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Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

Caleb VanArragon, Writer

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2017 looks to be an exciting year on the PGA Tour, largely due to the return of Tiger Woods.  Woods was unable to compete in 2016 due to back surgery, but he has recovered and appears to have just as much skill as ever.  Woods looks poised to be a contender in major championships in 2017.  But who else?  Here are a few stars to watch for in 2017.

Tiger Woods

As I said before, Tiger is returning from a back surgery that kept him out for all of last season.  Since August 2015, the only event Woods has played in is the Hero World Challenge, his own tournament, which he played in last December.  Woods finished 15th in the field of 17, but he led the field in total birdies, leading many to see the tournament as an encouraging sign.  Often considered the best golfer, maybe even the best athlete, in history, Woods’ return will certainly be exciting to watch.

Rory McIlroy

McIlroy was having a mediocre 2016 before he won two FedEx Cup Playoff events to win the FedEx Cup.  With four majors under his belt and needing only a Masters title to win the career Grand Slam, McIlroy has established himself as one of the game’s best.  He is a very long hitter of the ball and fantastic under pressure.  He is currently ranked as the #2 player in the world.

Jason Day

Currently ranked as the #1 player in the world, Day put together an impressive 2016 season, including wins at the Player’s Championship and two other events. Day has a fantastic short game, good distance, and solid putter.  However, he has been plagued by back trouble throughout his career.  Last year, he was forced to withdraw from the final two FedEx Cup events due to back trouble.  Provided his back holds up, Day has the mind and skills to be a major contender in 2017.

Jordan Spieth

Spieth appeared to be on the verge of going on a tear in 2016 before a devastating loss at the Masters.  He won one more time in 2016, but did not win a major championship.  It is difficult to predict what Spieth will do in 2017.  On the one hand, Spieth is an incredibly talented golfer, with fantastic course management and beautiful putting touch.  On the other hand, he might still be scarred by the Masters loss.  Regardless, it’s hard to see him not winning at least once in 2017.

Henrik Stenson

At 40 years old, Stenson finally broke through in 2016, winning the British Open for his first major championship.  He also won a silver medal at the Olympics, and was a member of the European Ryder Cup team.  Stenson is often regarded as the best ball-striker in the game, and can be brilliant with his putter.  If he puts it all together, he can be an impossible player to beat.  I would expect him to contend in many tournaments in 2017.

There are many other golfers who could have breakout seasons in 2017.  These include Hideki Matsuyama (already 3 top-2 finishes on tour this season), Justin Thomas (who recently shot a 59 in a tour event), Brooks Koepka (a member of the 2016 Ryder Cup team), and Smylie Kaufman (yes, that’s his real name).  

So, who will win the major championships?  Here are my predictions.

Masters:  Rory McIlroy, by a narrow margin over Jordan Spieth.  Both will want to win very much, but I think McIlroy is the better player.

U.S. Open:  Tiger Woods.  This year’s open is being played at Erin Hills, a layout that suits Woods beautifully.  It is extremely long and narrow, meaning that long driving and good course management will be rewarded.  Woods has both of those, as well as a great putting stroke and four other U.S. Open titles.

British Open:  Jordan Spieth.  Spieth has proven himself to be a winner, and he hits the ball low, which is a prerequisite for links golf.

PGA Championship:  Henrik Stenson.  Stenson’s superb ball-striking will be good enough to get him another major.

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2017 PGA Tour Season Preview