2015 Preview: The Rest
Welcome to the 2015 Golf Preview, where I’ll take a look at selected golfers and examine what to expect over the next twelve months. Today, we look at some players who I didn’t have full thoughts on, but still warranted mentioning.
Tim Clark: Clark won his first tournament in over four years at the Canadian Open last year, which was pretty important for him when you dig a little deeper. The anchored putting ban is set to come into effect in 2016 and Clark is likely going to be the player that gets hit the hardest when you realize that he has an odd disability that prevents him from supinating his forearms, which is why he’s used the anchored putter for his entire career. He was one of the players who was considering a lawsuit against golf’s governing bodies a few months ago, but we haven’t really heard much on that front recently. Assuming that he doesn’t go through with a lawsuit, Clark’s going to have to figure something out if he wants to keep playing on the PGA Tour, which is why that win last year and subsequent two year exemption was so important, as Clark bought himself some time. His nickname is also “The Penguin”, so here’s a horrible Photoshop job:
Thorbjorn Olesen: Much like Clark, Olesen won last year for the first time in nearly two years, holding off Victor Dubuisson in Australia. After a down year in 2013 when he joined Rory McIlroy in a move to Nike, Olesen made good strides in 2014 and a multi win year on the European Tour should be within reach.
Dustin Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Bubba Watson, Hideki Matsuyama, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy. Aside from being really good at golf, the other thing that the above names all have in common is that in the 2014 season, they were the only players who were better from tee-to-green than DeLaet. That’s some pretty nice company, but unfortunately for DeLaet, the strokes gained putting list shows that just about every golfer with a pulse rolls it better than him, so some improvement on the greens is needed. If he can make even marginal gains here and stay healthy, DeLaet will win a bunch of tournaments on the PGA Tour.
Golf’s most eloquent speaker won for the first time in over four years on the PGA Tour when he took the Barracuda back in August. The owner of one of golf’s sweetest swings keeps himself busy with course design and writing, but it was great to see him get another win on the board. Golf is simply better when Ogilvy is involved in some way, so hopefully he can keep up the good play.
That graphic is from a couple of years ago, but it shows you the level at which Manassero has placed himself. That fourth title came at the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship back in 2013 and had many pegging him as a potential entry on the European Ryder Cup team, but things didn’t go so well for Manassero in 2014. After an equipment change to Callaway, Manassero only managed three top-10 finishes in 27 worldwide starts, with just one coming after March. Still though, he doesn’t turn 22 until after the 2015 Masters, so he’s got plenty of time and as my friends at No Laying Up will tell you, “the cream rises”.
It’s been a steady rise for Luiten over the past year or so, and he probably wasn’t that far off from being a member of Paul McGinley’s side at Gleneagles, so he’s definitely someone that we should be watching. Much like Mikko Ilonen, Marcel Siem and Pablo Larrazabal, Luiten is the type of player that we’re likely not going to see much in North America unless he qualifies for a major or WGC event, but he really is a lot of fun and is a master of #TourSauce.
At this point, I don’t think anyone knows how much of Steve Stricker we’re going to see in 2015, but the cool thing is that he doesn’t really care either:
He’s content to play when and where he wants and spend the rest of his time with the family. Sure, he likely won’t win a major that way, but I respect the fact that he’s content with what he’s done in his career. He’s got nothing to prove.
The king of the smedium shirts, Popeye Paul will finish the year in the high 60’s to low 70’s in OWGR, which might not seem that good but considering where he’s been, I’d say he should be pretty happy. He’s now won in each of the last two seasons and at 37 years old, he’s still young enough to climb back into regular contention.
Oosthuizen’s swing is one of my favourite things about golf, which is why it sucks that he never seems to be healthy enough to show it off on a regular basis, but he’s kind of in a defending position this year. With the Open Championship heading back to the Old Course for their regular spot on the rota, Oosthuizen has the honour of being the last man to win on golf’s most hallowed ground.
Outside of maybe people who share his last name, there is no bigger supporter of Koepka than the guys at No Laying Up, and when he won in Turkey a few weeks ago, their faith seemed more than justified. As far as I know, it hasn’t been confirmed yet what Koepka’s plans are for 2015, but with his win, he’s going to be qualified for all four majors and the five WGC’s, so regardless of where you live or what your golf TV viewing habits are, you’re going to see a whole lot of this kid in 2015. Buckle up, it’s going to be fun.
I have no idea what to make of Henley. In 28 starts in 2014, he missed 11 cuts and posted only four top-10’s, but one of those was the playoff win at the Honda where he racked up his second career PGA Tour victory at just 24 years old. There’s too much inconsistency there to trust him on a weekly basis, but he seems to be one of those guys that is really tough to stop when he’s on point. Also, talking about Henley just gives me an excuse to post this GIF of him hopelessly going after this bird.
Much like his contemporary Vijay Singh, Els has always played a ton of tournaments every year, and that didn’t change in 2014 even as Els turned 45 years old. Players like Tiger and Phil have talked openly about shortening their seasons, but Els teed it up 32 times last season and didn’t have the best results. Four top-10 finishes, with only three in stroke play events, isn’t what we’ve come to expect, but at his age and with the Champions Tour not far away, you have to wonder how much is left in the tank, especially if he keeps playing in that many events.
I love watching Ryan Moore’s swing, but I’d love it more if we saw him wear this more often:
Over the past couple of years, Bjorn talked about how a goal of his was to make the 2014 European Ryder Cup team, and he was able to pull that off last year without the need of a captain’s pick from Paul McGinley, so where does he go from here? He can obviously still play at a high level, but he does turn 44 in February, is heavily involved on the European Tour as the chairman of the players’ committee and is expected to play a role in selecting McGinley’s successor for Hazeltine in 2016. He’s accomplished so much in his career that I wonder when he might just start to wind it down.
Gallacher is pretty much the definition of a late bloomer, having played in his first Masters and Ryder Cup last year at the age of 39 and there’s going to be a heightened level of attention paid to him now thanks to those appearances. He attempted to come over to the PGA Tour, playing a couple of events prior to the Ryder Cup and he’s apparently still interested in coming over to the U.S., but his European Tour card is still locked up for the foreseeable future, so assuming he continues to play well, he’ll be a fixture everywhere for the next little while.
I’m not sure that I’ve seen a player come out of nowhere quite like Donaldson. The 39-year old native of Wales had a nearly career ending back injury a few years ago, but managed to get back and has posted three wins on the European Tour since 2012 and hit the clinching shot for Europe at the Ryder Cup.
He’s started to play a little more on the PGA Tour as well and at 24th in the OWGR, we’re going to be seeing more of him in bigger events. Plus, apparently he can drink.
I really think big things are finally in store for Woodland in 2015. He’s stared to improve his short game with coach Pat Goss and we know that he’s one of the longest hitters in the world with an average swing speed of 122 MPH, and when you hit the ball as far as he does, an improved short game could be a very dangerous thing for the rest of the PGA Tour.
It’s difficult to believe, but Brandt Snedeker is not currently qualified for the Masters in April, as he had arguably his worst season on the PGA Tour since he became a full-time member back in 2007. He finished 60th on the money list, which is his worst rank in those eight years, prompting a mid-season switch to Butch Harmon as his swing coach. Last year, the putter wasn’t as good as it usually is, but he still managed to finish 27th in the strokes gained category. However, as Richie3Jack points out in his excellent Pro Golf Synopsis, that was likely a result of his ball striking not being great and after he switched to Harmon, that improved greatly. Much like his work with Rickie Fowler, I wouldn’t be surprised if Harmon can work his usual magic with Snedeker and get him back into form.
Na’s actually becoming a very good player, which is supported by his current rank of 25th in the world, but my guess is that people will always know him as that guy who takes too long over the ball. It sucks because he’s a fantastic short game player, who plays the game very aggressively despite not being very long from the tee. Maybe a few more wins will change the perception, and if he keeps playing the way he did in 2014, he could be in for a couple in 2015.
There’s no way that father Jay leaves him off of the Presidents Cup team, right?
I have no idea what to make of Simpson, who might be the most inconsistent quality player on the PGA Tour. In 2014, he posted eight top-10 finishes, missed six cuts and his metrics were all over the place, such as him ranking 34th in strokes gained putting, but 107th in three putt avoidance. I’d like to think that he’s in for a better 2015 because he should be better than this, but hey, he didn’t make an appearance in my 2014 Shanks, so that’s a positive step.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone who hits the ball so well with the driver but can’t seem to figure it out with his irons like Mahan, who gets considerably worse the further he gets from the green. That’s true of most players, but not in the violent sense that it happens with Mahan. Again, from Richie’s Pro Golf Synopsis:
The numbers suggest that Mahan’s reputation of being poor around the greens is slightly overblown, but I just never feel comfortable watching him stand over the ball when he’s trying to pitch.
Jimmy Walker is a good player, but I just can’t see him having the kind of season he had in 2014 again. He hits the ball miles from the tee, but he doesn’t seem to have much of an idea of where it’s going and while he’s a very good iron player, he isn’t the best around the greens. Don’t get me wrong: he’s going to be a fixture on the PGA Tour for the next little while, but another three win season doesn’t seem likely to me and you should expect a slight regression.
Only a U.S. Ryder Cup win in 2016 would be a bigger upset than Zach Johnson not turning into the new Jim Furyk.
Anthony Kim will make an appearance on the PGA Tour in 2015. Book it.
Okay, maybe not.