2019-20 PGA Tour season in review: Jon Rahm edges past Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas for best player honor

The 2019-20 PGA Tour season is over, which means it’s time to look back on a few of the best moments and players of the season. It was a year fraught with the bizarre and the extraordinary. There were more months without a golf tournament (2) than there were major championships (1) because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nothing was normal about the 2019-20 PGA Tour season, even if the eventual FedEx Cup champion was one of the best winners of this generation.

Let’s look back at a few of the highs and lows of this past season, and reflect on the craziest and best)things that happened throughout the year.

Best Player

This one is difficult, even though it seems like it should be easy. Dustin Johnson will likely be the PGA Tour Player of the Year, but has he truly been the best player? To me, it’s between him, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas, so let’s go to a little 2019-20 comparison of those three.

Wins

3

3

2

Top 10s

7 (of 14)

10 (of 18)

8 (of 15)

Money

$5.8 million

$7.3 million

$6 million

Majors

T2

T37

T13

Strokes gained

9th

2nd

1st

D.J.’s dominance has been undeniable, but remember, he didn’t actually win the Tour Championship if you take the pre-tournament strokes out of the equation. Xander Schauffele did. So we’re left with wins at TPC Boston and TPC River Highlands. Thomas won at the CJ Cup, Tournament of Champions and the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind. Rahm won maybe the two toughest setups of the year: the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village and the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields. Both of those were nice facsimiles for major championships. I can argue (and have argued) for any of these players, but as of today, my official pick is in. Verdict: Jon Rahm

Most Improved Player

This one is just as difficult as the first one. There are so many different candidates. Consider all of these players who jumped at least 100 spots in the Official World Golf Rankings from the start of this year to now.

Brendan Steele

No. 404

No. 96

Jim Herman

No. 311

No. 93

Mackenzie Hughes

No. 264

No. 57

Harris English

No. 183

No. 45

Doc Redman No. 156 No. 97

Daniel Berger

No. 154

No. 13

This does not even take into account Brendon Todd, who was outside the top 500 to start the season last fall, but after winning twice is now inside the top 40. Ultimately, I have to go with Berger here because of how difficult it is to get into that top 15 in the world no matter where you start the year. He was arguably one of the three best players from basically the Phoenix Open on, and had eight top-15 finishes in a row to prove it. I don’t blame anybody for taking Todd, Hughes or English, but I’ll stick with Berger. Verdict: Daniel Berger

Best Rookie

This is a two-horse race between Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler, and it’s just as difficult as both of the first two. Let’s again go to the numbers.

Wins

1

0

Top 10s

3 (of 20)

7 (of 23)

Money

$2 million

$2.8 million

Majors

T33

T4

Strokes gained

23rd

15th

It’s probably Scheffler, unless you value wins over everything else (I don’t for stuff like this). Hovland was tremendous after the PGA Tour restarted in early June, but Scheffler closed with an amazing five weeks in which he finished top five in three events (including a major) and shot a 59 at TPC Boston. Verdict: Scottie Scheffler

Best Tournament

I’m always going to lean toward the major championships, and we got a gem this time around at TPC Harding Park with the PGA Championship. Look at the names in the final top 10. Collin Morikawa won, but it also included Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau, Matthew Wolff, Scottie Scheffler, Paul Casey, Justin Rose and Xander Schauffele. The entire thing was entertaining throughout, too. We got Brooks Koepka hollering at D.J., Bryson snapping his driver and Morikawa’s shot of the year (see below). The only major of the 2019-20 season was an amazing one. Verdict: PGA Championship

Best Finish

There are three, and Justin Thomas was involved in two of them. J.T. won the Tournament of Champions in a playoff over Patrick Reed and Xander Schauffele, and the entire thing was an absolute ride. Then Thomas lost a playoff at the Workday Charity Open after hitting a 50-foot putt when Morikawa covered him up with a 25-foot putt and then beat him later on in the playoff. But the real best finish came at the BMW Championship a few weeks ago when two of our contenders for player of the year hit dueling bombs on the 18th green at Olympia Fields. Johnson hit a 43-footer to send it to a playoff in regulation, and Rahm hit a 66-footer in the playoff to take him down. It still feels surreal. Verdict: BMW Championship

Funniest Moment

Tyrrell Hatton giving the bird as well as mimicking a shotgun blast at a body of water at the Arnold Palmer Invitational after hitting it in that body of water is very difficult to beat. He also went on to win the event, which made this moment even better. Mackenzie Hughes doing this dance in front of Sungjae Im at the Honda Classic was pretty great, too. Verdict: Tyrrell Hatton at the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Most Forgotten Win

Remember when Tiger Woods won his 82nd PGA Tour event 10 years ago? Oh wait, that was this season. Tiger downed Hideki Matsuyama by three and we got this all-time quote from Gary Woodland, who played with Woods for the last 36 holes.

“The ball-striking exhibition I’ve seen the last two days is a joke,” said Woodland. “So I don’t see him stopping anytime soon. Eighty-two’s pretty special. I think there’s a lot more in store.” Verdict: Tiger Woods at the ZoZo Championship

Most Memorable Shot

It has to be Collin Morikawa’s drive to 7 feet for eagle on the 16th hole in the final round of the 2020 PGA Championship. An unfathomable shot in a massive moment to win your first major, and he absolutely flushed it. This year was an awakening to a lot of people (myself included!) about just how good both Morikawa and his swing actually are. He’s currently ranked No. 5 in the world, and he’ll probably be competitive at Winged Foot next week with the way he’s striking it. It would probably feel pretty good to win two majors before playing your first Masters. Verdict: Morikawa at the PGA Championship


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