In recent years on the PGA Tour, we’ve seen players notch their first victories, and players with previous career wins finally break through to win again. Kevin Chappell, Pat Perez, Kyle Stanley and Kevin Kisner instantly come to mind. Something they all had in common was a commonly used phrase in every sport: They were “due.”
There is something to be said for this type of athlete, especially on the PGA Tour. A guy who consistently finishes near the top but hasn’t yet closed, confusing pundits and peers alike as to why they can’t get it done, or why they haven’t gotten it done in so long. As we head into what will surely be another exciting 2018 season on the PGA Tour, more of these names come to mind. Who will be this year’s Kevin Chappell or Pat Perez? Who is “due”?
A few stipulations:
• No one that won worldwide in the last year will be included on this list. As much as Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, or Tyrell Hatton are due for a PGA Tour win under their belt at some point, they won outside the U.S. in 2016-’17.
• Winners of 10 or more PGA Tour events in their career can hardly be considered “due.” While Jason Day and Rory McIlroy have gone through a bit of a “drought,” chances are one or both gets back on the board in 2018. Phil Mickelson would be the exception here, because he is most certainly due.
• No rookies. It seems like a matter of time before Keith Mitchell or Peter Uihlein gets their first win, but hard to consider a rookie “due” just yet. Also, Uihlein just won on the Web.com Tour in September.
So here we go …
It’s almost impossible to believe that the Englishman has won just once in his career on the PGA Tour, and it came back in 2009 at the Shell Houston Open. After winning 13 times on the European Tour, Casey shifted his focus to the PGA Tour in 2015, and has since finished seventh or better 19 times in just 73 starts, including two runner-up finishes in playoffs in 2015 at the Genesis Open and the Travelers Championship. If he keeps that rate up, 2018 could be the year Casey explodes, and maybe even for his elusive first major.
The first thought here is likely, “Doesn’t Bubba have 10 wins?” Well, one more victory would do the trick. His 2017 struggles were well-documented, many rooting back to the peculiar contract to play a Volvik ball. Now that that’s ended, Watson is free to go back to whichever ball helped him win nine times on tour, including two green jackets. It’s about time “Bubba golf” gets some much-needed screen time late on Sunday afternoons like it often did before last season.
The running gag is that Kuchar is the king of the back-door top-10, but if it weren’t for a furious rally from Jordan Spieth at Royal Birkdale, we’d be calling him the Champion Golfer of the Year right now. The seven-time PGA Tour winner hasn’t broken through since the 2014 RBC Heritage, but nine top-five finishes since that victory indicate that he’s ready to get back in the winner’s circle in 2018.
Like Casey, Molinari has made a nice living on the PGA Tour since 2015, making nearly $5 million over the last three seasons. But he has yet to record his first PGA Tour win, not that he didn’t give himself plenty of chances in 2017, finishing T-7th or better five times, including a runner up at the PGA Championship. All the statistics were there a season ago—third in Strokes Gained/approach, fourth in Strokes Gained/tee-to-green, seventh in Strokes Gained/Total—except one: putting, where Molinari ranked 106th in 2017. Improving on the greens could lead to PGA Tour victory No. 1 for the Italian in 2018.
Inconsistent is putting it lightly when it comes to Rodgers’ 2016-’17 season, one in which he missed 16 of 27 cuts, but still contended for his first victory at the Farmers Insurance Open (T-4) and the John Deere Classic (solo second). He also had close calls the prior two seasons, finishing T-2 at the 2015 Wells Fargo, solo third at the 2015 Barracuda Championship and T-3 at the 2016 Travelers Championship. The former Stanford standout possesses too much talent to not finish one off in 2018, especially considering the fact he did it 11 times in college, matching Tiger Woods’ record.
Charles Howell III
No one understands how hard it is to win on the PGA Tour better than Howell III, who has made more than $30 million in his career with just two wins to his name, the last coming in 2007. We should all be so lucky, but it’s still amazing how often he’s come to the top spot in the last 11 years, only to finish in second six times. Two of those came in 2017 at the Farmers Insurance Open and the Quicken Loans National, the latter where he lost in a playoff to Kyle Stanley. With a little faith, maybe Howell III could be this year’s Stanley, and not the other way around.
If you thought Charles Howell III’s six second-place finishes since 2007 was impressive, Woodland has topped it since his last victory at the 2013 Barracuda Championship. He’s finished runner-up seven times since, including twice in 2017 at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and the Honda Classic. If you look up due in the dictionary, you’ll see Howell III has been replaced by Woodland, who continues to put himself in position year after year, and is bound to close the door at least one week in 2018.
After a rare down year for Simpson in 2016, the former U.S. Open champion bounced back in a big way in 2017, making more than $3.2 million in 28 starts. A final-round 64 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open got him into a playoff, where he showed he still has the game to compete with anybody, taking Hideki Matsuyama to a fourth playoff hole before finally coming up short. Simpson backed up that performance with strong weeks at the Dean & Deluca Invitational (solo fifth) and the Wyndham Championship (solo third), but he still is in search of a fifth PGA Tour win, the last coming at the 2013 Shriners.
Reed’s 2017 season got off to a rough start, with just one top-10 in his first 10 events, and that came at Kapalua, which features a limited field and has been the site of a previous Reed victory. After missing three consecutive cuts to begin the spring, Reed kicked it into another gear, making 15 of his last 16 cuts, including a T-13 finish at the U.S. Open, a T-5 at the Travelers Championship and a T-2 at the PGA Championship. The best argument that Reed is due? It’s a Ryder Cup year, and in the last two of those he won twice in 2014 and once in 2016. Captain America should be considered a lock for his sixth career victory in 2018 with a trip to France on his mind.