The Golfers Who Are Ready For a Big Victory
AS WE approach the PGA Championship it seems like a good time to take a look at a number of golfers who may have gone under the radar and are now ready to make some headlines on both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
There are some names on this list you will recognise, and there are others you may not have heard of but who are, in my opinion, ready to change all that in the weeks and months ahead.
The 21-year-old American left-hander turned professional in 2019 and has been plying his trade on the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour of Canada, where he quickly established a reputation for being a brilliant ball striker, despite weighing less than 140lb. In 2021 he qualified for the US Open, where he finished in a tie for 57th place. He earned special temporary membership of the PGA Tour after finishing second at the 2023 Puerto Rico Open and gave Tony Finau a run for his money at the Mexico Open.
Paul, who is from Germany, won the Mallorca Open in 2022 and hasn’t looked back since. The 29-year-old has been around for a while but has upped his game in 2023, finishing second in successive weeks at the Thailand Classic and Indian Open before adding a tie for sixth place at the ISPS Handa Championship. He shared the 36-hole lead at the Korea Championship before a disappointing weekend. Paul has played himself into contention for a Ryder Cup berth.
An American of Indian descent, Theegala started the 2022-23 season with a tie for sixth at the Fortinet Championship and then missed the cut at the Sanderson Farms Championship - his sole missed cut of the season. Since then there has been a tie for second at the RSM Classic, a tie for fourth at the Farmers Insurance Open, tied sixth at the Genesis, tied ninth at The Masters and tied fifth at the RBC Heritage. Still looking for his first PGA Tour victory but you can bet your mortgage on him putting that right soon.
I am absolutely convinced that McKibbin is the next big thing as far as European golf is concerned. The 20-year-old is the youngest golfer from Ireland since Rory McIlroy to hold a DP World Tour card. The Northern Irishman turned professional at the age of 18 and a year later he recorded eight top-10 finishes on the 2022 Road to Mallorca to secure his card. After three top 20s in his first three starts this campaign, the 2015 World Junior champion underlined his potential as he held the 36-hole lead at the Singapore Classic before settling for 12th place.
(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)
The South African left-hander has already won on both the DP World and PGA Tour so you may wonder why he is on this list. Like many before him, Higgo has discovered that form can sometimes be temporary and he has struggled of late. But he is hugely gifted and is blessed with a wonderful temperament. He hits the ball miles and has a wondrous touch around the greens. And he will be back.
Wallace won the Portugal Open in 2017 and followed it with three victories in 2018 - the Indian Open, BMW International Open and the Made in Denmark. He was devastated to be overlooked for the 2018 Ryder Cup and it seemed to affect his confidence. He lost form and struggled for the best part of three years but began to play some decent golf again in 2022. He was 20th at the Abu Dhabi Championship and 16th at the Dubai Desert Classic but it all changed for Wallace when he finished in a tie for seventh place at the Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour in March 2023 and followed it by winning the Corales Puntacana Championship to revive his career.
His twin brother, Rasmus, was the first of the two to win on the DP World Tour, but Nicolai quickly followed him. He nearly won his first PGA Tour title in 2023 and you can expect to see less of him in Europe. Nothing fazes Hojgaard. He already knows how to win in Europe and I expect him to be picking up more titles on both sides of the Atlantic - and to be a member of Luke Donald’s European Ryder Cup team.
The Dane is a former Ryder Cup player who lost his way after an unfortunate incident while on board a TransAtlantic flight. For a while it looked like he would never rediscover the form that got him into the top in the world but he won the Britsh Masters last year and has won again in 2023, and I expect him to add more titles. He has always been a streaky player but has now found some consistency.
You may wonder what on earth the 16th-ranked player in the world is doing on this list. Remarkably, Young is still searching for his first victory on the PGA Tour but he is a big-time player who finished second behind Cameron Smith at The Open in 2022. In 39 appearances on the PGA Tour, Young has finished runner-up six times, third on two occasions and has had eight top-five finishes. This is a major champion in waiting.
Kim is a hugely gifted golfer. He is still only 20 years old but already has two PGA Tour victories to his name, with seven top-10 finishes in just 31 starts. That he will win more regular events goes without saying. Kim plays the game with a smile on his face, has a fantastic temperament and possesses no weaknesses. He will win majors - several of them. And that could start in 2023.
A two-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour, Montgomery is a comparatively late developer who is making an impact on the PGA Tour. He finished third at the Fortinet Championship and fifth at the American Express Championship and is gradually climbing both the world rankings and the FedEx Cup standings. He is one to watch for sure.
Hayden who? Buckley is one of the streakiest golfers on the PGA Tour but when he isn’t missing cuts he tends to be in contention. He finished tied fifth at the Zozo in October 2022, second at the Sony Open in January 2023, missed four successive cuts and then tied 10th at the Texas Open and tied fifth at the RBC Heritage. A good bet to win a regular PGA Tour title before 2023 is over.
(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)
How on earth is it possible that Belgian is still looking for his first victory? He has everything required to be world class and should be a shoo-in for Europe’s Ryder Cup team. He is now spending much of his time on the PGA Tour and has made plenty of cuts. His game is made for American courses, with soft greens and generous fairways. When that maiden victory finally happens the floodgates could open.
However, there is far more to golf than just what you see on the men's side, and with the summer women's majors also getting closer (including the US Women's Open at Pebble Beach), then we have one standout name to follow too.
The Irish golfer won her first - and only - LPGA Tour title at the Drive On Championship in 2022. She has a list of achievements to her name, including a run of 29 rounds in 2021 during which she was never once over par. That was also the year that saw her record a round of 61 at the Evian Championship, the lowest score ever recorded in a major. And she ended 2021 by claiming 4.5 out of a possible five points in her Solheim Cup debut. She started 2023 with successive top-10 finishes at the Tournament of Champions and Honda LPGA Thailand. Maguire has had a quiet year but she possesses far too much talent for that to continue.
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Tags: PGA Tour FedEx Cup european tour dp world tour