Punch Shot: Player of the Year in 2017?

RSS

Dustin Johnson was the Player of the Year in 2016. Can he repeat in 2017, or will someone else step up? Our writers weigh in.

By REX HOGGARD

Rory McIlroy’s career has followed a rather predictable path, bouts of greatness when he appears unbeatable (even-numbered years) followed by pedestrian seasons, at least by his lofty standards (odd-numbered years).

There are exceptions, but starting in 2012 when he won the PGA Championship and two of four FedEx Cup playoff events, the Northern Irishman has played his best golf in even-numbered years which is little surprise considering he always plays his best with the Ryder Cup approaching.

But 2017 will be the exception. After a solid if not spectacular ’16 season, he didn’t win a major but finished strong with two post-season victories and the FedEx Cup title, all of the questions about his game seem to have been answered.

Always among the game’s best power players, McIlroy’s putting at East Lake and Hazeltine National was nearly flawless and he appears poised to win his third Jack Nicklaus Trophy.


By RYAN LAVNER

When trying to predict the future – at least when it pertains to golf – I usually ask myself this question: Who needs a great year the most? Hungry players typically perform best, which is why Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth are prime bounce-back candidates.

Dustin Johnson doesn’t need a great year, of course. He just had one. The three wins, the major, the Player of the Year award. This could be the beginning of something special. Already one of the best drivers in the game, he shored up his wedges to better capitalize on his awesome power. He made significant strides with his putting, too.

The only question mark about Johnson (in his prime, at age 32) is whether he burns to dominate the sport, because he certainly possesses the necessary skill set. Here’s guessing that he begins to impose his will in 2017.


By WILL GRAY

This year Rory McIlroy will parlay a FedEx Cup title into another season spent towering over the game’s best.

McIlroy was pushed to the side of the stage for much of 2016, passed by the likes of Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson. But as he showed at East Lake – and as he reinforced at Hazeltine – few if any can hang with the Ulsterman when he’s firing on all cylinders.

McIlroy has used the news of Nike’s equipment exit to his advantage, tailoring a custom set of clubs that best complements his physical gifts. While all eyes are currently trained toward his stroll down Magnolia Lane in search of the fourth leg of the career Grand Slam, the season will close with him cruising to a third Wanamaker trophy as the PGA Championship shifts to one of his favorite venues: Quail Hollow. Multiple wins, including a major, will mean McIlroy reigns again as Player of the Year.


By RANDALL MELL

Jason Day has made himself the best all-around player in the world today, with the most impressive combination of strength and touch.

He didn’t win a major like Dustin Johnson did last year, but Day’s all-around skills will put him in the mix to win more than anyone else in 2017. He’s a better putter than Johnson and Rory McIlroy, has a better short game than Johnson and McIlroy, and he’s nearly as long off the tee as they are. He was a better putter than Jordan Spieth last year and better around the greens, and he’s a lot longer off the tee than Spieth.

Those skills have helped Day finish among the top 10 in six of the last seven majors. It all comes together again for Day in 2017.