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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ten to Watch in 2014

Predicting the future, as Winston Churchill once noted, is best done in hindsight. (The exact quote, if you're interested, is "I always avoid prophesying beforehand, because it is a much better policy to prophesy after the event has already taken place.")

However, I'm a glutton for punishment. As 2013 draws to a close, I started thinking about which golfers -- male, in this case -- might come roaring out of the blocks in 2014. (I mentioned the women I expect to play best near the end of this LPGA year-end post. However, I would be willing to add So Yeon Ryu to that list of 7.) Here, in no particular order, are my "10 to Watch."
  1. Tiger Woods: No surprise here, eh? I still don't believe most people understand the difficulty of the change Tiger has been making to his swing. Unless he gets injured, he's only going to get better. I won't be surprised if he breaks his major drought this year. (My guess? The PGA.)
  2. Phil Mickelson: While Phil hasn't played particularly well since the Open Championship, we all know past form isn't any indication of future performance with Phil. Since he's only a US Open short of the Career Slam and has a stated goal of making the US Olympic golf team, I think he'll be focused enough to turn in some good performances early on.
  3. Henrik Stenson: Henrik has had an amazing last few months, made even more amazing by the fact that his wrist has been sore. I'll be surprised if his good form doesn't continue for a least a few more months.
  4. Adam Scott: The same goes for Adam. I suspect he's going to need some time to recover from the emotional drain of his victory tour through Australia, but I expect him to be playing very well by March. I'm thinking he may defend his Masters title.
  5. Matt Kuchar: Kuch has been in good form for two years or so now... and only seems to be getting better. Even though he's been extremely good so far, I think 2014 could be a breakout year for him. I'll go out on a limb and predict a major. (It probably goes against all logic but my gut feeling is the Open Championship.)
  6. Sergio Garcia: Despite his lack of PGA Tour wins, Sergio has been playing pretty well for the past year or so. He's a driving and putting machine now. If his new girlfriend is doing as much for his attitude as I suspect she is, the other players should take him as a serious threat in 2014.
  7. Rory McIlroy: It's simple -- Rors finally seems to have gotten his swing straightened out and eliminated many of the distractions that have plagued him this year. I look for him to make another run at #1 on the OWGR.
  8. Jordan Spieth: If anybody can shake the sophomore jinx, it's Jordan. The way he kept focus after his win at the John Deere makes me think he'll play well. I don't expect a huge year from him but I look for him to continue getting into contention and possibly winning again.
  9. Graham DeLaet: Although he didn't play particularly well at the majors, the Canadian has played very well since June. I think he'll get his first Tour win in 2014.
  10. Kiradech Aphibarnrat: The Rat is #59 on the OWGR this week after getting his first win this year. I like the way he's handled his improved pairings and I won't be surprised if he qualifies for some of the 2014 majors. In fact, I expect him to make the PGA Tour by 2015.
Of course, this list doesn't mean I think everybody else will stink. However, I think Justin Rose and Jason Dufner (two of my most notable exclusions) will take a while to recover from their major celebrations, and many of the other big names simply aren't showing much form right now.

And, of course, if I'm wrong I'll claim somebody hacked my blog and wrote this post without my knowledge.

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