Nick Bonfield journeys forward in time to predict who the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking will be in 2020...
In 2020, golf’s top 10 players will be…
Well, here we go again, attempting to make a prognostication about an inherently unpredictable sport. Still, it’s fun, isn’t it?
Today, I’m going to predict what the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking will look like in 2020. If you’re reading this in 2020, feel free to laud/chastise me.
Let’s get going then…
10 – Thomas Pieters
Some would argue this is a questionable start, and I wouldn’t blame them. But Pieters has tremendous length, excellent putting and chipping stats and a goal to match Tiger Woods’ victory tally. That last point is the significant one. He’s wonderfully and refreshingly self-confident, and that’s an attribute you need to breach the world’s top 10.
9 – Branden Grace
I’m a huge fan of Branden Grace and I can’t see a weakness in his game. Since the start of 2012, he’s won seven times on the European Tour and once on the PGA Tour. That’s eight top-tier titles in just over four years, an average of two a year (more or less). How many others can boast those numbers? Answer: not many. One poor swing prevented him winning the 2015 US Open – an event he looked extremely comfortably contending it. His win-percentage-to-chance ratio is also very high and his record of winning an event in which he holds the 54-hole lead is very impressive – both marks of a winner.
8 – Ben An
This guy has genuine star quality. Plus, I think you’d be hard pushed to find a better ball striker on the European Tour. He won the US Amateur Championship as a 17-year-old in 2009, he finished 7th on the Race to Dubai last season and he’s already breached the world’s top 25. If you have any doubts about his pedigree, look back to the 2015 BMW PGA Championship. He held the 54-hole lead in the European Tour’s flagship event and produced a sublime final-round 65 when nerves could easily have got the better of him.
7 – Bryson DeChambeau
At seven, it’s the ‘golfing scientist’. Yes, the man who floats his balls in Epsom Salts to establish which are imperfect. He’s not only quirky, but also a brilliant talent. Last year, the 21-year-old became only the fifth person in history to win the US Amateur and the NCAA Division I Golf Championship. He also produced a fine performance at Augusta en route to a tie for 21st, which could have been a whole lot better. He has flair, charisma and a game to match.
6 – Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler has successfully transitioned from talented yet boisterous youngster to a player with genuine substance, and his career trajectory makes for impressive reading. It took him a while to get over the line (a play-off victory over Rory McIlroy at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship), and then to record a second victory, but it’s been a golden stretch for the Californian since April 2014. That year, he became the third golfer to finish inside the top five in event Major. In the last 12 months, he’s won four prestigious titles – the Players Championship, the Scottish Open, the Deutsche Bank Championship and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. A Major title surely isn’t far away.
5 – Justin Rose
You might wonder why I have Rose in this list, and not the likes of Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson. Well, there are two reasons. The first is the fact that there simply isn’t space in the top 10 for all these players. The second is the fact that Rose understands his game better than anyone else, is relentlessly consistent, is deeply analytical (something which has led to significant distance increases in recent times) and is committed to becoming the best English golfer since Nick Faldo. If only he could putt…
Related: Justin Rose swing sequence
4 – Hideki Maysuyama
The Japenese player has established himself as a genuine top-10 talent and arguably the best iron player on the PGA Tour over the last couple of years. The 24-year-old has already won two significant PGA Tour titles – the Memorial and the Waste Management Phoenix Open – and looks every inch a future Major champion in the making. He has raw power, he’s meticulous, his golf swing is repeatable and his record in the big four events is decent. If he improves his short game, he’s got the potential to rival the Big Three. Plus, he’s only going to get better and better as he becomes more comfortable with American culture.
3 – Rory McIlroy
The Ulsterman is a prodigious ball striker who has already won four Major Championships without being a great putter. He’s in a category alongside Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott as the purest strikers of a golf ball anywhere in the world. When he’s on form, he’s virtually unplayable, but the reason he’s not higher up is because of the flat stick. The fact he’s won a combined 20 PGA and European Tour events at the age of 27 is remarkable when you consider he’s statistically an average putter.
2 – Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth has the Tiger and Jack-esque trait of finding a way to get the ball in the hole, refusing to be beaten and winning without his A-game. Simply put, his mental game – something that’s more important than any physical facet in golf – is second to none. When you couple that with a very good tee-to-green game (it seems average compared to the likes of McIlroy and Day, but it’s actually not) and phenomenal ability with the flat stick, you have one hell of a player. Spieth’s ability to hole 30-footer after 30-footer is the reason why he’ll win double-digit Major Championships.
1 – Jason Day
In my mind, Jason Day will be the dominant force in world golf for the next five to ten years, provided he stays healthy. As it stands, he’s won seven of his last 17 tournaments, a win percentage that’s above 40. Tiger’s win percentage in 2000 – when he won three Majors and six other events in arguably the best ever season in the history of professional golf – was 45. Day is a born fighter and innate winner who looks a completely different player now he’s landed his first Major Championship. That’s saying something when you consider how good he was before he lifted the Wanamaker Trophy at Whistling Straits in 2015.