2018 predictions sure to go wrong: Spieth, McIlroy will capture Grand Slam

Jordan Spieth is just a PGA Tour Championship title away from joining golf's exclusive grand slam club. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

First things first: The following predictions aren't really predictions.

They're not prophesies or premonitions or even prognostications.

These are things that could happen during the 2018 campaign -- five potential occurrences that would make major headlines, leaving us talking all about them when we review the year 12 months from now.

1. Golf's most exclusive club adds three members

Sarazen, Hogan, Player, Nicklaus, Woods. For the past 17 years, the list of players who have claimed the career Grand Slam has been a fivesome of household names. That could change next year -- and we've got three viable chances. Rory McIlroy needs to win the Masters, Phil Mickelson needs to win the U.S. Open and Jordan Spieth needs to win the PGA Championship in order for any of them to join the club. Is it likely that all three will do it, especially in the same year? Of course not ... but it would make for one hell of a story.

2. Tiger Woods turns back into ... Tiger Woods

There might be no better way to describe Woods' return to competition at the recent Hero World Challenge than this: He looked like himself again. Woods belted some massively long drives and looked impressive with the flatstick in his hands for four days. What does that all mean for the coming year? Absolutely nothing. Perhaps he'll simply parlay this promise into another lingering injury, yet again disappointing his legion of fans. Or maybe these were the first steps toward regaining prominence among the game's elite. Starting the year outside the top 600, can he climb back into the top 50? Top 20? Top 10? Even make a run at the top spot again? That pursuit will be a major plotline of 2018.

3. Laissez les bon temps roulez for Europe

Call it the Curse of Seve or just a quarter-century of losing performances. The U.S. Ryder Cup team hasn't won on European soil since the 1993 Ryder Cup at the Belfry. On paper, the team anchored by the likes of Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, et al should own a decided advantage over a European squad that could include a handful of rookies in Paris. And yet, the U.S. has owned similar theoretical advantages in the past, only to continually fail overseas. It only proves that, in this format, an upset is never really an upset.

4. Some top players are gonna fall

One year ago, McIlroy and Jason Day ended the 2016 campaign at 1-2 in the world ranking. Now? They're 11-12, each shockingly outside the top-10 after a precipitous slide for various reasons. It's equally inconceivable that, say, Johnson and Spieth -- the current top-two -- could suffer a similar fate. But the truth is, there are more than 10 "top-10 talents" in the world. If players like McIlroy and Day are going to bounce back into single-digits, simple math tells us they'll be replacing a few guys who are likely considered locks to stay there for the next year.

5. Other guys are gonna rise

It's like they always say about the stock market: Past performance isn't an indicator of future outcomes. In layman's terms, just because something hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it never will. Right now, it's difficult to remember that Justin Thomas wasn't predestined to win five events and a major and the FedEx Cup in 2017. Just a year ago, he was still saddled with the label of Spieth's less-heralded buddy. At this point next year, there will be few players we can recall that they weren't slam-dunk, no-doubt-about-it superstars entering 2018. I'm not exactly going out on a limb here, but Tony Finau, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Patrick Cantlay might lead the brigade of potential top-five players who are simply going through the process.