The beauty of a new season is the unknown. The players we just dont know about and the players well soon know plenty about.
Tis the Season and this column will be about numbers, using the Twelve Days of Christmas. Not trying to be cute (beyond just giving you the 12 subjects for the song in case youd forgotten). Instead (though you can hum along if youd like), Ill just give you a countdown using the number 12 to share some things that might just make you think about the year that was, the year that will be or just your love for the game and what it brings.
12. Drummers Drumming (Twelve Sure Bets to win a PGA TOUR event)
Some of these are easy. But as a whole, picking winners is never a lock. Heres 12, and while you can say that many were not that challenging, Id offer up the theory that if Ernie and Retief can go winless as they did in 2006, then who knows. I say each of these guys is sure to click at least once:
Woods, Mickelson, Furyk, Els, Singh, Toms, Immelman, Garcia, Scott, Goosen, Love, Ogilvy.
11. Pipers Piping (Eleven Pretty Safe Bets to win a PGA TOUR event)
These guys are no guarantee to find the winners circle. But if somebody said, you need to get away from the obvious, then I subscribe to the theory that this batch of 11 will hold a trophy in 2007:
Jerry Kelly, Steve Stricker, Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Mike Weir, Ryan Palmer, Chad Campbell, Arron Olberholser, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Shaun Micheel.
10. Lords-a-Leaping (Ten Decent Bets to Get a First PGA TOUR win)
How in the world doesnt Harrison Frazar have a PGA TOUR win by now? Far too talented to keep this streak going. I say it ends. And Ill give you a list of 10 who I think can get rid of the donut beside their name:
Frazar, Brian Gay, Bill Haas, Justin Rose, Tim Clark. Brett Quigley, Daniel Chopra, Camilo Villegas, Nathan Green, Nick Watney.
9. Ladies Dancing (The Back Nine at Augusta 2007)
While its nine Ladies Dancing, well save the ladies for No. 8. This is about the years first PGA TOUR major. Much as I try right at this moment, I just cant see any way that Tiger Woods doesnt get Phil Mickelson to return the favor and slip a green over his shoulders. Woods battles Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, David Toms and Luke Donald on the back nine, until about the 15th hole where it becomes clear that Woods has it in the bag. It makes three majors in a row, 13 overall and the only question is whether he continues a streak of consecutive PGA TOUR wins in the process.
8. Maids-a-Milking (Top 8 on the LPGA Money List)
Remember, its a Solheim Cup year so the season will already have some drama. But the money list in 2007 should be a wild ride once again. This time, its not Ochoa or Sorenstam who wins it. Karrie Webb proved a lot in 2006. Ochoa has clearly established herself as the rising star ' well see how she handles the pressure. Itll finish like this:
Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam, Christie Kerr, Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, Mi Hyun Kim, Natalie Gulbis, Ai Miyazato.
7. Swans-a-Swimming (The PGA TOURs Lucky 7)
Last year, 20 players who graduated either from the Nationwide Tour or PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament were able to finish among the PGA TOURs Top 125 on the money list. Given that Chris Couch, Troy Matteson, Eric Axley, Brett Wetterich and J.B, Holmes counted themselves among the winners in 2006, wed better keep an eye on this years graduates. Heres a list of seven whove battled tough tours and tough times and who I believe will have their moments from either the Nationwide Tour or Q-School:
Paul Gow, Johnson Wagner, Anthony Kim, Matt Kuchar, Cameron Beckman, Dicky Pride, Bob May.
6. Geese-a-Laying (Six Foreign Born Players Ready to Make Noise)
Every year the invasion swells and it becomes tougher for the American up-n-comers to go ahead and come up. Its a worldwide game and here are six names to remember this year. One will be a PGA TOUR rookie, the others have been on tour and are ready to really make some noise:
Julieta Granata ' LPGA, Jarrod Lyle ' Nationwide Tour Graduate, Greg Owen ' PGA TOUR, Ian Poulter ' PGA TOUR, Justin Rose ' PGA TOUR.
5. Golden Rings (Five 50-Somethings Ready For Champions Tour)
Ah. Its great to be fifty. Ask Loren Roberts how hes doing these days. And this year the list of 50 year old birthday boys grows to include some other names. Watch out, because there they come. Nick Faldo, Nick Price, John Cook, Seve Ballesteros, Mark OMeara, Jeff Sluman. Together theyll provide the Champions Tour with some pizzazz. And look out Loren ' theyre after your money.
4. Calling Birds (The Four Major Winners)
When the PGA Grand Slam of Golf heads to Bermuda next Thanksgiving week, these are the guys who will be there:
Masters ' Woods slips past Fuyrk.
U.S. Open ' Furyk outlasts Woods and Els to win at Oakmont.
Open Championship ' Woods adds to Jean Van de Veldes pain by making birdie at Carnousties 18th en route to a four shot win.
PGA Championship ' at Southern Hills its Sergio Garcia breaking through at the site of Retief Goosens U.S, Open.
Els rounds out the foursome at the PGA Grand Slam by virtue of his consistent major record in 2007.
3. French Hens (The Three Most Intriguing Non-Majors)
This one is tough. Ill leave WGC events out of this because I actually believe that the playoff stretch run of the FedEX Cup will get far more water cooler conversation. But those events aside here are my three:
Mercedes-Benz Championship ' Will Tigers streak continue? Will Stuart Appleby win yet again? And selfishly, plenty of eyes will be on The Golf Channel as PGA TOUR coverage finds a new home.
EDS Byron Nelson Championship ' After Lord Byrons passing you can bet the field will be full of stars paying tribute and the trophy ceremony will be emotional. Winning it this year will be extra special.
The PLAYERS ' newly renovated course, new date in May and plenty of fireworks after the Masters and before the U.S. Open.
2. Turtle Doves (Two Most Perplexing Players Heading to 07)
Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els. This one is easy for me. Each man could win multiple majors and also Player of the Year. Each one could continue along their most recent path and struggle a bit. I pick them because well be watching them as much as anyone. Word is that Phils coming out more fit than ever and at this stage Ernies knee can no longer be an issue. The feeling here is that each man wins early whether they win often is what Ill be waiting to see.
1. Partridge in a Pear Tree (One Player of the Year)
In two of the last three years on the PGA TOUR I picked Ernie Els. He hasnt been able to do it. This year, Im not taking the chance. Until somebody proves Tigers not the best, hes still the best.
Predictions are just that. And youll probably find plenty of reason to disagree. Thats just fine with me. I enjoy reading your take on my take. More than anything, Im looking forward to a new look PGA TOUR, the continuation of a great bit of LPGA momentum and some new fresh faces on the Champions Tour.
The fresh new beginning for The Golf Channel is pretty exciting too. I hope youll enjoy the ride along with us. Happy Holidays!
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann