Justin Thomas - Will the real Justin Thomas please stand up? That's the question many are asking as the reigning 2017 PGA Tour Player of the Year limps in to 2018 with nagging questions about consistency and overall work ethic. Despite JT's 5 wins, PGA Championship, Fed-Ex Cup Victory and over $9,900,000 in earnings, his missed cut at the Valspar looms large and serves as a blemish on an otherwise workman-like 2017 campaign.
Key Questions for 2018: 1) Can he put the Valspar behind him? 2) Is his club pro father the next Richard Williams? 3) How will he handle the embarrassment of his record breaking 62 at the U.S. Open being on such an easy venue? 4) Will he or won’t he develop a relationship with fellow tour player Jordan Spieth?
Prediction: His slight build (145 lbs) catches up to him and finally exposes his lack of firepower. Unfortunately, exemptions aren’t forever and this cautionary tale ends on the Web.com tour.
Jordan Spieth - A sloppy 2017 season highlighted by 3 missed cuts (including 2 in his home state of Texas) puts fans of the young phenom on edge as we head in to 2018. If not for a miracle bunker shot in a playoff at the Travelers and the bogey "heard round the world" on the 13th in the final round at Birkdale, we might all be talking about how his Q-school prep is going. Despite a balky putting stroke and a hideous chicken wing, Jordan somehow manages to stay relevant on the PGA Tour scene. This next season could be make or break.
Key Questions for 2018 - 1) How will his game be impacted when he finds out that getting engaged at age 24 with over $60 million in the bank is a mistake on par with say.........invading Iraq or “trying out” opioids? 2) What does he do when he realizes having to wear Under Armour apparel isn’t worth the enfettered access to their company jet?
Prediction - A messy breakup with is girlfriend is somewhat blunted by a win at the John Deere, but all in all, a lost year.
Dustin Johnson - 2017 was a solid year for the tour's resident purveyor of ProTracer Porn. However, his four wins (including two WGC events) were slightly overshadowed by a mysterious slip and fall at an Augusta rental home which prevented his participation in the Masters. My gut tells me there’s a better chance Billy Payne is running a meth lab out of the Crow's Nest than there is that DJ actually took that fall as reported, but I’ll take the man at his word.
Key Questions for 2018 - 1) Does Paulina walk on to an 18th green wearing anything remotely suitable for the occasion? 2) Will his caddy/brother use the power of his new Apple watch to figure out that 140 middle to a minus 8 pin is 132?
Prediction - It’s hard to beat guys that just DGAF. If the urine stays clean, I see a minimum of one major and 6 total wins. Going to be a big year for DJ.
Rory Sabbatini - As expected, the lovable South African is off to a hot start in the wrap-around season with two MC’s (Shriners and The RSM) and a gutsy T-77 at the Mayakoba which was good for DFL. The 377th world ranking seems a little high for him but well see if he can play to it. I have my doubts.
Key Questions for 2018 - 1) Can he back up his impressive 2017 campaign which included marks of 154th in Total Putting and 255th in Total Driving? 2) Will he continue to verbally assault tournament volunteers? 3) Will the TaylorMade executive that green lit his ridiculous Burner cowboy hat ever be fully reprimanded?
Prediction - Missed Cuts
Phil Mickelson - In full disclosure, I’m not a "Phil guy”, I’m a “Jay Don guy”. However, I’ve always had an appreciation for Phil’s game and in particular his decision making. I still contend his decision at Winged Foot in ’06 to hit driver on 18 was the right one because it took quad out of play, thus assuring a top 10 finish (which is what it’s all about in majors). His decision to wear that black leather jacket on “Feherty" was obviously amazing. His decision to let others do jail time for insider trading was smart and practical. His decision to throw Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson under the bus, grab the keys, start the engine, put it in drive and run over Tom multiple times potentially saved the event for the American side for a generation to come.
Key Questions for 2018 - 1) Will the networks continue to televise every shot he hits despite the fact that he’s getting lapped by the entire field? 2) Will we continue to hear after every straightforward chip shot that he's one of only 3 humans on the planet who could of pulled that shot off?
Prediction - Remember how Duffy Waldorf played when he was 48….solid but not spectacular? Yeah, this should be about like that.
Tiger Woods - The Big Cat’s back and he’s got a rap sheet. Hide the women and children (especially the women) because Tiger’s about ready to go Y2K on our asses.
Key Questions for 2018 - None
Prediction - Wins will include (but may not be limited to) Farmers, Bay Hill, Memorial, The Open Championship, The PGA and a 6&5 beatdown of Jon Rahm in the decisive singles match in Paris.