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Those hoping for a strong group of winners in the 2017 major championship season got their wish.
Sergio Garcia kicked things off with a cathartic first major title at the Masters, Brooks Koepka kept things rolling with a dominant victory at the U.S. Open, Jordan Spieth put us in disbelief with an insane closing stretch to capture the Open Championship and Justin Thomas finished things off with a major statement in taking the PGA Championship.
What does 2018 have in store? Well it’s tough to predict this far out, but we’ll give it our best shot at the moment. Here are our early predictions – which could be entirely off, we know a lot could change in the coming months – for who will win the majors in 2018:
The Masters, Augusta (Ga.) National GC
Winner: Dustin Johnson
We all remember Dustin Johnson’s misfortune last April, when he had to withdraw from the Masters last-minute due to a freak back injury.
But let us also not forget … Johnson was easily the favorite at the year’s first major prior to that unexpected slip. Of course, much of that had to do with winning three straight events coming in, but his record of late at Augusta (T-6 and T-4 in his last two starts) also played a role there.
The evidence remains that Johnson has figured something out at Augusta in recent years after middling results in his first five starts there. It may be a year later, but the World No. 1 turns his comfort with Augusta into a second major title.
U.S. Open, Shinnecock Hills GC, Southampton, N.Y.
Winner: Rory McIlroy
We were tempted to go with Rory McIlroy at Augusta, but that pick seems to fall flat every year. (We do feel he will win there eventually, though.)
Instead, we’ll peg McIlroy for the U.S. Open. It may not seem like a great marriage with course fit considering what Shinnecock showed in 2004. That year, the track was shorter, tighter and burnt out. In other words, 2004 Shinnecock played to the more accurate driver rather than a power hitter, and McIlroy has always seemed to enjoy soft tracks far more than firm ones.
But don’t be fooled. The firmness in 2004 was certainly extreme, so the course likely will play at least a bit softer in 2018. And the layout will be a lot longer (almost 450 yards) than 14 years previous. A restoration widened the fairways, and although the USGA has called for a narrowing since, the short grass should still be easier to find than in previous Shinnecock U.S. Opens. (Here’s a full synopsis on Shinnecock’s look heading into 2018.)
Yes, it will likely still be firm, but with the course longer and a bit generous off the tee, it may very well favor a long-hitter with enough accuracy (which sounds a lot like McIlroy). It feels like McIlroy will get a fifth major in 2018, and Shinnecock may, oddly, be his best chance.
The Open Championship, Carnoustie (Scotland) Golf Links
Winner: Rickie Fowler
Once again, there’s a really tempting pick … for Carnoustie, it’s Sergio Garcia. How cool would it be if the Spaniard could capture the Open Championship at the same venue where 11 years ago he posted possibly his most agonizing major championship defeat? It would be incredible redemption!
But we won’t pull the trigger just because there’s a feel-good element. There’s certainly a feel-good nature toward Rickie Fowler finally getting that first major, but the pick here is based on golf factors.
Fowler didn’t win a lot in 2017, but he had a phenomenal (and underrated) year that landed him No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. In light of that and his recent victory in the Bahamas, Fowler should be on the short list of favorites in every 2018 major. Based on how Fowler’s play has progressed, more than ever it seems his first major title is imminent.
Why Carnoustie, though? Fowler has shown he’s comfortable across the pond, with a pair of top-five finishes at the Open. That helps, but it’s more about that overall a major should be in Fowler’s future in 2018.
PGA Championship, Bellerive CC, St. Louis, Mo.
Winner: Tiger Woods
OK… yeah we know we’ll get some flak for this selection. But why not have some fun, considering this is an early prediction that (as we noted) could be entirely off?
Woods looked impressive at the Hero World Challenge and it finally appears he’s healthy. If Woods can continue to healthily swing at the speed he did in the Bahamas, his comeback may be one for the ages.
That is of course a BIG if and Woods is now without swing coach Chris Como. But if Woods, who turns 42 on Dec. 30, does indeed stay healthy swinging this way, he could absolutely win a major in 2018.
It’ll still take him some time to get rid of that competitive rust – he showed remarkably little in the Bahamas, but it was still there – but if he’s feeling fine, he’ll certain have played enough to be in top competitive form as the summer kicks into full swing.
It’ll likely be a scorcher at Bellerive, too, which only plays into Woods’ hands further by eliminating the mentally weaker portion of the field.
Woods could certainly not be playing at all by the time the 2018 PGA Championship rolls around, due to injury and/or another surgery. He may even have injury issues that don’t prevent him from playing but certainly hamper his performance.
But we’re going with the idea that at the moment he is healthy and could stay that way for some time. If that’s the case, Woods’ 15th major title could certainly come in 2018.
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