Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wishful Thinking: 2013 in Golf

                At the end of every year comes time for not only the top 10 lists and reviews of the previous circle around the sun, but also the Nostradamus comes out in all of us to predict the biggest and best happenings of the next revolution.  I’ve picked out a few things to look forward to in 2013:

15 and Counting

                That’s right.  I’m calling it.  One of the four majors goes to Tiger Woods who will resume his quest for Jack Nicklaus’ major record in 2013.  If I were placing bets I’d put my money down in April, but with a US Open track that has been untested by the pros in the modern era (Merion most recently hosted the 2009 Walker Cup and 2005 US Amateur but has not had a US Open since 1981), and quotes from Tiger that he likes the site of the 2013 PGA, Oak Hill, the win could come at any major. 
                You can credit the newfound friendship/rivalry/business partnership with Rory McIlroy as well as the fact that he still is one the best players in the game.  McIlroy’s success is surely fueling Tiger’s craving for another major and perhaps Tiger can learn something from Rory’s youthful confidence, the piece that Tiger has been lacking the last few years.  In the big scheme of things, there is nothing better for golf than both Tiger and Rory winning a major in 2013.

Patriot Game

                With Stacy Lewis earning LPGA player of the year honors, 2013 is ready for the return of the Americans.  I’m looking for wins not only from Lewis, but also Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson, Christie Kerr and Brittany Lincicome.  I think that grouping can pull out at least two of the majors as they gear up for the Solheim Cup in Denver.  There seems to be nothing like a Solheim Cup to get American and European players riled up and in peak shape.  With that said look for Suzann Pettersen to continue her stay atop leaderboards throughout the year.
                That isn’t to say the Asian dominance we’ve seen in over the last few years will go away.  Shanshan Feng is proving that she is one of the best and is likely to stay there for some time.  It won’t be long before Yani Tseng has her groove back and it was far quieter in the Ai Miyazato corner than I could comfortably expect.  All-in-all 2013 will be fiery and fun to watch on the LPGA, culminating at the biggest firecracker of them all in Denver with Meg Mallon and Dottie Pepper at the helm.

Breaking the Rules

                If any of you were hoping the November 28 announcement was going to be the end of all the Rules talk and debate – think again.  With the potential anchor ban becoming final early next year, the debate will become even fiercer as misunderstandings, hecklers and potentially lawsuits start creeping out of the woodworks.  PGA of America President Ted Bishop made his view quite clear and the obvious split between the major golf organizations could only mean that more contentious times are to come.
                The R & A has also recently come under fire for their renovations to the beloved Old Course at St. Andrews.  I was certainly against the changes until I saw the pictures and true descriptions of the renovation.  I can argue against widening the Road Hole bunker, I can argue against flattening the back of the 11th green, but in all honesty Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are right – the changes aren’t that big a deal even if you question the true motives.  However, that won’t stop the nay-sayers from raising a ruckus and rallying against the vilified R & A.

McIlroy Design, Inc.

                With the recent announcement that Phil Mickelson will tackle the renovations at Torrey Pines’ North Course, I’m just waiting until the day we hear of McIlroy’s first course design project.  It probably won’t happen in 2013 but the trend of top golfers dipping into the course design business it’s a hard one to buck and it’s just a matter of time before Rory lends his eyes and ears to a piece of property looking for the number one player’s stamp of approval.  He would join a list of golfing greats that includes Nicklaus, Palmer, Faldo, Woods, Norman, Miller and Crenshaw (No offense to Davis Love III, Mickelson, Lehman or others, we know you’re out there).  I’m not sure I could resist adding my name to those.

Next year’s quick picks              

Multiple Winners:
Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. I know, I'm way out on a limb there.

Breakthrough Win:
Lee Westwood at Merion.  Ok, that's wishful thinking but he's bound to do it sometime and it's more likely to be where ball-striking is a premium

Most Exciting Tournament:
The one with a playoff between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. My wish and  dream of every TV producer in the world...

Biggest Smile:
Paula Creamer holding the trophy at the Evian Masters. Will the playoff be 9 or 10 holes?

Dottie Pepper as assistant captain at the Solheim Cup

Biggest Flop:
The Fed-Ex Cup Playoffs. Or one of Mickelson's recovery shots.

Best Venue:
Hands down Merion.  If only they’d use the wicker baskets during the championship…

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