Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The 2012 PGA Tour Preview

By. Beaver in Sterling

Is 2012 the year of Tiger, Phil and other gritty veterans, or will the "young guns" like Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Bill Haas and Rory McIllroy continue to take over the tour?

The 2011 season, as far as the majors were concerned, was all about the first time winners. The Masters saw Charl Schwartzel come from behind on Sunday, fighting off a charging Tiger Woods, while eventual US Open winner Rory McIllroy struggled. Schwartzel, a golfer under most peoples' radar, has had much success on the Euro Tour and "bigger" PGA tour events. He was the first South African major winner since fellow countryman Trevor Immelman won the same tournament in 2008.

The before mentioned McIllroy won the next major, the US Open at Congressional, an event that I attended. Congressional is a horrible walking course and it wasn't an easy layout either. McIllroy looked like a man amongst boys that week, two months after his meltdown at Augusta, and it was good to see him win this one.

The Open Championship produced another Northern Ireland winner, a golfer that most of us can relate to in Darren Clarke. Clarke, a man that has lived through tragedy in his life, finally accomplished the goal that all golfers want to achieve in winning a major. Clarke was pretty much out of the discussion until the 5th hole on Sunday, when everyone but him fell victim to the elements that always play a factor overseas. In my opinion, it's by far the hardest major to win.

Last but certainly not least, came the PGA championship and Keegan Bradley. Who is Keegan Bradley? Bradley was a rookie on the 2011 PGA tour and already a winner before he stepped foot onto the grounds in Atlanta. This was probably the least watched major of the 2011 season, but for us "true" golf fans by far the most riveting. After Bradley dropped his 2nd shot on 15 into the water, making a triple bogey, he came from behind to force a playoff and eventually win his first major.

2012, in my opinion, is going to be a season of proving yourself to the world that you have "arrived". 4 weeks into the season, we've already seen this on the European tour. Englishman Robert Rock, who prior to this weekend was known as the guy who almost didn't make last year's US Open because of some visa issues, went toe to toe with Tiger Woods yesterday, and beat Woods and a pretty strong field in Dubai. Winning his second Euro Tour tournament of his career, this weekend's win has put him on golf's world map.

Speaking of Tiger, I'm impressed with what I've seen from him over the last few months. A strong T-3 finish in Australia at the end of 2011, in a tournament that had a pretty strong field. He then won his own event, albeit only 18 players in the field, and then this weekend's showing in Dubai. These results are a far cry from the talk of him 6-9 months ago, when a lot of drive by'ers and golf experts, for that matter, were writing him off as done. Based on what I've seen of late, I'd expect Tiger to win at least once this year on tour, and to be in contention on Sunday, in at least 2 of the 4 Majors.

We almost saw a young gun win yesterday here in the States. 3rd year pro Kyle Stanley blew a 6 shot lead going into the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open, which included a triple bogey 8 on the 72nd hole of the tournament. He eventually lost to Brandt Snedeker on the second playoff hole, but with his second runner up finish in less than a year, the 23 year old Stanley is one of the young players who is on the cusp.

Although I'm excited to see some of the newer faces on tour end up in the winners' circle, I do think that the veterans are going to take this tour back and not only that, win majors. With that being said here are MY selections for this years majors:

The Masters- Tiger Woods, US Open- Dustin Johnson, Open championship- Sergio Garcia, and The PGA Championship- Matt Kuchar.

I'd like to close by telling you about a 2012 PGA tour rookie for whom you should follow. His name is Billy Hurley III. He's a Leesburg, Va native, a graduate of the US Naval Academy, and he made the tour via his finish on the 2011 Nationwide tour. He has already made the cut in his 1st event as a "full" member. So good luck to Billy, and for those of us that remember him from his high school playing days.... let's hope he and Tiger are not paired together!! (full story on that story, to come in a later blog)

Follow Beaver in Sterling on twitter @beav4666

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