PGA Tour: Five storylines entering 2018

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Woods to make his second PGA Tour start this season after promising effort at Torrey Pines.

Genesis Open preview: Tiger Woods makes second start of season among loaded field

Woods to make his second PGA Tour start this season after promising effort at Torrey Pines.

Justin Thomas took the golf world by storm in 2017, winning his first major, vaulting to the top three in the world rankings and helping the U.S. capture the Presidents Cup.

In general, youth swept the PGA Tour last year, as six of the top eight players in the world ranking are younger than 30. Thomas, 24, looks poised for another big year in 2018, along with Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, but there are plenty of other storylines entering the new year.

Here are five things to watch on the PGA Tour in 2018:

1. Can Tiger Woods remain healthy/win another major? Woods gets a two-part question entering 2018. His latest comeback attempt at the Hero World Challenge in December went better than expected, leaving many daydreaming of his glory days. But Woods has teased before only to end his season abruptly with another injury.

Woods, 42, has had four back surgeries since 2014, but he seems positive this time that he took the proper steps to succeed. Still stuck at 14 majors — a mark he hit in 2008 — Woods desperately wants to add to his total this year. Shaking off the rust could be his biggest hurdle, that and the fact the new generation of stars see Woods as just another player, having never played against him in his prime.

2. Who will be in this year's crop of breakout stars? To preface, this category in this case will be classified according to players capable of making the jump to elite status this year. Jon Rahm, Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood (in Europe) made that leap in 2017, but 2018 should introduce a new wave of stars.

Tony Finau, who finished 2017 with five top-16 finishes in his last six starts, jumped to 40th in the world ranking. The cousin of basketball player Jabari Parker has contended in majors but hasn't earned a signature win yet on Tour. This could be his year. Peter Uihlein, who has spent the majority of his career overseas, joins the PGA Tour this season with big expectations. Finally, watch out for Cameron Smith. The young Australian star finished 2017 with four straight top-5 finishes, including a win at the Australian PGA Championship, proving he could be ready for a Rahm-like leap in 2018.

3. Is this the year Rickie Fowler wins a major? Fowler finished in the top five of all four majors in 2014, and he found similar success last year with top fives at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, plus a T-11 at the Masters. Yet, for all the contending, Fowler still hasn't broken through to win his coveted first major title.

Poor weekend rounds have done in Fowler recently. He shot a final-round 72 at the U.S. Open, watching as players passed him by on the leaderboard. He also shot a third-round 73 at the PGA Championship, sending him out of range entering the final round. Fowler has shown he's one of the rare players capable of winning any of the four majors. If he can put together four rounds, 2018 could be Fowler's turn to win one (or more) majors.

4. How will the European Tour stars integrate? It's possible top English talents such as Fleetwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton could play more in the States this year. Hatton, ranked 16th in the world, has won three times since the end of the 2016 season, including consecutive wins this fall.

Fleetwood won the 2017 European Tour Order of Merit as top player, and Fitzpatrick, already with Ryder Cup experience, finished 2017 with nine straight top-20 finishes. The Ryder Cup returns to Europe (France) this year, so European Tour stars may opt to remain overseas. But with so many big tournaments in the States, the PGA Tour should see plenty of Europe's finest.

5. Can Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Adam Scott rebound in 2018? McIlroy, without a major since 2014, dropped from second to 11th in the world rankings in 2017, finishing with just seven worldwide top 10s. Day plummeted from first to 13th but did end the year with six top-11 finishes in his last eight starts.

Scott, in the midst of introducing his second child to the world, failed to record a single top-five finish all year. He dropped from seventh to 31st in the world rankings, as he has just one top 10 since The Players Championship. McIlroy and Day have become fairly enigmatic, but both possess the talent to reclaim their thrones. Scott, who will be without caddie Steve Williams this year, may have to rededicate himself to the game in 2018.

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