The holidays have come and gone, and it's time to see some PGA Tour golf. The 2011 season starts this weekend in Hawaii, and it's going to be one of the most intriguing years in recent history. One of the things that happens every season is golfers picking up their first PGA Tour win. Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, and Justin Rose are three golfers who broke through and won for the first time on American soil in 2010.
Which golfers will get their PGA Tour breakthrough win in 2011? Keep reading to find out. I've put together a list of five golfers who will find the winner's circle for the first time this season. Some are probably more obvious than others, but it's a strong list nonetheless. Enjoy!
There aren't many golfers who had a bigger surprise 2010 than Jeff Overton. He had a stretch during the summer where he reeled off seven top-12 finishes in eight starts, including a pair of runner-up and top-three finishes. His best chance came at The Greenbrier Classic where he held a solid lead going into the final round before being caught by Stuart Appleby's final-round 59! Overton lost the tournament by one shot. He also came close at the Byron Nelson, losing by two shots after shooting an over-par round on Sunday.
Overton had a breakthrough 2010 season, and he earned a spot on the United States Ryder Cup team in the process. His confidence heading into the 2011 season should be pretty high, and it will be interesting to see if he can start finishing when he puts himself in contention. He will follow his strong 2010 with another solid season, and it will be a surprise if he doesn't find the winner's circle over the next 10 months.
This is probably not a surprise because everyone seems to think Rickie Fowler will win sooner rather than later. He came close to winning in late 2009 before he was a full-time PGA Tour member, and he had a number of close calls in 2010 as well. He finished runner-up to Hunter Mahan at the Waste Management Phoenix Open after missing a putt at the 72nd hole to get into a playoff. He also held the lead going into the final round at Memorial before Justin Rose caught fire and found the winner's circle.
Fowler is capable of winning numerous tournaments this season and contending for the FedExCup. That being said, the pressure will be there to take the next step and win. He had a pass last season because it was his first full year on the PGA Tour, but now it's time to live up to the potential and take things to the next level. This young gun will be a mainstay for years to come, and his first win will come very soon. I'll be surprised if it doesn't come in the next six months.
Kevin Na has finished 26th in the FedExCup standings the past two seasons, and he is definitely one of the most talented golfers without a PGA Tour victory. He made 23 cuts in 26 starts in 2010, and he had four top-10 finishes. That was down a little from 2009, but he still put himself in contention on more than one occasion. His best finish of the season was a tie for second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He was also in the hunt at the BMW Championship before finishing in a tie for third.
Na has been around a number of years, but he is still in his twenties. The best is definitely in his future, and a breakthrough win could very well happen in 2011. He also doesn't only contend in the smaller events. He has proven he can contend in big-time events throughout the year, and that's going to pay off in the near future. At the very least, you can expect another consistent season and high finish in the FedExCup.
After winning the 2002 U.S. Amateur, Ricky Barnes was destined for stardom. Things didn't work like that, however, and he endured a number of tough seasons as a professional. Things turned around in 2010 as Barnes had his best season by far on the PGA Tour. He made 23 cuts in 28 starts, and he also had six top-10 finishes. His best finish of the season came at Memorial where he finished third, and he also had a couple top-five showings.
Barnes was in serious contention for a Ryder Cup spot before fading a little down the stretch. However, it was still nice to see him start to live up to his potential. He was far more consistent last season than any in the past, and he will be entering his second full season on the PGA Tour with a ton of confidence. It remains to be seen if he can handle the pressure down the stretch, but at least he has put himself in that position much more often the last year. Barnes' first win on the PGA Tour will be a great story at the very least.
Michael Sim's second full year on the PGA Tour went a lot better than his first. He earned his card in 2007, but he struggled badly. Last season, he finished 45th in the FedExCup and added three top-three finishes. His best finish of the season was a tie for second at the Farmers Insurance Open. He had a great shot to win on Sunday, but he didn't pull it out. After struggling with injuries a little the next few months, he got things together in August. He finished in a tie for third at Turning Stone and the Wyndham Championship.
Michael Sim has a ton of natural talent, but he has struggled with injuries and consistency in the past. He is the kind of golfer who can miss a few cuts in a row before winning a couple tournaments in a row. After settling in nicely during the 2010 season, he should come into 2011 with a lot of confidence. Sim started last season well, and he will probably do the same this season. He may not be as much of a sure bet as some of the others on this list, but his breakthrough win will come soon. He is a proven winner on the Nationwide Tour, and that will pay dividends at the next level.
The Final Say
It's always great to see the big guns win a majority of the events during the PGA Tour schedule, but it's also nice to see the talented young guns win for the first time. It happens every year, and it's one of the cool things about the game. It will probably be a surprise if I guess correctly on all five guys above, but I'll be pretty surprised if a few of them don't find the winner's circle in 2011. Fowler and Overton might end up contending for the FedExCup, and the other three have plenty of talent to get the job done as well.
It's your turn to tell me what you think. Do you think any of these golfers will win for the first time in 2011? Also, which other golfers do you think will have their big breakthrough this season? If you have anything to add, please comment below or discuss them in the forum. Thanks for reading, and have a great week!