Here is my list of the top 5 established veterans that need to be on alert to avoid a career inhibiting year.
- Jim Furyk - Yes, I watched the President's Cup. I know Furyk went 5-0, but I also watched the fourteen months of Furyk between his FedEx Cup Championship clinching win at East Lake and his triumphant Presidents Cup and see some things that give me pause for concern. I'm not saying that Furyk will finish 2012 outside of the top 125 (and it wouldn't matter if he did), but what I am saying is that Furyk could easily find himself closer to 50th in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) than 10th where he usually hangs around. He also could find himself in jeopardy of needing a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup. He was 164th in driving distance in 2011 and 150th in strokes gained putting. I don't see him getting any longer off the tee, and once putting woes start for a veteran, they are hard to turn around.
- Phil Mickelson - Phil's a cut making machine (20/21 in 2011), but he seems to be slowing down having only won 1 time in each of the last 2 years. He also seems to be scoring through some "smoke and mirrors" as he was 120th in Total Driving in 2011, 89th in Ball Striking, and 134th in Strokes Gained putting. Phil's got a flair for the dramatic and still shows up in some key events, but I think he's looking past his prime. I also think his interest in matters off the course, both good and bad, have picked up over the last few years and I believe golf has been put in a little more perspective for him. Also, the belly putter works wonders for some, but it doesn't feel right for one of the game's icons to be tinkering with it. Like Furyk, he's not going to fall off the map, but with all of the young guns coming on strong and Tiger becoming more relevant by the day, I'm just not sure how much room there is at the top for Phil any more.
- Ernie Els - This may be a year too late as he went from 2 wins and over $4 million in 2010 to under $1 million with 1 top 10 in 2011. That said, I'm still selling my Ernie stock. 181st in Strokes Gained putting, 162 in All Around, 162 in Total Driving, 182nd in Scrambling and I can keep going. It was all going wrong for The Big Easy in 2011, and I think it may be too much to fix in 2012. Els years of hard charging across the globe may be catching up with him.
- Paul Goydos - Who doesn't love to hear what's going to come out of his mouth next? The problem with Goydos is that he seems to make way too high of a percentage of his money in way too few tournaments; and that's living on the edge. He was 185th in driving distance, and 179th in strokes gained putting. If you're not long and you can't putt, it's going to be a little hard to be consistent. I could pick out 5 other statistically significant categories where he doesn't rank in the top 100 to continue to prove the point.
- Jerry Kelly - I love Jerry Kelly. He's probably the most animated golfer on Tour, but his ball striking numbers seem to be very average of late. This is more of a hunch where the other 4 were backed a little more solidly statistically, but I worry about Kelly. He'll turn 46 this year and that's around the time players start to show their age and begin to look forward to the Champions Tour.