Rory McIlroy is prominent in the betting for the 2018 Race to Dubai on the European Tour and PGA Tour Money List. It is feasible to win both rankings in the same season because money won in the major championships and WGC events count for both. Even not yet in his thirties McIlroy is reaching a crossroads in his career. He can go on to win several more majors or stall at four but he has not won any of the four championships that matter most since 2014.
The season just ended was disjointed for the former world number one. Just as he was trying to gain momentum ahead of the majors a niggling injury spoilt his plans. Despite a top 10 finish in the Open it was generally a moderate season for McIlroy. He has taken an extended break from the game so that he is fully recovered and not be handicapped by physical ill-health. The break could pay dividends this upcoming season.
McIlroy is currently at number 10 in the world rankings which is his lowest position since he first entered the top 10 in November 2009. He won four majors from 2011 to 2014 and has recorded six top 10s without winning another one. McIlroy only needs to win the Masters Tournament to complete the career Grand Slam which only five players have achieved. He has finished in the top 10 in the last three when he only required the first major of the season to complete the set.
Even in the three seasons when McIlroy has not added to his tally of majors golf has become more competitive at the highest level. Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas have emerged, Dustin Johnson has found his best game and Jon Rahm is new to the scene with the potential to win majors and become the number one player in the rankings. However, when McIlroy is on song and driving the ball long and straight he can still be the best player in the world and he can show that in 2018. He is a good bet to win either or both money lists on the two main Tours.
One of the major subplots of the new season will be the form shown by Tiger Woods. After playing well in the Hero World Challenge his odds plummeted for the US Masters, the major he has won four times in the past. Woods virtually had two years away from the sport due to chronic injuries but a number of operations appear to have repaired the damage. The Masters is his best chance of winning a 15th major and getting within three of Jack Nicklaus’s tally. Woods could contend at Augusta in April but winning another major looks beyond him.
In 2014 Rickie Fowler finished in the top five of all four majors. In most other years that would have been a standout effort but McIlroy won the Open and USPGA Championship and the US Tour Player of the Year honour. Fowler has been knocking on the door in the majors for a number of years and he is not the worst bet to make the top five in all four again. He demolished a decent field in the Hero World Challenge and can take that form into 2018 and contend for the majors and money list.
Tommy Fleetwood emerged from outside the top 200 in the world rankings to win the Race to Dubai. If the Southport player continues to improve he could take his career to a new level by winning a major. Rahm is good enough to challenge for both money lists as he won in Europe and the States last season. Sergio Garcia could stay in the comfort zone after finally winning his first major in the Masters in April or he could go again and become a multiple major champion. Hideki Matsuyama could lose the mantle of the best player to have never won a major.
McIlroy and Woods have suffered injuries that have stalled their careers. Both should be fighting fit over the first few months of the season and it would be fitting if they won regular tournaments and were on the leader board during the final round of the US Masters in April.