PGA 2011 Preview: 10 Players Set To Jump To Stardom Next Season
Last season showcased the next era of great players. It was similar to the late 90s when Tiger, Phil, Els and Vijay were in their prime. What does the future hold in 2011? A new No. 1? Tiger's downfall, or his second rise to dominance? What we do know is the young guns are starting to take over the game of golf. Early 20s are the new 30s and even teenagers are making some noise.
Here are the 10 players whose names will shine brightest in 2011. Enjoy.
Rory arguably had his breakout season in 2010, but I would say this will better showcase what he is capable of. He flashed hints of greatness throughout the year and at 21, he is already one of the better ball-strikers on tour. He ranked 26th on the money list last year up until the fall series, taking in $2.5 million in winnings alone. He can absolutely crush the ball, and ranked a solid 12th in driving distance—averaging 300 yards per drive.
Rory has the stats to back up his game. But if you really watch the mood and aggression in his game, you can tell he is a star ready to shine. He has proved that he can go extremely low on a Sunday afternoon, and when he is on fire, no one can stop him. Rory is one of the most dangerous players on tour. Look for him to dominate some tournaments in 2011.
Ryo is a spectacular player and talent, and he holds enough golf skill in his right thumb to take me down in match play. He's young, he's talented and, heck, he's like a rock star to golf. He made $1.4 million in 2010 but will really flourish in 2011. Although he plays most of his golf in Asia, this 19-year-old phenomenon played 10 events in the US in 2010 and made the cut five times. His highest finish was ninth place in the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship.
Ryo is a special player. He does not bomb the ball and he can't reach a 600-yard par five in two. But he does the little things right. He has a great touch around the greens and his course management is surprisingly terrific. Most players cannot learn how to place the ball like he does until they are in their fifth or sixth year as a pro. He is maturing as a player and as a person. Look for his rise to the top in 2011.
Although Charlie is 38 years old, he makes the countdown because his golfing career has been a slow process to say the least. He turned pro in 1995 but made his PGA Tour debut in 2002. His slow progress gives me a good feeling about Wi in 2011. He made $1.5 million in winnings last year, all thanks to his heroic sand saves and semi-insane putting performances. He finished the year 16th in putting average on the Tour and, at some points during the year, has been absolutely unconscious with the flat stick in his hand.
Charlie is a great player and is just starting to come into his own. I see a huge leap from a solid performance last year, to running with the big boys in 2011. Look for Wi and his best friend (his putter) to make a statement next year.
Snedeker came out with a bang in his 2007 PGA debut, taking rookie of the year honors. Since then it has been an up-and-down battle. He won his first-and-only tournament in 2007, had a mediocre year in 2008 and struggled in 2009. But in 2010, Brandt started to pick things up and put the pieces back in place.
He had five top 10s and finished first in putting average on the Tour with 1.7 putts per hole. He placed second at the Farmers Insurance Open and had a fifth-place finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Brandt has a very nice game to complement those extremely attractive visors that he won't take off. I see a strong year in 2011 for Snedeker if he continues to improve like he did last year.
Kevin Na is a 27-year-old from Korea who turned pro at the very young age of 18. People expected a lot from him and have seen little since his debut in 2001. I see a breakout year for Na in 2011 for a couple reasons. His numbers have been improving each year for the past four years, which means that he is working hard on his game. As we all know, golf is a process. And I see this process culminating for Kevin in 2011. He made over $2 million in winnings in 2010 and had four top 10's.
I think Na is an underrated player because of his slow rise. He is one of the best putters on tour and if he can control his iron play a little better, he will make a lot of noise. Watch out for Kevin to break through in the 2011 season.
Jason Day is arguably the best young gun out there and he claimed that title with a stellar season in 2010. Five top 10's, a win at the HP Byron Nelson and 15th in driving distance were just some of the many accomplishments that Day had this season.
Despite the great year, I see him growing and becoming even better next season. Fine-tuning is the key for Day and if he can accomplish that, he can be a real threat to the rest of the tour.
Two wins, four top 10's and a second-place finish made for a 20th-place finish on the money list at a little under $3 million on the year for Bill Haas. He is only 28 years old and turned pro in 2004 after a college career at Wake Forest.
I see Bill turning it on in the 2011 season and really making a name for himself. We have seen so many players come through the tour, have one breakout season and then disappear. But I do not see Bill as one of those guys. If he added a great short game to his flawless iron play and driver distance, he could be a real weapon next season.
Rickie Fowler, the face of Puma with his flashy colors and specific hat style, is a one-of-a-kind player. He is arguably the signature young-American player. I do not know if it's his wacky swing, out-there style or that he is extremely good at golf. Rickie made over $2.6 million this year, not too shabby for the first full year as a professional.
He clocked in with six top 10's and finished 27th on the money list. If he continues to grow and get better, his climb to the top should blossom into the next coming season.
I know it's hard to say a player in the Ryder Cup one year will perform better the next year. But if anybody can do it, it will be Overton. He had a phenomenal 2010 season, finishing 12th on the money list and taking in about $3.5 million. He accumulated six top 10's in just 18 cuts made. He is known for his great putter skills, and to a lot of people's surprise, he is only 27 years old. Jeff has a lot of golf left to play and I see him making a run to the top.
Overton has the fire and passion for the game that will help him grow. With Jeff it will be all about consistency with his driver and irons. If he can make it to the greens in a couple less shots each round, his tournament wins will start adding up. I see that happening with the momentum he has going into the next season.
Martin Laird takes the last spot of this group simply because he is on fire right now and had a great 2010 season before that. This fall season is showcasing what Martin is really capable of. He took in over $2 million in winnings this year as a 27 year old.
He has had four top 10's this season and finished in second place twice in the last two months—one of which came from the Barclays, a tournament in which most all the top players attend.
Martin is a stellar player off the tee and he can really bomb the ball. He has averaged around 300 yards per drive, and is ranked sixth for the most eagles on tour. If he can bring his short game into play, this guy will break out and make a huge name for himself.