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Anytime someone makes any professional golf prediction, he steps out on a limb. So why not go big with some over-the-top prognostications for the coming year?
1. Tiger Woods wins a major. No, this isn't just because he's Tiger Woods. Or because he's No. 1 in the world. Or because he won more times worldwide than any other male golfer in 2013. Tiger breaking his streak of no major victories since the 2008 U.S. Open is more about the venues that are hosting 2014's Grand Slam tournaments than anything else.
|Tiger Woods hasn't kissed a major championship trophy since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Don't be shocked if major win No. 15 (or 16) comes in 2014.|
Those courses are: Augusta National (check the closet for his four green jackets); the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 (no major wins there, but he has a second-place finish and a T-3 in two starts); the Open Championship at Hoylake/Royal Liverpool (it's hosted one major in nearly 50 years, and guess who won it there in 2006?); the PGA Championship at Valhalla (remember that playoff against Bob May in 2000 with Tiger pointing and chasing that putt into the cup?)
2. U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson pushes all the right buttons. The result will be the first American victory on foreign soil since 1993. Watson was also the captain of that U.S. squad that edged the Europeans, 15-13, at the Belfry.
What will be interesting to see is how much time Watson spends getting to know some of the younger players on tour who will try to earn their way on to the team. Also worthy of note is how he will handle the relationship with Woods, as Watson spoke out quite strongly against the world No. 1 after his off-the-course scandal in 2009.
3. A Japanese native wins on the PGA Tour. It will be either Hideki Matsuyama or Ryo Ishikawa. Of the Japanese compatriots, Ishikawa is practically a veteran at the ripe old age of 22, but he's never won stateside. In 17 starts, his best majors finish is T-20 at the 2011 Masters.
All Matsuyama has done is play in five majors by age 21 and make the cut in all five, with the highlight being a T-6 in July's Open Championship at Muirfield. Both have the game to stick on the PGA Tour, and one -- if not both -- will break through with a career-defining victory in 2014.
4. Peter Uihlein makes the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Granted, since he's playing most of his golf on the other side of the pond, he might be more recognized by Team Europe. Uihlein's biggest challenge will be earning enough points that qualify in the U.S. selection process. That, or he'll have to play so well in 2014 that captain Watson simply can't leave him off the squad. Remember, Uihlein is a past U.S. Amateur champion, so he knows a bit about this match-play thing.
|Peter Uihlein might not own a PGA Tour win, but he knows his way around the winner's circle on the European Tour.|
5. Lydia Ko earns LPGA Tour player of the year honors. The 16-year-old rookie can go for a three-peat at the Canadian Women's Open, and who's to say she won't win one or more majors in 2014? A second-place finish at 2013's final major proved she can hang in there even during the most stressful of tournaments. The main question ahead is, can she keep the mentality of "it's not about the money" when it is about the money?
6. Adam Scott repeats at the Masters. The Aussie's confidence has been soaring since he slipped on that green jacket in April. With the knowledge of how to navigate those tricky Augusta National greens, Scott will be poised to become the first back-to-back winner at the Masters since Tiger in 2001-02. Scott's performance in November during a victory tour through his homeland solidified his hold on the world No. 2 spot after a couple of wins, a second and a third.
7. Ian Poulter dominates at the Ryder Cup. OK, this isn't so much a bold prediction as it's about Poulter being bold. The man who is his generation's Colin Montgomerie in the biennial event knows how to raise his game when it's for country (or continent, in Poulter's case). He might not own a major title, but Poults' legacy as a master of match play will continue in September at Gleneagles.
8. Keegan Bradley gets major victory No. 2. Coming off a "down" year when he didn't have a victory (but still posted seven top-10 finishes and earned north of $3.6 million), Bradley owns that "it" factor when it comes to the big moments. We saw it in the Ryder Cup at Medinah. We saw it in his playoff victory at the PGA Championship. We'll see it in 2014, too.
9. Jordan Spieth -- multiple PGA Tour winner in 2014. He'll celebrate his 21st birthday in July, but expect Spieth to also register his second and third career PGA Tour victories before the year is out. The Texan knows how to think long term -- see his decision to skip the WGC-Bridgestone last year -- and that will serve him well in his second of what should be many seasons as a pro.