Big Freaking 2013 Preview

Bubba Watson

The 2013 Season is Getting Underway!

Well the time has come to get this 2013 PGA Tour Season underway. Well kind of. See, the PGA pumped faked a couple of times on the start of the season and so did I. But I am finally ready to start banging out blog posts. And while, the PGA had a legitimate excuse for delaying the start of play (the brutal wind in Hawaii for the past few days), I have none other than the fact that I am still detoxing from the holidays. Nevertheless, here we are. Another season packed with intrigue, excitement, and Jim Nantz condescending his audience!

As I mentioned in my previous post, the season’s opening weekend at Kapalua is for all intents and purposes a preseason game. And it has not disappointed! Play has been delayed several times as high winds and torrential rains pummeled the island of Maui. They will eventually get everything in and Jason Dufner or Ian Poulter or Webb Simpson will get the W. Who cares? Let’s take a look at the top storylines moving into the 2013 season.

Tiger and Rory

The top two golfers on the planet last year, will again be the top two golfers this year. Rory ended last year as the world number one and there is no reason to think he won’t continue his run this year. Tiger on the other hand, showed flashes, but for the most part was not completely “back.” Yes, he won three times, but as is the case with Tiger, he is judged on majors. In 2012, Tiger won zippy. He held the lead at times, but couldn’t close the deal on the weekend. Who would have thought that would have been the case 5 years ago? Certainly not me. But we live in a post fire hydrant world and Tiger is not the same guy he was 5 years ago. His struggles, swing changes, and medical issues have been discussed ad naseum, so I won’t waste your time with all that. What does Eldrick have going for him in 2013? Well, it appears that it is finally starting to click. His swing changes are starting to pay off. Tiger played very well down the stretch. Hitting the ball with that same “Tiger sound” that we are accustomed to.

That’s all well and good. You have two players that should finish the year as number one and two in the world. You know what’s going to get them there? One word: bromance. That’s right. Tiger and Rory struck up a friendship last year and at times seemed like a couple middle school girls. They giggled and chatted on the course. Gave each other tips and strategies. Now, Rory has only been on tour for a couple years, but Tiger is a vet, and this is unheard of in his world. In the past, Tiger consistently shunned his fellow tour pros. It was that laser-like focus and competitiveness that allowed him to win so many tournaments. Other players genuinely feared Woods and he was able to slam the door shut on the weekends. That’s not the case anymore. I think deep down, Tiger knows it. So what does he do? Befriend the best in the game.

After 15 years of dominance, Tiger has a rival in Rory. Mickelson, Singh, Els, Duval, and the list goes on, never challenged the level of Woods’ dominance. Rory does just that. By becoming buddy-buddy, these two will push each other all season. Rory and Tiger will both win and win a lot this year. They will pound balls (giggity) on the range together, rib each other on the putting green, and they will be “randomly” paired together by the PGA many times. Adding to the bromance at an exponential level, it looks like Rory is going to sign with Nike. Team Swoosh will have the biggest golf superstars on the planet. How will it affect the on-course product? That remains to be seen, but I can’t imagine an equipment switch would have too much of an effect on Rory. And Tiger will be status quo. These guys have everything custom made anyway. I really believe that it doesn’t matter who makes the clubs. They would end up being the same after all the club fitting and fine tuning. Anyway, It will be fun to watch these two battling on Sundays.

The Anchored Putter Debate

Towards the end of 2012 both the USGA and the R&A agreed to ban anchored putters. While the rule doesn’t go into effect for a few years, I am curious to see how this season will be affected. Webb Simpson, Ernie Els, Keegan Bradley, all major champions, all anchored putter users. Will these players and others start making changes in their game now? Will they wait until 2016 when the rule goes into effect? Most likely, it will be somewhere in between, but we could see something happen this year.

While we might not see any immediate changes related to this rule, the debate is sure to continue. Tiger has publicly trashed belly putters. Other players have supported anchoring. The back and forth among tour pros and officials will definitely be a storyline for 2013. Personally, I use a traditional putter. Does that make my game any better? Certainly not, but why switch now? It’s the only thing I have ever known.

The issue with the anchored putter is related to the purity of the game. Is anchoring a club to your body really a golf “swing?” For me, the answer is no. I am happy the USGA and R&A stepped up to the plate here. They saw an issue with the integrity of the game and dealt with it (cough, cough, Major League Baseball.) Some of my weekend hacker buddies are not looking forward to the change, but screw them. I need to win beer money from them and couldn’t care less.

The FedEx Cup

Last year was the first year I can remember where the FedEx Cup was actually, uh, interesting. The tournaments were compelling. Superstars were playing like it. It seemed like almost every shot mattered. This is what the PGA was hoping for when they started with the playoff format. Ultimately, Brandt Snedeker came away with the trophy, and more importantly a $10 million check.

The top 5 heading into the Tour Championship should look VERY familiar this year. Rory, Tiger, and Phil should all be in the mix in the end. This means two things. Great golf and high ratings for the PGA Tour. Both good things for fans of the game. I’ve been really impressed with the way FedEx Cup Playoffs have evolved over the years. It definitely makes meaningless late season golf interesting again.

Major Winners

Ok. This is dumb. Golf tournaments are almost impossible to pick. Majors are no exception. Find me one person that Bubba, Webb, Ernie, and Rory winning the four majors last year and I will show you a god damn liar. I am going to pick the winners anyway. We can come back and laugh at how wrong I was in the August. Anyway, here we go:

The Masters: The Masters gets underway a week later than normal this year. What does that mean? Uh, I don’t know. Who cares? This is a big year for Augusta as the first female members were admitted to the club recently. Will their periods attract bears? IT’S POSSIBLE. Who do I trust in a bear fight? Rory. I think Rory gets it done here and takes home his second consecutive major. If you remember back a couple years, Rory was in contention before he imploded and faltered down the stretch. He has since won two majors and has learned to shut the door on Sunday. Just take a look at last year’s PGA Championship. He ran away from the field in impressive fashion. Look for FedEx Cup champ Brandt Snedeker to be in the mix as well. You also can’t rule out Tiger or Phil here either. They love this course.

US Open: This year, golf’s toughest test heads to Merion outside Philadelphia. By all accounts, the course will be shorter this year (as compared to previous US Open venues.) For that reason, I like Tiger. Yup, this is where the streak ends and Eldrick gets number 15. Why? He’s striping it with his irons. I imagine he’ll take the driver out only a handful of times and we all know driver tends to get him in trouble. If he gets his world famous stinger shot working, look out. Of course, I could see Rory challenging here. Or it’s possible someone will come out of nowhere to win our national championship. Guys like Webb Simpson, Lucas Glover, and Michael Campbell come to mind. MICHAEL CAMPBELL!

British Open: Last year, Ernie Els shocked everyone to win the Open Championship when Adam Scott had a series of brain farts down the stretch. Darren Clarke won the year before. (Note: he has since disappeared from competitive golf.) What does this tell you?  OLD GUYS do well here. Remember Tom Watson a few years ago? That’s why my pick here is Mark O’Meara! (Ok, I am being told he is no longer on Tour.) How about Vijay Singh here? Why? Because why the hell not. Vijay brings home the last victory for Team Belly Putter in a major by capturing golf’s oldest championship.

PGA Championship: This is the biggest wild card, in my opinion. Rory curb stomped the field last year, winning by eight shots. What happens this year? I’m going to cop out and say THE SAME DAMN THING. Rory wins it and wins it big. I have no facts to back me up. No insider knowledge. I just have this feeling that we are heading for a big year for Rory and the PGA Championship will serve as an exclamation point on the year. Young guns seem to have a coming out party at the PGA (see: Keegan Bradley), so look for Rickie Fowler to make some noise as well.

Ok, that’s it. This is the most I have written since college. And ALL BY MYSELF! Let me know what you think. We will certainly revisit this preview later in the year. Cheers!