With 40 of the top 50 players in the field this week at the HSBC, we asked GolfChannel.com writers, who will have the best campaign in 2015? And they answered.
By JASON SOBEL
There’s a "South Park" episode from 2011 during which the character Stan Marsh becomes more cynical of the world around him and grows depressed. As part of an unsuccessful pep talk, his mother suggests, “As you get older, you realize the best thing to do is just stick with what you know.”
A few years ago, I might have looked at the WGC-HSBC field with less cynicism. I might have energetically predicted that the best season would come from a bright-eyed upstart like Graham DeLaet or Thorbjorn Olesen or Hideki Matsuyama. But hey, like everyone else, I’m getting older and so I’ve realized the best thing to do in this situation is just stick with what I know.
And so rather than go out on some skinny limb, I’m picking the sturdiest branch possible. I’m taking Adam Scott to have the best season of anyone in the field.
Why? Well, after minutes of careful consideration, here’s the rationale behind my decision: He’s really, really good at golf. If I need more to go on than that, then I’ll take increased rejuvenation with a new caddie on the bag to go along with a sense of urgency at 14 months and counting before he has to abandon the anchored putting stroke.
All of that should be enough to have the past Masters champion knocking on the door for a second major title, among other spoils.
By RANDALL MELL
Rickie Fowler is coming up on a year since he began working with Butch Harmon, and there’s no denying the elevation in his game. Fowler has done just about everything except win since joining Harmon last December.
With his blistering run starting last summer, Fowler looks like a player on the verge of something special, including a major championship breakthrough. His run of eight top-10 finishes in his last nine starts includes finishing T-2 at the U.S. Open, T-2 at the British Open and T-3 at the PGA Championship. It includes three top 10s in the FedEx Cup playoffs. That’s an impressive display against tough competition on tough courses.
Fowler is equipped to begin adding to his one career PGA Tour victory. At 25, he begins the new wraparound schedule with his swing and confidence soaring. While it’s tough not picking Billy Horschel here, Fowler’s putting the game together to consistently contend for big titles.
By RYAN LAVNER
Though we’ve approached his seasons with this level of optimism before, 2015 truly feels like it’ll be a breakthrough year for Sergio Garcia.
His talent has never been in question; he remains one of the game’s preeminent ball-strikers and is a vastly improved putter. Instead, it’s been whether Sergio had the mental makeup to win multiple big-time events each season.
Garcia’s finish at the Open – where he shared the lead on Sunday – was encouraging, not just for the result (T-2) but more for the way he handled defeat. Sure, it helped that his good friend Rory McIlroy cradled the claret jug, but his graciousness afterward was a sign that Garcia was maturing.
His game is as sharp as it’s ever been (six top 12s in his last eight starts), and he’s as happy off the course as he’s ever been. That last point shouldn’t be underestimated: A smiling Sergio is one capable of finally winning a major.
By REX HOGGARD
It’s going to be difficult for any golfer to unseat Rory McIlroy atop the world heap next year, but if any player appears up to the challenge it is Justin Rose.
Following a relatively quiet start to 2014 – the Englishman had just a single top-10 finish in his first six starts – Rose has become the game’s most consistent golfer not named Rory.
After winning back-to-back starts in the middle of the summer (the Quicken Loans National and Scottish Open) he finished tied for fourth place at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Tour Championship and last week’s BMW Masters on the European Tour.
Since his breakthrough major victory in 2013 at the U.S. Open, Rose has sidestepped the predictable competitive slide that so often besets many players and continued to improve at his own measured pace.
For all the criticism heaped on Sean Foley during his time with Tiger Woods it is largely overlooked how he has transformed Rose into one of the game’s best ballstrikers. In 2014, Rose ranked fourth and sixth in strokes-gained tee-to-green and strokes-gained total, respectively.
Perhaps more importantly he has steadily improved on the greens the last three seasons, which makes him the player to watch heading into 2015.