By Walker Polivka
The 2022-2023 PGA Tour season begins next week with the Fortinet Championship. Before the season officially gets underway, we’d like to make some predictions about the upcoming season, including which players will win the four majors, who will earn their first career PGA Tour win, which players will end long winless streaks, which marquee players will go winless, and who the Fedex Cup Champion will be.
The Major Winners:
Masters Tournament: Will Zalatoris- Even though Zalatoris has only made 2 trips to Augusta National, he has impressed both times, finishing 2nd and T-6. Zalatoris has proven that he has the game to contend on major stages, finishing T-6, 2, T-2, and T-28 at the 4 majors this past season. Zalatoris is one of the best ball strikers on tour, finishing this past season ranked 1st in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green and Strokes Gained: Approach the Green and 11th in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee, all of which is key to getting around Augusta National. Zalatoris took a huge step in his career by earning his first win this past season and we predict he will take an even bigger step this season by slipping on the Green Jacket after winning The Masters.
PGA Championship: Tony Finau- Oak Hill Country Club will host the PGA Championship for the 4th time and a PGA Tour major for the 7th time. Designed by Donald A. Ross, Oak Hill is an old-school, challenging, tree-lined course that will test today’s best players. Finau had a terrific season this most recent go around, with 2 wins, 2 runner-up finishes, 7 top 10’s, and just 5 missed cuts in 25 starts. Ranking 15th in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee and 5th in Greens in Regulation Percentage this past season, Finau has a game suited for this style of play. Finau is another player who has yet to win a major, but is ready to take that next big step in their career. We predict that he will do so by lifting the Wanamaker Trophy in 2023!
U. S. Open: Xander Schauffele- First built in 1897, Los Angeles Country Club will be hosting a major for the first time in 2023. With Bermuda Grass fairways and greens, LACC will be a force to be reckoned with thanks to a recent 2010 restoration by Gil Hanse. Schauffele had a career year this past season, with 3 wins, 7 top 10’s, 15 top 25’s, and just 2 missed cuts in 21 starts. Schauffele is a perennial contender at the US Open, with 5 top 10’s and 6 top 15’s in 6 career starts. There are few holes in Schauffele’s game, ranking inside the top 40 in each of the 6 major Strokes Gained categories last season, which is why we predict that Schauffele will become the third, first-time major winner this season with a victory at the US Open.
The Open Championship: Jordan Spieth- The Open returns to Royal Liverpool Golf Club for the 13th time, where Rory McIlroy won the most recent Open held here in 2014. Royal Liverpool has produced iconic winners over the years, including McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Roberto Di Vicenzo, Peter Thomson, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, and JH Taylor, just to name a few. Jordan Spieth, the Champion Golfer of the Year in 2017, is pretty solid when placed on a links style course, with 1 win, 3 top 5’s, and 5 top 10’s in 9 career Open starts. Spieth is coming off back-to-back top 10 finishes at The Open and is also coming off a solid 2021-22 campaign, as he had 1 win, 6 top 10’s, and 11 top 25’s in 22 starts. Spieth’s game is always solid, as he was ranked inside the top 40 in 5 of the 6 major Strokes Gained categories, but was held back at times by his putting, ranking 155th in Strokes Gained: Putting last season. Spieth last won a major in 2017, but we predict that he will end his losing streak by lifting the Claret Jug for the second time!
FedEx Cup Winner:
Xander Schauffele- With the Tour Championship being held at East Lake Golf Club every season, players who consistently make the Tour Championship hold an automatic advantage over first time participants. Schauffele is an absolute stud at East Lake, with 1 win, 2 runner-ups, 5 top 5’s, and 6 top 10’s in 6 career starts. Schauffele closed out this past season on a strong run, with 3 wins, 6 top 10’s, and 10 top 20’s in his final 11 starts on his way to a 4th place finish in the FedEx Cup. When Schauffele is on his game, he is extremely tough to beat. Schauffele is seemingly always in the mix at season’s end and we predict that he will do so again this season and hoist the FedEx Cup for the first time!
First Time Winners:
Denny McCarthy- McCarthy had about as good of a season as you can on tour without winning, earning 5 top 10’s, 12 top 25’s, and 22 made cuts in 29 starts, highlighted by a T-7 finish at the U. S. Open. McCarthy finished the season a career best 37th in the FedEx Cup Standings and proved that his game is as good as any of the other PGA Tour stars. McCarthy’s success hinges on his short game, ranking 36th in Strokes Gained: Around-The-Green and 2nd in Strokes Gained: Putting last season. McCarthy is a player who steadily improves each season and we predict he will find even more success by picking up his maiden PGA Tour victory this season.
Taylor Montgomery- The pride of Las Vegas, NV, Montgomery had a fantastic season on the Korn Ferry Tour, with 2 runner-up finishes, 9 top 10’s, and 12 top 25’s in 17 starts, earning his PGA Tour card for the first time in the process. Montgomery has proven that he can go low when it counts, ranking 1st in Scoring Average on the Korn Ferry Tour last season, averaging 68.36 strokes per round, and ranking 3rd in Putting Average. Montgomery has proven early on that he can contend with the stars of the PGA Tour as well, finishing T-11 at the Farmers Insurance Open last season in 1 of his 2 PGA Tour starts. Montgomery has a great game all the way through the bag and we predict that he will find success and snag his first career PGA Tour win this season.
Taylor Pendrith- Pendrith put together a solid season on tour last season, with 3 top 10’s, 9 top 25’s, and 16 made cuts in 21 starts. Pendrith finished 47th in the FedEx Cup Standings, which is more remarkable given that he missed close to 4 months of tournaments thanks to fracturing a rib. Pendrith put the pedal to the floor when he returned from injury, finishing in the top 15 in 5 of his last 6 starts to close out the season. We predict that Pendrith will carry on his good form on the way to his first career win this season.
Justin Suh- Suh had a terrific season on the Korn Ferry Tour, winning the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance, earning 10 top 10’s, 16 top 25’s, and missing just 3 cuts in 24 starts. Suh has the skills to turn heads quickly on the PGA Tour, ranking inside the top 15 in both Driving Accuracy Percentage and Greens In Regulation Percentage on the Korn Ferry Tour last season, as well as ranking 2nd in Scoring Average, averaging 68.44 strokes per round. Suh closed out his season strong, with 1 win, 3 top 5’s, and 5 top 10’s in his last 6 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour. We predict that he will keep up his great form and pick up his first career PGA Tour victory this season.
Sahith Theegala- One of just 2 rookies to qualify for the Tour Championship last season, Theegala had a nice rookie campaign, with 5 top 10’s, 11 top 25’s, and just 6 missed cuts in 32 starts. Theegala had several close calls with a potential first win, nearly pulling out victories at the Waste Management Open (T-3) and at the Travelers Championship (T-2). Theegala’s game is pretty solid, but his weakness is definitely in putting, losing -.043 strokes per round and ranking 118th in Strokes Gained: Putting last season. All it takes is 4 solid rounds to win a tournament and Theegala is too talented to go winless for long. Theegala will most certainly pick up his first PGA Tour victory this season.
Players Who Will End Long Winless Streaks:
Brian Harman- Harman did about as well as you can do last season without a win, with 6 top 10’s, 9 top 25’s, and just 6 missed cuts in 27 starts, on the way to a 21st place finish in the FedEx Cup. Harman is a mid-range player in terms of driving distance, as he only averages 292.2 yards off the tee, ranking 159th in that stat last season, but his all-around game is excellent, ranking between 40th and 80th in each of the 6 major Strokes Gained categories. Harman last found victory in the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship, but we predict that he will be hoisting a trophy again this season.
Ben Martin- Definitely our longest shot among those in the midst of a winless streak, Martin picked up his lone PGA Tour victory at the 2014 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Martin nearly ended his streak earlier in the year, but ended up finishing T-2 at the Corales Puntacana Championship. Martin earned his tour card back full-time in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, as he finished inside the top 30 in all 3 tournaments. Martin finished 162nd in the FedEx Cup this past season, but has been given another chance thanks to his great play of late. Martin showed he still has the skills to contend, it’s just a matter of getting hot at the right time. We predict that Martin’s second PGA Tour victory is close at hand and will come sometime this season.
Justin Rose- At one time ranked #1 in the Official World Golf Rankings, Rose had little of note last season, with just 2 top 10’s and 5 top 25’s in 18 starts. Rose showed flashes of brilliance last season, highlighted by a final round 60 at the RBC Canadian Open, but the results just weren’t there for him. Rose finished the season ranked 20th in Strokes Gained: Putting, but the rest of his game shows room for improvement, ranking 90th or worse in 4 of the other 5 major Strokes Gained categories. Rose last won on the PGA Tour back in the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open, but he is a player who is too good to go winless for too much longer. We predict that Rose will rise back to life this season and pick up another victory on the PGA Tour.
Webb Simpson- It’s not easy to say that Simpson struggled last season, but the results just weren’t there, as he had only 1 top 10, 4 top 25’s, and 12 made cuts in 20 starts. Simpson has slowed down lately, playing in no more than 21 tournaments over each of the last 4 seasons. Simpson last won a tournament over 2 years ago, at the 2020 RBC Heritage. We don’t see Simpson as the type to go off quietly in the back half of his PGA Tour career, which is why we predict he will once again find victory on tour this season.
Kevin Streelman- Streelman put together a quiet campaign last season, with 2 top 10’s and 6 top 25’s in 27 starts. Highlighted by a 2nd place finish at the Barbasol Championship, Streelman has shown us that he still has some gas in the tank as he approaches his 44th birthday. Streelman has not won on tour since the 2014 Travelers Championship, but puts himself in the hunt enough to contend thanks to his driver, ranking 6th in Driving Accuracy Percentage on tour last season. With so much of the top talent going to the LIV Golf tour, there will ample opportunities for both young guns and the old guard to prove their worth this season and we predict that Streelman will be one of several to capitalize as he brings home his 3rd career PGA Tour victory this season.
Which Players Will Go Winless:
Daniel Berger- Berger held his own this past season, despite it being cut short by a back injury, earning 3 top 10’s and 7 top 25’s across 12 starts. Even so, back pain is a very delicate injury to work through, especially as a golfer. Berger is an excellent player, but he’s going to struggle on the course until he is 100% able to manage that pain. Berger tried his best last season, but couldn’t overcome his health problems and we predict more of the same this year, as Berger will go winless on tour.
Keegan Bradley- Currently ranked 48th in the Official World Golf Rankings, Bradley had a solid season, with 6 top 10’s, 9 top 25’s, and 19 made cuts in 25 starts. It’s not that Bradley is a bad player; even more so considering he has qualified for the FedEx Cup in all 12 of his PGA Tour seasons. But Bradley just doesn’t have the closer ability any more. Bradley won 3 times in his first 2 seasons on tour, but has won only once in the 10 seasons since then. With over $31 million dollars in career earnings and 1 major, it’s tough to feel bad for Bradley. He will eventually find victory again, as many of the PGA Tour greats do, but it will not be this season.
Jason Day- A former #1 ranked player in the Official World Golf Rankings, Day had an underwhelming season this most recent go-around, with just 2 top 10’s and 5 top 25’s in 19 starts. Day’s lack of success cannot be blamed entirely on his skills on the course, as he has regularly been battling back problems over the years. Back pain is often chronic and tough to manage and Day has done his best to play through it all. Day last won on tour at the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship and 8 of his 12 career PGA Tour wins came in 2015 and 2016. We predict that Day will continue to struggle and will once again go winless this season.
Rickie Fowler- Last a winner at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open, Fowler has been on the downhill slide for quite a few years now, tallying just 4 top 10’s in 60 starts over the last 3 seasons. Fowler started this past season strong, with a T-3 finish at The CJ Cup @ Summit last fall, but could only muster 2 more top 25’s over the course of the season. Fowler parted ways with his caddie of 13 years, Joe Skovron, last month and most recently parted ways with swing coach John Tillery on Tuesday. Fowler has another rebuilding season ahead of him this year, as he will work on adapting to his new team. Fowler is making the effort to improve by making changes and we predict that he will find victory again, but just not this season.
Gary Woodland- The 2019 U. S. Open champion, Woodland had a mixed season this past go around, with 5 top 10’s, 7 top 25’s, 11 made cuts, and 12 missed cuts in 23 starts. Of the 5 top 10’s, he finished with a total of less than -5 in 3 of the starts and only finished at -10 or better in 1 of the starts. With today’s talent on the PGA Tour, you often have to shoot extremely low scores to win. If a player can’t consistently get to double digits under par each week, he will struggle to contend regularly. With Woodland’s inability to shoot super low scores, we predict that he will remain winless this season.