Who will surprise us most in 2011


Which player will be a break-through surprise in the world of golf in 2011? Rex Hoggard and Randall Mell weigh in with their opinions.


From lowered expectations often come great things, which is why Davis Love III’s name will register as the year’s biggest surprise when the postscript is written for 2011.

Not that a 20-time PGA Tour winner and Ryder Cup captain-in-waiting has anything to prove which, in the often twisted psyche of a professional athlete, will be the fuel behind a resurgence.

When Love takes to the fairways for his season debut this week in Hawaii it will be more than his golf bag and wardrobe that will have changed. Gone will be the expectations that have weighed so heavily on a player who has been unfairly dubbed an underachiever in some circles.

The pressure to win a second major or to pad his team resume will have gone the way of those Titleist irons, dispatched by the realities and responsibilities of a Ryder Cup captaincy.

At 46 years old, Love still has enough pop for the modern Tour (he ranked 17th in driving distance last year) and he is enjoying perhaps the longest injury-free phase of career. It’s also worth noting that he’s already qualified for the Masters, and U.S. Open, via his tie for sixth at last year’s national championship.

Most of all, however, he will surprise us because for the first time he’s not trying to.


You’ll know when Jeff Overton makes his big move this year.

You’ll likely hear him coming.

“Boom, baby!”

That’s what we’ll always remember Overton roaring after he holed out a wedge in a four-ball match at the Ryder Cup in Wales last fall. While there were doubts about Overton when he became the first player to qualify for the American Ryder Cup team without having won a PGA Tour event, he didn’t wilt with the scrutiny. He rose to meet the challenge in one of golf’s most pressure-filled events. He won two points for the Americans, including his singles match.

Look for the big hitter to surprise you in how boldly he charges onto the big stages this year while using confidence won last fall to reach a new level on the PGA Tour. Look for Overton to be a surprisingly large factor in a large number of events. Look for him to win his first PGA Tour title and add a second. And look for him to be a factor for the first time in a major.

Overton, 27, an Indiana native, took a significant step up a year ago with six top-10 finishes. In a 10-tournament summer run, he finished second three times and third twice. Look for him to finish off those runs this year.