It’s impossible to predict the future of first-time PGA Tour winners

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Aside from Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson, it was relatively impossible to predict the future careers of first-time PGA Tour winners. Take, for example, Joaquin Niemann, the 20-year-old Chilean who took a 6-shot win at The Military Tribute at Greenbrier.

Sentiment and his amateur track record tell us that he will likely be a frequent winner as he won Junior World in San Diego, the same tournament that Nick Price, Ernie Els, Jason Day, Woods, and Mickelson won, to name a few . But there really is no surefire way to tell who will and will not be at the forefront of golf.

Last year there were 14 first-time PGA Tour winners. It has changed her life personally, professionally and financially. However, if you look at the list, can you predict who will win the majors? Who could be the next headliner? Who will never win again?

My guess is that you can’t do it.

The 2018-2019 first winners were Kevin Tway, Cameron Champ, Adam Long, Martin Trainer, Keith Mitchell, Corey Conners, CT Pan, Max Homa, Sung Kang, Nate Lashley, Matthew Wolff, Dylan Frittelli, Collin Morikawa and JT Poston. If you don’t have a cheat sheet, or if you are a personal friend of one of the winners, you probably can’t name the tournaments they won.

PGA Tour, Matthew Wolff (Photo by Michael Reaves / Getty Images)

While they may not be household names today, they are important because they are the lifeblood of the PGA Tour. One or two of them can be future multiple winners, future stars, future WGC winners, future major winners, and future Hall of Famers. At the moment we just don’t know.

Looking back a few seasons, there were 10 first-time champions in 2014. The winner of the first event, which this year was Frys.com, was virtually unknown. Then, a few months later, he won twice more, and two years later he won the PGA championship. Who was it? Jimmy Walker. But when he first won, no one would have known what he was capable of.

In a completely opposite scenario, Rory McIlroy was the first time PGA Tour winner in 2010, along with Bill Haas who later won a FedEx Cup, Jason Day who later won the PGA and became a world number 1, and Bubba Watson who would win two Masters.

Other so-called first-time winners this year were no real strangers. They had won in Europe as McIlroy had, and like McIlroy, their first victories came on other tours. That list included Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, and Justin Rose. It was a bumper crop of golf star power this season.

However, the 2013 first-time visitor list is a perfect example of not knowing who will do what in the future. Billy Horschel, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed were among those with first wins. Horschel would win a FedEx Cup. Spieth and Reed would both win majors. But Ken Duke, then 42, was also on the list, whose first and only PGA Tour win that season was at The Travelers.

PGA Tour, Jordan Spieth

PGA Tour, Jordan Spieth (Photo by Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)

Was it more likely that Horschel, Spieth, and Reed would likely win more tournaments? Yes, because they were young enough to be Duke’s sons. But it doesn’t guarantee that Horschel, Spieth, and Reed were meant to be great. The other newcomers this season were Russell Henley, John Merrick, Michael Thompson, Scott Brown, Kevin Streelman, Derek Ernst, Sang-Moon Bae, and Harris English. They all went into 2014 with the same prestige.

Within five years it was clear that Horschel, Spieth and Reed were better players than the rest of the 2014 winners list for the first time. Horschel won the 2014 Tour Championship and thus the FedExCup. Reed won the Masters 2018. Spieth won the Masters and the US Open, the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup in 2015. Two years later he won the British Open. He has not won in the past two years.

So when the PGA Tour kicks off in 2019-2020, watch out for the newbies because you never really know what kind of size golf they will produce in the years to come. With the exception of Woods and Mickelson, and earlier Jack Nicklaus, golf futures are really, really difficult to predict.

2018-19
Kevin Tway, Safeway Open
Cameron Champ, Sanderson Farms Championship
Adam Long, desert classic
Martin Trainer, Puerto Rico Open
Keith Mitchell, The Honda Classic
Corey Conners, Valero Texas Open
CT pan, RBC heritage
Max Homa, Wells Fargo Championship
Sung Kang, AT&T Byron Nelson
Nate Lashley, Rocket Mortgage Classic
Matthew Wolff, 3M Open
Dylan Frittelli, John Deere Classic
Collin Morikawa, Barracuda Championship
JT Poston, Wyndham Championship
2017-18
Ryan Armor, Sanderson Farms Championship
Patrick Cantlay, Shriners Hospitals for Children open
Patton Kizzire, OHL Classic at Mayakoba
Austin Cook, The RSM Classic
Brice Garnett, Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship
Satoshi Kodaira, RBC Heir
Andrew Landry, Valero Texas Open
Aaron Wise, AT&T Byron Nelson
Francesco Molinari, Quicken Loans National
Michael Kim, John Deere Classic
Andrew Putnam, Barracuda Championship
PGA tour, Cody Gribble

PGA Tour, Cody Gribble (Photo by Matt Sullivan / Getty Images)

2016-17
Cody Gribble, Sanderson Farms Championship
Mackenzie Hughes, The RSM Classic
Hudson Swafford, CareerBuilder Challenge
Jon Rahm, Farmers Insurance Open
Adam Hadwin, Valspar Championship
Wesley Bryan, RBC Heir
Kevin Chappell, Valero Texas Open
Cameron Smith, Zurich Classics from New Orleans
Xander Schauffele, The Greenbrier Classic
Xander Schauffele, TOUR championship
Bryson DeChambeau, John Deere Classic
Grayson Murray, Barbasol Championship
Chris Stroud, Barracuda Championship
2015-16
Emiliano Grillo, open Frys.com
Smylie Kaufman, Shriners Hospitals for Children opens
Justin Thomas, CIMB classic
Peter Malnati, Sanderson Farms Championship
Russell Knox, World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Russell Knox, Travelers Championship
Kevin Kisner, the RSM classic
Tony Finau, Puerto Rico Open at Coco Beach
Jim Herman, Shell Houston Open
Danny Willett, Masters tournament
Branden Grace, RBC Heir
Brian Stuard, Zurich classics from New Orleans
William McGirt, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide
Daniel Berger, FedEx St. Jude Classic
Billy Hurley III, Quicken Loans National
Greg Chalmers, Barracuda Championship
Si Woo Kim, Wyndham Championship
2014-15
Ben Martin, Shriners Hospitals for Children open
Robert Streb, The McGladrey Classic
Nick Taylor, Sanderson Farms Championship
Brooks Koepka, Waste Management Phoenix Open
James Hahn, Northern Trust Open
Alex Cejka, Puerto Rico Open
David Lingmerth, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide
Fabian Gomez, FedEx St. Jude Classic
Danny Lee, The Greenbrier Classic
Troy Merritt, Quicken Loans National
Shane Lowry, World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational
2013-2014
Jimmy Walker, Frys.com Open
Jimmy Walker, Sony Open in Hawaii
Jimmy Walker, AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Kevin Stadler, Waste Management Phoenix Open
Chesson Hadley, Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com
Matt Every, Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard
Steven Bowditch, Valero Texas Open
Matt Jones, Shell Houston Open
Seung-Yul Noh, Zurich Classics from New Orleans
Brendon Todd, HP Byron Nelson Championship
Hideki Matsuyama, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance
Brian Harman, John Deere Classic
PGA Tour, Russell Henley

PGA Tour, Russell Henley (Photo by Cliff Hawkins / Getty Images)

2013
Russell Henley, Sony Open in Hawaii
John Merrick, Northern Trust Open
Michael Thompson, The Honda Classic
Scott Brown, Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com
Kevin Streelman, Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank
Billy Horschel, Zurich Classics from New Orleans
Derek Ernst, Wells Fargo Championship
Sang-Moon Bae, HP Byron Nelson Championship
Harris English, FedEx St. Jude Classic
Ken Duke, Travelers Championship
Jordan Spieth, John Deere Classic
Patrick Reed, Wyndham Championship
2012
Kyle Stanley, Waste Management Phoenix Open
John Huh, Mayakoba Golf Classic
Jason Dufner, Zurich Classics from New Orleans
Jason Dufner, HP Byron Nelson Championship
Rickie Fowler, Wells Fargo Championship
Marc Leishman, Travelers Championship
Ted Potter, Jr., The Greenbrier Classic
Jonas Blixt, Frys.com Open
Tommy Gainey, The McGladrey Classic
Charlie Beljan, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic
PGA Tour, Jhonattan Vegas

PGA Tour, Jhonattan Vegas (Photo by Cliff Hawkins / Getty Images)

2011
Jhonattan Vegas, Bob Hope classics
DA points, AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Gary Woodland, transition championship
Charl Schwartzel, championship tournament
Brendan Steele, Valero Texas Open
Keegan Bradley, HP Byron Nelson Championship
Keegan Bradley, PGA Championship
Harrison Frazar, FedEx St. Jude Classic
Freddie Jacobson, Travelers Championship
Chris Kirk, Viking Classic
Scott Stallings, The Greenbrier Classic
Scott Piercy, Reno-Tahoe Open
Webb Simpson, Wyndham Championship
Webb Simpson, Deutsche Bank Championship
Kevin Na, Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals Open to Children
Bryce Molder, Frys.com Open

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2010
Bill Haas, Bob Hope classic
Ian Poulter, World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship
Derek Lamely, Puerto Rico Open presented by Banco Popular
Rory McIlroy, Quail Hollow Championship
Tim Clark, THE PLAYERS Championship
Jason Day, HP Byron Nelson Championship
Justin Rose, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance
Justin Rose, AT&T National
Graeme McDowell, US Open Championship
Bubba Watson, Travelers Championship
Matt Bettencourt, Reno-Tahoe Open
Louis Oosthuizen, The Open Championship
Bill Lunde, Turning Stone Resort Championship
Martin Kaymer, PGA Championship
Arjun Atwal, Wyndham Championship
Robert Garrigus, Children’s Miracle Network Classic


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