Punch Shot: Bold predictions for 2015

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It's a new year and anything can happen. So we asked our writers for their bold predictions for 2015. Here's what they said:

By REX HOGGARD

Phil Mickelson will win the U.S. Open in June and complete the career Grand Slam.

While it seems likely the bookmakers won’t share our optimism for Lefty’s Open chances considering his love/hate relationship with his national championship, it will be those less-than-stellar odds that finally deliver the Open title to Mickelson.

While the flawless symmetry of the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, where he’d posted the first of six runner-up finishes at the championship in 1999, seemed poetically perfect for Mickelson’s breakthrough, the pressure proved to be too much for him and he finished 16 strokes off the pace.

Mickelson will turn 45 two days before Round 1 at Chambers Bay. Only Hale Irwin – who is the oldest to win the U.S. Open (in 1990) at the age of 45 years, 15 days – has collected the title past his 45th birthday.

But when the golf world arrives in the Pacific Northwest the spotlight, and the pressure, will have largely moved on to other points of interest.

Without that scrutiny weighing on him, Mickelson, who dedicated himself to a new workout regimen in the offseason and said he plans to reexamine his schedule in order to peak during the majors, will finally collect a title that has painfully eluded him for 2 ½ decades.


By JASON SOBEL

Making a bold prediction is sort of like Goldilocks rummaging through the house trying to find the perfect bed and the right bowl of porridge. Rory McIlroy will win a few tournaments? Not bold enough. Some no-name from Luxembourg will claim the green jacket? Whoa, that’s way too bold.

You’ve got to find a happy medium that is bold enough to raise some eyebrows and yet not so bold that it’s an outlandish suggestion. All of which leads to mine for the 2015 campaign: The International team will win the Presidents Cup. Finally.

I’m basing this on nothing but the law of averages. This biennial competition has been contested 10 times previously and the “rest of the world not including Europe” squad has won just one of 'em.

This time, though, there should be enough firepower to beat what should be another strong U.S. roster in South Korea. Nick Price’s lineup will once again be led by Adam Scott and Jason Day; Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen have become stalwarts; and Graham DeLaet and Hideki Matsuyama could each be top-10 players by next autumn.

The struggle, as usual for the International side, will be filling out the bottom half of its batting order. Just as the U.S. Ryder Cup team needed a jolt of enthusiasm from rookies Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, they could use an infusion of energy from the likes of Anirban Lahiri, Matt Jones and Carlos Ortiz; granted, none have the talent of Reed and Spieth, but the formula should be analogous. 

Don’t fret for the U.S. side, though. Even if it loses for the second time ever, there’s always time to create a task force before the next one.


By RYAN LAVNER

Dustin Johnson wins twice in 2015.

DJ hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since August, when he took a self-imposed leave of absence to deal with “personal challenges.” He figures to return sometime in February, and by all accounts he’s stayed sharp with his game and rededicated himself to his craft.

That should be bad news for the rest of the PGA Tour, because despite his “personal challenges” Johnson has been one of the most consistent players in the world – he’s won at least once every year since turning pro in 2007.

With better decision-making both on and off the course, Johnson might finally be able to maximize his awesome talent. I bet that process begins this year.


By RANDALL MELL

Michelle Wie wins two majors.

There was so much to like in Wie’s game in 2014, from her renewed confidence in her driver to her career best scoring average and putting stats, but what you had to like most was the look in her eyes. She was in no way content winning twice, with one of those her first major championship, the U.S. Women’s Open. Watching with her confidence coming back, you see the ambition in her eyes again. You see a player who at times looks like she wants to plow through the field to get to a trophy. And you hear a player talking openly about wanting to be No. 1 in the world.

Wie’s “table-top” putting stroke may look odd, but it held up at Pinehurst No. 2, in a U.S. Women’s Open, where the nerviest putts in the world have to be holed to win. She has the game, confidence and drive to keep winning big events this year.


By WILL GRAY

Ernie Els will win again on the PGA Tour.

The Big Easy is 45, but there’s still plenty of gas left in his tank. While Els hasn’t garnered many headlines since his win at the Open in 2012, he has had plenty of time to adjust to some new equipment, including a new putter in advance of the 2016 anchoring ban.

Now 63rd in the Official World Golf Ranking, Els is coming off a season that included only three top-10 finishes, and the globetrotter will likely continue to split time between the U.S. and Europe. But with 19 PGA Tour wins, Els doesn’t need a lot of starts to have a chance to contend, nor will he feel uncomfortable with his name on the leaderboard come Sunday.

The putter has been the issue for Els in recent years, but his tee-to-green game is still good enough to contend with some of the game’s best. At some point this year, the flat stick will get hot and Els will lift a trophy on U.S. soil for the first time since March 2010.