It’s a new year, which means it’s time for some new predictions (sure to go poorly by about this time next week). The fun part is that anything is possible at this time of the year. Jordan Spieth could win three majors. Rory McIlroy could win the Masters by 15. Bryson DeChambeau could weigh 300 pounds by the Florida swing. Because anything can happen and golf changes so quickly, predictions that sound preposterous right now might actually come to fruition by the end of 2021 (imagine predicting a November Masters in January 2020).
Last year’s predictions aged reasonably well, such as Viktor Hovland getting to No. 25 in the world, although a few of them were woeful, such as Jordan Spieth being ranked ahead of Brooks Koepka by the end of the year. Such is life as a prognosticator. This time around we’ll look at a few of the top players in the world, some of the biggest events (that will hopefully actually happen this year) and a few other odds and ends as 2021 gets underway.
1. Bryson DeChambeau wins the Masters
Don’t be thrown off the scent by his poor performance last November. Augusta National really is a par 67 for him, and if he plays average, he’ll finish in the top 10. Bryson will be a theme for these predictions throughout, but this will be his apex in 2021.
2. Patrick Reed also wins a major
At first I thought Reed was a one-off Masters champ, but the more I watch his career unfold, the more convinced I am that he’s going to win multiple major championships. Here are my early 2021 major predictions.
Masters: Bryson DeChambeau
PGA Championship: Matthew Wolff
U.S. Open: Jon Rahm
Open Championship: Patrick Reed
3. A big organization draws a distance line
Also Bryson-centric and not completely unrelated to No. 1. Several organizations hinted at some sort of line in the sand in 2020, but nobody drew it — probably partly because of the pandemic — although the USGA at least touched the sand with its hand. I’ll always believe the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot will stand as an inflection point in the history of the sport, and if Bryson does the same thing to Augusta National, there’s going to be movement from the governing bodies.
4. Tiger Woods will win
Not just a charity match, either. When it comes to Tiger over the last few years, I’ve learned to go against my instincts, and my instincts right now are telling me that he’s in for another lousy year just like 2020. However, this time last year he was coming off that Zozo Championship victory in the fall that tied Sam Snead’s record of 82 wins, and it felt like he was going to win 2-3 times in 2020. What we got was far from that. I faded him 12 months ago, and I’ll fade the pessimism on him this time around.
5. Big name jumps to Premier Golf League
I’m guessing Phil Mickelson. The coffee ships globally.
6. Injuries are the story of 2021
I hope this is not the case, but with speed wars officially underway and Bryson attempting to qualify for the heavyweight division, things might not be going in the right direction. Compound this with an absolutely loaded professional golf slate in which many golfers will be playing more than they ever have before, and I think this becomes a story for more of the top guys than usual.
7. Rahm has a better year than D.J.
This is essentially a coin flip that doesn’t feel like much of one right now given the run Dustin Johnson has been on. The reality here is that Jon Rahm has been more consistent at a higher level than D.J. (between 2.4 and 2.5 strokes gained each of the last three years). While normally I would actually desire volatility because it often leads to wins, in this instance I want the consistency because Rahm is doing it at such a high level that it will lead to wins regardless.
8. Europe’s lions hang on too long
It’s going to happen at some point, and this year smells like the year. Can’t you see a haggard Padraig Harrington defaulting to Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia at the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, and a much more talented (and young) U.S. squad just destroying them? I know we keep saying that’s going to happen, but this year might actually be that year given the mediocrity with which guys like Rose, Garcia and Henrik Stenson have been playing. If they do just enough to get on the squad, it might get ugly for Europe.
9. Rasmus Hojgaard ranked in the top 25
Speaking of Europeans who could make runs at a Ryder Cup squad, Hojgaard is a stud (who turns 20 in March). I think he romps through the European Tour this year and jumps into the top 25 just like Hovland did last year. Might start calling this the Viktor Hovland Memorial prediction.
10. Full capacity by the Ryder Cup
How good of an ending to the pandemic would a packed Ryder Cup be? I don’t know that it’s possible, and I won’t pretend to know all the iterations of how the pandemic will or could play out. But I’ll put this one down as a hopeful (and perfect) ending to 18 grueling months for the planet.