10 Bold Predictions for the 2012 Golf Season

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2011

10 Bold Predictions for the 2012 Golf Season

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    If you thought there were some shocking moments during the 2011 season, well, 2012 might just take "shocking" to a whole new level.

    We are now entering completely uncharted territory in professional golf.

    We have a group of very successful veteran players that may or may not be on the decline.

    And we have a group of young players that may or may not wind up being golf's "next big thing."

    Will Tiger Woods win a major in 2012?

    Will Rory McIlroy's reign of domination begin next season?

    Will a well-known player simply walk away from the game in 2012?

    Well, if I knew the answer to those questions I'd be sitting in a completely comped suite at Caesar's Palace right now rather than sitting in front of my computer wearing a pair of sweat pants and four-year-old sneakers that may or may not have another week left in them before they literally split in half. 

    But here are my 10 bold predictions for the 2012 season, and if even one of them comes true, well, I may just up and move to Vegas....

Tiger Woods Will Win the Masters

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    It’s been two-and-a-half years since Tiger Woods last hoisted a major championship trophy.

    Woods has gone through a reconstructive ACL surgery, an embarrassing sex scandal, a divorce, numerous injuries and a swing change, which have all contributed to the worst two-year stretch of his career.

    But this downward spiral Woods has been on since his run-in with a fire hydrant during the early morning hours of Nov. 27, 2009 may finally be reversed in 2012. And if it’s going to happen anywhere, Augusta National will be the place. 

    Although Woods has not won at Augusta since 2005, he has not finished outside of the top six at the Masters since 2004. And despite everything going on in his life over the past two years, Woods still managed to tie for fourth at each of the last two Masters.

    This year will be the year that Woods finally slips into his fifth green jacket.

Tim Finchem Will Retire at the End of the 2012 Season

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    What more does the man have to prove?

    Since Tim Finchem took over as commissioner, the PGA Tour’s total purse has increased by 376.19 percent from $56.4 million in 1994 to more than $260 million in 2011.

    Although Tiger Woods has GREATLY contributed to the tour’s explosion in popularity and wealth over the past 15 years, Finchem has done an excellent job harnessing Woods’ star power and turning it into huge sums of money for everyone involved in professional golf.

    Despite the financial meltdown and the fact that Woods and Mickelson seem to be on the decline, Finchem has the tour fully sponsored through 2012 and somehow managed to negotiate another lucrative 10-year television deal that will ensure financial stability and moderate purse increases for the next decade.

    Finchem will turn 65 in April.

    Could there possibly be a better time for arguably the most successful commissioner in PGA Tour history to ride off into the sunset?

Rory McIlroy Will Not Win a Major

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    Everyone is looking for Rory McIlory to follow up his breakout 2011 season with an even bigger year in 2012.

    But my bold prediction is that McIlory will have an off year in 2012.

    It’s difficult for any player, particularly a young player, to live up to the sort of expectations that have been placed on McIlory heading into 2012. 

    Winning majors is all about being patient and taking what the golf course gives you.

    McIlory will push too hard at the majors in 2012 and will go winless.

    He may come back and have a huge year in 2013 because 2012 will likely be another learning experience for the young 22-year-old.

    In 2012, McIlory will learn that majors are difficult enough to win, and when you push too hard, you can actually make winning majors even more difficult than it has to be.

Patrick Cantlay Will Win a PGA Tour Event

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    Since 1950, only four amateurs have won PGA Tour events. Phil Mickelson was the last amateur to win a PGA Tour event when he won the 1991 Northern Telecom Open while still at Arizona State.

    Well, in 2012, Patrick Cantlay will break that 21-year drought.

    Last season, Cantlay played in five PGA Tour events and made the cut in all five.

    In addition, Cantlay had four top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour, was the low amateur at the U.S. Open, set the course record with a round of 60 at TPC River Highlands (site of the 2011 Travellers Championship) and led the Travellers Championship after 36 holes.

    It may sound ridiculous, being that Cantlay is only a sophomore at UCLA and has only attended just five PGA Tour events in his career, but he has actually been knocking on victory’s door for the past year.   

    Aside from leading the Travellers Championship after 36 holes, Cantlay also finished ninth at the Canadian Open.

    It seems as if every time this kid tees it up, he’s making some form of history, and in 2012 he will join a very small and distinguished group of amateurs who have won PGA Tour events during last half decade.

    My bold prediction—Patrick Cantlay wins the 2012 Travellers Championship.

Jim Furyk Will Win the 2012 U.S. Open

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    Jim Furyk has one more major title left in him.

    That’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it.

    And what better chance will he have to capture a second U.S. Open title than at The Olympic Club in 2012?

    The Lake Course at The Olympic Club is a very short course by U.S. Open standards (maxes out at 7,060 yards), which bodes well for a guy like Furyk, whose game is built around accuracy rather than power.

    For the first time in quite a long time, the 2012 U.S. Open will reward accuracy more than brute power, and there few players who know how to play that style of golf better than Furyk. 

Ernie Els Will Walk Away from the Game

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    Els had just one top-10 finish in 21 PGA Tour events in 2011.

    After finishing 42nd in total putting in 2010, a season in which he won twice and earned more than $4.5 million, Els dropped back to 180th in total putting in 2011 and earned less than $1 million on tour for the first time since 1998. 

    And just to put into perspective how different the PGA Tour was in 1998, Els' total earnings of $763,786 that year placed him 36th on the Tour’s money list. In 2011, $763,786 would have placed Els 113th on the tour’s money list.

    Els has racked up as many air miles as any other player in the world over the past 15 years.  He’s won three majors, is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and has earned more money than he could spend in three lifetimes.

    Els has also become an ambassador of sorts for autism awareness since his son Ben was diagnosed with the disorder three years ago.  

    Els, a typically mild mannered man—hence his nickname “the Big Easy”—openly admitted to becoming angry, irritable and short with others after missing the cut at the 2011 U.S. Open.  

    If Els cannot regain his putting stroke in 2012 and continues to struggle to just make cuts, the “Big Easy” might simply walk away from the game and focus on other aspects of his life, such as his business ventures and his work for autism.

    One would have to assume that if it’s a choice between becoming an angry golfer struggling to find his game or simply walking away, Els would walk without a second thought.

Johnny Miller Will Get Fired from NBC Sports

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    Johnny Miller is renowned for pushing the envelope in terms of the criticism he dishes out while on air.

    Most golf fans either love Miller for what they believe is a form of brutal honesty, or hate Miller for criticizing players while sitting up in tiny little tower overlooking the 18th green. 

    But whether you love him or hate him, anyone who has ever watched an NBC golf broadcast will know that Miller continually skirts the line between what is and is not acceptable, and 2012 will be the year that Miller finally crosses that line.

    Miller will blurt out a comment on air in 2012 that is either politically or socially unacceptable and he will be shown the door after 22 years with NBC Sports.

Sergio Garcia Will Win the 2012 Open Championship

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    After a two-month hiatus from the game late last year, Sergio Garcia now seems to be bolting down the comeback trail.

    Garcia won back-to-back events on the European Tour this past October, including an 11-stroke victory at the Castello Masters.

    Garcia managed to make the cut at every major in 2011, including top-12 finishes at each of the year’s final three majors.

    Garcia now has 17 top-10s at the majors, and seven of those top-10s have come at the Open Championship.

    The 2012 Open Championship will be held at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, where Garcia tied for ninth back in 2001.

    This year will finally be the year that Garcia gets that major championship monkey off his back, and it will happen in July at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.

Belly Putters Will Be Banned by the USGA & R&A.

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    It really wouldn’t take much for the USGA in cooperation with the R&A to ban belly putters from professional golf.

    There is already a minimum length regulation for putters, so why not simply instate a maximum length for putters, just as they have a maximum length for drivers?

    Or, they could simply amend the rules of golf to state that a player cannot anchor a club anywhere above their wrists while attempting to hit a shot. 

    For golf purists, it’s not necessarily the length of the putter that really gets their skin crawling; it’s the anchoring of the club against the body.

    This is a completely unnatural golf movement which is not seen during the execution of any other shot in the game.  

    My bold prediction is that the USGA & R&A outlaw this practice in late 2012.

Phil Mickelson Will Not Make the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup Team

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    Phil Mickelson seems to have entered the twilight of his career.

    He will turn 41 next June, he suffers from psoriatic arthritis and he has won only two tournaments in the past two years.

    Mickelson has had just four top-10 finishes since the 2011 Masters and has now dropped to No. 14 in the World Golf Rankings.

    Although Mickelson currently ranks third in the U.S. Ryder Cup point standings, if his poor play continues through the 2012 season it’s unlikely that he will earn a spot on Davis Love’s 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup team based on points alone.

    If that were to happen, there is the possibility that Love could use one of his four captain’s selections on Mickelson.  However, with all of the incredibly talented young golfers on tour today, Love may have a hard time selecting Mickelson over a handful of other players that may have performed far better during the 2012 season.  

    My bold prediction is that Mickelson does not make the 2012 Ryder Cup team but is asked to attend the event by Love as an assistant captain; that way he’ll at least be able to take part in the ping-pong competitions.

    For more golf news, insight and analysis, check out The Tour Report.

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