Woooooohweeeeeeee it’s been a while… Though we at Fantasy Golf Source have been mildly interested in the 2014-15 season thus far, meaning the second year of this new “wrap-around season” business, I think we can all agree that the excitement for PGA golf truly begins when the pros fly to Hawaii to kick off the new year of golf. Frankly, it is hard for golf to compete with football, and fantasy football. In fact, our fantasy league – as I’m sure is the case for many – doesn’t even begin until the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Therefore, now that 2015 has begun, so too has our desire for fantasy golf and what is almost guaranteed to be a fantastic season to kick into full-swing. We’ve all heard the storylines… Will Rory soar to Tiger-level dominance? What will Tiger’s return to healthy (we can hope) golf mean for the sport? Will Phil Mickelson become a factor again after one of the rare winless seasons in his career? Will Jordan Spieth be able to officially take his place as one of the greats? How about Rickie Fowler coming off top 5 finishes in all four majors? How will Billy Horschel follow up his clutch Fed Ex Cup playoffs performance? Those are just a few of the big storylines, and they certainly are deserving of all the attention.
Tiger will make his 2015 debut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, a tournament he hasn’t played since 2001 where he did this in 1999 and basically started the 16th hole madness. The last time Phil had a winless season was 2003, and he followed it up with 3 wins in 2004, including the Masters, and top 10 finishes in all 4 majors. Jordan Spieth will certainly not be leaving the conversation in 2015, and deserves it after dominate wins at the Australian Open and the Hero World Challenge.
But what we would like to do to kick off our 2015 hype is talk about three things that haven’t been major story lines, but deserve some attention nonetheless.
1. In addition to Phil Mickelson, several elite golfers were left out of the winner’s circle in 2014. Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker were nowhere near the conversation, though both had their own share of injury struggles. Keegan Bradley’s lack of results was more puzzling given that he appeared to be healthy throughout the season. He surely figures to be in the mix and add to his win column in 2015. But the name everyone seems to be forgetting is Bill Haas. After a Thursday 68 at the Masters, Billy Haas was nowhere to be found last year. He struggled with a business decision of taking his brother off the bag as his caddie, and largely he was not a factor at all. This leads me to think that the 2011 Fed Ex Cup champion could be the most underrated fantasy player of 2015. Aside from last season, Haas has had at least one win every season since 2009. His struggles in the majors have plagued him, but maybe 2015 could be his year.
2. Not a lot of discussion is going on regarding Dustin Johnson’s return to the game, but don’t expect the 30 year old to have lost any of his ability just because of the off-the-course issues he dealt with in 2014. No one has suggested that any of DJ’s drug issues directly related to his performance on the course. If he truly has begun a healthier lifestyle, his golf game should only benefit from it. Slated for an early 2015 return, DJ should still be a significant factor this season.
3. Much has been made of the 2015 rookie class. Players like Justin Thomas, Nick Taylor, Tony Finau, Carlos Ortiz, and Blayne Barber all figure to be instant factors. Not as much has been said about a short list of European Tour golfers who have obtained a PGA Tour card and will increase their schedule in the states this year. Brooks Koepka, Max Homa, Jamie Donaldson, Francesco Molinari, and Victor Dubuisson are among the list. Koepka and Homa, being Americans, look forward to moving back to their home country, while Donaldson and Dubuisson look to broaden their resumes in the wake of impressive Ryder Cup performances. Anyone who watched Dubuisson work miracles in the playoff against Jason Day in last year’s WGC Match Play knows what the Frenchman is capable of doing. For us, though, we think Jamie Donaldson is the guy to watch out for in 2015. The Welshman has been a fixture on the European Tour for years, and hopes to evolve into a bigger threat in the majors by adding PGA events to his schedule. We believe he has the talent and the ball-striking to do just that.
Regardless of these storylines, or the many others exciting golf fans worldwide, we are expecting a thrilling season as the PGA looks to build an identity that perhaps isn’t reliant on Tiger Woods – that is unless Woods remains healthy and pops off multiple wins and potentially achieves the 15th major win, of course. Nothing is out of the realm of possibility, and we look forward to just being along for the ride. Stay tuned for the return of predictions with next week’s full field at the Sony Open.