While I’m aware the season has already begun, most fans won’t even tune in until the Masters. I think, however, sports fans should pay special attention this season because golf is poised to really deliver an entertaining product this season. There will also be plenty of events that feature the best players prior to the Masters. The events with he most talented fields are the following: Northern Trust Open, Honda Classic, WGC-Cadillac Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational, and the WGC-Match Play.
Players to Watch
Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and Rickie Fowler are the top four players in the world and will be focused on constantly. Spieth had a tremendous season last year and appeals to the status quo fan. He attended expensive schools and enjoyed tremendous amateur success. He’s the best putter on tour and has a gritty way of playing that bodes well going forward. He can make shooting a 66 look miserable.
McIlroy (like Spieth) was a hugely successful amateur player. He’s really changed his career arc (even after winning two majors) with his devotion to physical fitness. McIlroy has one of the best swings and possesses tremendous power. He missed time last season after an ankle injury and he was really the unquestioned best player in the world until Spieth won the U.S. Open. He needs to win the Masters to complete the career grand slam.
Day and Fowler are a little more unique. Day’s from Australia and was virtually unbeatable towards the end of 2015. He won the PGA Championship and is a great ball-striker. He doesn’t have the same appeal as the previous two players. Fowler, however, has the ability to become the most famous of the the four. Fowler is unique and original brand in the PGA Tour. He’s worn flat-bill hats and rides motocross. He has a bold fashion sense and his game has really taken off. I don’t think he’s got the physical gifts of the other three, but he’s got a really good feel for the game. He’s a natural.
The Major Championships
The Major Championships will feature some familiar tracts like Oakmont Country Club (U.S. Open), Royal Troon Golf Club (Open Championship), and Baltusrol Golf Club (PGA Championship). I’m excited to see the tournaments played on such great courses. I wasn’t thrilled with some of the selections made by the USGA and the Open Championship courses can be hit-or-miss. I thought that Chamber’s Bay looked horrible on television and it was the source of a lot of complaints from players. The PGA has typically selected good courses and has lower scores.
A course that hosts a major championship is going to be difficult in most cases. I believe it must achieve it’s difficulty through measures that are within the scope of rules of the game. I don’t want a course to be difficult and scores blow up because the greens are dead or the course has been “tricked up” by those who want the winner to shoot a 77 on Sunday. These courses are proven to be great tests of golf and will produce worthy winners.
- Tiger Woods and his return to the game will be talked about at length. I don’t know what Woods has left in the tank and he’s not even a relevant part of the 2016 preview. He’s going to go down as the best or one of the best players ever. He is (like Michael Jordan) one of the most influential athletes of all-time. He has a secure legacy, but it would be great to see him get back to being competitive. He doesn’t have a return date right now.
- The ban on anchoring a putter will be interesting. I know a lot of people couldn’t care less and maybe don’t understand the benefits of these types of putters. Generally, an putter that is anchored is held securely by a different part of your body (the belly putter or the long putter like Adam Scott used). The added stability doesn’t help a golfer take the putter back any better, however, it allows the player to release the putter more smoothly as they make impact with the ball. These putters “force” you to release the putter and result in better rolls for some players.
- Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, and Henrik Stenson are all ranked highly in the OWRGR and have had great finishes in majors. Unfortunately, they have never been able to win a major. Johnson (31) and Garcia (36) will look to finally win a major before they’re out of their prime. Stenson (39) has only a few more years left before he’s too old (by historical standards) to win majors.
- The golf industry will continue it’s march toward producing way too many clubs and balls that market to improve your game. The advancements in golf equipment are fantastic, but the average scores aren’t going in the right direction despite these advancements. The Masters will feature some fantastic new designs by apparel providers and club manufacturers.
- There are plenty of good players and the season will feature a lot of young guys overpowering courses. Golfers want to imitate the guys who are hitting the ball the furthest and I think Gary Woodland has the best swing out of the group of long-ball hitters. Dustin Johnson has a unique set of physical traits and an irregular wrist movement and Bubba Watson swings differently each time he picks up a club. Woodland is the longest guy on tour at the moment (323.3 yards off the tee on average) and has a compact, textbook swing.
- A few guys I think will have a good season that you might not know about: Kevin Kisner, Kevin Na, David Lingmerth, Branden Grace (not known by too many American golf fans), Daniel Berger, and Danny Lee.