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Crystal ball: 2014-15 PGA Tour predictions

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The PGA Tour awakens from its long offseason slumber this week with the 2014-15 season’s leadoff event at the Open. Seems like just yesterday Billy Horschel was fist pumping his way to the $10 million jackpot at East Lake ...

Before Thursday’s opening day, we peak into the crystal ball to see what awaits the golf world next season.

A rookie will emerge as an elite player: With a monsoon of respect to Chesson Hadley, the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year, last year’s first-timer class wasn’t exactly a blue-chip group. In fact, only two rookies from last year’s original class finished inside the top 125 on the final FedEx Cup points list.

But this year’s class has all the markings of something special. While the Tour’s small print relegated Brooks Koepka and Victor Dubuisson to last year’s class, the duo combined to play just 26 events last season and will be rookies in everything but name. This year’s class will also include the likes of Carlos Ortiz, Justin Thomas and Andrew Putnam from the Tour, who have all been tabbed as potential stars.

The U.S. will win a team competition, but just barely: Although this is hardly a stretch considering that the last time the U.S. Presidents Cup team lost (1998), Jordan Spieth was in kindergarten. 

Just don’t expect another rout.

Nick Price was solid in his captaining debut in 2013 and gets another chance to crack the code late next year in South Korea with an impressive group of young players.

Patrick Reed becomes a top-5 player: The fiery American earned plenty of street cred for his play at the Ryder Cup, and despite a sometimes-gruff demeanor, he won over more than a few fans and Tour frat brothers with his play and passion in Scotland.

Expect Reed to pick up where he left off.

A player (probably Jimmy Walker) will earn a trip to East Lake before Thanksgiving: Consider that through the fall portion of last season’s schedule, Walker had earned 684 points, primarily through his victory at the Open and sixth-place finish at the CIMB Classic, which was nearly enough to secure his spot in the third playoff stop.

Chances are good that someone goes one better this fall.

A player completes the career Grand Slam: No not Rory McIlroy, although the Northern Irishman seems likely to make things interesting next spring when he arrives at Augusta National a green jacket shy of the career accomplishment.

It’s Phil Mickelson, however, who closes out the career foursome at June’s U.S. Open. Many of the expectations Lefty dealt with in 2014 at Pinehurst will be mitigated by arguably his worst n the Tour. But at 44 years old, the southpaw still has something to prove.

Tiger Woods makes history: Still not sure if the often-injured star is able to reach Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 Grand Slam titles, but after a few months on the DL, it seems likely he can notch major No. 15 next season. If 2013, when he won five times, taught us anything it's that when Woods is anywhere close to 100 percent, he can still be a dominant force.

What makes that potential win historic is that he secures major glory for the first time without a swing coach at his side.

An Australian wins the Masters: After Adam Scott broke the Aussie “duck” at Augusta National in 2013, more players from down under have targeted the season’s first major, but the last Aussie standing next April will be Jason Day, who has two top-3 finishes in four starts at the Masters and should finally be healthy enough to fulfill all that potential.

Billy Horschel receives a captain’s pick: After Horschel’s stellar finish to the 2013-14 season, it doesn’t seem likely he’ll need one of Jay Haas’ captain’s picks to play the Presidents Cup, but the excitable American has a history of streaky play.

Even if Horschel doesn’t have his best stuff this season, there is no way Haas doesn’t make him a pick. Consider it a learning moment after the Ryder Cup.

Dustin Johnson returns from hiatus: And tells anyone who will listen that he wasn’t suspended by the PGA Tour for failing a third drug test, which was reported earlier this year by
But Johnson, who has proven himself adept at playing through distractions, quickly changes the conversation with an early win, marking his eighth consecutive season with at least one Tour victory.