T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
Are you as excited for the new year as we are?
While golf seasons in the professional ranks have never been longer, it’ll still be nice to flip the calendar to 2017 and get back to golf that matters, won’t it?
As we often do this time of year, here are some predictions in the world of golf for the 12 months ahead of us.
5. Rory McIlroy will win the Masters and complete the career grand slam. It’s the only one of the four glorious carrots still dangling in the face of the Ulsterman. Remember in 2011 when McIlroy looked to be in total control of the tournament going into the final nine holes and then totally derailed with a tee shot at the 10th hole and he wound up in a tie for 15th? He bounced right back a couple months later to claim his first major victory in the U.S. Open at Congressional. Over the last three trips to Augusta National, McIlroy has finished T8, fourth and T10, respectively. Like everyone else who has earned a trip to the Masters, McIlroy has the 2017 tournament circled on his calendar… but those dates are circled twice on his calendar and colored in with a highlighter. He wants this one baaaad.
4. Tiger Woods will win on the PGA Tour for the first time since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. OK. I know he only beat two players in the 17-man field a few weeks back at the Hero World Challenge, but I was encouraged by what I saw from Tiger in the Bahamas. The swing looks more in control than ever before. That’s certainly not to say it’s the best swing he’s ever had in his career. It simply is meant to drive home the point that it isn’t as violent, which — hopefully — will alleviate some of the stress on his back and knees. I don’t think we’ll ever see early-2000s Tiger Woods again. That would be crazy. He’s going to be 41 years old when 2017 begins. But tell me you weren’t excited about that 65 in the Bahamas. It’ll be all about putting four rounds together for the 14-time major champ and I think he will still be able to do that on occasion.
3. Sergio Garcia will win a major championship. You may not realize this, but only three times since turning professional in 1999 — 2000, 2010, 2012 — has Garcia gone an entire year without a top-10 finish in at least one of the season’s four major. Yet, still, he has nothing to show for the fine play in terms of hardware… just four runner-up finishes. In recent years, we’ve seen the likes of Adam Scott, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson all get the major monkey off their backs. I think Garcia follows suit in 2017.
2. There will be another 58 recorded in a PGA Tour event. Jim Furyk fired the Tour’s first and only 58 at the Travelers Championship in 2016. I believe another player will step up and fire that low, low number again this season. The biggest reason? Since it has been done, players now know it’s attainable. It’s ridiculously stupid low, but attainable. I’d imagine that when a score like that is in reach, it’s hard not to think ahead. But there has to be a part of a player where the tension is eased by the thought, “It’s not like it’s never been done before.” With all the firepower the players on Tour possess these days, along with courses that offer driveable par 4s, we’re going to see another 58 sooner rather than later.
1. Wesley Bryan will be the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year. One half of the Bryan Brothers trick-shot duo, Wesley had a breakout season on the Web.com Tour in 2016, winning three times to receive an automatic performance promotion to the PGA Tour. He already has a PGA Tour top 10 under his belt — a T8 in the John Deere Classic late last summer. So far in the 2016-17 season, Bryan has made the cut in three of his four starts. He’s going to carry the momentum from his days on the Web.com Tour and turn some heads in the big leagues.