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Three Things to Look Out For on the PGA Tour 2015

By: Nick Bonfield | Mon 03 Nov 2014

Post by Golf Journalist Nick Bonfield 

As bizarre as it might sound, we are already four weeks into the new PGA Tour season. But it’s only just November, you say. Yes, executives clearly haven’t found a way to incorporate the FedEx Cup Play-Offs into a annual season structure – attempting to move them from an established August/September position to later in the year would be a minefield, and not conducive to good relations with the European Tour - but I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. The wrap-around schedule allows some lesser lights to gain experience and establish themselves before the majority of the big hitters return in February time. There’s sufficient sponsor interest facilitate so many tournaments – this is a money game, after all – so what’s the harm in starting the season in October?

But I’m not here to discuss the full pros and cons of the PGA Tour’s season structure. With Billy Horschel’s rather farcical FedEx Cup triumph and Europe’s Ryder Cup heroics now confined to the history books, it’s time to focus on what lies ahead. I must admit the first four weeks of the PGA Tour season have passed me by somewhat, but I’m now ready to turn my attention to a new season, and one that looks set to throw up yet more dramatic storylines.

Below, I take a look at three things I’m expecting to see in 2015…

More first-time winners

Last season, there were 11 first-time winners on the PGA Tour, starting with Jimmy Walker at the Frys.com Open and finishing with Brian Harman at the John Deere Classic. The season before, there were 12. In 2014/15, I’ll be surprised if there aren’t more still. Why, you might ask? Well, there are a number of factors, but collegiate golf and the abolition of Q-School are probably the most significant.

Nowadays, with golfers unable to pass straight from college to the PGA Tour – exceptional circumstances aside – the Web.com Tour is a hotbed for hugely talented young golfers who simply don’t fear anyone – a product of the competitive nature of college, and indeed high-school, golf (the normal route for the majority of aspiring American professionals). When these players graduate to the PGA Tour, they have faith in their ability and an inherent belief that they can succeed. And why wouldn’t they? They see many players they’ve competed with in college, and on the Web.com, winning on the PGA Tour, and naturally feel they can replicate those achievements.

Ever-improving technology, new training techniques, an emphasis on strength and conditioning and the decline of Tiger Woods are also factors. Simply put, this new breed of youngsters don’t fear anyone and are ready to hit the ground running as soon as they earn a PGA Tour card.

More woe for Woods

I’m just not convinced that Tiger is going to return to the winner’s circle this season. Obviously every comment of that Tiger Woodsnature is dangerous, given he’s the most gifted player to have ever played golf, but I’m very surprised about his decision to self-diagnose his swing. Surely it’s crying out for a return to Butch Harmon, or another well-respected teacher? Sean Foley is a revered coach, but clearly something wasn’t working. Tiger’s first priority should be developing a consistent swing that’s more lenient on his ageing body, and he needs to learn how to hit the ball in the fairway again. That is the first step to recovery and I’m not convinced he can do that without outside influence. Still, who knows what’s going on behind the scenes?

Tiger is also at the age now where family is the most important thing is his life. As you mature, you attribute different levels of significance to different things. He’s entered a new phase of his life – he is 38, after all – and I’m not sure you can maintain the nothing-else-matters ruthlessness at the same time as raising a young family. When he was at his best, he was a lone warrior. It was him against the course, against everyone else. Winning was everything. Nothing else mattered. Now, he has other responsibilities, and not just in the family sphere. He seems to be taking an increasing interest in golf course design and I just don’t think he’s as unremittingly focused on playing golf as he was during his heyday. Add to that a far from perfect swing and an ailing body and you understand my concerns.

Fewer anchored putters

It will be interesting to see who makes the switch from the anchored putter to a conventional model during the course of the 2014/15 season. Don’t forget, anchored strokes will be prohibited from January 1, 2016, and most former belly-wielders will need a significant period of time to get re-accustomed to traditional putters. That’s something that hasn’t escaped the likes of Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson.

Bradley – the man who became the first anchored putter user to win a major championship, the 2011 PGA  – looks set to follow in the footsteps of Ernie Els, who reverted to a short putter in 2013. Bradley, although still using his now-infamous belly putter in competition, has been tinkering with a short model over the last 12 months. In fact, he even put one into play at the 2014 Memorial Tournament. Simpson, meanwhile, has been practicing with four or five traditional putters for some time and revealed last month that he might put a short flat-stick in his bag for the upcoming Dunlop Phoenix in Japan. If that goes well, he’d ‘absolutely’ consider using the short putter in 2015.

Elsewhere, it remains to be seen what course of action more staunch supporters of the anchored putter - like Tim Clarke, one of nine players said to be considering legal action after the announcement of the rule change - will take. The likes of Kevin Stadler and Carl Pettersen are among the others yet to make the switch. Bill Haas, Phil Mickelson and others did so with minimal fuss in 2013.

Image credit - @SkySportsGolf



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Tags: tiger woods PGA Tour

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