What Does 2009 Hold for Tiger Woods' "Big Four" Challengers

Blake CulbertsonContributor IMarch 18, 2009

With the 2009 golf season underway, it’s time to break down some of the big names in golf.

We all know Tiger Woods is back in action and his swing looks under control, which will help him in the future, but there are other big names out there that need to achieve a good 2009 season.

Back in 2004, we had the “Big Five” that included Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els, and Vijay Singh.

Since 2004, some of them have not met up to their exceptions. Some have had injuries, mental struggles, and sometimes just struggled with their game.

However, we all know the game comes and goes, and I am going to break down these four great players and what the 2009 season means for them.


Phil Mickelson

Phil was very impressive in his victory last week at the WGC, but Phil is out for more than just WGC events this year. He needs to win his fourth major title.

Phil hasn’t come close to winning a major title since his 2006 meltdown at Winged Foot. He needs to prove himself in the greatest stages of golf.

Phil’s best chances at a major this year would have to be at the first two majors at Augusta in April and at Bethpage in June.

With his two wins at Augusta in 2004 and 2006 and his second-place finish in 2002 at Bethpage, Phil has accomplished great success.

Phil is already a Hall of Famer, but he still strives to be the best player in the world, and in order to do that he needs a major win in 2009.

With his work with Butch Harmon, Phil's swing is better than ever, and if he can get the putts falling, 2009 could be something special for him.


Retief Goosen

I was looking for big things from Goosen after his 2004 US open, but Goosen hasn’t really been the same since that awful Sunday in 2005 at Pinehurst.

The great touch he showed to win his two U.S Opens has vanished. Goosen has had a few victories around the world since 2005, but nothing on the big scene.

Also, Goosen ranks tied for 85th  in putting this year; back in 2004, he was in the top 50.

This could be improved by making just one more putt per round, and that putt could build confidence. Goosen has had a good finish at all four majors, but I think his best chances will come at the Masters and the Open Championship.

If Goosen can find the mojo he had back in his two US Open victories, he can again challenge for another major title.

I think Goosen has at least one more in him. At age 39, he still has about three to four more years to pick up his third major title and to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.


Ernie Els

Els, who is also known asThe Big Easy”, still has some of the best talent in the world. His swing looks better than ever with the help from Butch Harmon, but like his South African competitor, he needs to get the putter going.

Els has switched back to a putter that looks similar to the one he used to win his two U.S. Open victories. If the confidence comes to Els with the putter, 2009 might be another big year for The Big Easy.

Els, who already has 60 worldwide victories and 3 majors, is a first ballot for the Hall of Fame. Although Els needs to add to the total of his major wins.

Each major site in 2009 fits Els’s game. He has been close at winning both the Masters and PGA Championship and was able to win both Open titles.

However, I think Els best chances this year would be in Augusta and at The Open Championship. He loves playing in Augusta and playing in the British Open conditions.

Els is gaining in age and is now 38. I would say that he could play great golf until his late 40’s just like Singh and Perry, but a major is key necessity. I believe that Els will win a major in 2009.


Vijay Singh

We haven’t been able to see much of VJ in 2009, but if he comes back the same way he ended in 2008, it will be another good season. We all know VJ as a great ball striker and in 2008 his putter was hot.  

If VJ’s game continues to progress this year, I expect this year to a successful season. If he contains the confidence he had with his putter late last year, VJ can win at any golf course.

VJ loves to play golf and he loves to win, he will play more events than any of the others on this list. I expect him to win at least two to three events this year with a major title also in his sights.

His best chances in 2009 are going to be in Augusta and at The PGA Championship. He has previously won these titles. I will look for him to add at least one more major before his career is over.

If he putts well, the US Open could be another addition to his previous major titles. Also, VJ has never really played well in the Open Championship. Already a Hall of Famer, VJ wants to add this fourth major to his trophy collection.