So as a memorable 2012 disappears into the haze and we head back to work and our normal lives after the Christmas and New Year break, what does 2013 hold for the world of golf?
In this article, we take a peek into our crystal ball and have a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the major golfing issues that look set to dominate the back pages over the coming year. Will Rory McIlroy hold on to his number one spot and if not, who are the players most likely to challenge him? Which golfers will make the breakthrough in 2013 and force themselves into the upper eschelons of the game? Will Tiger win another Major in his attempt to overtake Jack Nicklaus record?
We’ll also take a look at who Europe could name as their new Ryder Cup captain to face off against Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014 and lastly, we’ll predict the winners of Golf’s top events for 2013, including all four major championships, the US and European Money rankings.
1. Who will be ranked as World Number One on Dec 31st 2013?
A. Rory McIlroy – Just.
We think that the likeable Northern Irishman will just about hold on to his top spot in the World Rankings in 2013, but it may well be a close run thing. We already know that Englishman Luke Donald has pushed McIlroy hard over the past two years and Donald’s consistency will ensure he remains a real threat to the Irishman’s grip at the top of the world rankings.
However we feel that Rory may face a sterner test in the form of a resurgent Tiger Woods. In 2012, Woods seemed to shake off the cobwebs of a dismal three year spell and began to find some of his best form. If he can regain the consistency he once showed then he could well improve on his 3rd place in the world rankings at present and be a real threat to McIlroy this year.
Finally, another golfer to watch is Englishman Justin Rose. Not as spectacular as McIlroy, Rose has enjoyed a very strong 2012 and risen sharply in the world rankings into the top ten and his rise could continue if he manages to turn more of his top ten finishes into victories.
So we think Rory will hang on just, with Tiger pushing him hard in second with Rose and Donald making a very interesting quartet at the top of the rankings chart.
2. Which golfer will be the next “big thing” in 2013?
A. Branden Grace – again!
It’s fair to say that South African Branden Grace was one of the biggest surprises of the 2012 golf season. Until the start of the year, most people thought of Gary Player, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel when they thought of South African golf. In 2012, Grace won more events on the European tour (4) than all of the others put together (3 – two wins for Oosthuizen, one for Els).
Grace has moved into 37th in the World Rankings after a fabulous 2012 and we think that he can continue this meteoric climb in 2013. Given South African golfers ability to win major titles, we think Grace has the game to vastly improve on his tied 43rd best finish in a Major championship in 2013 and also challenge hard for the European money list, especially with the 2013 season kicking off in South Africa in a few days time.
Grace meteoric rise up the rankings in 2012 was impressive, but we feel he has the game to make an even more impressive move in 2013 and perhaps push on into the World’s top ten, which would certainly be some achievement for a player who in 2011, was struggling to earn his tour card.
3. Will Tiger break his Major drought in 2013?
A- No, but he will in 2014.
There’s one reason why we feel Tiger won’t end his Major drought in 2013 and that is simply his driver. On lesser courses, Woods can rescue even the most errant of tee shots given his genius with the golf club, creating shots that other players cannot even imagine. In the Major’s however, errant tee shots are usually far more heavily punished. The rough will be less forgiving and the penalties for not hitting fairways and greens are so much stiffer.
As such, Tiger’s wait to add another Major to his burgeoning list of victories may have to wait another year. However, we do think that he will win more majors, he just needs to iron out those last few kinks in his game in order to make him a player truly capable of being not just a major winner, but the world’s best.
4. Who will Europe appoint as Ryder Cup captain for the 2014 event in Gleneagles?
A. Darren Clarke
The former Open Champion is one of the most likeable characters in Golf and has already been put forth as an ideal choice for the European captaincy. He commands the respect of many of Europe’s top players and is close friends with the likes of Graeme McDowall, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy. He may just edge the job ahead of other deserving candidates, such as his great friend Miguel Angel Jiminez, Irishman Paul McGinley or even a mooted return as skipper of 2010 winning captain Colin Montgomerie.
Also, Team Europe’s proclivity for mixing the nationalities of captains based on where the event is played also will help him. In 2006 Ian Woosnam (Wales) captained Europe in Ireland at the K-Club, in 2010 Colin Montgomerie (Scotland) captained Europe in Wales at Celtic Manor so it seems fitting that an Irishman should captain Europe in Scotland!
5. Who will win the Majors and finish top of the US and European Money charts in 2013?
Without further ado – here’s our predictions for the Major Championships and Money List winners in 2013:
US Masters: Rory McIlroy
US Open: Jason Dufner
British Open: Branden Grace
USPGA: Phil Mickelson
PGA Money List: Tiger Woods
European Money List: Rory McIlroy
What are your predictions for Golf in 2013?
All Pictures courtesy of players Facebook, Twitter or official Web Pages.