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Who is more likely to win a major in 2011 Johnson or McIlroy

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Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy are two of the bright young stars in the game. Who has a better chance of winning a major this season? Rex Hoggard and Randall Mell weigh in with their opinions.

By REX HOGGARD

When the history is written for Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy it’s a safe bet that both budding stars will enjoy a six-pack of major keepsakes on the mantel but it will be the lanky American who gets on the Grand Slam board first in 2011.

Half-empty types will point to DJ’s major heartbreaks in 2010 – first at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach where he ballooned to a closing 82 and then at the PGA Championship where he was crossed up by a rules snafu – and dismiss his chances. But it will be those failures that will only serve to season Johnson, as evidenced by his late-season victory at the BMW Championship.

Johnson is also uniquely suited for this season’s major ballparks.

Despite the best efforts of the U.S. Golf Association, the long ball still rules and DJ is a bombing expert. He ranked third on Tour in driving distance in 2010, had the fourth-longest drive (414 yards at Kapalua) and was third in club head speed (121 mph). Handy stuff at an Augusta National (7,445 yards) or Atlanta Athletic Club, site of this year’s PGA Championship and home to a 260-yard par 3.

But most of all, Johnson will win a major in ’11 because he’s learned how to do it, the hard way.

By RANDALL MELL

My money’s on Dustin Johnson. I’m all-in on this giant talent.

I love Rory McIlroy’s game, and I believe he will win major championships. Johnson beats him to the first, though, because he’s already navigated so much deeper in major championship fire. He’ll be so much more comfortable in the heat next time he’s there.

Johnson, 26, has major championship scars, the kind I’m betting will help, not hurt him. He has the kind that emboldens a player.

Blowing the final-round lead at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, controversially losing the PGA Championship, Johnson endured a double dose of major championship suffering last year. It didn’t weaken him, because we’ve seen major championship scarring do that. It strengthened him. We saw that just a month after the PGA Championship, when Johnson closed so confidently to win the FedEx Cup’s BMW Championship.

McIlroy, 21, has already logged four top-10s in majors, three times tying for third. That’s impressive, but only once has he felt the furnace blast of major championship pressure with a victory within reach late on a Sunday. He got close at Whistling Straits, but not close enough to scar. Of course, close calls aren’t required before a breakthrough, nor are scars, but they can help.