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Punch Shot: Predicting the 2014 major champions

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This year's major rotation is Augusta National, Pinehurst No. 2, Royal Liverpool and Valhalla. Two days into 2014, GolfChannel.com writers are making their preliminary picks to win at each site.

By RYAN LAVNER

Masters: Tiger Woods. It’s hard to believe that Woods has gone eight years since winning at Augusta, where he slipped into the green jacket four times in his first nine starts as a pro. But it’s not like he’s fallen out of love with the place – in his most recent eight starts, he has only once finished worse than sixth (T-40, 2012). All signs point to the Masters as the major that Tiger resumes his pursuit of Jack.

U.S. Open: Phil Mickelson. Sure, the fairytale has a good chance of flopping at the end (again), but I like a guy who trains and prepares all year for one tournament. Phil will either win that elusive Open at Pinehurst, or try too hard and never factor. For a guy with a flair for the dramatic, I’m betting the former.

British Open: Adam Scott. Stumbled on the back nine again last year at Muirfield, giving him a pair of top-3s in his last two starts at the Open. He’s too good of a ball-striker not to be in the mix at the major that doesn’t require perfect putting.

PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy. The former world No. 1’s end to 2013 was no fluke, and he’s poised for a major bounce-back season. His game is predicated on his mood and his driving, and Valhalla, a big ballpark, presents a great opportunity for him to drive it long and make plenty of birdies. 


By RANDALL MELL

Wiping off the crystal ball ...

Wow, maybe this isn’t the future, but a dream season of winners coming through ...

Masters: Let’s see, that’s Tiger Woods slipping into a green jacket. He may not have won at Augusta National since 2005, but here’s his record there since: T-3, T-2, 2, T-6, T-4, T-4, T-40, T-4. He breaks his five-year winless spell in the majors with his fifth Masters title.

U.S. Open: Wow, that’s Phil Mickelson hoisting the trophy, finishing off the career Grand Slam with a poetic breakthrough, winning at Pinehurst, where he couldn’t beat Payne Stewart in ’99 but gets a fairy-tale ending anyway.

British Open: Double wow, that’s Sergio Garcia breaking through to win his first major, claiming it at Royal Liverpool in his 64th start in a major. He tied for fifth behind Woods there in '06.

PGA Championship: It’s another first-timer breaking through major frustration with Lee Westwood claiming his at Valhalla at 41.

That’s a dream season probably too good to be true, a writer's Big Story Slam.



By JASON SOBEL

Masters: Jason Day. He's been knocking on the door at Augusta for a few years and now that his buddy Adam Scott has lifted the weight of a nation off their collective shoulders, Day could make it two in a row for the Down Under crowd. Would still like to see a second PGA Tour victory before predicting him for major success, but the talent is certainly there.

U.S. Open: Tiger Woods. All eyes will be on Phil Mickelson's pursuit of a career grand slam this week -- which is just fine with Woods. Maybe better than fine, since keeping Phil out of that exclusive club could serve as extra motivation for Tiger. Having two previous top-three finishes at Pinehurst doesn't hurt, either.

Open Championship: Ian Poulter. You either love him or you love to hate him, but what often gets lost between Poulter's brash persona and flashy clothes is that he's also a heck of a player. We've seen him roll in putts from everywhere at the Ryder Cup; we've seen him make birdies in bunches at two previous Opens. This time it could finally lead to his first major win.

PGA Championship: Adam Scott. Of the 15 first-time major winners in the past five years, there's a good chance that seven or eight of 'em will never win another one. Scott isn't one of those guys. Now that he's tasted major success, expect a few more over the next half-decade. The proverbial floodgates haven't opened, but the door to victory circle certainly has. 


By REX HOGGARD

Masters: The year’s first major championship may be the easiest of this year’s Grand Slam outings to predict considering Jason Day’s play at Augusta National.

The Australian has been in contention two out of his three trips down Magnolia Lane, finishing third last year and tied for second in 2011.

Before Adam Scott’s Masters’ breakthrough last year some thought it would be Day who would bring the green jacket to Australia for the first time, but that historic ship has sailed which may be best for Day.

U.S. Open: The U.S. Open is a bit more complicated. Phil Mickelson will arrive at Pinehurst looking to complete the career Grand Slam, but it will be Tiger Woods, who has finished in the top 3 in the last two Opens played at No. 2, who ends his major drought.

Open Championship: Unless Hoylake plays like it did for the last Open Championship, crusty and baked to a golden hue, the stars will finally align for Lee Westwood, who finished tied for third last year at Muirfield.

PGA Championship: The PGA Championship, always a difficult prediction due to the eclectic mix of venues, will go to Keegan Bradley, who plays his best golf during the closing leg of the season having finished in the top 3 in four of his last six starts at the PGA and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.