11 Things We Definitely Thought Were Going To Happen That Didn't
April 23, 2014
Tiger Woods will break Jack Nicklaus' major championship mark with ease
At the start of the 2008 season, the bigger question wasn't whether Tiger would catch Jack's record of 18 majors, but whether he'd do it by the close of the decade. Woods was coming off his 13th at the PGA at Southern Hills, and with Augusta and Torrey Pines awaiting, it seemed inevitable his major momentum would continue. It didn't quite work out that way, of course. Woods did win the U.S. Open at Torrey, but he also blew out his knee and missed the rest of the season. Then came the sex scandal of 2009, and the only thing that's stayed the same for Woods since is still being stuck on 14.
Tiger Woods will never regain the top spot in golf
In the direct aftermath of his scandal, as Woods contended with a combination of physical and emotional issues, it was hard to imagine him winning a tournament of any kind again. He played respectably at times in 2010, registering a couple of T-4s in the majors, but when he lost a stretch of 2011 to an Achilles injury, it appeared Woods would never be the game's elite player. Three wins in 2012 followed by his five-win, player-of-the-year season in 2013 didn't necessarily return Woods to the heights he once knew, but did get him his No. 1 ranking back.
Michelle Wie will dominate women's golf
By the time she started popping up on LPGA leader boards as a 13-year-old, Wie seemed a lock to one day be the No. 1 player in women's golf. She had a nearly perfect swing that gave her a distinct power advantage and was already contending regularly against women more than twice her age. Then she played in the PGA Tour's Sony Open and shot a second-round 68 to nearly make the cut. But Wie's road soon got rockier. Her repeated appearances in men's pro events led to diminishing returns, and her confidence seemed to wane. Now a full-time member of the LPGA Tour after graduating from Stanford, Wie recently won her third career tournament, but she's still looking for a first major.
Ty Tryon will lead to a mass stream of teenagers onto the PGA Tour
When Tryon made it through PGA Tour Qualifying School at age 17 to earn his card in 2001, the concern wasn't just about one high schooler traveling the world with grown men. Instead, it was that golf would soon follow the trend set by the NBA, with dozens of AJGA stars bypassing college in hopes of playing at the game's highest level. On the men's side at least, it never happened. Tryon wasn't able to keep his tour card, and while a handful of other teenagers such as Kevin Na and Sean O'Hair also turned pro early, they required seasoning in the minor leagues before moving on.
Sergio Garcia will be Tiger's primary rival
For a brief period, Garcia looked to be the player best positioned to challenge Woods on a regular basis. Along with his breakthrough runner-up finish to Tiger in the 1999 PGA Championship, Garcia emerged as a standout Ryder Cup player for Europe and had six PGA Tour wins by age 25. But over time, Garcia emerged as more of an annoyance to Woods than a real rival. The two had a famous run-in at the 2000 made-for-TV "Battle of Bighorn," when Garcia celebrated excessively after beating Woods in an 18-hole match, and the chasm deepened when Garcia accused Woods of receiving preferential treatment at the 2002 U.S. Open. It resurfaced again last year when Garcia accused Woods of creating a distraction while Sergio played a shot at the Players Championship. The real issue, though, was in how Woods had clearly surpassed Garcia in every measurable way on the course. He has won 14 majors, while Garcia is still looking for his first.
Augusta National will never be pressured into having a woman member
When Martha Burk began her public badgering of Augusta National and its chairman Hootie Johnson over the club's all-male membership, the green jackets were adamant they would never bow to public pressure. And since the membership policy was likely to be an annual discussion topic at the Masters, there seemed to be no opportunity for the club to alter its stance. A tipping point came when Billy Payne replaced Johnson in 2006, and the new chairman sensed an opportunity for the club to reshape its image on its own terms. Four months after the conclusion of the 2012 Masters, in the relative quiet of August, the club issued a release saying Condoleeza Rice and Darla Moore had joined as its newest members.
The Presidents Cup rivalry will get heated
Through four playings of the Presidents Cup, aka "That Other Cup The Americans Play For," the U.S. had won three times, with the competition featuring very little in the way of real drama. A breakthrough appeared to come in 2003, when the U.S. and Internationals played into the darkness on Sunday night in South Africa, before captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player eventually decided to end the event in a tie. This unprecedented act of sportsmanship brought a new level of intrigue to the Presidents Cup, perhaps triggering a rivalry that could match the Ryder Cup in intensity. Not even close. The Americans have won each of the five Presidents Cups since, mostly in decisive fashion, with arguably the most drama coming with the unveiling of team uniforms.
Stack & Tilt will take off on the PGA Tour
Stack & Tilt's height as an instruction phenomenon came in June 2007, when it was touted in Golf Digest as "the new tour swing" and its most prominent player, Aaron Baddeley, played in Sunday's final pairing at the U.S. Open. After three Stack & Tilt players won on the PGA Tour in a six-week span in 2006, some 20 players had implemented the swing method championed by Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer, and it seemed like that number was destined to grow. But it never did. While Bennett and Plummer's teachings are incorporated into the methodologies of many of the game's leading instructors -- and can be detected in Sean Foley's work with Tiger Woods -- these are all less-radical variations of Stack & Tilt. The number of true Bennett and Plummer disciples on tour, meanwhile, is down to a few hardliners. Even Baddeley abandoned the method in 2009.
Charles Howell III will be a star
After winning the individual title in the NCAA Championships, the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award and then his first PGA Tour event all by the age of 23, the Augusta, Ga., native was billed as golf's next "Young Gun." "Charles has a lot of qualities that Tiger has," noted swing instructor David Leadbetter said in Golf World in August 2000. "He has the physique, the work ethic, the power. He's sort of like a young volcano waiting to erupt." He's kind of still waiting. While Howell has had a perfectly respectable PGA Tour career -- five times inside the top 30 on the money list -- he has only won twice and registered just one top 10 in a major.
Driver sizes will level off at 300 cubic centimeters
With the second generation of titanium drivers measuring around 300 cubic centimeters in 1997, the belief was that was as big as the drivers could get. "There is no reason to believe that a bigger clubhead or a change in metal is going to do anything for you," USGA technical director Frank Thomas said. Several industry executives agreed with him, including Dick Rugge, who, while still with TaylorMade, remarked on a 285 cc driver the company had just introduced. "People are telling us with our new club this is about as big as they really want it," Rugge said. Today, however, the standard size for driver club heads is 460cc.
Tiger Woods will bring more people into the game
This was a popular sentiment when Woods turned pro in 1996 and then won the Masters the following April. The expected "Tiger Boom," while very real in terms of increasing television audience, also fueled an onslaught of golf course construction that proved to be unwarranted. While the number of core golfers (playing eight or more rounds) increased from 16.4 million to 19.7 million between 1995-2000, the number has since dropped down to 13.6 million. In other words, despite the widely held belief that Woods would make golf something more than a niche sport, there are less people playing regularly now than before he turned pro.