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Peering into the Carter crystal golf ball

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Iain Carter | 15:00 UK time, Wednesday, 28 December 2011

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...

Martin Kaymer

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".

Tiger Woods

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.

Jose Maria Olazabal

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.

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    As each year passes the pressure on lee Westwood to win a major grows,pressure that he puts on himself.i fear his best chance has gone.missing out to mickleson at Augusta.rory will win between 5-8 and a majors I feel.
    As for Luke Donald he played the best golf of his carrer this year and still didn't walk away with a major.a little worrying.
    That said I hope all 3 of them go on to win many as they are fantastic to watch and all good guys.

  • Comment number 2.

    Iain, a deeply rose-tinted crystal ball, I would say. You are ignoring the many young American golfers who are hitting their straps just now, not to mention the likes of Day and Scott. They may not be up there at the top of the world rankings but any one of them has the game and temperament to take a Major. It's a much, much more open field than you suggest.

  • Comment number 3.

    That's a pretty good looking RC team, I'd say the top 6 are pretty much nailed on & Poulter loves the format and has the tempremant to thrive in an away fixture. Apart from that I'd say the rest of the places are up for grabs.
    You've got no Molinaris, Manasero must come into the reckoning and, for me, if Martin Laird has a good year his US experience must count in his favour. His RC record isn't great but Harrington's experience will always give him support and add in emerging talents such as Larrazabal, Dyson, P Hanson, Noren, Colsaerts & F-Castano to estaclished names like Casey, Lawrie, Karlson, Stenson, Bjorn, et al - many of whom showed flashes of previous glory this year and I think its most certainly game on against what will probably be the strongest US team for many a year. Looking at the moves many of their younger players made this year I'd say we write them off at our peril.....

    Can't wait!!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    A bit of British bias is fine, but that is a ridiculous prediction.
    Rory is a streak player. Westwood is fragile to say the least. Donald is a machine, but those things break. Wood's will improve but never regain the form of old.
    Kaymar is the one to watch from a Euro perspective.
    As for Andy Murray..I'm still laughing at that one :) Very witty, Wilde !

  • Comment number 5.

    Donald's short game gives him a shot at the Masters and McIlroy is a plausible contender for both Opens but I fear that Westwood's major chances have come and gone. Still strikes it well but would you really bet on his putting getting the job done? The likes of Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson look more realistic bets and also look like the basis of a strong US Ryder Cup team (I agree the Ryder Cup could be too close to call and a lot will depend on the captains' performances) And leaving Brit bias aside, my sentimental wish for 2012 would be for Mickelson to finally win the US Open.

  • Comment number 6.

    I'd be happy if one of Westwood/Donald/Mcilroy win a major, lets not get too hasty! can definitely see a woods win in the masters or USPGA. would love a win for mickelson and els too, forty is the new thirty !

  • Comment number 7.

    why do people keep mentonng Jason Day. he has won presicely one event in 95 on the PGA tour with a 44% driving accuracy against the power golf of Jerr Overton and Blake Adams who??? yes really the week after the players championship with the third highest scorefrom a winner in the event. so please lay off this guy wont do it again...

  • Comment number 8.

    It all hinges on Tiger. Already he has the stinger back, and with that he can be pretty much unbeatable on a windy links course. If his new swing continues to evolve, and if he digs out the videos and goes back to his old putting stance, he should win at least one major, more than one if he gets off to a flyer at Augusta. Forecast/dream ticket? Masters, Woods. US Open, McIlroy retains. Open, Woods. USPGA, Fowler. Long shot? Tiger and Stevie kiss and make up; Tiger needs his arrogance alongside him to help pump him up under maximum pressure.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nice piece Iain, and I see some others are posting alternative views on winners already, not that there is anything wrong in that, on the contrary, this to me underlines how strong Golf is at the moment and the potential 2012 has.

    No-one can really call who is going to come through, but it seems certain that someone or a number of them will, which will make for some great tournaments!

    Can't wait!

  • Comment number 10.

    Iain, predicting Andy Murray to win Wimbledon has left you with no credibility left as a sports journalist. You should do the honourable thing and resign your position with the BBC forthwith. I take no pleasure from saying this, but you have now condemned yourself to a lifetime of ridicule and sniggers for making such an absurd comment.

  • Comment number 11.

    Pointless Blog.

  • Comment number 12.

    So Justin Rose doesn't exist any more in RC terms? He and Poulter would make a fine pairing. Bags of US experience and has picked up his share of pots - and the dosh.

  • Comment number 13.

    I bet that this blog was actually written by a teenage boy who has never had a girlfriend

  • Comment number 14.

    My guess is that this blog was actually written by a teenage boy who has never had a girlfriend

  • Comment number 15.

    Forgot my major predictions -

    Tiger to be there or thereabouts on Sunday for each of them without actually winning. McIlroy to lead after the 1st round of at least 2, again without actually winning. would love to Sergio continue his great for in the 2nd half of last season and finally do it, although realistically can't see it.

    I'll go Donald for the Masters, Webb Simpson for the US Open, Donald again for the Open and Mahan for the PGA.

    Notable mentions predictions go to Mahan, Poluter, Watney, Noren and Quiros - all to come close on Sundays but fall short......

  • Comment number 16.

    A bit of fun and already the cynics and miserablists are pulling it apart. Like anyone would actually think Murray will win Wimbledon, that statement alone is surely enough to reveal this to be in jest? Anyway, Donald to win his maiden major, hopefully at Augusta, strong showings from Watney, Simspon and Bradley in The US Open and USPGA and a smiling Sergio to claim The Open

  • Comment number 17.

    This blog does seem like Iain's wet dream, but i suppose the purpose of it is just to get hits and provide a forum for us all to go predicting wildly about next year. I can't wait for James Mathews predictions (well they aren't predictions as he seems to speak with so much authority that he actually has a crystal ball).

    For me though I do believe that Donald will get his Maiden Major, not so much faith in Westwood but would like to be proven wrong. I can see Rory being there but i have a feeling this is going to be the year where he believes he will win everything and come up short everytime. I kind of hope this is correct as it will make him go back and take stock of his opinion of himself and how things are when your not winning which could ultimately lead to him winning much more over his career (all conjecture and supposition of course).

    Also i think that Tiger is going to win 2 of the majors, with inevitably the other going to someone no one predicts. I would love Sergio to pick one up but i feel he is too fragile mentally still.

    Oh and Iain, you didn't help at all over Christmas? My My your wife is a lucky Woman!

  • Comment number 18.

    Masters - Westwood
    US Open - Westwood
    Open - Westwood
    USPGA - Westwood

    ... cue clatter of frantic typing... "choker"... "bottler"...

    P.S. Or Sergio... however, just having SG in the Ryder Cup team will make me happy!

  • Comment number 19.

    Another feel good story for the BBC sports club. You do realize this is the net and non Brits can actually get on here without being in country? Yes it's hard to believe, but trust me you don't need to fly to New York to find out.

    Not the most wildest of predictions though as they are all in the top ten, so your odds of getting one right probably wouldn't even bring you much reward at Ladbrokes.

  • Comment number 20.

    Murray will win wimbledon! Federer to play amazingly and fizzle out in the quarters. Nadal injury, Djokovic injury. JOB DONE.

    Masters - Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson
    US Open - Jason Day or Adam Scott
    Open - Ernie Els or Ian Poulter
    USPGA - Sergio Garcia or Rory Mcilroy

  • Comment number 21.

    Really looking forward to what the year of 2012 holds for the world of golf.

    Donald, Westwood and McIlroy et al. seem set to continue the brilliance of the past year and they have a very decent European support cast too. With Sergio returning to form, Kaymer still a consistent threat at the highest level, and the likes of Poults, Casey, G-Mac and co all capable of going the distance in big events the forthcoming year appears as though it could be very exciting for Europe. In addition to the aforementioned players we are also well endowed in the youth ranks with the likes of Alvaro Quiros, Richie Ramsay and Tom Lewis all making major strides towards the top of the game.

    Match the European stars up with the likes of Watney, Simpson, Johnson and a potentially resurgent Woods and Mickelson and the 2012 Ryder Cup makes for a mouthwatering prospect. Team Europe have surely got to fancy their chances of an away victory though! http://jackhayward1989.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/another-ryder-cup-year-approaches-and-the-rush-for-qualification-begins/

  • Comment number 22.

    My first post.
    I have enjoyed Iain's blogs for a while, but been annoyed by the comments from a number of infantile posters.
    Amazed to read a page of comments without childish posts (with the possible exception of peterthehoss)
    So I thought I would join in. As someone said Iain's crystal ball is very rose tinted, but we can all dream. It is probably as accurate as anyone's prediction, such is the nature of golf.
    My prediction? at least two majors won by first time winners.
    Majors are over rated, consistency is the key therefore the rankings are the true measure of a golfers current (last two years) ability.

  • Comment number 23.

    i stopped reading at murray being the new wimbledon champion. theres optomism then theres fantasy...... murray will never win a slam while djoko, nadal and fed are around. as for golf. mcilroy is ace, westwood and donald are also but theres many golfers out there waiting for their chance and one may surprise everyone. woods will come back strong.

  • Comment number 24.

    You know, it's golf blog... take the Murray comment with a pinch of salt!

  • Comment number 25.

    Sorry Mr Carter
    As far as majors are concerned I see Tiger winning ar least two more, one in 2012, before injury sets in again, Donald not powerful enough and Lee,s short game and especially putting not standing up for four rounds.

  • Comment number 26.

    22. At 16:41 29th Dec 2011, jon evans wrote:
    ...
    Majors are over rated, consistency is the key therefore the rankings are the true measure of a golfers current (last two years) ability.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Majors are overrated? Catch a grip, that belittles the achievements of many golfers. If the majors were overrated Donald, Westwood, Poulter, Rose and Casey would all have won a couple.

    But they haven't. Whilst English golf wonders what to do next, the rest of Europe is getting ready for more majors. No disrespect to Scotland or Wales, but I would expect a major champion from them before English golf gets one.

  • Comment number 27.

    The Majors in 2012 really are anyones game! I'm not sure whether Tiger will win one, but even with a thread bare game he was in contention at the 2011 masters which suggest he will come pretty close this year when fully fit. In terms of the majors for 2012, none of the courses which they are to played on (Augusta, olympic club, Royal Lytham and Kiawah Island) are particularly long which means that it really is anyones game. My main prediction is that two of the Major championships will go to americans, Olympic club is the quintessential american style golf course and i could see someone like Kuchar or Dustin Johnson winning there. Augusta really comes down to who chips and putts well and is solid in all other areas and for that reason it has to be Luke Donald, hopefully he doesnt play too much at the start of the season to fully prepare for the masters. The Open will be won by a european no question about it, but once again it will be won by an old head and not a young gun, i can honestly see big Phil winning at lytham and for an outside bet Thomas Bjorn. The USPGA at Kiawah is the real unknown entity, the course has so many areas where you could lose 2-4 shots on the field with just a half miss shot, for that reason its hard to say but, with its links style typical of Pete Dye design i'd say a european winner is most likely, but if Tiger has his 'stinger' in fine form then its his to lose.

    The Ryder cup team for europe is even more unpredictable past Mcilroy, Donald, Westwood and Kaymer. I'd expect Garcia and Mcdowell to make it even if im not 100% on Mcdowell, past that it could be anyone .... I'd like to see Simon Dyson there, id expect to see Quiros, Rose and Casey there aswell. Poulter will be going to the Ryder cup no matter what, hes the worlds best when it comes to match play, but sorry Ian Joost Luiten? You've got to be joking.
    I think its safe to say that Europe will face the best American team for a good 20 years, theres an unbelievable amount of talent on both sides of the pond and the dominance that the Americans showed in the Presidents cup this year was scary. But with Ole at the helm instilling the fighting spirit of Seve theres no way we can lose!

  • Comment number 28.

    Ah - the old majors v ranking argument again!

    Think Donald has a good chance to win one in 2012 because not only was he consistent during 2011 but he won 4 times (more than anyone else) including a WGC event and the European Tour's flagship event, so clearly he can deliver under pressure when the heat is on. Would love to see Westwood win a major but have great doubts that under pressure he believes he can win. His putting is suspect but he often looses his driving accuracy on the final day of a tournament when he is contention. Hope he proves me wrong though!

    Tiger has performed well at Augusta even when he was playing badly elsewhere, will be interesting to see what the confidence he will gain from winning the Chevron does for his game.

  • Comment number 29.

    "If the majors were overrated Donald, Westwood, Poulter, Rose and Casey would all have won a couple."
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I'm sorry but this comment makes no sense whatsoever. Saying majors are overrated simply is saying that golf is about much more than just the majors, not that they are very easy to win. They are hard to win but there's an element of luck, and they can be won by players who happen to have a good four days, then disappear. That's not to say that winning one is not an incredible achievement, and its what all players want to do, but don't ignore all the other tournaments of the year.

    My predictions for majors... I'll make them at the time. Predicting the winner of say, the PGA Championship now is not a prediction, its a guess, and I don't see much point in guesses really.

  • Comment number 30.

    gbell, (26)

    I think that deltoro87 (29) explained my views better than I did.

    Winning a major is a fantastic achievement (over one week)
    Heading the rankings (without the benefit of lots of major points) reflects a consistent high level of golf few could attain.
    I would certainly say anyone in the top 50 could win a major. How many of them would you back to head the rankings in a years time?

    As a Welshman I took no disrespect from your comment, but I think you are slightly off the mark tipping a Welshman or Scot to out perform your list of Englishmen.

  • Comment number 31.

    Iain, what have you got against Justin Rose? he had a pretty good year, achieved his highest earnings as a pro. I think he will be a contender at the Masters and should be in the Rider Cup Team.

  • Comment number 32.

    Tiger will clean up and win all 4!

  • Comment number 33.

    No 32, I don`t know what your on but I`ll have some please.
    Seriously, it would probably come as no surprise to many of us if Tiger had an inspired season but I think there are too many young guns with a point to prove for him to take all 4. There is no doubt that Luke Donald has ,by far, been the top golfer in the world this year and probably deserves to win a major but over the years the most deserving cases have not done too well (Poulter,Casey,Westwood, Rose, Montgomerie to name a few). Historically golfers who have a tremendous season fail to reach those heights the following one ( Montgomeries 7 successive O O M being a possible exception) but if Donald can maintain his form I think Ian could be right.
    Andy Murray to win Wimbledon is a stab in the dark with a blunt instrument. I am a great supporter of Andy but (as is the case with all of our other decent sportsmen & women) the huge pressure of expectation will weigh too heavily on his shoulders. He might be a decent bet for the Australian or U.S. open though

  • Comment number 34.

    Even though I believe there is a really good chance of all 4 majors being won by English golfers, I am going out on a limb and stating that Darren Clarke will win the Grand Slam in 2012.

  • Comment number 35.

    G-Mac and Rory to share the Opens with Tiger picking up Masters and PGA....Ryder cup close to call but gotta favour home team

  • Comment number 36.

    @34 Darren Clarke is not an Englishman. To say that he has a chance of completing the Grand Slam is going out on a limb big time. For making such a statement you deserve to lose a limb - or two. Then you wouldn't have a leg to stand on. :-)

    I have always favoured Darren for his larger than life image. I cried with him as he overcame his grief at the K Club. I supped a few in celebration of his win at Sandwich, I was happy for him that he has found a new lady to share his life, but the reality is that Darren will now coast along until he joins the Senior Tour. He will continue to grace to the game of golf, but for the future at a lower level.

  • Comment number 37.

    What are you smoking? Neither Westwood nor Donald will ever win a major. Ever!

    McIlroy? His next major will be in 2015.


    Masters: Jason Day
    US Open: Dustin Johnson
    British Open: Some Scandavian whom nobody's ever heard of.
    PGA: Phil or Tiger

  • Comment number 38.

    I am a sportsfan as opposed to being a golf fan but I would love to see Westwood win a Major. After getting close on so many occasions though, you really start to think about whether he has the mentality for it. Or is it that he just doesn't have the concentration levels to keep plugging away over 4 days.

    I compare the majors to many a poker tournament where you have to be in the zone for such a long period and if you drop out of it sometimes you really lose focus and stop doing the things that made you a front runner in the first place.

    Just hope that all the brits do well. Thinking McIlroy will win at least one of the majors this year and can see Tiger making a big push back up the rankings.

    Here's to a fantastic year of sport in 2012!

  • Comment number 39.

    Iain, I think you should take your crystal ball back for repairs as it is seriously defective.

  • Comment number 40.

    Can't believe you didn't have Andy Murray down for more, shame on you. Woods will bounce back this year, Rory is going to challenge in several majors and win at least one, possibly two if Tiger doesn't stop him, but Luke I'm afraid will be resigned to accepting bit parts in majors and winning everything else. Machines break, but not until their worn out. RC???? one winner and by 3 clear points. Experience, quality and better players, simple as that, kittens don't beat cats even on their own turf.

  • Comment number 41.

    What has happened to mickysausage? i hope he is okay.

  • Comment number 42.

    Only thing I'm pretty sure of is that McIlroy will end 2012 as world number 1.

  • Comment number 43.

    #36 writes "@34 Darren Clarke is not an Englishman."

    I don't believe that #34 claimed he was!

  • Comment number 44.

    Iain - You are clearly heavily over indulging in the mulled wine.
    The USA has so many startling talents coming through that your predictions are longshots at best excluding rors.
    Also, with TW back in the hunt, scarily difficult times for predictions on who will win what,best to stick who won't win,easier.
    Sad to say but the only way I see Westwood nicking a major is on technical default of other players (i.e curtis or sorry to say it darren clarke) as when the heat is on, he is a proven nearly man.
    Donald has done well but he reminds me of Caroline Wozniacki (as you brought tennis into it!!!) in the facts of YES HE IS NUMBER 1 but to learned observers of each sport, he lacks that X factor or killer mentality of a vintage TW etc..
    Wozniacki is the same, she lacks a 'big rally ending shot' and is a consistant force,rather than the best one on everyone's day.
    As for Andy Murray,it will take the early retirement of 3 - 4 players to give him his chance as like henman,he is 10% short and the wait will continue(how was he up for spoty and then didn't turn up??!!).
    Lastly,you are right with McIlroy though as he will always be dangerous and is capable of total 'lights out' golf exceeding everyone and dependant on preparation, I see him definitely winning one of the US based majors as that is his putty and conditions.

  • Comment number 45.

    Andy Murray was in a training camp when SPOTY was on. He knew he wasn't going to win so why would he break his preparation for the Australian Open to sit in an audience of has beens for an evening. (Apart from the contenders most of the audience were over the hill)
    Anyway for next year I think many posters are giving Lefty Phil a mulligan too many. What did he do in 2011? Nothing of note & I can't remember his last tournament win. As for Mr Woods he probably will get back to winning ways in 2012 but more likely off the golf course. McIlroy, Day, Donald, etc. are not afraid of him the way so many others were so that aura has gone.
    I made my guess for the majors in one of Iain's earlier Blogs and can't even remember what they were now. Suffice to say Murray will win at least one. ;-)
    Happy new year everyone!!!!

  • Comment number 46.

    44.
    At 09:23 30th Dec 2011, mickyweir wrote:

    Donald has done well but he reminds me of Caroline Wozniacki (as you brought tennis into it!!!) in the facts of YES HE IS NUMBER 1 but to learned observers of each sport, he lacks that X factor or killer mentality of a vintage TW etc..

    MickyWeir - what about his final round to clinch the money list in the USA? Sheer guts, grit and an 'I'm not going to let that ****** beat me' attitude. Same as in Dubai to clinch the money list this side of the pond. Poor start and then he fought his way back to a brilliant finish. Maybe he didn't win that tournament but he proved his mettle twice in those comps.

  • Comment number 47.

    If Tiger Woods is physically capable of being moved around the Augusta course and pointed in the vague direction of the hole for each shot, I'd never bet against him making a challenge. For all his recent troubles, he's finished 6th-4th-4th there the last three years. Now he's seemingly remembered how to putt again, he really should make a 5th green jacket the golfing (maybe sporting) story of 2012. Adam Scott would of course have to be runner-up, with Steve Williams on his bag.

    The US Open is at Olympic, which always seems to produce finishes where a relatively unknown winner upsets someone who would have been a huge sentimental favourite - Jack Fleck beating Hogan in 1955, Billy Casper beating Palmer in 1966, Scott Simpson beating Watson in 1987. 2012 will be no different, I can foresee Phil Mickelson losing it in a playoff to, oh, Ben Crane.

    The Open is at Lytham, and as always is impossible to predict, it will depend so much on the weather over the first two days (and the draw for tee times). If it's fine, I can see Rory McIlroy winning, and with it taking the world number one spot. If not, oh, Monty, if he qualifies. Why not?

    As Iain says the USPGA will be almost totally ignored in the UK as it clashes with the Olympics, so will certainly be won by Luke Donald, maintaining his record of winning things that the British public at large are completely oblivious to.

  • Comment number 48.

    #5

    You question Westwood's putting and then go on to say Dustin Johnson is a more credible candidate for a major?? Johnson couldn't hit a bin lid from 8 feet.

  • Comment number 49.

    I dont find myself believing all the hype surrounding Tiger as yet.I have always said he will more majors but as yet im unconvinced he is anywhere near where he needs to be to win a major.Having said that he does bring with him a certain aura that does intimidate other top golfers,and when his name is anywhere near the top of a leaderboard i always get the feeling it affects the others more than anyone else.
    At present,simply put our guys Westwood,Donald etc etc are better than Woods they just need to believe it and maybe Westwood needs to get his putting sorted out.If he could putt half as well as he hits it he would already be a multiple major winner.I hope this will be his major breakthrough year cus in my mind he is without doubt the best ball striker out there.
    As has been said before we arent gonna be able to predict who will win,at least not with any great certainty.We all have our wish lists and regardless who we support i can say that i dont think ive ever looked forward to a new years golf with such anticipation and excitement.
    My predictions....
    Masters....who ever putts best...Donald i hope.
    US Open...Westwood...if he putts ok
    Open...Garcia...given a good draw weather wise.
    USPGA...A long hitting Yank who has a good week with the putter

  • Comment number 50.

    Far far too many people who seem to be treating their opinions as if they are statements of fact. The only prediction that i make for 2012 with any certainty is that many/most/all of these people will end up with egg on their faces.

    Lets be truthfully honest, picking a major winner is harder than picking the Winner of the grand National. Theoretically i believe the following could/should do well.

    Masters - The easiest to over analyse as everyone knows the course so well, the fact is that the course doesn't seem to suit any 1 style of player over the other, thats why Mickleson and Faldo, two of the most diametrically opposed players as you'll ever see both have 3 green Jackets nestling in their wardrobes. Having said that I always think if anyone is advantaged at Augusta its the long hitters so perhaps worth having a look at Gary Woodland.

    US Open - I believe the course is in the region of 7'600 yards which is quite brutal, and after Rory's record breaking exploits last year i have no doubt that the USGA will be keen to resote the normal order of things and set the course up tough and tight. I imagine being long and straight off the tee will be crucial which plays into the hands of the Likes of Westwood and Garcia

    The Open - By contrast Lytham isn't long, often isnt quite as windy as other links because its sheltered to a degree (though its all relative) and is peppered with bunkers. Therefore a guy who isnt that long but plays well out of sand could do well, its all set up for Donald to claim a major, Isnt it?

    USPGA - Kiawah could play very much like a links if the wind blows, however if it doesnt then its really just another American target golf course. Presuming the wind blows a more natrual less coached player like Bubba or Fowler could do well.

    In theory i think all the above makes perfect sense, but whether it actually works like that on the course.... probably not

  • Comment number 51.

    If I'm not mistaken the past 12 (or close to it) majors have been won by different players... And most have been first time winners too.

    So on that note, this year will be no different, and a streak player will rampage the course and win in style, maybe be with a freak 62 on the final day or something.
    You can also expect at least one if not several: a Dustin Johnson meltdown, a steady top 10 for Luke, a close call for Westwood and Mickleson, just shy as usual, Tom Watson to grab the headlines at the Open, Tiger to be fired up to beat Williams, and some typical Americans boasting about their youth and then come back running to a European telling them how much they want them back when they win the US Open after naming a let's face it lesser player so far rookie of the year...

  • Comment number 52.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Justin Rose was the British player to win a major in 2012. He has twice led the Masters at the half way stage and has won big tournaments on the PGA Tour, notably the Memorial at Muirfield Village. The pressure and the attention won't be on him as it will be with McIlroy, Westwood and Donald. There are so many players 'under the radar'. I would think Dustin Johnson has paid his dues to the golfing gods and he is overdue a major, ditto Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia, both past winners of the 'fifth major', the Players. The US PGA is treated with condescension by so many. In many ways it has the best field of all the majors (and even then not as good as the Players). Kiawah Island should be a fabulous venue. Suited to Martin Kaymer? As for Luke Donald, I think his best chance of a major will be at the 2013 US Open at Merion, a shortish course by modern standards, imbued with history (it is where Bobby Jones closed out his Grand Slam in 1930), but one ideally suited for a strategic player rather than a 'bomber'. Garcia should shine at the Ryder Cup at Medinah, a course with happy memories (where he came 2nd in the PGA). Hopefully, Rose and Casey won't be left out of the Ryder Cup if they fail to qualify automatically, as they were disgracefully in 2010.

  • Comment number 53.

    "Hopefully, Rose and Casey won't be left out of the Ryder Cup if they fail to qualify automatically, as they were disgracefully in 2010."
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Its perfectly legitimate to disagree with the decision, but I don't see how it was disgraceful in any way? They had not qualified automatically, as they had not played well enough to. Yes, the way the qualifying was set up may have cost them, but there is nothing disgraceful about that (it has since been amended and improved).

    Monty chose Luke Donald (now world no.1), experienced 3-time major winner Padraig Harrington, and in-form Edoardo Molinari, whose brother, with whom he had played foursomes and fourballs very successfully in the past, was already on the team. In hindsight it may be very easy to criticise those selections, but ultimately Europe won, albeit narrowly.

  • Comment number 54.

    And a fat lot of good Harrington did for us. The disgraceful aspect was that the last round of a PGA tournament was just getting underway in America, with Casey and Rose both in with a shout of winning it, as Edoardo Molinari closed out at Gleneagles and was promptly picked. News of the wild choices filtered through to the PGA tournament in America as contenders were playing. One of the sensible things is that the wild choices next time won't be announced until the Monday after both European and PGA events are concluded.

  • Comment number 55.

    Harrington did not have as bad a tournament as is generally thought, he got two points out of four, which whilst not being a great record, was certainly not one of the worst - McIlroy only claimed two points as well, Mickelson only got one! But that is immaterial, since my point was that the principle behind selecting him was sound. We have no idea of his influence behind the scenes in a relatively inexperienced team. He was clearly a great help to Ross Fisher when he played alongside him.

    It does seem wrong that the team was announced before a tournament in the US had finished, but clearly Monty had made up his mind and decided that regardless of the result, he knew his wildcards. You might argue the way that Rose and Casey found out was disgraceful, but the fact that they were surely wasn't.

  • Comment number 56.

    jimmy...dude, what has happened to this blog, where are the boys, is this the death??? BTW i got 10/1 on TW for the masters....cant even comment on other comments as it seems like their is a new dawn!!! easy fella ;)

  • Comment number 57.

    Bernhardt Langer will win the PGA, beating Hale Irwin in a sudden death playoff on the eighteenth hole.

 

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