Wealth of golfers poised for rebound

And which 40-something might add another major victory?

Updated: December 23, 2012, 1:02 PM ET
ESPN.com

Every year in golf it seems, some guy comes out of nowhere to make a splash. How many people thought Paul Lawrie would finish 2012 inside the top 30 in the world rankings? Or a young South African named Branden Grace would capture four European Tour wins?

So which golfers look prepared to make that kind of a jump in 2013? Our panel of experts sat down to figure that out in our latest edition of Four-Ball.


1. Which PGA Tour player is most poised for a 2013 rebound?

[+] EnlargeStewart Cink
Chris McKay/Getty ImagesAfter winning the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry, Stewart Cink fell off the golfing map and hasnt claimed a trophy since.

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Stewart Cink. I think Tom Watson being named Ryder Cup captain in some weird way will help him. Almost like closure, because since beating Watson to win the Open Championship in 2009, Cink has been spiraling downward and I think hit rock bottom last year. Seven missed cuts, a W/D and no top-10s. The bottom came in Phoenix last year when he shot 83 in the first round and when I talked to him on the range, he looked gone. This coming year will be his resurgence.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Jason Day. After taking 10 top-10s in 2011, the 25-year-old Australian battled a foot injury early in 2012. When he felt good, he played well, but he never found consistency during the season. If healthy, he should be a force in 2013.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Stewart Cink. The 2009 Open Championship winner has done very little since that victory. In fact, he has slipped to 305th in the world after missing three cuts in the majors in 2012. This is a big year for Cink, who needs to capitalize on his place in the major fields.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Martin Kaymer. To say the 2010 PGA Championship winner fell off the map in 2012 would be quite the understatement. He'll be a PGA Tour "rookie" in 2013 and he returned to the winner's circle with a victory at the Nedbank Challenge in early December. Winning breeds winning, even if it's a silly season event. Expect the German former world No. 1 to challenge for a return to his place among the elite in the game.


2. Which 40-something has the best shot at being the 2013 version of Ernie Els to rebound and win a major?

Michael Collins: None. But if you force me to pick a guy, I'll say Paddy Harrington. He's 41 and has had more swing changes than a traveling carnival ride. But if there was one guy over 40 whose game was gone and who could be back in major contention again, it'd be Harrington.

Farrell Evans: Jim Furyk. In 2012, almost everything went wrong for the 42-year-old former U.S. Open champion. His downfall late in the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club still makes me wince. I thought it couldn't get worse for him after that until his dismal 1-2 record at the Ryder Cup, where as a captain's pick he wilted under the immense pressure of the matches. But Furyk is a 16-time winner with many productive years left on the regular tour. He should have a big year in 2013.

Bob Harig: Padraig Harrington. The three-time major winner had two top-10s in majors in 2012 and showed some spark toward the end of the year as he climbed from a world ranking barely inside the top 100 back to the top-50 range. He hasn't won on the PGA Tour since the 2008 PGA Championship, but it would be no shock to see him capture another major.

Kevin Maguire: David Toms. He'll turn 46 in January, which will be just weeks after not getting the U.S. Ryder Cup captaincy so many people thought he would. But if there were a major made for Toms, it's this year's U.S. Open at Merion, which will be a very short track. Since 2003, when a U.S. Open was held at a course that was 7,300 yards or less, Toms finished inside the top 20 five of a possible seven times.


3. Give us a journeyman PGA Tour veteran who will solidify his job status for the following year.

Michael Collins: Forty-three-year-old Dicky Pride. He last won on tour in 1994, but a solo second at the HP Byron Nelson last year got him enough to keep his card for 2013. Up to that point he had only one missed cut in six starts, which included three top-20s. I think he'll do just fine again in the new year and have his card locked up again after the Byron Nelson event.

Farrell Evans: Dicky Pride. Eighteen years after his lone PGA Tour win at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, the 43-year-old former University of Alabama star had three top-10s in 2012, including a second at the Byron Nelson. With full status on the regular tour for the first time since 2007, Pride has some security and confidence that he can once again be a regular contender.

Bob Harig: Stuart Appleby. It's hard to think of a nine-time winner as a journeyman, but Appleby has struggled as of late and has resorted to using an all-time money list exemption for the second time. But he appears committed to getting his game turned around. Appleby, 41, finished 162nd on the PGA Tour money list and didn't make the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Kevin Maguire: Boo Weekley. After dropping to a career-worst 180th on the PGA Tour money list in 2011, Weekley rebounded to 108th in 2012. I don't suspect he'll return to top-30 status like in 2007 and 2008, but a solid season with a half-dozen top-10 finishes certainly isn't out of the question.


4. Which PGA Tour player who anchors his putter has the best shot to make the change back to conventional putting and still stay at the top of his game?

Michael Collins: Vijay Singh. He has switched putters like shirts anyway, so having to use a conventional putter full-time will be no big deal. I think he'll be the one who does it the easiest because he'll still be able to use it as a practice tool without having that mess up his normal stroke.

Farrell Evans: Keegan Bradley. In 2012, he ranked No. 1 in the all-around ranking, a measure of scoring, putting, eagles, birdies, sand saves, greens in regulation, driving distance and driving accuracy.

Bob Harig: Webb Simpson. The U.S. Open champion has been experimenting with a short putter for months, figuring a ban on anchoring was imminent. And while he does anchor the putter, it actually moves, which means Simpson is used to the back-and-forth motion of a conventional putter. He seems poised to easily make the switch.

Kevin Maguire: Not many people might believe me, but I'm going with Keegan Bradley. Why? Because so many don't think he can do it and he has made a career of proving people wrong. Who would have guessed a major champion played college golf at St. John's of all places? But Bradley rose from the ranks of the unknown and I expect him to prove the doubters wrong again.