Who says February is too soon for golf? Psssshhhhh....
The Tour is finally stuck stateside for the future and everyone is shaking off the rust from the Winter. Tiger Woods is making his first US debut this week at the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach where he won the US Open and surprise, surprise, he is playing well on the beach. Let's breakdown the 2012 PGA Tour season and predictions:
Tiger will win this season. He played well in Dubai earlier and looks comfortable in his swing. Will he win (An actual tournament - his Chevron title doesn't count) this season?His swing looks impressive of late and he finally looks comfortable on the course again. When he broke away from Hank Haney the golf world was shocked. And after his disastrous early run under the direction of swing coach Sean Foley, it looked like he was going to break away. But after a good run at the '11 Masters and then his late season run on the PGA, Tiger looks good. He will win this season on the Tour. That WILL happen. The moe important question will be if he wins a MAJOR. He will probably win the Masters this season. He LOVES that tournament and the layout fits his game/eye. As long as he keeps this mental game sharp and sticks to his practice regimen, Tiger Woods will return to normalcy this season.
Dustin Johnson will win a Major this season. The long hitting young gun was in contention at every single major tournament in 2011 and collapsed at The Masters, PGA Championship and British. He has the game to win a major - little surprising to see him play well at the British, only because those courses require expert shot making and DJ's game aint for shot making - but he has to keep his mind right to make it happen. Golf is 90 percent mental. Spencer Levin and Kyle Stanley can speak to that... Where DJ wins it? Who knows but he will win a major this season.
Rory McIlroy will win a major in 2012. What a win for him last season at the US Open. He obliterated the course and left everyone in his wake. It was Tiger-like with his performance when he won his first major. He will no doubt be in contention at all the majors this season. It's just a matter of finding and peaking at the right time with his game. He covets the Claret Jug and would like to keep the Northern Irish streak alive at the British Open. And pay attention to him at the Masters this season - he will be out for blood to right his meltdown last season.
Luke Donald will not finish 2012 at the #1 player in the world. No one except Donald and his wife saw the short hitting Englishman taking the top spot in the world last season (still hard to believe he did) but his game was good enough to put himself up there. And lets get this out of the way: he is a great player. Consistent in his driving and ball striking and an excellent putter. All the things that you need to be a great golfer. But Luke Donald has zero wow factor. He dresses fancy but he is nothing like Ian Poulter or Rickie Fowler. He is the least likely to be the top golfer BUT he did it and did it well. That being said, he will not finish on top again.
Here is the link to the OWGR site - http://www.officialworldgolfranking.com/rankings/default.sps
McIlroy is right on his tail (see above) and Lee Westwood is right behind him. The highest ranked American is Steve Stricker and he could make a run. But he would need to have an impressive 2012 (which he could and likely will) and would need all the others to collapse (not likely).
The belly putter rage will not die down. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a normal putter. Mine is short like 95 percent of the rest of the golfers. But I see nothing wrong with the belly putter. The older guys like it and they use it constantly and really, whats the difference between that and the long putter? They both touch your body and both make the player stand more upright. So what? Try putting with a belly putter or a long putter - it's not easy. It's harder, I think. It's another fad in the game and the rage over whether it's illegal or gives them an unfair advantage will only increase. It's the hot buttong issue and as long as guys continue to win with it, it's only going to get louder.
American golf will make a comeback. Whether it's from Tiger winning again, everyone jumping on the Rickie Fowler fad or getting behind Dustin Johnson; American golf will return to prominence. The players are too good and the Tour is too good for American players to not become more dominant in 2012. Kyle Stanley, Brant Snedecker and Mark Wilson have already won this season and Johnson Wagner won in Hawaii to kick things off. Looking at the number, that's four wins by four Americans. Things are looking good. The Ryder Cup comes to Medinah in Illinois this year and the PGA Champion is a guy from Boston. Whats' not to love?
It should be a great season on the PGA Tour and on your local muni or the Golden Tee at your bar. Big things are coming to Kansas in the golf world. Stay tuned for those. But in the meantime, keep swinging.