With six wins over the last three years, Jimmy Walker has become one of the better late bloomers on the PGA TOUR. Unfortunately, that hasn’t translated to significant success thus far in 2017. With 11 cuts made in 15 starts, Walker has just one top-ten finish on the books this year. But Walker has shown signs of recovery in his game recently. He tied for 18th at the Masters after an opening round 76, and followed that up with a T13 finish at the Valero Texas Open.
Despite the down year, there’s always a turnaround point, and this week at TPC Potomac could be just that for Walker.
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9. Kevin Streelman
Kevin Streelman, 139th in the World Ranking and 78th in the FedEx Cup points race, won’t be on many people’s radar this weekend at TPC Potomac. But he should be.
To say Streelman’s season has been something of a roller coaster would be too simple. He missed the cut at the Safeway Open, then a month later finished in the top five at Mayakoba. In February and March, he flipped between missed cuts and top-25s at Pebble Beach and Innisbrook. After a missed cut at the Wells Fargo Championship and a dreaded MDF at The PLAYERS, Streelman has been steadily improving with each passing week. A tie for 18th at the Dean & Deluca Invitational led to a 13th place tie at the Memorial. Then, on Sunday, Streelman ran off seven straight birdies, shooting 64 at the Travelers Championship and his second top-ten of the year.
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8. Bill Haas
How’s this for a model of consistency? Bill Haas missed three straight cuts between the RBC Heritage and The PLAYERS Championship. In his other 13 events this year, though, he’s finished in the top-25 a whopping ten times, with three top-tens included. That production has kept him solidly inside the world’s Top 50, and ranked 26th in the FedEx Cup race. When you see results like that, it’s only a matter of time until he pops off a big win, and it feels like Haas is ready for his seventh PGA TOUR title sooner rather than later.
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7. Brendan Steele
Brendan Steele had a dream start to the 2016-17 PGA TOUR season, notching his second career win at the Safeway Open back in October. While he hasn’t gotten the recognition since then that multi-time winners Dustin Johnson or Justin Thomas have, that doesn’t diminish what he’s done in this campaign. Steele has made all 17 of his solo cuts this year. His only miss came at the Zurich Classic, where he and Keegan Bradley were eliminated by a single stroke after 36 holes. It hasn’t always been pretty, but you can’t say it hasn’t been effective overall, as he ranks 13th in the FedEx Cup race.
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6. Tony Finau
In the 20 events Finau already has played this year, he’s made the cut in 15, turned 8 of them into top-25 finishes, and popped a top-ten in four. The last of those, however, came back at the Valero Texas Open in April, two full months ago. It’s that lack of consistency that keeps Finau from being truly great, but when he’s on, he can compete with anybody in the world. He heads to TPC Potomac coming off a solid week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished in a tie for 17th place.
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5. David Lingmerth
Beginning his season without a single top-25 finish in his first ten events, Lingmerth has gone on a run of five in his last seven events dating back to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. A Saturday 65 at the Travelers Championship had Lingmerth ready to make it six, but a one-over round of 73 on Sunday sent him into a nine-way tie for 26th.
Still, all of this is a sign that Lingmerth can sleep happy, knowing full well that he’ll be able to stretch this run for at least another week.
Lingmerth may also be able to pull on some history this week, as he finished third in the 2015 Quicken Loans National. It was a different golf course, sure, but the shorter nature of TPC Potomac should play right into Lingmerth’s strengths.
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4. Marc Leishman
Marc Leishman has been the prototypical road warrior this year on the PGA TOUR. He’s played six events in the last seven weeks, with seemingly few ill effects on his game. The Aussie has put together three top-25 finishes in his last five starts.
That’s about as good a stat as you can find these days. Most players, even those who travel in the lap of luxury, need time away to stay mentally strong, but Leishman has found that imperative balance. He’s currently ranked sixth in adjusted scoring average and 21st in strokes gained: tee-to-green. Balanced life, balanced game. It’s hard to imagine anybody wanting it better than that.
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3. Justin Thomas
What Thomas often lacks in touch off the tee (currently ranked 161st in driving accuracy), he’s more than making up for with his work on the green. Thomas leads the TOUR with a 4.69/round birdie average, and ranks 22nd in proximity to the hole on approach – no surprises there.
Plus, as he said on Twitter, maybe the weekend of rest after a missed Travelers Championship cut will help him recharge his batteries. Look for yet another solid outing from the former University of Alabama star.
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2. Patrick Reed
A perennial contender perhaps just beginning to approach elite, Reed needed to bounce back after a stretch of three straight missed cuts in April, and it looks like he’s done exactly that heading into this week’s Quicken Loans National.
Since missing the cut at the Valero Texas Open, Reed has strung together six top-25 finishes in his last seven starts. Not only did Reed tie for 13th at the U.S. Open, but he’s also coming off a strong week at the Travelers Championship, where he tied for fifth.
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1. Rickie Fowler
Since winning the Honda Classic in February, Rickie Fowler has been playing mostly spectacular golf. He’s made seven cuts in the ensuing nine events, with six top-25 finishes. Three of those have translated into the top-five, including his last start at the U.S. Open. Despite walking away from Erin Hills still in search of his first major, Fowler will remain a top contender nearly every time he tees it up.
Like most of the players in this week’s field, this will be Fowler’s first look at TPC Potomac. However, with the way Fowler’s game has grown over the past several years, that likely won’t hinder him at all. Fowler currently ranks 19th in driving accuracy, 32nd in greens in regulation, and seventh in strokes gained: putting. It’s a perfect combination that has Fowler leading the Tour in adjusted scoring.
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