Predictions Forget It - Theyre Unpredictable
Every publication ' and that includes this one ' has to get through the two weeks preceding the new year with something thats topical, something that will attract eyeballs. Golf tournaments have been over for a couple of weeks, even those that are made for TV. And golf writers need a holiday, too. Theres only a short period of time between the Target World Challenge (did I get that one right?) and the Mercedes Championships. That isnt much time to relax.
The crystal ball gazing this time of year, though, has always baffled me. No one ever comes close to getting this stuff right in golf. You can predict until you sound like so many Nostradamuses, but you never going to get it correctly. Each year is a year unto itself, and this year doesnt bear much relation to the next.
Proof? Well, take last year, for example.
Last year, not one breathing person could have predicted that Tiger Woods wouldnt win a medal-play tournament. And not one could have predicted nine wins in one year for Vijay Singh. And that just barely scratches the surface.
Look at the World Rankings at this time last year. Woods was No. 1, and though he has shown signs of returning to that position, 2004 was a disastrous year for him. Numbers 4 through 6 were occupied by Davis Love, Jim Furyk and Mike Weir. All had subpar years, as did No. 8, Kenny Perry, and No, 9, David Toms.
Ricky Barnes? Wrong ' he just wasnt ready. Neither was Hilary Lunke, the Womens U.S. Open champion of 2003, Shaun Micheel, the PGA champ, nor Ben Curtis, the American who won the British Open in 2003.
What happened to Matt Kuchar, the former U.S. Amateur champ who won a PGA Tour event and then faded away? How about every U.S. Amateur champ since Tiger Woods - Hank Kuehne, David Gossett, Jeff Quinney, Bubba Dickerson, Barnes and Nick Flanagan?
On the other hand, Phil Mickelson pulled a Lazarus on us and regained his old moxie, even if he did flame out at years end. And John Daly? At the age of 38, he won a golf tournament in the U.S. for the first time in nine years ' did you predict that at this time last year? You didnt? Neither did John.
Could anyone have predicted the baffling disappearance of Se Ri Pak? Is it her driver? Her fawning countrymen? Or her head? But ' maybe she will be the LPGAs Phil Mickelson in 2005.
The Korean women as a group didnt have quite the success in 2004 as they did in 2003. But its safe to say that they will win a number of events in 2005. Their numbers are too overwhelming for it to be anything but.
On the other hand, an American, Cristi Kerr, won three times, as did Meg Mallon, another American. This despite the fact that Americans were supposedly on the decline going into the year ' Juli Inkster was the lone Yank with more than one win in 2003, and she had just two.
And what happened to Aaron Baddeley?
On the other hand, how could we have predicted the excellence of British Open winner Todd Hamilton? Or Adam Scott? Stephen Ames? Who would ever have guessed that the Europeans would win the Ryder Cup in such convincing fashion ' on U.S. soil, no less? Did you predict that Andre Stolz would win a tour title? Or that Mark OMeara would actually win on the European Tour at Dubai, yet finish 135th in the U.S.?
Through it all, though, there was one shining light that was still burning brightly at years end. Annika Sorenstam won eight more times in 2004 (10 around the world.) That gives her 56 LPGA wins alone, and though she has said for two or three years that she may soon quit being a fulltime player, she hasnt yet made that final commitment.
Shes 34 now, and when she is 35 ' or 36 or 37 ' heres my prediction: she will win twice as much as the No. 2 player. Excellence, it seems, is a no-brainer to call when its Annika.
Email your thoughts to George White
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry