Happy New Year!! 2011 promises to be one of the most exciting year’s in recent memory for golf fans! 2010 was certainly not the year of the Tiger. It was the year of the Euro’s. The summer of 59. A year where rules infractions had a major impact. A year for young guns to show us what they have in store for us. A year for a new #1 in the world. A year the Tour gets a new groove. A year where Lefty Master’s Augusta again. A year where Furyk bags 10M bonus! All in all a lot of intriguing stories last year.
The early leader for story of 2011 will be the battle for the #1 ranking in the world. Lee Westwood has dethroned Tiger after another lengthy reign and has has kicked it in high gear since then. In short…Westwood seems ready for the challenge. A hot start to the season could put any number of guys in the hunt for #1 including the long time undisputed top dog…errr…top cat. A hot start by Westwood could also further the gap and make things much more difficult for the challengers.
One major development in the offseason was three of Europe’s top players (Westwood, Kaymer, and McIlroy) have opted not to renew their US Tour cards…leading to speculation of a power play between the Euro and PGA Tours. There is little doubt the balance of power shifted in favor of Euro golfers during 2010 as they grabbed more top spots in the world rankings. Kaymer, Westwood, and McDowell had phenomenal years…arguably the three best or very close to it. McIlroy probably deserved PGA Tour Rookie of the Year but may have been snubbed in favor of Fowler for opting out of the US Tour. Whatever the reason, staying at home more will give greater field strength credibility to some of the Euro tournaments which would generally affect purse sizes and their ability to draw other top talents in the world to play there. These guys will still be playing US based majors and a few other US events so it’s not as if they are gone for good. McDowell still plans on playing the US Tour as a member.
We saw a number of young guns come of age in 2010. There is good reason to think we are starting to see the changing of the guard from long time tour staples to a brand new era. Once you reach the age 40 there are historically only a few prime years left in terms of winning majors. Only somewhere around 10 players in history have ever won a major after the age of 43…and just one time each. The over 40 group this year includes the likes of Mickelson, Els, Harrington, Furyk, and Goosen among others. There is precious little time to improve their mark on history. On the other hand you have guys like McIlroy, Johnson, Day, Kaymer, Ishikawa, Fowler, Kim, Mannassero, and others who are ready to stake their claim. It will be interesting to see which of these young guns are for real (when it counts the most) and which of the old guard has some left in the tank. Whether it happens this year or in the very near future there will be a changing of the guard. All of the vets above have shown they are still viable in 2010 so it would be hard to rule any of them out this year. As for the young guns there were three who had a big impact in majors in 2010. Kaymer who won a major. McIlroy and Johnson each performed admirably in two or more majors. We have also seen young guns come and go over the years after they realize the intense pressure of majors isn’t what they were cut out for.
Let’s see…am I forgetting anything? Oh yah…Tiger! Towards the end of the year Tiger showed a few signs of returning to form. With some extra time to work with his new swing coach I would expect a much more consistent 2011. With one full year of facing the gauntlet of fan and media scrutiny behind him…I think Tiger will find himself more at ease on the course. However, if he can’t regain some of that putting magic…the dominance of old will be hard to achieve. I wouldn’t hesitate to pick Tiger to win at least one major this year…he always seems to step up to the plate when people start doubting him.
I can’t wait for the new season to start! 2011 is going to be a VERY special year I can feel it in my bones. Also, please be on the lookout for a new fantasy golf segment entitled Aces, Eagles, and Birdies! Hopefully we can become a new and valuable resource for helping with your fantasy picks and lineups. Hope to have that first installment for you by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
Thanks for visiting TSHQ!