Memorial). He also had a T21, a T37, two MC’s and a WD. Those numbers sound like a player looking to hold onto his PGA Tour card, not one of the two greatest players ever.

But it’s time to look ahead to the start of the upcoming wraparound season which starts Sept. 12-15 with A Military Tribute at The Greenbriar in White Sulphur Springs, WV.

This is like spring training for golf. Not all of the big names will be there to tee it up. Many will still be winding down after a grueling stretch of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

But, with everyone starting at zero FedEx Cup points, it’s a great time for those looking to make a name for themselves early in the season.

We’ll hold off on picks until the event gets closer and the field is set, but we will look at possible rising stars and fading stars.

Three college players came right out of the gates after turning pro and made a huge splash on Tour. Michael Wolff and Collin Morikawa both won mere weeks after leaving college fairways. And Viktor Hovland played in five events with a top 10 along with four top 25s. He then was stellar at the Korn Ferry finals to earn his PGA Tour card.

All three (barring injury) should be around the leaderboards all year. They are just getting their feet wet.

As for those who are established, it’s hard not to like the way McIlroy finished the year. He played Sunday’s final round, with $15 million on the line, with renewed determination. While others around him couldn’t find a fairway, he split many of them with his legendary lengthy drives. And his putting was as solid as it’s been in awhile.

If he stays focused, there could be a green jacket — finally — in his future.

Koepka is the one we can’t quite figure out. He’s money in the bank at majors but he was mid-pack in other events. Can he take that major form to other events and be successful? That’s the million dollar question.

For the rest of the field, it’s time to get back to the form that put them in the spotlight. Several, like Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, etc., show great form either early or late in events, but not consistently.

Then we’ve got guys like Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia who got air time early in the week as stars but usually faded by the time the cameras were on come Sunday. O.K., Mickelson won at Pebble, but after that it was a struggle.

Overall, what do all their futures hold? We’ll find out in a couple of weeks as we gear up for another heart-stopping, highlight-inducing season. Make sure you set your DVR so you don’t miss a single episode. 

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