Will Rory McIlroy claim major repeat?

And which fresh face might we see win in 2013?

Updated: December 28, 2012, 6:30 PM ET
ESPN.com

Golf stands as the ultimate meritocracy in all of sports. Play great and you will be rewarded. Play poorly and you will likely be looking for a new job next year.

What does that mean week in and week out? That everyone on tour, whether you're Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods or the last guy on the PGA Tour money list, needs to put up the numbers or go home. But who has the most to prove? Our experts tackle those topics and more in a special edition of Four-Ball.


1. Who has the most to prove in 2013 on the PGA Tour?

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Bo Van Pelt. He's ranked 22nd in the world, yet has gone two years without a victory on the PGA Tour. He also missed the Ryder Cup team, yet still won overseas in the "offseason." Time to step up, get a win and play like the top-tier player you are.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Rory McIlroy has had two good years, but it doesn't make a career. He needs to prove that he is around to stay at No. 1 in the world. And that means not just winning three or four events every year, but contending at all the majors and not ever missing cuts.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger. Isn't it always Tiger? No matter what he does, no matter how much he accomplishes, there will be expectations. And until he wins his 15th major championship -- and even if he does -- he will always be faced with something to prove.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Phil Mickelson. When the Masters rolls around in April, it will have been three years since he won a major. There's no doubt Mickelson's popularity and talent still reign on the PGA Tour, but if the world's most famous lefty wants to prove he's still got what it takes to win at the highest level of the game, 2013 will be a key year to show it.


2. Which 2012 major winner has the best shot at repeating in 2013?

Michael Collins: Rory McIlroy. He's the best in the world and does some of his best work on the biggest stages. I expect him to be in contention at three majors this year and maybe even win two of the three.

Farrell Evans: Rory McIlroy. The 23-year-old is the best player in the world. The way he dominated the PGA Championship with an 8-shot win was further proof of his comfort level in major championships.

Bob Harig: Rory McIlroy. He will be considered among the favorites at every major he plays in 2013. The Masters is always going to be a place where people think he can win; you would think Muirfield and Oak Hill would be favorable venues for him as well.

Kevin Maguire: It's an open-and-shut case with Rory McIlroy owning the distinction of most likely to repeat as a major champ in 2013. If he can, the Northern Irishman will be just the eighth person since the Masters started to win majors in three consecutive years.


3. Give us three players you think will seriously contend for their first major championship in 2013.

Michael Collins: Nicolas Colsaerts earned enough money in eight starts to get his PGA Tour card. He ranks second in driving distance and 59th in strokes gained-putting.
Robert Garrigus finished second four times in 2012 and is coming off the success at the U.S. Open in 2011, so he's primed.
Scott Piercy is the dark horse, but he's ranked 42nd in the world and with his win last year in Canada, he proved to himself he can win without the driver. For a bomber, that's a big lesson.

Farrell Evans: Jason Dufner, Bo Van Pelt and Adam Scott are three players that have contended in recent majors and are mature enough in their respective careers to handle the magnitude of the moment. With two PGA Tour wins in 2012 after his surprise second at the 2011 PGA, Dufner might be the strongest contender of this threesome.

Bob Harig: Justin Rose. It is the logical next step for the Englishman, who had a strong end to 2012 and enters the season ranked fourth in the world.
Adam Scott. His collapse at the Open Championship should not preclude him from getting in the mix again. He played beautifully at Royal Lytham -- except for the final four holes.
Ian Poulter. It's amazing that Europe's Ryder Cup hero has contended so infrequently in the game's biggest tournaments.

Kevin Maguire: Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Jason Day. Donald clearly has the game to win a major, even if it doesn't show by his terrible starts. (He hasn't broken 70 in the first round of a major since the 2006 PGA Championship.) If Poulter can harness that Ryder Cup fire inside for four days in a row, he could not only win his first major but do it in runaway style. As for Day, he's got the all-around game to win and the youthful exuberance to persevere through the pitfalls every major presents.


4. Which Q-school or Web.com Tour grad is most likely to break through with their first PGA Tour win in 2013?

Michael Collins: Robert Streb. In 24 events, he earned two Web.com Tour wins last year, but the most important stat for the guy is this: In 86 rounds of golf last year, he averaged 28.73 putts per rounds. Even though Luke Guthrie ranked higher, Guthrie had fourteen fewer starts (that's potentially 56 fewer rounds). You can't teach putting like Streb has, and that will translate well on the PGA Tour.

Farrell Evans: Shortly after turning pro over the summer, 22-year-old former Illinois star Luke Guthrie had back-to-back wins on the Web.com Tour. Guthrie had seven top-10s in his 10 events on the developmental circuit, good enough to help him finish second on the money list. He's got the game to quickly become a formidable presence on the regular tour.

Bob Harig: Casey Wittenberg. The reigning Web.com Tour Player of the Year led the money list, won twice on tour and tied for 10th at the U.S. Open. It was a solid season that should give him a ton of confidence heading to the big tour.

Kevin Maguire: Patrick Reed. The king of Monday qualifying in 2012 knows all too well how hard it is just to get into fields on the PGA Tour. He won't waste the chances afforded him after making it through Q-school in December.