Where will Tiger Woods break the PGA Tour record and can Rory McIlroy end his major drought? The key issues ahead of the new season
- Woods will overtake the record set by Sam Snead with one more PGA Tour win
- McIlroy will seek to complete his career grand slam at the Masters in April
- It promises be a big year for the long-neglected women’s European game
In Abu Dhabi this week and on America’s West Coast next week, the game’s big guns return and another campaign gets under way. Here are eight talking points sure to fill the season with intrigue…
1 All eyes on Tiger Woods
If you think he’ll be meandering gently to the defence of his Masters title in April, consider this: one more PGA Tour win and Woods will overtake the record set by Sam Snead in 1965.
Matching Slammin’ Sam’s total of 82 was exciting enough, so imagine entering uncharted territory. Where will it happen? At his season opener in San Diego next week, or maybe at the Genesis Invitational in Hollywood — a tournament Tiger has never won — where he made his PGA Tour debut in 1992?
One more PGA Tour win and Tiger Woods will overtake the record set by Sam Snead in 1965
The smart money is on it happening sometime before Augusta, perhaps at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.
2 What next for the world No 1?
Given Brooks Koepka appears to sleepwalk through much of the regular season, the knee surgery that has kept him out since October might have come at the right time. This week marks his return in the Middle East and it will be interesting to see how he gets on.
Koepka will not lack motivation in the build-up to Augusta with just a sliver separating him from Rory McIlroy at the top of the world rankings. Koepka will want to keep that psychological edge.
3 Can Rory end his major drought?
Let’s be honest, all the evidence from recent Grand Slams suggests the answer is a resounding no.
But in the ruins of those disastrous two days at Portrush last July, did McIlroy learn something he can put to good use?
Four-time Major champion Rory McIlroy will seek to complete career grand slam at the Masters
His imperious form from the Open onwards left him in buoyant mood, so expect him to come out firing.
But the truth is we won’t really know until those four days in April, and the elusive major he needs to win to change everything.
4 Justin Rose at the crossroads
You’d have to go back a decade to find the last time the Englishman had a ball-striking year as disappointing as 2019.
Was it a season-long blip or a sign of things to come, with the landmark age of 40 in July? With his ambition undiminished and the incentive of an Olympic title defence in Tokyo, there is every hope of a return to the gold standard.
5 Who will win the Olympic Gold Medals?
Considering their domination of the women’s game and the fact they will essentially be playing a unique home major, it would be a huge upset if one didn’t go to the formidable Far East contingent.
As for the men, let’s hope Tiger qualifies while the underwhelmed Rory experiences a conversion similar to the Ryder Cup, where he went from sceptic to unabashed enthusiast.
6 Big year for women’s golf
After so many years of being little more than an embarrassing after-thought, it looks as if the long-neglected European game will finally get the support it deserves.
Backed by an alliance including the American women’s tour, the R&A and the men’s European Tour, this is surely the season where things start moving in the right direction.
7 Major breakthrough for Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood?
There has only been one Spanish victory at a major so far this century (Sergio Garcia at the 2017 Masters) and two for England — Rose at the US Open in 2012 and Danny Willett at Augusta in 2016.
But now there’s every hope Rahm and Fleetwood, the two highest-ranked European golfers still to win one, can change that.
After their high-class duel in Dubai last November, what price an Anglo-Spanish shootout at one of the four events that matter most of all?
8 Will the Ryder Cup be won by the home team yet again?
Only one of the last seven editions has been won by the visiting team, and even that required a miracle for Europe to prevail at Medinah.
It’s not easy playing in the modern hostile atmosphere but there’s no reason Europe can’t break the mould at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in September. Three majors have been staged there and none were won by Americans. An omen?
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