Five predictions for the 2013 golf season
Trying to predict outcomes in sports is usually a foolhardy exercise. As easy as Nate Silver made predictions look earlier this year, it really isn’t that simple. With that said, I’m going to lay out five things that I expect will happen in the world of golf in 2013. Feel free to look back at this in 12 months time and laugh at me for how off-base I was. Here we go.
Tiger Woods will win at least one major championship
People have been predicting this since Woods made his return to golf from injury and scandal a few years ago, but it hasn’t come to fruition. So, why is 2013 any different? Everything started to come together for Woods last year, and despite the absence of a major victory, he did pick up three wins on the PGA Tour at big tour events. As I mentioned last week, Woods felt that last year was the first season where he felt healthy and comfortable with the swing changes implemented by Sean Foley. So, which one does he win? The Masters is the most likely bet with his freakishly good track record at Augusta (four wins and eight other top-10’s) but I can definitely see him winning the Open Championship as well. Ernie Els won the last Open held at Muirfield in 2002, but Woods was in a position to challenge before a third round 81 derailed his chances. That 81 is still his worst ever professional round. I think Woods gets it done in 2013, and gets at least one step closer to Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 career major victories.
Jim Furyk’s disastrous end to 2012 will continue into 2013
Jim Furyk’s reputation as a closer was always overblown, but 2012 was a nightmare for Furyk, as he blew four 54-hole leads, and was a big part of the American collapse at the Ryder Cup. He’s 42 years old, and will be 43 in May. The first thing that typically leaves a golfer when they get older is their nerves, and considering those nerves appeared to be missing last year, one has to think that they will just keep getting worse. The number one sign that someone is uncomfortable on the course is when they start deviating from routine. When Furyk was taking extra time to hit his shots and standing over his putts for an eternity at the Ryder Cup, it was just another reminder that it was all slipping away from him. Now, it wasn’t all bad for Furyk last year, as he did earn over $3.6 million in 2012, but it should have been so much more. Expect that number to be cut down significantly in 2013.
The anchored putter debate is far from over
I’m not sure how this will play out, but we haven’t heard the last about the banning of anchored putters. Whether it’s players like Keegan Bradley following through with potential lawsuits, or the PGA and European Tours ignoring the decision by the USGA and R&A, there’s much more to be discussed on this front. Since the ban isn’t supposed to take effect until 2016, it’s going to be interesting to see how players like Bradley and Ernie Els react. Will they switch now, or will they try and make as much money as possible until they are forced to change?
Bud Cauley becomes the next young American golf star
This one is hardly a bold proclamation, seeing as how Cauley has been on the radar of golf fans for quite a while now, but he’s still a relative unknown. The 22-year old finished 44th on the PGA Tour money list in 2012, with seven top-15 finishes. He got better as the year went on as well, and was mentioned by some as having an outside shot at making the American Ryder Cup team. Rickie Fowler broke through in 2012, and you can expect Cauley to do the same in 2013.
Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Adam Scott and Justin Rose: One of these men will break their major drought
The five men listed above have a combined zero majors, but that will change in 2013. Both Donald and Garcia have held the “best player in the world without a major” title in the past, and you could argue that Scott has as well. You can make a case for each man, and that’s what I’ll try to do here:
- Donald: The most consistent player in the world, and has the best short game of anyone around not named McIlroy. His best shot might come at the U.S. Open, which is being held at Merion in 2013. The course hasn’t hosted a major since 1981, and will be playing way shorter than most courses on the schedule, which will place a premium on accuracy, the area where Donald excels most.
- Garcia: We’ve been waiting for this one, haven’t we? Garcia’s been projected to win a major for over a decade now, but things started to come together again for him at the end of last season. He won the Wyndham in August, and was in position to win the Barclays the next week. He followed that up with a good performance at the Ryder Cup, and he won in Malaysia a couple of weeks ago. His recent eye surgery and new TaylorMade equipment certainly won’t hurt things either.
- Poulter: People may have become familiar with Poulter from his legendary performance at the Ryder Cup, but he hasn’t been outside of the top-30 in the World Golf Ranking since April of 2009. He will always be a better match play player than a regular tournament player because that’s just the way he’s wired, but he is too good to go without a major. One of the world’s best putters.
- Scott: 64-67-68-75. Those are the scores for Scott at the 2012 Open Championship, and his four-shot lead going into the final round looked insurmountable, but for some reason, Scott never looked comfortable. Outside of his second place finish in the Open, he had three other top-15’s in the majors. If Poulter is too good to go without a major, Scott is WAY too good. Don’t discount the Stevie Williams factor either, as the caddie is the best in the business.
- Rose: The 2012 season was the coming out party for Justin Rose. One win (WGC-Cadillac) and twelve top-10’s worldwide, plus a fantastic performance at the Ryder Cup, culminating in his comeback victory against Phil Mickelson in the Sunday singles. That undefinable “it” factor? Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Zach Johnson and others have had it, and so does Justin Rose.
Those are my five predictions for the upcoming season. If you have any, post them in the comments.