If you've ever played golf, you know it is one unpredictable -- and sometimes maddening -- sport. Some days it's fairways and greens, others it's rough and bunkers. So trying to figure out what is going to happen in the golf world in 2011 is kind of like making a 50-foot putt. But here are some topics and players likely to be talked about in the upcoming year:
TOP FIVE STORIES TO WATCH
-- 1. Will Tiger rebound?
Tiger Woods is always the story, but especially in 2011. He failed to win a tournament this year for the first time in his career. He turned 35 on Dec. 30, which is not old for a golfer, but many wonder if his best years are behind him. Don't count on it. "As a golfer I learned so much more this year than any other year, and as a person, infinitely more," Woods said. "So it's been a very successful year, even though it was a very painful year as well."
-- 2. Who will be the next Annika or Lorena on the LPGA Tour? Those players have retired, and the LPGA needs a breakout player in 2011 to create some interest. Michelle Wie could be that player. She's concentrating full time on her pro career, and at 21 years old she's not near her prime. But if not Wie, somebody has to break out of the pack.
-- 3. Will Lee Westwood remain the world's top golfer? The 37-year-old Brit rose to the top of the class despite not having a major championship on his resume. But he has been one of the most consistent players the past two years. He'll start 2011 as the world's No. 1-ranked player. It will be interesting to see how he handles that pressure. .-- 4.Will sponsors stay on board? Purses for 2011 PGA events remain the same as 2010. That's good news for the players. But the tour must negotiate new TV deals this year, and FedEx's contract is up for renewal as title sponsor of the FedEx Cup. The PGA is nothing without sponsors, so keeping them on board is crucial.
5. Who will come out of nowhere? It happens every year. Some rookie hotshot, or aging veteran, or European unknown (Louis Oosthuizen) makes a name for himself. The upcoming year will be no different.
TOP FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
--1. Lee Westwood: Now he's on the radar, but can he handle the tag of being the best golfer not to win a major?
-- 2. Jim Furyk: Can he repeat his 2010 season, when he won three times and claimed the FedEx Cup?
-- 3. Rickie Fowler: The reigning rookie of the year did not win this past season. Expect that to change in 2011.
-- 4. Bo Van Pelt: Going out on a limb , but he had eight top 10s in 28 starts and won more than $3 million in 2010.
-- 5. Dustin Johnson: He won twice this past season and was in the hunt at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
PGA ROOKIES TO WATCH
-- 1. Ben Martin: Played for Clemson in 2010 and earned his third All-ACC honor. He was third at qualifying school and played in three PGA events, none as a professional.
-- 2. Zack Miller: Captain of Stanford's 2007 national title team, he was on the Nationwide Tour this past season. Finished tied for sixth at Q-school.
-- 3. Kyle Stanley: A teammate of Martin's at Clemson, Stanley was a two-time NCAA runner!up. Like Martin, Stanley cruised through Q-school.
-- 4. Brendan Steele: Won the Nationwide Tour Championship and vaulted to sixth on the money list to secure his PGA Tour card.
--5. Bobby Gates: The Texas A&M product won his first start on the Nationwide Tour this past season and finished 16th on the money list.
CHAMPIONS TOUR ROOKIES TO WATCH
To be a "rookie" on the Champions Tour you must be at least 50 years old. Here are some notable players who will join the senior circuit in the upcoming year:
-- 1. John Huston: He turns 50 on June 1 and has been playing PGA events the past couple of years to stay sharp for his Champions debut.
--2. Brad Faxon: He will have to wait until Aug. 1 before he turns 50. He still has enough game to play on the PGA Tour.
-- 3. Mark Brooks: He turns 50 in March, which means he could make an appearance at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in Lutz, Fla. in April.