Justin Thomas is a good friend of Jordan Spieth and they have both won already this season but course experience is key for this week’s Honda Classic which brings Graeme McDowell into the mix at a big price. Luke Donald showed some signs of the form that took him to the pinnacle of the game in the Genesis Open last week and he could have a say on a course where he has done well in the past.
The golfing world has a new number one. Dustin Johnson won last week and is now at the head of the standings. His win in the Genesis Open means he has won in the last ten seasons on the US PGA Tour and the only other players to do that are Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, the two best players in the history of the sport. Johnson hits the ball miles but maintains accuracy. Combining both skills off the tee is a rare talent and in terms of driving only Rory McIlroy can live with Johnson.
McIlroy is on the sidelines with injury and will not be playing competitively until next month. He is on course to play in the US Masters, the title he craves most. McIlroy has won three of the four majors and completing the career Grand Slam is a goal. He could go through his career without winning the Masters and Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson amongst others missed out on one major despite being multiple major champions.
Johnson has only won the US Open to date and aged 32 has another ten years at least to add to his tally of majors. In his current form he will be a factor in the Masters which is often won by the best player in the world. Danny Willett was arguably not even the best player in Sheffield when he won the Green Jacket last season. Matthew Fitzpatrick comes from that city and he looks a potential future major champion but Willett got there first but could be a one hit wonder.
Golf has a history of producing players who have one week in the sun and win a major. Open champions Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton come to mind but Johnson surely must get in the winner’s enclosure again in one of the four weeks that matter most over the rest of his career. The Masters favours big hitters and Johnson is now proven at the highest level. Given even an average week on the greens he will be tough to beat at Augusta where Thomas can be a factor.
That player won back-to-back at the start of the season on the Hawaii Swing part of the Tour. Spieth won the Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago but did not figure last week and is not playing in the Honda Classic. This week’s host course at PGA National at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida puts a premium on accuracy over distance. Strokes gained putting is also important so McDowell and Donald fit the profile for potential contenders.
At their peak both players excelled on courses that required good numbers for driving accuracy and greens in regulation. This week’s challenge could bring out the best in the Ryder Cup stalwarts and either could get their career back on track and set up a good run at the Masters. Thomas played at PGA National last season and was joint third, four shots behind the winner, Adam Scott, who defends this week.
Sergio Garcia finished one shot off the pace in 2016 and he won the Dubai Desert Classic in Europe earlier this month. So the tournament features players in decent nick who have done well on the course in the past. Garcia is one of the best iron players in the world and his putting held up under pressure in Dubai. He will win a major one day because he is too good not to and the Open at Birkdale in July is his best chance of breaking his major championship duck this season.
Thomas looks tailor made for the US Open but Johnson must have a say as the defending champion. Last season the four major champions were winning a major for the first time and that could happen again this time. Hideki Matsuyama is a major champion in waiting and Augusta in April could be his time. Garcia deserves his Open so that just leaves the PGA Championship and Rickie Fowler is a player to throw into the mix for that one but McDowell and Donald are the players to back this week in the Honda Classic.