By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos by David Vier
KAPALUA, MAUI, HI – The 2015 PGA Tour kicked off at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, played in the beautiful island paradise that is Maui, Hawaii, with 34 winners from last year teeing it up competing in what was traditionally seen as the start of the new pro golf season.
Patrick Reed won in a playoff, a fitting conclusion to a tournament that typically provides plenty of drama.
The Kapalua Plantation Course hosted the event, adding in the stunning deep blue of Hawaiian waters and the ever-present breaching Humpback whales.
With the Hyundai in our rearview mirror, it's a great time of year to make predictions for the upcoming season. I correctly forecasted that Tiger Woods would not win a major in 2014 – and even cited his back problems as the basis for my conclusion.
|Australian Geoff Ogilvy hopes to follow many successful Aussies at Kapalua.|
Gazing into the crystal ball, it’s a little tougher to size-up the 2015 season as Woods looks to be fully recovered from his physical ailments, Phil Mickelson has worked off the extra pounds and Rory McIlroy is currently distracted again with potentially embarrassing litigation.
Golf is physical and mental, right?
There are also a number of players who could star this year, led by the likes of Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day.
Only time will tell. But let’s dive-in with some predictions anyway:
--Tiger’s major-less streak will continue in 2015.
|The swing will look different in 2015... will it help Tiger come back?|
True, Tiger’s physical form seems more promising than it has been in years and he’s finally shaken off the problematic Sean Foley swing that’s sent golf commentators into a tizzy for the past several seasons. Brandel Chamblee and Johnny Miller hailed Woods’ decision to part ways with Foley, but who’s to say whether Tiger’s new coach (Chris Como) will be able to resurrect the legendary mental edge that he enjoyed prior to 2009?
There are just too many variables to overcome to forecast a grand Woods comeback in 2015. John Daly may see it coming, but Woods’ history of injury problems, his “new” personal life, his new swing and the emergence of many new and talented players will make it much more difficult for Woods to dominate like he once did.
The Open Championship returns to St. Andrews this year – one of Woods’ favorite courses – but will a little extra impulse place him above the rest?
The major championships are the hardest events to win. Here’s thinking Woods is shutout again in 2015.
--Rory McIlroy will win the Masters and complete the career grand slam.
|Will Rory look distracted in 2015? Photo from Nike Golf.|
McIlroy broke off his engagement with Caroline Wozniacki in May and then went on a month-long tear in July and August that earned him player-of-the-year honors in 2014.
Rory’s off-the-course problems continue, somewhat, but his experience in dealing with them the last time around will pay off in improved play this year. The fact is, McIlroy is too motivated and too talented to fail at Augusta. The course sets up extremely well for him and his length and superior putting will be too much to overcome.
Bubba Watson will probably provide more of a threat at the Masters than will Woods or Mickelson. But Bubba’s mercurial play won’t produce a back-to-back victory in Georgia this year.
Rory’s not a lock by any means… but I wouldn’t bet against him.
--Phil Mickelson will win once in 2015… at Chambers Bay at the US Open.
|Phil Mickelson will try to complete the career grand slam this year at Chambers Bay in Washington,|
As long as we’re talking about career grand slams, why not Phil at the US Open?
The Tour players aren’t familiar with Washington’s Chambers Bay, so there isn’t anyone with a course-knowledge advantage. Short-game creativity will therefore be at a premium – and there’s no one better than Mickelson in coming up with off the wall shots.
Phil’s window for winning the US Open is closing fairly quickly. You have to like his chances this year. If he’s going to do it, this might be his last best shot.
--Finally, Jordan Spieth breaks out as the next American star.
This may have already happened, but Spieth is on the verge of becoming the new face of American professional golf. At 21 years-old, Spieth has already been a member of the US Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, as well as having become a fixture on leader boards.
|Jason Day will need that putter to perform well in 2015.|
He’s a nice kid and not the least bit controversial. Spieth is just what the sport needs – headlines for what happens between the ropes instead of in the tabloid pages.
So here’s looking forward to the next eleven months of golf. At the very least, it’ll be entertaining.
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