A streaky Dustin Johnson owns at least one victory in every season he has played on the PGA Tour. In 2016, he notched his first major at the U.S. Open. Can the big-hitting D.J. extend his streak play to majors too?
And who will bring home the PGA Tour's Player of the Year honors in the coming season? Our panel peers into the future to see what's in store for 2017.
1. Which 2016 major winner is the most likely to get another in 2017?
SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman: Dustin Johnson. For me, this one is easy. When you look at the four major winners from 2016, only D.J. has consistently been close to winning majors and is good for at least one win on tour every year. The big stage doesn't seem to faze him, especially when he fails big time (the 2015 U.S. Open.) There is no course on the planet he can't dominate. Look for him to have a big 2017.
ESPN.com senior golf writer Michael Collins: Dustin Johnson. His game and attitude are perfect for him to make a run at another major championship. Knowing the work he's now doing with Butch Harmon should scare everyone else in the game.
ESPN.com senior golf writer Bob Harig: Dustin Johnson. When things are going well for Johnson, he makes the game look incredibly easy. And he seems to keep improving.
ESPN.com senior golf editor Kevin Maguire: Dustin Johnson. Winning a major has a tendency to alter someone's situation, but with Johnson's low-key demeanor, I don't anticipate a wholesale change for D.J. in 2017.
ESPN.com senior golf writer Jason Sobel: Dustin Johnson looked like he unlocked a few secrets this past year, but if I'm a fellow player, I'd be more scared of Henrik Stenson's steely mien on Sunday's back nine of a major. It took the Swede a long time to finally get his first one, but he looked unbeatable in doing so. This isn't a guy who gets too intimidated when the pressure is on, so I'll take him over D.J., Danny Willett or Jimmy Walker.
2. Which player are you most looking forward to watching in 2017?
Coachman: This one will probably be the same answer for everyone. Tiger Woods, without a doubt, has created the most anticipation for a golf comeback in my lifetime. If he can get in shape, he proved in the Bahamas that the magic is still there. Can he get back on a consistent basis? I can think of nothing better than Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Woods within 3 shots of the lead on a Sunday.
Collins: Tiger Woods. He's also the player I'm most afraid to watch this year. Hopes and expectations can be so different. It's like the argument between the little angel on your right shoulder and the little devil on your left. "Play 10 events, and build toward the future." "No! Play 25 events worldwide and consequences be damned! People want to see Tiger Woods!"
Harig: Tiger Woods. Can he stay healthy? Can he contend? Can he win again? After all he has gone through, Woods remains a subject of huge curiosity and interest.
Maguire: Rory McIlroy. Can the Northern Irishman get back on the major-winning track? Clearly he has the game to do so, but will he peak at just the right time to add major win No. 5 (or more) to his trophy case? The possibilities will keep me interested from start to finish in 2017.
Sobel: The easy answer is Rory McIlroy. I think he has that little extra something that could separate him from the other elite players -- such as Usain Bolt in the final strides of a 100-meter dash. If I have to go slightly off the board, I'm taking the best player over the past two months of 2016 -- Hideki Matsuyama. His biggest bugaboo over the years has been his putting, especially from short range, but if he has indeed improved here, he could be in for a seriously impressive campaign.
3. Fill in the blank: ____ wins PGA Tour POY.
Coachman: Rory McIlroy. More than any victory in his career, the way McIlroy won the Tour Championship has given him more confidence than ever before. With the return of Woods, all of the top players in the world want to be the best when arguably the No. 1 player of our generation comes back. McIlroy is the closest thing to Woods since Woods, and the Northern Irishman wants to prove it.
Collins: Dustin Johnson. I'm expecting a four-win season that will include a major and the FedEx Cup. D.J. has figured out how to balance family and golf better than most would have in his shoes.
Harig: Jordan Spieth. He has slipped to fifth in the world and wasn't a factor in the last three majors of 2016 after losing the lead on the back nine at the Masters. He will be determined to be part of it all again.
Maguire: Jordan Spieth. The 2016 "letdown" (if it's even fair to call it that, considering he nearly won the Grand Slam the year before) will only provide more motivation -- not just to challenge for major titles, but to take the Texan into the more mainstream sports culture. Multiple victories, and at least one major win, will help him earn the POY honors handed out by his peers.
Sobel: McIlroy. I just feel like, top to bottom, he's armed with a greater arsenal of tools than other top players. Or put it this way: If McIlroy plays his best and other guys play their best, I think he wins. That doesn't mean he'll dominate, but just putting together a few dominant stretches -- as he is known to do -- could be enough to lift him above the other contenders.
4. Give us a player outside the top 50 in the world rankings with the best shot to crack the top 10 in 2017.
Coachman: I am going all the way into the 70s for my pick. Last year, Jhonattan Vegas splashed back onto the world golf scene in a major way. It seemed like every week his name was showing up on the leaderboard: 12 top-25s, five top-10s and a win in 27 starts. He seems to be in a great personal space, and it is showing up in his play.
Collins: Jhonattan Vegas. First off, he's got game. He also ended the year ranked 71st, but what is important is what he'll be replacing on his world rankings résumé. During the next 16 starts, if he can miss less than four cuts and average a better than 48th finish, he'll be catapulting up the rankings.
Harig: Martin Kaymer. It remains hard to believe he is outside of the top 50. Kaymer is not far removed from winning the U.S. Open and Players Championship in the same year and is another big win or two from cracking the top 10. Few would be surprised to see him in the mix at the big events.
Maguire: Brandon Stone. The 23-year-old South African might be a stretch for the top 10, but he's currently ranked 72nd in the world and is coming off two victories in 2016 on the European Tour. With six total top-10s in 2016, think of him in the mold of compatriots Charl Schwartzel or Louis Oosthuizen. I'm not predicting major titles in the coming year, but a fast move up the rankings wouldn't shock me.
Sobel: What was the question again? A player outside the top 48? OK, good, because I'm picking Gary Woodland, who is currently in the 49th position. Sorry, I'm cheating here, but just a little. I can see Woodland finally having his breakthrough year, winning a couple of times, challenging for a major title and making a U.S. Presidents Cup team that is becoming increasingly tougher to make.