Why 2011 May Be Golf's Most Important Year Yet

Professional golf always seems to play second-fiddle to the other "major" sports, at least in the United States.  No matter how fantastic a year the professional golf Tours may have had one year, the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball continue to dominate the hearts and televisions of most Americans.  Well, golf fans... that might change in 2011.

Football and baseball will likely be considered the two biggest sports in America for as long as they exist, with the NFL unofficially claiming the "America's Pastime" designation over the past few years.  Professional basketball also continues to grow in both popularity and revenue dollars, thanks largely to a cast of characters that remind many fans of the late 80's and early 90's.  However, leagues like the NFL and NBA may have become victims of their own success due to impending lockouts for next year's respective seasons.

How real are the possible work-stoppages?  Depending on which news source you reference, the "percent-chance" fluctuate everywhere from "more than likely" to "yeah, it's going to happen".  NFL Union head DeMaurice Smith believes that a lockout is all but imminent.  Likewise, NBA Union chief Billy Hunter is "99-percent certain" that his sport will follow-suit in 2011.

Consider this a golden opportunity for professional golf; after all, sports fans will want to watch something, right?

There may have never been a better time for golf to be in the spotlight, either.  The sport is rich in both talent and marketability at this time as more "young guns" rise to the top of leaderboards on a regular basis.  Tiger Woods, considered to be the face of the PGA for at least the last decade, has nowhere to go but up in terms of his play... which millions of fans will undoubtedly be interested in watching.  The Champions Tour is also primed to be dominated by their respective "freshman class" with the addition of Mark Calcavecchia while Fred Couples turns his full attention to the senior-circuit in 2011.  European superstars like Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer continue to dominate overseas, which will undoubtedly serve as added motivation for US players.  The LPGA appears to also have new life with its own list of recognizable faces and young talent coupled with a Tour-wide movement to reach more fans on a global scale.

In essence, the impending lockouts of other professional leagues mixed with the rising popularity of professional golf makes for the perfect storm.

Besides... no one will want to watch replacement players anyway, right?