Of course we can’t predict the future, but it’s fun to see who has come ready to play this year. Based on what happened on the Pro Tours last year, there’s every reason to believe that this season could be one of the most exciting we’ve had in a long time. There are both young and old golfers who have gotten their games together and healed their bodies to be ready for the 2013 season. What makes this year different are the number of proven golfers who could have great years.
There are so many quality high ranked golfers that it’s unlikely a relative no name will win a Major. So many guys want to win ‘the big one’ to make a career statement that it seems inconceivable that they’d let it be snatched away by an unknown.
Who’s hot – quite a few. Certainly Rory has come of age. Some think his new $20 million a year Nike contract may put pressure on him, but not me. Golf is different from baseball, where large contracts can get an entire fan base riled up for the pitiful superstar who doesn’t perform to their expectations. I don’t think Nike is going to plant spectators at the US Open to implore Rory he’d better win or get out of town!
Could this year be the one where more of the ‘old Tiger’ shows up? People like me have been speculating for awhile now that Tiger would be back. I don’t know if this is the year, but I am prepared to say that if it doesn’t happen this year then he’s never going to dominate like he did in his heyday. Tiger has now had plenty of time to work out all the kinks in his game and recover from his injuries and ‘lost’ years. If he doesn’t win at least one Major this year then I think his opportunity to beat Jack’s record is gone.
Look at all the younger guys who have shown sparks of brilliance and now seemed poised to challenge Rory and Tiger at the top. We’re talking guys like Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker, Luke Donald, Justin Rose, Charles Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen. Would anyone be surprised to see them win a Major this year? Of course not.
And how about the guys that are a little older, have come out of slumps or injury and appear ready, guys like Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Jason Dufner, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Matt Kuchar.
Then there’s the group of fading older players or younger players who haven’t quite lived up to expectations, guys like Mickelson, Els, Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk, Paul Lawrie, Hunter Mahan, Bill Haas, Nick Watney, Francesco Molinari, Ricky Fowler and Matteo Manassero. It’s not out of the question that any one of them could find their top form over a four day stretch.
With all the talent that’s out there and ready to go, it’s hard to imagine anyone dominating this year, even someone like Rory or Tiger. Under the circumstances, I think we’ll be looking at the Majors to determine the golfers who had a great year. We can also expect that 2013 will be a turning point for some of these players, signaling the start of something great or the twilight of a great career.
This week at Torey Pines should give us some ideas about who used the off season the best to get ready for this year. There aren’t that many tournaments between now and the Masters and that’s when the intense competition begins. If your game isn’t together by then, you’re starting a marathon by giving everyone else a 10 mile head start. That’s just too much ground to make up.
In many ways, we have to give Tiger credit for this resurgence in the quality and popularity of pro golf. A whole new generation of great players were inspired by Tiger and are beginning to hit their stride. It’s just possible that this year produces some of the greatest Sunday battles in we’ve ever seen. That’s my hope and expectation!