MICHELLE WIE will not be golf's most successful teenager in 2006. That will be Paula Creamer, the recently crowned LPGA Rookie of the Year, who has already emerged as the second-best player in women's golf and who is primed to give Annika Sorenstam a run for her millions. If Wie represents endless potential, Creamer is all about immediate results. In '05 she won two LPGA events (plus a pair in Japan), finished second on the money list and was a team leader as the U.S. won the Solheim Cup. During her singles match she turned in one of the most outrageous performances of the year, dropping a front-nine 30 on Laura Davies en route to a 7-and-5 thrashing.
Creamer is a hyperaggressive player with a potent combination of length and touch and a feel for winning that was honed on the amateur circuit that Wie largely avoided as she built her brand moonlighting against the pros. Creamer turns 20 in August, about the time Wie should be heading to Honolulu for her junior year of high school. At that point the honorific of top teen will likely pass to ... Morgan Pressel, the 17-year-old pixie who, as an amateur, nearly stole the U.S. Open with her startlingly mature game. Like Creamer--and unlike Wie--Pressel has been a prolific winner at every level, and among the triumphs she likes to brag about is a 3-and-2 victory over Wie at the 2003 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship. Pressel, who turns 18 in May, recently breezed through LPGA Q School. It's hard to imagine a future brighter than Wie's, but in the short term her on-again, off-again schedule and inexperience at closing out tournaments will leave her playing catch-up to her precocious rivals.
COMEBACK KID Having enjoyed the longest break of his career following knee surgery in July, a rejuvenated Ernie Els will win the U.S. Open.
OLD NEWS Workaholic Vijay Singh has played his best golf since turning 35, but now pushing 43, he will begin to show his age.
GREEN MONSTER After another supersizing of Augusta National, the winning score at the Masters will be over par for the first time since 1954.
DAVID WALBERG (PRESSEL)
TESTED Pressel knows how to close the deal.