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Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Updated: December 23, 2:36 AM ET
Will Rory McIlroy be supplanted in '13?

ESPN.com

The world rankings define much in the world of golf, from the best in the world to who gets into majors as well as World Golf Championship events.

So what can golf fans expect in the coming year as it pertains to the OWGR? Our panel of experts share their predictions for the coming year.


1. Which top 10 player not named Rory McIlroy has the best shot at overtaking the Northern Irishman in 2013?

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Two men have a legitimate shot. Of course Tiger, but then wait until I say I told ya so ... Louis Oosthuizen gets his name on the list of players who've attained that No. 1 ranking. With 2011 his first year as a member of the PGA Tour, don't expect him to go winless in 2013.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods. The 14-time major champion was the second-best player in the world in 2012. Tiger and McIlroy are good for each other and the game. And in 2013, we should see a great rivalry.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods. It doesn't seem possible that anyone can overtake McIlroy in 2013, but Woods still remains the best chance if such a thing were to occur. Only McIlroy earned more world ranking points in 2012 than Tiger. If Woods could win multiple majors, it becomes more likely, but realistically, McIlroy is going to need to have a mediocre season for someone to pass him.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Just by sheer numbers, the only two players who realistically have a shot are No. 2 Luke Donald and No. 3 Tiger Woods since both are within shouting distance of McIlroy points-wise. It would take a monumental season -- including at least two major wins, I suspect -- for anyone outside Donald and Woods to overtake the Northern Irishman. Considering the fact that Woods plays majors better, in general, than Donald, I'll put my money on Tiger.


2. Which player outside the top 50 in the world rankings do you think might crack the top 10?

Michael Collins: Bud Cauley. He's got the game and the attitude to get inside that top 50 and stay. I expect him to get his first win in 2013. No sophomore slump for this up-and-comer.

Farrell Evans: At 59th in the world, it would be a tall feat for 3-time major champion Padraig Harrington to get inside the top 10, but in 2012 he showed signs of resurgence with a T-8 in the Masters and T-4 in the U.S. Open. In 2008, Harrington reached a career-best No. 3 in the world after winning the Open Championship and the PGA Championship.

Bob Harig: Geoff Ogilvy. The 2006 U.S. Open champ has been on a poor run of form over the past two years and yet he still managed to hang around the top 50. It's hard to believe the Aussie had just a single top-10 in 2012 and is fighting to get into the Masters.

Kevin Maguire: Ryo Ishikawa. The Japanese star will be playing full time on the PGA Tour in 2013, allowing him to earn valuable world rankings points which should precipitate a quick rise. He's still only 21 years old but will have the experience of a seasoned veteran who has played all over the globe once he settles down in the U.S. for a full season.


3. Which player outside the top 100 has the best shot to qualify for the WGC-Match Play?

Michael Collins: Casey Wittenberg. He's a different everything this time coming on to the PGA Tour. And everything about him is better. His all-around game is improved, yes, but more importantly, it's about the man he has become. Wittenberg learned a very hard lesson the first time he came out on tour, but it's one he took to heart. Expect him to not just get into a WGC event this year, but plan on seeing him at many in years to come.

Farrell Evans: Harris English. The 23-year-old Georgian had a much better 2012 season than his 79th finish on the money list. Most notably, he was in contention at the Honda Classic in March until the wheels came off with a 77 on Sunday. English is one of the most talented young American players. He just needs to become more consistent, especially on the weekends.

Bob Harig: Robert Karlsson. The Swede battled a form of the swing yips last summer -- it caused him to withdraw from the Open Championship -- but rebounded to earn his PGA Tour card at Q-school. A good run at the beginning of the year -- he was in the top 30 a year ago -- could get him back to the Match Play, where he made the quarterfinals in 2012.

Kevin Maguire: Luke Guthrie. One of the most consistent golfers in the world the second half of 2012, Guthrie earned seven top-10 finishes -- including two wins -- in 10 starts on the Web.com Tour. Toss in all those world ranking points available now that he's graduated to the PGA Tour for 2013 and he's in prime position to jump into the top 64 and qualify for the WGC-Match Play.


4. Fact or fiction: There will be six Americans inside the Top 10 in the same week at some point during the 2013 season.

Michael Collins: Fiction. The European Tour has become much too strong. Having nine of the top 20 is difficult to maintain for the U.S. against a world that has slowly but surely caught us in ability and maybe, just maybe, pulled a nose in front of us. All that and don't forget we have a couple guys (some of our best "hopes") that might be working with different putters this year, too.

Farrell Evans: Fact. The PGA Tour is full of great young American players. Drop 75 American names in a hat and you could pull out 40 who could win on any given week.

Bob Harig: Fact. There are nine Americans in the top 20 and 15 in the top 30 right now, and aside from No. 1 McIlroy, there is the opportunity for plenty of volatility. While that can work both ways, you can easily see a scenario where Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Nick Watney and Hunter Mahan could be part of a group of six that push their way into the top 10.

Kevin Maguire: Fiction. Is it possible? Sure, but the odds are against it. The amount of great golf being played globally is simply too vast to have any one country -- even the United States -- rule the top of the world rankings in such fashion. Consider that 15 different countries are represented in the top 50 in the world and it's no surprise that the U.S. leads, but it's not the dominant force it once was.