Two years ago, we brought you our first and only edition of “players who are ‘due’ for a win in 2018,” and it turned out to be quite the successful forecast. Of the nine guys we chose, six went on to win in the 2017-’18 season, and two that didn’t (Matt Kuchar and Charles Howell III) ended up winning in 2018, it’s just that their victories were part of the 2018-’19 season. Rats, we were just a tad early.
Why we failed to bring this list back for the following season could be for a number of reasons—laziness, forgetfulness, so-good-at-forecasting-the-future-I-got-bored-of-it-ness or all of the above (really like that last one). Fortunately for you, I’m no longer bored of being right, and also I remembered to ask my editor if I could revive the “due” list again for 2019-’20. Problem solved.
As was the case the last time, there are some stipulations:
• No winners of a combined 10 or more PGA Tour and European Tour events are allowed. Yes, Jordan Spieth is due for a win, so is Henrik Stenson and Martin Kaymer and Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen, etc., etc. But those guys are prolific winners around the world. Hard to call them “due.” Is Tom Brady due for a seventh Super Bowl? Didn’t think so (please God don’t let this happen).
• No rookies. Viktor Hovland is going to win on the PGA Tour, probably a lot of times (maybe even this week if you believe the oddsmakers). But there is no such thing as a rookie being “due.” You’ve got to play a lot longer on tour to earn the “due” label. Was Tom Brady due to win a Super Bowl his first year as the starter? Don’t answer that.
• No winners on the European or PGA Tours in 2018-’19. I think this one goes without saying. You can’t be due if you just won last year. Is Tom Brady … never mind.
• Has to have come close to a win in the last year or two. This list is reserved for guys that are A) searching for their first win or B) have a win or two or three but have gone through a bit of a drought. What they have to have done, though, is contend of late. The whole point is that they’ve continuously come close but just haven’t quite finished, thus being “due” for a dub-ya.
To the list we go.
Perhaps the most obvious choice for “being due” is Finau. Big Tone has officially reached “how does he only have ONE win?” status, which some would counter with, “Wait, he has a win?” Yes, Finau’s lone victory is somewhat forgettable given it came in the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, an opposite-field event, but it still showed he has the ability to close (Finau won in a playoff over Steve Marino). He’s come close to trophy No. 2 countless times since, but it continues to elude him. Last season he finished runner-up twice and third once, all while racking up nearly $4.5 million along the way. The season before? Three second-place finishes and four other results inside the top eight. If you believe in being due, 2019-’20 is the season Finau explodes.
If Finau is the “he only has ONE win?” guy, then Fleetwood is the “how does this guy have NO wins?” guy. Sure, he’s got a few on the European Tour, but his last came almost two years ago in Abu Dhabi. It’s befuddling to think he’s yet to have a PGA Tour victory after watching him smash high draw after high draw with that beautiful golf swing of his. But he’s the ultimate example of just how difficult it is to win on the best tour in the world. His major season didn’t get off to a great start last year (T-36 at the Masters, T-48 at PGA, T-65 at U.S. Open), but his runner-up at Royal Portrush gave him three consecutive years of finishing inside the top four at a major. That’s going to translate to a victory sooner or later, perhaps in a major. But don’t be surprised if he goes the Francesco Molinari route by breaking through in a regular event first and then winning the big one soon after.
Matsuyama’s place on this list doesn’t needs much explanation. Simply put, he’s too talented to go three full seasons without a win. As always with him, it comes down to his putting, which has actually been much better his last two winless seasons than it was when he won three times in 2017. If that trend continues, it will almost certainly lead to a sixth PGA Tour victory, because tee-to-green there are few players as good as Matsuyama right now.
I speak for a lot of golf fans and media when I say I’m actively rooting for Ancer to get his first PGA Tour win. He seems to be a legitimately genuine guy, and he’s got a ton of game. In the last two years he’s played in two final pairings on Sunday, and both of those instances came in FedEx Cup Playoff events. At the Northern Trust at Liberty National, it was clear he learned from his prior final-pairing experience, which resulted in a T-7 at the 2018 Dell Technologies Championship. But in New Jersey Ancer showed some serious guts, making birdies at 16 and 17 to cut Patrick Reed’s lead to one stroke. At 18, he went after his last birdie putt, a move he later realized probably wasn’t that smart, but it showed he was committed to winning. This next season could be a breakout one for Ancer, who will become the first player from Mexico to play in the Presidents Cup in December.
After an ugly season both on and off the course in 2017-’18, Glover enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in 2018-’19, collecting seven top-10s and reaching his first Tour Championship since 2009, the year he won the U.S. Open. His next victory wouldn’t come until almost two years later at the 2011 Wells Fargo, which remains his most recent win on tour. The only thing missing from his late-career comeback is a W. Based off his results a season ago, Glover, 39, is the definition of “due.”
It’s unfair to the tour’s veteran grinders to call a 20-year-old, third-year pro “due” for a victory, but Niemann already has played enough events and flashed enough potential to fit that mold. In just 42 starts on the PGA Tour, Niemann has eight top-10s, five of those finishes coming inside the top six. I fully expect him to remind everybody that he was the young rising star just two years ago before Matthew Wolff, Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa & Co. stole his shine.
If you’re surprised by Jason Kokrak’s inclusion on this list, you shouldn’t be. There might not be a better candidate for a “Journeyman pro grabs first career victory” headline than Kokrak in 2019-’20. The 34-year-old will begin his eighth season on the PGA Tour at The Greenbrier, and it seems like he’s just starting to hit his peak. His last season was his best as a pro, as Kokrak made a career-high $2.3 million, which doesn’t include the $620,000 from his first Tour Championship appearance at East Lake. In an era that is all about bomb and gouge, Kokrak can do that as good as anybody, ranking 11th on tour in strokes-gained: off the tee and 17th in driving distance last year. He’ll give himself plenty of chances to win if he plays anything like a year ago (23 of 24 cuts, 14 top-25s). All he needs is one special week.