Who will be the breakout star and biggest letdown of 2012?

By Randall MellJanuary 4, 2012, 1:40 pm

Early January is a time for optimism for all professional golfers. But the year won't work out the same for everyone. Some players will experience greatness, while others will endure bitter disappointment. We asked our senior writers to identify a breakthrough star and, conversely, a player who will be the biggest letdown in 2012.


Breakout star?

Rickie Fowler is the man.

Yeah, there are folks who believe he’s showered with too much hype, who think his game isn’t well rounded enough to win the biggest events, but it’s hard to bet against Fowler’s heart, attitude and confidence. He strikes you as the kind of player who’s going to find a way because he approaches the game in so many right ways.

Fowler just turned 24, but he already has four second-place PGA Tour finishes on his resume. He’s ranked No. 32 in the world. He’s still learning his craft, but he’s got too many intangibles not to keep improving.

Biggest letdown?

Steve Williams is the man.

Woods’ former caddie was in the spotlight a lot last year, but unless he keeps running his mouth, his odds of being as relevant as he used to be depends on the continued resurgence of his current boss, Adam Scott. If Scott doesn’t take the next big step, Williams likely goes another year without being involved in a major championship victory.

Gary Woodland and <a rel=


Stars aren’t born. They are made – through thousands of hours of practice and repeatedly successful results. That doesn’t mean some athletes don’t possess a certain innate star quality, though.

Gary Woodland has that star quality. He looks like the type of guy who’s savvy enough to date the Homecoming Queen, but smart enough to ace every test – without studying.

He can also play a little golf, which shouldn’t hurt the persona, either. In his first full season on the PGA Tour last year (his rookie campaign was shortened because of injury), Woodland bashed his way to a victory and five Other top-10 finishes. Not bad, but here’s the part that should have us intrigued: He’s still learning. Last year, his short game was still a work in progress, as he ranked 114th in total putting. With more focus on that part of his game, expect much better numbers – and results – this season.

Picking a player for “biggest letdown” isn’t quite as easy. Check out the top 25 in the current OWGR and there are very few – if any – whom you’d sell short if you owned stock in ‘em.

I’ll stay near the top of that ranking, though, and pick Lee Westwood. The world No. 2 will turn 39 just after the Masters and every year that goes by without a major championship victory is a wasted opportunity. Westwood has come so close so many times, but you’ve got to wonder if he’s destined to be Colin Montgomerie 2.0 – a top-level talent who could never claim the big one.

Sure, other elite players are without major hardware, too, but none would be as big a letdown if they didn’t win. Luke Donald and Dustin Johnson are younger and still have more time. Steve Stricker, quite frankly, has never been the ball-striking talent that Westwood has been.

If he fails to win a major this year, Westwood will hardly be out of time, but the clock is ticking. It’s been a letdown so far that he hasn’t gotten one, and that letdown could only be extended this year.

Jamie Lovemark and <a rel=


Seems about right that the search for the year’s breakout star and biggest letdown would send one to the extremes of the professional talent pool.

Look no further for the next big thing than in Jupiter, Fla., the same south Florida enclave that is home to last year’s breakout talent Keegan Bradley. Jamie Lovemark’s rookie campaign was cut short by back surgery after just nine events in 2011, but the 2010 Nationwide Tour Player of the Year has all the markings of a star in waiting and seems fully recovered after a year on the DL.

As for the season’s biggest disappointment a candidate for the 2011'letdown' award appears poised to close the deal.

After his victory at the Shell Houston Open Phil Mickelson had just four more top-10 finishes the rest of the way, slumped to 14th in the world golf ranking and did little late in the year to make one believe his fortunes were trending for the better. He was 33rd at the Singapore Open and despite a 3-1-0 record at the Presidents Cup he failed to take on the veteran leader role he’d held in recent matches.

In fairness to Lefty, the psoriatic arthritis he was diagnosed with in 2010 seems to still be an issue and his once-unflappable short game has been derailed by a putting stroke that drove him to a belly model late last season. Whatever the reason, it has been a disappointing performance by any measure and that will continue.

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”