Sobel: Finau, Thomas Among the Golfers Who Should Make ‘The Leap’ in 2019


USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tony Finau and Justin Thomas

Jan 02, 2019, 07:25 AM EST
  • Jason Sobel's details the 10 golfers who can make "The Leap" in the 2019 PGA Tour season, ascending to a level they previously haven’t reached.
  • Is this the year Tony Finau breaks through at a major championship?

I’ve been writing this column on “The Leap” for more than a decade now. In fact, before I wrote this iteration, I went back and looked at a handful of ‘em.

Yes, I nailed a bunch of predictions. And yes, I also whiffed on a whole lot of them, too.

What really jumped out at me, though, was how much Internet space I wasted explaining the concept.

I’m going to give you guys a little more credit this time.

This is a prediction piece that details the players who look primed to make a leap into the next echelon this year, ascending to a level they previously haven’t reached.

Got it? I thought you would — and in a few fewer paragraphs than usual. This year is getting off to a good start already. Let’s get to the selections.

Justin Thomas

The Leap: Multiple major champion

OK, I’ll admit it: This particular leap is a little misleading. No, I’m not suggesting JT will pull a Brooks Koepka and win half of this year’s majors. Instead, I’m simply predicting that he will rise from the ranks of the one-timers and become a major champion for the second time.

Thomas won his first at the 2017 PGA Championship; following last year’s PGA, about seven of us who cover the game convened at the hotel bar and discussed which player would win the most majors over the next half-decade.

I think there were six different answers, but mine was Thomas — and I believe he starts that journey this year.

Tony Finau

The Leap: Major champion

Easy call? Maybe, maybe not. Remember: Finau has reached top-10 in the world status with just one PGA Tour win — and an opposite-field event, at that — in his career.

Anyone who has watched, though, understands Finau’s talent. He finished top-15 at the Masters after spraining his ankle the day before the opening round.

On two healthy legs, I think he’s primed to not only break through for that elusive second win, but a major championship is well within reach.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports. Captioned: Patrick Cantlay

Patrick Cantlay

The Leap: Major championship contender

Due to the fact that Cantlay was such a heralded amateur player and has ascended to an elite level so quickly upon recovering from injury and personal tragedy, it feels like this label might be coming too late.

The truth is, though, he’s only competed in a half-dozen majors as a professional, with a best finish of T-12 at last year’s Open Championship.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but Cantlay should start contending on major weekends very soon — and he owns the built-in advantage of having a game that should suit any of the four venues.

Xander Schauffele