ACE VENTURER has put his first tips for the new season and here's a reminder about his six to follow for 2016.
These are not necessarily players to win Majors but over the season to give a good return for my money. See if you agree.
My first pick is 21-year-old Matthew Fitzpatrick who has already won on the European Tour. His driving accuracy over the season was 72.2% (10th in the stats list) and 76.4% (7th) in GIR. His putting (30.5 ppr) seems to be his weak point and if he can improve that he’ll be hard to beat. Well worth keeping an eye on him when he is playing a tight fairway course. A lot of people were tipping him towards the end of last season (me included) and I think he will go from strength to strength in 2016.
Expect American Peter Uihlein to follow in the footsteps of his pal Brooks Koepka and progress to the PGA Tour at the end of 2016. The 26-year-old has the game to get his second win on the European Tour. His first win was at the Madeira Open in 2013 and big things were expected of him then. Unfortunately it hasn’t really happened but he is such a good player it is going to happen. His driving accuracy probably let him down a bit last year but with GIR of 71.9% and putts per round of 29.6 there’s not a lot of improvement needed for that second win.
Twenty-eight year old Englishman Andy Sullivan crept under the radar a few times last year especially early on when he won twice in South Africa. He also won later on at the Portugal Masters and just failed at the World Tour Championship losing out to Rory McIlroy. Already this season he has aT16 in the Nedbank and could be one to follow over the year. Last season his stats were good, DA of 66.5%, GIR of 73.1% and average putts of 29.7. If he can keep that going he will be on the leaderboard more often than not.
Over in the States Justin Thomas was bigged up over the last couple of years, not least by Phil Mickelson who said he was one to look out for. Unfortunately the 22-year-old American just couldn’t make that breakthrough although had seven top-10 finishes last year. This season however he has started with a bang. At the first tournament in November he finished T3 and did even better at the CIMB in Malaysia by beating Adam Scott to win by one stroke. His driving accuracy last season was 58.24%, which was probably his weakest stat, but GIR 68.92% and putting average 1.736 (14th) are certainly good enough to get him in contention in tournaments.
Argentinian Emiliano Grillo gave me a 50-1 winner in the Frys,com at the first tournament of this season’s PGA Tour and I am looking for more good returns this year. When he won the Frys he became the first player to win on his first start on the PGA Tour since Russell Henley in 2013. His stats all look very steady DA (67.14%), GIR (71.67%) and putting average (1.75). The way he held his nerve in the play-off in the Frys really impressed me, especially after missing an easy putt on the 72nd hole, which would have won him the tournament. Like the look of the 23-year-old and shall be keeping my eye on him this year.
Patrick Reed came on to a good game at the end of last season. He has had six top-10s from last seven outings and has not been over 70 in his last 27 rounds. Certainly impressive stuff. What is even more impressive is his stats for fairways hit is only in the mid -50s and greens hit in mid-60s but he was 2nd in scrambling and 13th for putts per round. He’s a gutsy player and has won at least once on the PGA Tour in the last three years and with this being a Ryder Cup year expect him to push himself to get on his second US team.
I know it’s supposed to be six of the best but I have to mention Brooks Koepka. Those of you who regularly read this blog know I like this guy. He has all the attributes to compete against the top three and I think he could win a Major this season. The Open is my favourite as he plays well on links courses. I put a small wager on him for top 10 in all the Majors. That's maybe a bit optimistic – top 10 might be a better bet – but well worth a shot.
Also hearing good things about 22-year-old Englishman Callum Shinkwin. He won his European Tour card last year and it only took him two years on the Challenge Tour to get it. He hits the ball long and is good around the greens. Could be one to keep an eye on, especially in the lesser tournaments.
Happy Xmas and have a good New Year.