Peering into the Carter crystal golf ball
Christmas had me clearing through my old junior golf bag. Lying at the bottom of a pocket lay a pristine wrapped Penfold Ace golf ball.
Gripped by nostalgia for the favourite dimpled sphere of my childhood, I couldn't resist tearing away the paper, only to reveal a ball made of crystal, stamped with the numbers 2-0-1-2.
Gazing at this extraordinary find, this is what I saw...
Given the German's form and focus, Martin Kaymer should start strongly in 2012. Photo: Reuters
Tiger Woods will once again be dominating the headlines going into the most eagerly anticipated season opener for years when he joins the field at the Abu Dhabi Championship at the end of January.
This will be an unprecedented gathering of golf's biggest names so early in the year, with the top four players in the world in attendance.
Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer will ensure that a bumper haul of world ranking points will be available and Woods will be especially eager to cash in and send a powerful message that he is truly a major threat once more.
The crystal ball isn't showing many signs of originality as the face of Kaymer smiles through, although this victory would surely mean more than his previous three in the Abu Dhabi tournament.
In February, Donald attempts to defend his WGC Matchplay title. Head-to-head there is no-one better but the images I see are at best fuzzy, reflecting the unpredictable nature of 18-hole matchplay.
Even so, a familiar uppercut fist pump can be made out. Maybe this is the week Woods stares down the golfing world one by one and adds his first WGC title since August 2009.
Now the crystal ball takes on a familiar green hue as we move into April and the Masters. It is the first major of the year and Donald, Westwood and McIlroy have spent the last three months thinking and talking of little else.
For each man, it is a huge week as the English pair seek a performance commensurate with their elevated status and McIlroy aims to bounce back from last year's final-round meltdown.
Woods knows he will always be a danger at Augusta and surprises no-one when he tells us he is here for the "W".
Woods is 23rd in the world rankings and will look to continue his climb back towards the top. Photo: Reuters
This time he might be right, but Donald knows his short game can set him apart provided he makes a solid start and doesn't leave himself with his traditional game of catch-up at a major.
Emboldened by the way he seized the moment to take the US Money list in 2011 the world number one becomes a permanent fixture on the leaderboard, but so does McIlroy.
Augusta is made for the US Open Champion's long game as much as the green complexes suit Donald and the Masters becomes an epic shoot-out as Woods's putter fails him early in the final round.
Three-times champion Phil Mickelson charges into the picture and then fades as he finds the water at the 15th attempting an outrageous shot at the green from behind a pine tree, after his caddie "Bones" threatens to walk off when his boss refuses a simple wedge lay-up.
Donald, meanwhile, is happy to wedge on to the 13th and 15th greens and collect single-putt birdies to keep pace with the big-hitting McIlroy. They come to the last hole three strokes clear of the rest of the field.
While McIlroy manages a routine par four, Donald chips in from the front of the green, remembering the line from a year ago, to claim his first major.
Westwood departs shaking his head after pipping Woods for third place. Another near miss, but his putting stroke was sound and despite frustration at not winning he knows the US Open isn't far away.
He also knows the United States Golf Association is more likely to produce a fairer course set-up than the one that marred the 1998 US Open staged at the same Olympic Club course when uphill putts at the last were coming to rest and then rolling away from the hole.
The course also suits Westwood. He was the leading European, finishing tied seventh behind champion Lee Janzen 14 years ago. It is Westwood's smiling face that shines from the crystal ball when we head to San Francisco in June.
As Europe's 2012 Ryder Cup captain, Jose Maria Olazabal commands a very strong team. Photo: Getty
Now it is the sun I see shining, because it is going to be a scorching summer for Britain's greatest ever sporting year. Two major wins in golf have helped stoke Olympic fervour and Andy Murray is the new Wimbledon champion.
So it all points to a home winner at Royal Lytham for the Open Championship. McIlroy has arrived full of confidence having just won the Irish Open, the benign conditions suit him perfectly and he is getting on fine with new caddie Jay Townsend.
A quick shake of the crystal ball corrects an obvious error, but McIlroy's face remains prominent, now with JP Fitzgerald at his side.
The now 23-year-old's right-to-left ball flight fits Lytham, his high trajectory takes the sting from the fast-running fairways and his bunker play is as reliable as when he holed out to win in Hong Kong.
Just like the US Open trophy did in 2011, the Claret Jug stays in Northern Ireland. It makes the short journey from Darren Clarke's Portrush palace to McIlroy's Holywood abode.
Onward to the US PGA - a tournament few in the UK notice because of the glut of gold being mined at the Olympics. Korea claims another major as Woods falters on the back nine to allow the precocious Seung Yul Noh to claim his first major.
The European Ryder Cup team is almost completed while Donald, Westwood, McIlroy and Woods lead the race for the FedEx Cup spoils.
Captain Jose Maria Olazabal has the strongest looking team for... well at least two years, but unlike his predecessor Monty, Olly isn't as keen to tell everyone because American home advantage could make a huge difference.
Europe's qualifiers are: Donald, Westwood, McIlroy, Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia, Alvaro Quiros, Paul Casey, Simon Dyson and the fast emerging Dutchman Joost Luiten. Olazabal selects Ian Poulter and Freddie Jacobson to complete the team.
The match itself is a thriller but the crystal ball steadfastly refuses to identify a winning team. Does that mean 14-14 and Europe retain the Cup?
Maybe, but who knows? The only certainty is that this has the potential to be a truly great golfing year.
And by the way, if you believe I spent Christmas doing any kind of domestic clean-up you are as mistaken as anyone who thinks I ever achieved any accuracy when armed with a Penfold Ace.