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Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf. This is the year-end version.
Tiger (+10%): A major was the next logical step after his resurgent 2018, but still: The quick Sunday turnaround, the 54-hole deficit, the 12th-hole collapses – the Masters might not have been Woods’ greatest performance, but it was the most personally significant. More history awaits in 2020.
Jin Young Ko (+9%): For the second time in as many years, a player swept all of the major LPGA awards in an addition to being world No. 1. But unlike Ariya Jutanugarn, Ko’s game has no real weaknesses and she seems unfazed in the top spot.
Brooks/Rory (+8%): The men’s game is too deep for two players to separate themselves, but Koepka and McIlroy are a fascinating contrast in styles and personalities – and that’s the key ingredient in any rivalry.
Generation Next (+7%): Pay a little closer attention to next year’s NCAAs – you might be watching a future Tour winner. That was the case this year, at least, with Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa each winning a few months after being the big man on campus. For the amateur elite, the transition time to the pros is virtually nonexistent.
Augusta National Women’s Amateur (+6%): In one of the year’s pleasant surprises, the top two amateurs in the glitzy field ignited roars and battled on the second nine at Augusta National. Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi put on a dazzling display of talent and sportsmanship that set the foundation for future growth.
Brendon Todd (+5%): Left for dead after developing the full-swing yips, Todd persevered and (twice) became a Tour winner again to solidify his reputation as one of the game’s grittiest grinders.
Nelly Korda (+4%): The telegenic 21-year-old has ripped off three wins in the past 14 months, leapfrogging the other Americans in the world rankings and positioning herself for a major title in 2020.
Jon Rahm (+3%): The only missing piece in his arsenal was maturity, and Rahm, 25 and about to be married, seems to have found an inner peace. We’ll continue to believe in his world-beating potential.
Bernd Wiesberger (+2%): His three wins (and two Rolex Series titles) this season defied explanation, not just because they came after a serious wrist injury, but more because he wasn’t particularly proficient in any facet of the game. But when he’s hot, he can win, and now he just might make the European Ryder Cup team.
Patrick Cantlay (+1%): He’s gotten incrementally better each of the past three years, and his strokes-gained numbers suggest he’s due for a multiple-win season in 2020. He’s good – really, really good.
Lexi Thompson (-1%): Save for a three-start stretch in the summer, the former prodigy looked awfully pedestrian in 2019 and, in a sign of desperation, began working with a new swing coach. Still just 24, she’s too talented to own just one major title.
Matt Kuchar (-2%): On the course it was his most profitable season yet: two wins, two runners-up, nearly $6.3 million in earnings. But his golly-gee reputation was irreparably damaged with a series of head-scratching decisions, from defending the stiffing of his caddie to his role in a couple of shady rulings.
Francesco Molinari (-3%): Tiger may have broken The Machine. Ever since his watery demise at Augusta National, Molinari has failed to post a top-10 and reconfigured the team around him. All good things must come to an end.
Jason Day (-4%): In his worst season since 2012, Day rarely contended, couldn’t make it work with caddie Steve Williams and got hurt. Again. The big question now: Will he retool his violent swing to prolong his career?
Lydia Ko (-5%): Ah, what could have been for the former world No. 1 who now looks more like a cautionary tale. Short and crooked off the tee is usually a one-way ticket to irrelevance, and Ko is trending that direction.
Jordan Spieth (-6%): Now two-and-a-half years removed from his last win, Spieth unfortunately appears no closer to a long-term solution: His ball-striking is in disarray, his weekend scoring average is abysmal and his boyhood idol, Tiger Woods, passed up the chance to add him to the Presidents Cup team. Brutal.
Slow play (-7%): Rather than enforce its current policy, the Tour will instead roll out a new plan that supposedly cracks down on individual players instead of their groups. That’s progress, except the bad times still won’t be publicized. A little public shaming would go a long way.
Bubba Watson (-8%): Now 41, and with a host of other interests, the window appears closed on Bubba Golf. He’ll soon be outside the top 50.
Sergio Garcia (-9%): Remember when the scowling, petulant brat was supposedly transformed by a major win and fatherhood? Oops. Garcia had yet another year to forget with a couple of high-profile, caught-on-camera temper tantrums that overshadowed a 10 top-10 year.
Phil Mickelson (-10%): His emergence as a social-media star this year was unexpected, if only because his 2019 began with so much promise on the course. Almost eligible for the senior tour, can Lefty rediscover his game, reverse his tanking world ranking and qualify for another U.S. team? The eye test, sadly, says no.