Off his season ending win at the Chevron, can Tiger Woods regain tour domination ???
With both the major men’s tours teeing off this week, it’s time to take a look at who are the contenders and who are the pretenders to Luke Donald’s #1 world ranking.
In 2011 we said our final goodbyes to past major winners Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, and Jim Furyk. Els, Goosen, and Furyk all started the year 14th or better. Each starts 2012 50th or worse. Tigers Woods and Phil Mickelson jointly fell out of the top ten for the first time in 14 years.
Enter “The New World Order”, the young turks who are slowly becoming the new faces of the game. The Rory McIlroys, the Dustin Johnsons, the Webb Simpsons. There were four different major winners in 2011 and nobody won on the tour more than twice. With a healthy and confident Tiger Woods lurking 2012 figures to be equally wide open.
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#1 Dustin Johnson: With seven wins in just four years on the tour, the sky is the limit for the big hitter from South Carolina. His wins in four straight seasons is the second longest current streak behind Lefty’s eight. Johnson ranked last in the PGA in putting from 5-10 feet with a 47.1% success rate. Some fine tuning with the flat stick makes Johnson the player to beat in the new year.
#2 Adam Scott: Not sure if it was his switch of putters or snagging former Tiger Woods caddie Steve Williams for his bag, talented Aussie Adam Scott is back. Mired with putting woes for years, Scott was knocking at the door of his first Masters before falling short. Paired with Williams, Scott had a summer and fall, maybe a precursor of things to come.
#3 Martin Kaymer: The young German had a tough time following up his breakthrough 2010 when he won the PGA. Kaymer had a cup of coffee at #1 in February after finishing second at the Match Play Championship. The rest of his season was hit and miss but he finished 2011 on a high note smoking a deep field at the WGC Championship in China in November. He’ll be doing most oh his playing versus lesser fields in Europe and figures to sat close to the top.
#4 Tiger Woods: This Tiger doesn’t strike fear in his opponents like the old Tiger but if he’s 50% of what he was from 1998 to 2009, isn’t that good enough for 2-3 wins a year ??? Winning at the Chevron not only got him off a two-year schneid, it might have given his psyche a much needed punch as he was forced to drill to late puts for the win. Golf needs a healthy and hungry Tiger Woods. We’ll see.
#5 Luke Donald: They say you drive for show and putt for dough. Nobody has a better short game than Luke Donald. The Brit started the year winning the Acura Match Play champonship in February and never looked back. What he lacks in length and power he more than makes up with touch and finesse. Donald is the world’s current rankes #1 and is the defending Play of the Year. Will this be the year he takes down his first major ???
#6 Rory McIlroy: The 22-year-old Irishman made up for his meltdown at Augusta by winning the US Open in dominating fashion a month later. McIlroy finished the year by finishing T4 or better in six of his last seven events so there is no reason to think his rise will stall in 2012. McIlroy is know to enjoy the “good life” but to this point it has not affected his golf.
#7 Charl Schwartzel: stormed onto the scene by winning the Masters, birdying the Final Cuatro holes. The talented South African had the best cumulative score in the four majors proving that he can play all types of courses under pressure. Last year was his first year on the US Tour. He can only be better seeing these courses the second time around.
#8 Matt Kuchar: This could be the year the former Georgia tech product finally breaks through. In 2011 he finished third in the Match Play Championship, was second in the Memorial, second in the Barclays, and finished second in the Fed Ex Cup. Kuchar teamed with Gary Woodland to win the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in November. Now 33, Kuchar’s window is beginning to close.
#9 Webb Simpson: The 26-year old from North Carolina had a monster year in 2011 winning twice and losing in two playoffs. Simpson started the year ranked #208 and climbed into the top ten when the year was said and done. Simpson is the San Francisco 49ers of the PGA. He makes birdies when the opportunity presents itself and he never seems to get hurt by mistakes. He’s as consistent as they come.
#10 Sergio Garcia: Ranked #2 to Tiger Woods at the beginning of 2009, the Spaniard fell all the way to #78 by the beginning of 2011. He’s clawed his way back to the top ten thanks to a couple of European Tour wins but still has the propensit of fading on the weekends. Garcia seems to have rededicated himself to golf and if “Mr Sunday” can ever figure out a way to close, he’ll salvage a career that early on showed so much promise.