After a lackluster 2010 PGA Tour season (wasn't Louis Oosthuizen your pick to win the British Open?), golf fans can look forward to a more exciting 2011 season. After all, Tiger Woods is back, Lee Westwood is the world's top golfer, and a prominent batch of "young guns" is on the rise.
With that in mind, here are five predictions for the 2011 PGA Tour season, which gets underway this weekend with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course on the Kapalua Resort in Maui.
1. Lee Westwood isn't going anywhere
At the end of the 2010 season, Lee Westwood became the first player in the last five years to be ranked No. 1 in the world whose name wasn't Tiger Woods. Some fans believe that once Tiger wins a tournament and gets his game back in gear, his No. 1 ranking will be handed to him. Not the case. Woods usually plays just two tournaments before the Masters, and even if he wins both, the No. 1 ranking isn't a lock. Westwood has been playing excellent golf and scored his first win as the top ranked golfer in Dubai back in November. Tiger will get the ranking back eventually, however don't expect it to be until around the Memorial in May.
2. Rory McIlroy will win a major
Last season, McIlroy finished in the top three in the final two majors. McIlroy also displayed comfort in pressure situations in 2010, contributing to the Europeans defeat of the Americans in the Ryder Cup. He also set a course record of 62 against a talented field at Quail Hallow on the final day to lock up his first PGA Tour victory. Having grown up in Northern Ireland, McIlroy shines in poor playing conditions, making him a threat at Royal St. Georges, host of the British Open this year.
3. Dustin Johnson will have a breakout season
We all know about the "sand trap" that cost Johnson the Wanamaker Trophy and his colossal breakdown at the U.S. Open. However, Johnson is the man to beat at Pebble Beach again this season, having won National Pro-Am in back-to-back seasons. And, his ball striking ability is unbelievable (averaging an astounding 308.5 a drive), making him a contender at any long course. Expect Johnson to contend for the FedEx Cup.
4. The Americans will win the President's Cup
This November, the President's Cup will be played down under at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia. Last year's Ryder Cup came down to the wire, with the Europeans eventually winning in Wales. It should be noted that although Woods played well, he wasn't put under much pressure and didn't have a real challenge beating Francesco Molinari as opposed to squaring off against a top European player like Ian Poulter or even Westwood. Also, the Americans were without a healthy Anthony Kim, as his game wasn't up to par just months after coming off wrist surgery. Players like Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Johnson, if playing well, should be able to win another President's Cup. Worth noting: The only President's loss for the Americans came in 1998 ... in Melbourne.
5. Tiger Woods will win the FedEx Cup
You didn't think we'd skip the chance to make a Tiger Woods prediction, did you? Woods is slowly regaining his old form, as he was so close to winning last month at his Chevron World Challenge (losing in a playoff to Graeme McDowell). If Woods can stay on that pace, watch out. With wins at the Masters and at Congresional (home of this year's U.S. Open), Tiger certainly has the experience to win a major or two, which would alone would put him in contention for the FedEx Cup. Just think -- last year Jim Furyk won the Cup with a grand total of three wins, tied for most wins on Tour in 2010. If playing well Tiger should have that before the British Open.