With the 2022/23 season over, attentions turn to 2024 and who will write their name into the golfing history books.
After Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka won their second and fifth majors respectively, we saw Wyndham Clark and Brian Harman upset the odds to win their first.
In 22 of the last 23 years, at least one major winner has been a first-timer and, as we did last year, we’re looking at five players looking to break through in 2024.
Last year’s picks and best major finish:
Patrick Cantlay – T9
Xander Schauffele – T10
Will Zalatoris – DNP
Viktor Hovland – T2
Sam Burns – T29
Last year’s picks included Patrick Cantlay, who finally started to show some reasonable major form, with two T14s and a top-10 at the PGA Championship, though he’s yet to find himself in contention. Xander Schauffele’s excellent major form continued, extending his run of top-20s from three to seven, adding two more top-10s to his tally.
Will Zalatoris regrettably suffered a season-ending injury, keeping him out of the majors and it’ll be interesting to see how a fit-again Zalatoris fares next season.
Despite his improving form, Sam Burns had a disappointing year in the big four, failing to crack the top-25 in any and missing two cuts, though Viktor Hovland continued to bang on the door, which brings us to our first player to watch in 2024…
Majors aren’t handed out; you have to earn them. But it does feel like a matter of when and not if for Hovland. The Norwegian was first, fourth and third through the first three rounds at Augusta before a disappointing Sunday saw him finish T7. But with an improving short game – invaluable at Augusta – it’s one of four real chances for the 26-year-old to break his duck.
Hovland followed up his impressive Augusta showing with a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, where he led after the second round and was one back going into Sunday, but being behind Brooks Koepka on Sunday at a major is never a good position to be in, and Hovland finished T2.
Hovland had two more top-20s in the US Open and The Open, and the back end of the season saw Hovland surpassing the big two in Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler with two FedEx Cup play-off wins. He’ll be well backed in all four majors in 2024.
Viktor Hovland to win a major - 7/4
What is there to say about Ludvig Aberg that hasn’t already been said? He’s yet to even appear in a major and people are talking about how many he’ll win.
A stellar showing on his Ryder Cup debut was sandwiched between seven consecutive finishes of 14th or better, winning his first PGA TOUR event in just his 11th start.
Aberg was ranked outside the top 3,000 in the world at the end of 2022 and is now ranked 32nd after breaking his duck.
The Swede hits the ball a mile – and straight – and the sky looks to be the limit for the 24-year-old.
Ludvig Aberg to win a major - 4/1
The longer the draught goes on for Xander Schauffele, the harder it may be to end.
There is no doubting Schauffele’s talent; there’s no glaring weakness in his game. His biggest deficiency is perhaps that he doesn’t rivals the longest hitters in the game (ranking 68th in driving distance – above average for the PGA TOUR – in 2022/23), but has the iron play and putting to rival anyone, and it’s that which keeps him contending for majors.
His distance and touch around the greens – two key attributes to compete at Augusta – are what would likely stop him winning a Green Jacket, but Schauffele’s last five finishes at the Masters have been T2-T17-T2-MC-T10 so he can certainly contend.
The PGA Championship tends to suit longer hitters and has represented Schauffele’s worst major over the last three years. His US Open record is as good as anyone in the game, with his career finishes reading T5-T6-T3-5-T7-T14-T10, and if there’s any major he’s going to win, that seems the most likely.
Xander Schauffele to win a major - 13/2
Over the last 24 months, nobody other than Scottie Scheffler has a better strokes gained figure than Patrick Cantlay, and unlike his good friend Xander Schauffele, there is zero weakness to Cantlay’s game.
Though not a bomber, he’s one of the longer hitters on the PGA TOUR with a stellar iron game and a good putter. Cantlay’s only weakness was that his world class game seemed to desert him four times a year.
Across his first 16 major starts, Cantlay cracked the top 10 twice and the top 20 two more times. Over the last six majors, however, things have started to come together a bit more.
His last six major finishes read T14-T8-T14-T9-T14-T33. His game is well suited to all four majors and there’s no reason the 2021 PGA TOUR Player of the Year can’t contend all four times in 2024.
It may still be a little soon for Cameron Young. The 26-year-old has only competed in 10 majors, but his record in those 10 is hugely impressive.
One of the game’s longest hitters, Young can be let down by a wayward driver, but when he does find fairways it’s rare not to see him in the top 10 of tournaments.
It may go some way to explaining those 10 majors finishes – MC-MC-MC-T3-MC-2-T7-MC-T32-T8 with the only major not to see Young in the top 10 being the US Open, where accuracy off the tee is at a premium.