10 Players to Watch on the European Tour in 2019
WHAT does 2019 hold in store on the European Tour? There will be plenty of familiar winners, of course, and there are bound to be some first-time champions too. There will be surprises, there will be comebacks and there will be tears of both joy and misery. Here, we gaze into our crystal ball and look at 10 golfers we believe are worth keeping an eye on during the coming season.
The Englishman had a steady enough season, with several good finishes, and comfortably retained his playing privileges. He then took all the pressure off his young shoulders by winning the Hong Kong Open, securing a two-year exemption and proving that he is as good as many pundits had predicted. With his first victory under his belt Rai will surely now only get better.
Here’s the thing with Wallace. He won once in 2017 and three times in 2018 - and he just cannot get enough. He loves playing tournament golf and he loves competing. He has been a late developer but has developed a taste for winning, and he adores it. His confidence going into 2019 is sky-high. He will now compete in all four majors and the WGC events. Watch him go.
How things have changed for the Englishman. Two years ago, he was in the depths of despair, having lost his card, and had to head to qualifying school to win it back. He did so, of course, and the rest is history. Pepperell finally won for the first time and just missed out on the Ryder Cup. His talent was never in doubt, but his application and self-belief were. That has all changed. He has now become one of the most consistent players on tour.
Olesen has always been a better player than he thinks he is but he may now actually believe it himself. He won the Italian Open, which was a Rolex event and transformed his entire season, and had eight top-10 finishes, including a runners-up finish at the BMW International Open. It was good enough to secure his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team, where he more than held his own. Look out for more big performances from the Dane in 2019.
The Englishman will not look back on 2018 with too much satisfaction, having failed to retain his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team. Yes, he did win a tournament, but he failed to make his mark in the big events that really matter. Happily, Fitzpatrick has accepted that he will never be a big hitter and has resisted any temptation to change his swing. He has a short game to die for and will be looking for a big year in 2019.
This is the man who led The Open going into the final round at St Andrews in 2015 as an amateur. Nobody does that unless they can play a bit. He won the British Masters in sensational fashion in 2017 and although he had a decent season, he finished it bitterly disappointed that he didn’t add a second title. He also had a chance to win on the PGA Tour until a poor final round. He is a small man, but he hits the ball a long, long way.
The Englishman has achieved a huge amount and will now surely be turning his attention to winning his first major. He has already proved that he has the game, with a brilliant showing at the US Open, where he very nearly caught Brooks Koepka. Fleetwood is a world-class player and the harder the course the better he seems to play. He will also want to win back his Race to Dubai crown. Has a habit of throwing in one poor round in four and will be spending the winter working on that.
How do you follow that? There will be huge pressure on the likeable little Italian after his stellar 2018, when he won The Open and the BMW PGA Championship. And seriously, how do you follow that? He may or may not win another major, but it is a fairly safe bet that, with his confidence at an all-time high, he will continue his winning ways. They key will be his putting stroke. He putted brilliantly at Carnoustie and again at the Ryder Cup. If that continues, we can expect another BIG season.
Who saw his victory in the Dubai World Championship coming? To be honest, it shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as it was since he spent much of 2018 slowly rebuilding his confidence and fitness after a dreadful time since his victory at Augusta in 2016. Willett briefly contended at The Open and his name began to appear on leaderboards again towards the end of the season. His victory in Dubai was probably the most emotional of the season and certainly the most heart-warming. It was his first since that glorious day in April 2016 and he will expect more to come. So do we.
His career seemed to be on the slide - and Westwood seemed to have accepted that as he played little golf in the early months of 2018. But then something remarkable happened. The veteran rediscovered both his form and, more important, his passion for the game. From nowhere he finished second at the Made in Denmark. He then contended for four rounds at the Andalucía Masters, which was won by Sergio Garcia. And, lo and behold, he then flew to South Africa and won the Nedbank Challenge thanks to a stunning final round of 64. Westwood is back.
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