Early predictions Sure it’s only the first week of December, but it’s never too early to start laying out the favorites for next year’s majors. According to NBC’s Ryan Ballengee, Colin Montgomerie has no doubt who will be slipping on that green jacket come April.
Lee Westwood appeared to be in great shape to win his first major championship at the Masters last April. In the final round, Westwood lost his one stroke 54-hole lead to Phil Mickelson, who went on to win his third green jacket. He was criticized in circles, weary of his affinity to come up just short in the face of a major breakthrough.
Winning Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie says that will not be the case next April.
“With Westwood’s success at the Masters this year, I think he’ll win the first major of the year,” Montgomerie said on Wednesday at the European Tour Golfer of the Year luncheon in London.
“Lee has been second or third on a number of occasions now, but I think the fact that, the number one status has not affected him in any shape or form, in fact it has just increased his confidence, I feel that will run into a win in the Masters.”
It’s no big shock that Montgomerie would pick his good friend and Ryder Cup stud as an early favorite (and with top-3 finishes in four of five majors, Westwood has earned it), but it’s worth noting that, other than last year, Westwood’s only top-10 finish at Augusta was in 1999. Since Monty has been bold enough to make his prediction public this early, so will I: Paul Casey, who has finished in the top-10 twice in four attempts (he was cut playing through an injury in 2010) and finished T-3 at the Open Championship last year. But something tells me he’d be a less likely pick from Monty. S-puttering Tiger It was a generally brutal year for Tiger Woods on the golf course, but while his ball striking seemed to improve as the year went on, for most of us watching from outside the ropes it seemed that Tiger’s putter just wasn’t the deadly weapon we remembered from his prime. The PGA Tour’s Stan Awtrey crunched the numbers on Tiger’s flatstick, and the results were not good for the world No. 2.
Consider this: In 2008, Woods ranked first in putting success inside the 5-foot range. He made 98.01 percent of his tries, rolling in 148 of 151. That’s robotic, which is amazing when you consider the pressure situations under which Woods works and his deteriorating physical condition that required knee surgery following his win at the U.S. Open.
His percentage was even better in 2009, up to 98.08 percent, but that was only good enough to rank second on the TOUR. He made 663 of 676 putts from inside 5 feet.
This year the story was different. He still made 97.35 percent of his tries inside 5 feet — and that’s an amazingly strong effort — but it was only good enough to place 23rd on the PGA TOUR. Paul Casey was the leader with a Woodsian-like 98.68 percent mark; he missed only eight from that range all season.
Now extend that distance another 5 feet. In 2010, Tiger made 480 of 550 putts inside 10 feet. That’s a rate of 87.27 percent — his worst percentage since ShotLink began tracking the statistic in 2002. That percentage ranked him tied for 84th on TOUR. The previous year? Woods led the TOUR in that statistic at 90.44 percent (776 of 858).
Even seeing it with my own eyes all season, it’s amazing to read those numbers. The biggest takeaway is that PGA Tour golfers are good–really, really good. In reality, Tiger is only a little bit off his game, but when you’re talking about the best players in the world, a little bit is the difference between the greatest of all time and a mere mortal. As Tiger showed on Sunday at the Chevron, currently he is a mere mortal. Amazing Race The folks over at oobgolf.com dug up this sweet video of a Lamborghini Gallardo drag race with Stuart Appleby in a Callaway/Lamborghini co-marketing campaign that has to be one of the strangest marriages I’ve ever heard of. While “Mr. 59” isn’t the first Tour player I’d choose to share screentime with the ferociously awesome Gallardo, he almost holds his own against one of the most powerful cars in the world. As for his drive…well, see for yourself.