Eight Bold Predictions for 2017 PGA Tour

Aug 11, 2015; Sheboygan, WI, USA; Tiger Woods speaks at a press conference during a practice round for the 2015 PGA Championship golf tournament at Whistling Straits -The Straits Course. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve detailed some of the biggest storylines for the 2017 PGA Tour, and now it’s time to make some bold predictions.

Who will win the four majors? Who will win take the FedEx Cup home? How far will the red hot Justin Thomas move up the world rankings?

What predictions can we make for the 2017 PGA Tour?

We start with a gentleman about to make his 2017 PGA Tour debut.

1. Tiger Woods will win

Realistically, this is it for Tiger. He’s battled too many injuries throughout his career to think he’ll overcome one more of a serious nature. At the age of 41, the next major injury that hits Woods will likely bring his run to an end — at least as it relates to being an elite golfer.

There’s no way he doesn’t know this. It’s why he sat out for so long. We saw virtually nothing of Tiger in 2016 but that absence increased the likelihood that the golfer we’ll see in 2017 will be healthier and in turn, better than we’ve seen in a while.

That should bring him back to the winner’s circle. It’s been so long now, but we can’t forget how great this guy was. Additionally, while Tiger has been in the spotlight for more than 20 years now, we can’t forget that he’s only 41. As far as golf goes, that isn’t that old.

Tiger may not hit the ball as far as he once did, but plenty of golfers have played championship level golf well into their 40’s. Are we really prepared to say that one of the greatest players in history can’t follow suit?

The test will come early. He’s scheduled to play four times in five weeks, including once in Dubai. If Woods can get through that run healthy, look for him to have a big year.

Of course, with Tiger, the majors have always been extra important. We’re not quite willing to say that he’ll win one of those.

But who will?

2. Dustin Johnson will win the Masters

The 2016 U.S. Open was not just an average major. It was one of the world’s most talented players finally putting his past failures behind him and overcoming a monumental distraction to win his first major.

It won’t be his last.

The Masters is as good a tournament as any for number two to come. Augusta has been good to Johnson over the last two years. He finished tied for sixth in 2015 and tied for fourth in 2016.

His game sets up well for the course. Augusta favors long hitters who can attack the par-fives. That’s Johnson.

Not only does DJ know that he can win a major, but he knows that he can win one in less than ideal circumstances. That, combined with his strong recent history at the Masters and a game that sets up well for the venue makes him the favorite for the 2017 Masters.

3. Jason Day will win the U.S. Open

Of all of 2017’s majors, the U.S. Open is the hardest to predict. For the second time in three years, the U.S. Open will take place at what’s essentially a brand new venue for the PGA Tour.

But while we don’t really know what Erin Hills will offer, it’s hard to not like Day.

We don’t know specifically how Erin Hills will test the world’s best golvers. But going by what the U.S. Open generally requires, we can make a few predictions.

The U.S. Open requires length. It requires a good short game. It requires someone who can score well, even without his “A game” and in less than ideal conditions. Day checks all of those boxes. It explains why he has five top-10 finishes in the last six U.S. Opens. He’s going to break through at some point.

If the U.S. Open was being played on one of the more traditional venues, we may look at someone with better history on the course as the favorite. But given how strong Day generally plays U.S. Opens, it’s hard to like anyone but him at a new site.

4. Patrick Reed will win the British Open

While the Open Championship has been contested at Royal Birkdale several times before, it’s been a while. The last time this great venue hosted the British Open was 2008. So, we can’t read too much into who played well that year.

What we can look at is the winning score of three-over. When it was contested at Birkdale in 1998, the winning score was even par. So, we can predict that it will be a grind. That sets up delightfully well for Reed.

It’s just a matter of time before Reed wins a major. He just plays too well to think anything else. He showed up strong in the Ryder Cup (to say the least) and proved that he’s a guy who can win when things get tough.

That’s what Birkdale will be. When the winds start blowing hard and it’s difficult to score well, Reed isn’t going to cave. Perhaps no golfer in the world is more qualified to win a “last man standing” tournament, which is what the British Open so often is.

Reed has made a good showing for himself in each of the last two British Opens, finishing tied for 20th in 2015 and tied for 12th in 2016. We like his chances to take the next step in 2017.

5. Rory McIlroy will win the PGA Championship

The 2017 PGA Championship will take place at Quail Hollow. As the site of the annual Wells Fargo Championship, it’s a familiar venue for the pros.

McIlroy and Quail Hollow have had a good relationship in the past.

McIlroy has won twice at the venue (2010 and 2015) and lost in a playoff another time (2012). The course clearly suits his game well.

McIlroy also likes the changes that have been made at Quail Hollow. In July, he told David Scott of The Charlotte Observer that “I think the changes have been (great) and I’m excited to get there next year and play it in a tournament.”

Like all other majors, the 2017 PGA Championship will feature the best golfers in the world. But right now, we can say that anyone but McIlroy winning will be an upset.

6. Justin Thomas will reach the top 3 in the world rankings

Golfers who make a lot of birdies tend to have low scores. Golfers who have the lowest scores tend to win tournaments.

Okay, those may not be top tier secrets. But over the last few years, Thomas has made more birdies and posted more low scores than anyone.

Naturally, that’s rocketed him up the world rankings. Thomas is currently ranked No. 8 in the world, but don’t expect him to stop there.

He’s already won twice in 2017 and three times since October of 2016.

The top three golfers in the world are currently Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, and Dustin Johnson. We’ve also predicted that all three will win a major and that Thomas will not. So, if he’s going to find his way into the top 3 in the world and jump (at least) one of those gentlemen. That will require a lot of wins and strong finishes.

That’s quite challenging. But Thomas has played over the last few years and that he won’t even be 24 until April. So, it will be difficult, but it will be realistic. He’s on a short list of early FedEx Cup favorites.

7. Jordan Spieth will win the FedEx Cup

Thomas is a decent FedEx Cup option, but we like Spieth to take the honor come season’s end.

By his own admission, Spieth is not playing well right now. Still, he finished tied for third at the Tournament of Champions and solo third in the Sony Open. Imagine what the results will be once he starts playing well.

The 2016 season may not have seemed great for Spieth. But he won twice, made the cut in every major and would have been only the fourth man to win consecutive Masters were it not for a late collapse. That’s not bad for a down year.

We don’t have Spieth winning any majors, but he sure seems like a good candidate to win four or more times with a series of other high finishes.

That will put him in position to compete for the FedEx Cup at the end of the year. Betting against him to close the deal once there would not be well advised.

8. The United States will retain the Presidents Cup

The United States has won six straight Presidents Cup events, is unbeaten in the last nine and is 9-1-1 overall in the event. But while the American team won in 2015, it felt like a shift. Only a late collapse from Sang-moon Bae kept the International team from at least tying the event, creating a flashback to the 1983 Ryder Cup when the Americans held on to keep its streak in that event going, only to lose two years later.

Some are even predicting that the American streak will end this year.

https://twitter.com/CLavalleeGolf/status/809253802738122753

We expect a spirited event, but we’re not quite willing to go there.

The American team has never failed to win a Presidents Cup on American soil. Only one of those wins was decided by less than three points. Eight players currently ranked in the top 20 in the world are Americans. Only four would qualify for the International team, with the other eight being Europeans.

In 2019, the Presidents Cup will return to Australia, the home country of Adam Scott and Jason Day. That’s where the International team should be expected to break the streak. The International team might make more progress in the 2017 event.

But it’s hard to see them breaking through for a win. The history is just too daunting.