Thursday, December 13, 2012
Looking Ahead to Golf in 2013
Golf is traditionally a summer sport, but due to its being played all around the world, it can be played by the top professionals at any rate near enough all year round.
The first of the majors is, as always, the Masters, held in Augusta in early April. It is the only major which remains at the same course every year, and, as a result, nearly everyone scores low. Typically, Americans shine on this course. Due to the short rough, wide fairways, and quick greens, it's the big hitters that do well.
But, of course, it is far too early to start talking about who is going to win each major, and so why not take a review of the year and look forward to how some of the top performers of 2012 will look to the year ahead.
Here are some players to watch in 2013, for better or worse.
Rory McIlroy — How can this kind of list start with anyone but the Northern Irishman? He's had a fantastic 2012, and won his first U.S. PGA championship this summer. That, combined with a stellar performance at the Ryder Cup, and finishing the year by winning the European and American Tour money prizes, makes for good reading.
He's been unlucky at a couple of majors, when he stood a great chance of winning, and I expect in 2013 he's going to overcome those demons and win at least two majors in the next year. Some have tipped him to overhaul Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 majors, and so winning two or even three next year would be a great way to really get his game into top-gear (legend mode).
Tiger Woods — Unfortunately, not many good words to say about the 14-time major winner. He looked to be making a remarkable comeback earlier this year, rising to No. 2 in the rankings, before crumbling in all of the majors from great positions.
His performance at the Ryder Cup this year was abysmal. He didn't win a single rubber, and practically threw the whole match with a lackluster performance against Francesco Molinari in the tie that decided whether Europe won the tie or simply drew and retained the title. On the final hole, Woods missed two puts from within three feet before conceding the match — Molinari wasn't even forced to putt out.
I expect Woods to sink in the rankings once more, as his confidence is all but shot. He does have it in him to win a few smaller tournaments next year, but, crucially, no majors.
Luke Donald — He has been around and about the top of the rankings for a couple of years now and I expect more of the same. He'll dominate much of the tour and win a few big tournaments, but like Tiger, he is unlikely to get within a sniff of a major.
Lee Westwood — Another in the same boat as Donald — near the top, but without the game to really press a claim for the big ones. I feel 2013 is the year Westwood begins to slip away from the top of the pack after a poor Ryder Cup and under-performing at the majors once again. He'll maintain his high ranking for much of the year, but towards the business end of the year, expect that to fall.
Bubba Watson — Here is the lone American with some real potential. Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson are good players, but do they really have that spark they need to keep chasing majors? In my opinion, no. They may well win more, but they do not have the same kind of A-game that Bubba Watson has. When you think he is down and out, he pulls back something each and every time.
In the Ryder Cup, sure he lost an important rubber on the final day, which allowed momentum to swing back towards Europe. But he spent much of the day playing catch-up with Luke Donald, who had had a fantastic start. Bubba could have lost with five holes still to play, but he pushed Donald almost until the end, before finally conceding with only one hole left to play. It is this kind of fighting spirit that gives him just that extra something over his opponents, and fellow Americans.
I think he'll be challenging at all of the big events next year, and he might even sneak another major to go alongside the Masters trophy he won at Augusta earlier this year.
Scott Jamieson — Perhaps an odd pick. He hasn't won anything of note, and he's not been around on the tour for very long, and he's not even that young. However, the 29-year-old Scottish-born player has shot up in the rankings recently, and has won his first big tournament.
He's still outside of the top 100, but make no doubt that he will be in there and flying up the rankings next year. He's a late bloomer in terms of his golf, but he's yet to reach his peak, and that is something to look forward to. Though don't expect any majors quite yet.