Golf hasn't really had a dominant player since Tiger Woods was in his prime - who could be next?
11 Men Who Could Become Golf’s Dominant Player
Brooks Koepka recently overtook Dustin Johnson as world number one, who recently overtook Justin Rose as world number one just a couple of months after Justin Thomas briefly occupied the top spot.
There have been four separate world number ones this year, that last happened in 1997 when Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Tom Lehman and Ernie Els battled it out for the position.
Since Tiger Woods’ scandals and injuries, golf has struggled to find a dominant player.
Luke Donald has been on top of the world for over a year since Woods stopped winning majors and both Jason Day and Dustin Johnson have spent significant weeks as the world’s top player, but there’s only been one world number one to actually win a major since Woods stopped winning them and that was Rory McIlroy at the 2014 USPGA.
Below, we look at some possible players who could become the sport’s next dominant force…
Koepka has seemingly come out of nowhere. From a one-time PGA Tour winner in the early summer of last year, he now has five PGA Tour titles including three majors. The American smashes it miles and has the finesse around the greens and mental game to beat anyone on their day. Will he become the dominant player after reaching the top spot for the first time? Of all the players out there right now, he’s probably going to fancied for majors more so than anyone.
DJ has, without a doubt, been dominant over the past two years on the PGA Tour since his US Open victory. Statistically he dominates in numerous categories, for example last season he was 1st in SG: Total, SG: Off the tee, SG tee to green, 1st in Birdie Average and also 1st in Par 3, Par 4 and Par 5 scoring. However, as dominant as he was statistically, that didn’t translate in the majors and big events. He was throughly outplayed by close friend Brooks Koepka at the US Open where he held the lead after 36 holes and eventually finished 3rd, his best major result of the year. Granted, he did win three PGA Tour titles, but it is majors that world number ones and dominant players go for and DJ wasn’t able to win one as the world’s top player.
Many believe that Rory McIlroy IS the game’s best player and I tend to agree with that, although he simply has not shown enough over the past four major-less years. He is the last player to win a major as the world number one back in 2014 but since then he has struggled on the greens, with his wedges and, most likely, with his confidence. He’s not getting any younger as he approaches 30 so if he is going to regain the number one position and start winning majors again you’d like to hope he starts soon. Saying that, Rory has too much ability not to increase his major tally and perhaps we’ll start to see some more clutch play in 2019.
The Englishman has already reached the world number one spot in a year that saw him win his ninth PGA Tour title and play well in the majors with his worst finish a T19th at the USPGA. Rose, like everyone else on this list, now plays pretty much exclusively to add to his major tally (and bank balance) and at 38 he has the mental game and experience combined with the physical attributes to really kick on over the next few years as he plays through his prime. You’d probably put your house on him winning another major before the end of his career wouldn’t you? Perhaps another major victory could see the floodgates open and he could kick on even further from there.
JT has held the world number one position this year but only for two weeks, during which he stated that he hopes to hold on to it for a prolonged period of time. He won three times in 2018, impressive when you consider that it came after his best ever year where he wrapped up his first major plus another four victories. In a similar way to Brooks Koepka, Thomas has burst onto the big-time scene very quickly and proved that he has every attribute to go right to the top. Can he keep it up? Only time will tell.
2018 has been a very strange one for Jordan Spieth who has so far failed to register a tournament victory after 14 wins since the start of 2013. The Texan has had a spell as the world’s best player from late 2015 to early 2016, but an unusually poor season on the greens has really cost him this year which has seen him fall out of the world’s top 10 for the first time since November 2014. The three-time major winner, however, surely has the mental strength and talent to see himself out of this rut and is still just 25-year-old. Can he become golf’s dominant force? Based on this year’s results you’d probably say no, but when he was playing his best stuff a few years ago he didn’t look like ever missing a putt.
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In my opinion, when Jason Day is on, he is near-impossible to beat. The Australian is quite possibly the world’s best putter (1st in SG: Putting in 2016 and 2018 seasons) and has the ball striking and mental strength to score very low when he is on. His only major to date came at the 2015 USPGA Championship where he set a major record to shoot 20 under, which has been matched since by Henrik Stenson at the 2016 Open. At 30 years of age he is well and truly in the prime of his career now but there is just one thing that may hold him back and that is injuries. Two wins on the PGA Tour in 2018 after a trophy-less 2017 are good signs though.
Francesco Molinari to become a major-winning dominant world number one? That’s not something I thought I’d have been typing this time last year. However, Frankie has gained yards through physical and technical work and and now has an incredible competitive edge since working with Dave Alred this year. He has seen some phenomenal results in 2018 which really make you wonder if there is still more to come. This year he beat Rory McIlroy to win the BMW PGA Championship, won his first PGA Tour title by eight strokes, won his first major title at the Open Championship and then became the first ever golfer to win all five matches in a single Ryder Cup. He is now 35 so will feel he has plenty more time to keep adding honours and has a reputation now that may be quite fearsome. Players are beginning to realise that when Molinari is on leaderboards he tends not to let up. Could he actually win more majors and reach the world number one spot? Why not!
After a fourth back surgery, DUI charges and a four-figure world ranking last year, you really didn’t think Tiger Woods would come back the way he has. Fair enough, he is arguably the greatest golfer to have ever lived but it did seem that his body just couldn’t cope with world-level golf and the physical strain it puts on the body anymore. However, he has shown fans this year that he can win majors again, with a 2nd place at the USPGA, T6th at the Open and a first win in five years at the Tour Championship. Woods’ driving has been fairly poor as always this year but when it clicks and he holes putts, he almost looks like the Tiger of old. His Tour Championship win gave hope for Tiger and his fans and there is now a realistic chance that he could get back to the world number one spot sometime next year if he were to win again.
The Golfing Scientist has been doubted by some for his odd methods, but you simply cannot doubt his results. After an incredibly successful amateur career, which saw him become the fifth man to win both the US Amateur and NCAA Divison 1 title in the same year, he has won five times in two years as a pro, including four PGA Tour titles and three this year, two of which were back-to-back FedEx Cup Playoff events! That saw him reach a career-high 7th in the world and who knows, in a couple of years he may well reach the top spot and start bagging himself majors.
The Spaniard, like Bryson DeChambeau, turned professional in late 2016 after winning the silver medal at the US Open and has won five times also and already reached number two in the world. Rahm, like other Spaniards gone by, has a fiery temper and when you combine that with his flair, long hitting and razor-sharp short game, he is a phenomenal prospect. Rahm is not the kind of guy who is happy to finish top five, he has a will to win like past greats gone by and will without doubt win major championships in the future.
Will golf have a dominant player in the near future? And if so, who will it be?
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