On the eve of the 2013 Masters–and thus the 2013 major championship season–I’ll offer my picks for this exciting forthcoming PGA year, but before I do, a word on Tiger Woods.
For over three years now, I’ve been saying Tiger will again return to major championship excellence. Sure, he’ll never chase the “Tiger Slam” and/or “Grand Slam” again. And I doubt he’ll be a huge factor in all four majors within one season ever again. Thus the “he’s back” commentary is a bit off base….he’ll never be “back” to the Tiger of 2000-01 or even 2007-08.
But I’ve wholeheartedly believed that he’ll win a few majors over the next 10-15 years, enough to pass (and comfortably) by Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. Even with his knee issues, you must remember that golf isn’t the NBA or NFL. Dozens of greats (Nicklaus, Julius Boros, Raymond Floyd, Lee Trevino, and of course Ben Hogan) have had tremendous major championship success well into their forties. And dozens of greats have overcome prolonged slumps in the process: Nicklaus, Trevino, and Johnny Miller come to mind.
Maybe the scandal that presumably knocked him off course took a toll on him, but enough time has passed that it’s no longer a nagging media burden for him. Plus, Tiger is the most mentally tough, driven athlete of the 21st century. Combine that with his game at an extremely sharp level and he is clearly the number one player in the world, and not just in the rankings.
Now to the picks:
The Masters: Tiger Woods….he just has too much experience and knowledge of the course. And now he’s got his confidence back to where it needs to be. We’re not gonna see a 15-stroke win or a dramatic Nike-centric chip from the fringe like we saw him use to defeat Chris DeMarco in 2005. But I think he grabs the lead by Friday evening and holds on to it through the weekend, thanks largely in part to owning the Par-5s.
The U.S. Open at Merion: Graeme McDowell…42 years ago–three seasons removed from his first U.S. Open championship–Lee Trevino won the National Open at nasty, short Merion with clutch putting and great ball-striking. On a somewhat level playing field with the long-hitters, McDowell will use a similar strategy to win his second U.S. Open, three years after his first.
The British Open at Muirfield: Luke Donald…sooner or later an Englishman will win the Open Championship again. (It’s been 21 years since Sir Nick Faldo did so). And sooner or later Donald will cash in on his handful of close calls at a major. Right?
The PGA Championship at Oak Hill: Dustin Johnson…although he’s had a rather up-and-down run the last few years, Johnson has all the tools to win one of these and now has a ton of final round, major championship experience under his belt.