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.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.