Who's on your watch list for 2011? Not terrorist watch list! Golfer watch list. We've come up with several who should make news all season long.
Joseph Bramlett recently became the first African American to earn a PGA Tour membership through Q-School since Adrian Stills in 1985. To add perspective, that year Calvin Peete won The Players. Bramlett will make his first start on the PGA Tour this week at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He also has a new Nike contract. Coincidence? Hmmm.
Injury. Kind of like Mayhem in the insurance commercials, injury always factors in to the season somehow. We’ve already had the Geoff Ogilvy thumb. Last year, it was the Lee Westwood Achilles tendon.
Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer. These two have a long history. Hard to believe it was almost 20 years ago when Couples slipped the green jacket on Langer's shoulders. Which one will top the Champions Tour this year?
Matteo Manassero became the youngest winner of a European Tour event, eclipsing Seve Ballesteros. He was born the same year Fred Couples slipped that jacket on Bernhard Langer.
Brittany Lincicome entered a men’s Hooter’s Tour event, NGA Hooters Tour's Bridgestone Winter Series event at Deer Island Golf Club, as preparation for the LGPA season.
Italian Golf. Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, along with Manassero, are proving that Italy cam be famous for more than just a pretty face and a fast sports car.
Alexis Thompson, teenage phenom, wants to play more than six LPGA Tour events in 2011. Right now she’s scheduled to play the Australian Women's Open in February and the Australian Ladies Masters in March.
Good thinking, LPGA.
If she’s potentially the next great thing in American golf, let’s keep her from playing in the US—make sure nobody knows who she is—and send her to Australia because she’s not the LPGA Tour's minimum age of 18.
Jamie Lovemark topped the Nationwide Tour Money list in 2010 and earned his way to the PGA Tour. He is the youngest to have won the Nationwide money title.
Jonathan Byrd won the last event of 2010 with a hole-in-one in a playoff and won the first event of 2011 in a more normal playoff, but over a very strong field. If we don't watch him all year, we will at least watch him for a few weeks.
Ernie Els is like a lot of guys who are aging well on the PGA Tour. With two US victories and a win at the South African Open in 2010, Els continues to pile trophy on top of trophy. He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Jim Furyk won $10 million at last year’s FedEx Cup even though he was DQ-ed from the first event because he missed a pro-am tee time, due to a faulty alarm clock. He says he has had plenty of alarm clock jokes in the last three or four months, but not enough victories in his career.
There’s still a lot of want-to under his golf cap, enough to put him in the winner’s circle this year.
Ian Poulter may be responsible for bringing fun back to golf. With his million Twitter followers, Twitter photos, jabs at pals, asking fans to vote for what outfit he should wear, and on and on, he’s a blast. And he’s got game. Poulter probably deserves third place in "best to not have won a major," right after Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.
Matt Kuchar was first an overachiever, and then an underachiever and then, after several years in the depths, bounced back to the top. Leading money winner in 2010, unless he loses his swing again, he should continue his good play this season.
Rickie Fowler is one of the most exciting American players to hit a golf ball in several years, with apologies to everybody else. Fowler was the “ it girl” of golf in 2010. It's not his fault. We just couldn’t take our eyes off him. He has a sweet face, which conceals a killer attitude on the golf course. He will not be satisfied with top tens.
Rory McIlroy—he's the one without the funny wig—is the lucky charm for the future of Irish golf. Even when he’s having an off day, he still plays as well as a 15-year Tour veteran, which is amazing since he’s just 21. US Open champ Graeme McDowell, on the left, is a decade older. "Rors" always has something quotable to say, and sometimes it stirs up controversy, making him even more watchable.
Martin Kaymer is like a stealth bomber. He sneaks in quietly and just drops golf ball bombs onto greens and into the hole. Last summer’s PGA should not be his only major. And this year's Race to Dubai money title will likely not be his last since he is going to play most of this year on the European Tour.
Lee Westwood. He has the distinction of getting to number one without winning a major. Credit where it is due, after winning five times in 2000, he nearly dropped off the face of planet golf except for two victories in 2003. It was a four year drought until 2007. Westwood’s game was so far gone, GPS would not have been able to locate it. He came back from the depths to the top. Nowadays, he sports more logos than a race car driver.
Phil Mickelson. No matter what happens in 2011, we will all watch to see what Phil does next. Honest.
Graeme McDowell. Talk about a missed marketing opportunity. Shouldn’t G-Mac have his own sandwich under the golden arches? Hello? How close does a golfer have to get to the name of your product to be a spokesman? Big Mac? Nope. I’ll have a G-Mac. And a root beer.
1. Tiger. Let’s face it. We’ll all be watching.