WHAT an exciting year we have ahead of us, after perhaps the best ever 12 months for European golf in 2012, with Rory McIlroy confirming his status as the world’s best player and that magical Ryder Cup triumph.
My money would be on McIlroy hanging onto his world No1 ranking for some time now, and I’m also extremely excited to see how he and some of the other heroes of Medinah fare at the Majors.
I’m particularly desperate to follow McIlroy at the Masters – the Ulsterman has unfinished business there following his rollercoaster 2011 tournament, but we know how well he can play at Augusta.
His change of club from Titleist to Nike has got people wondering whether he’ll need a period of adjustment but I don’t think so. Sand wedges and putters tend to be the main difference – irons are much the same – but he’s so good he could play with a hockey stick.
I also fancy his Ryder Cup team-mates Justin Rose and Ian Poulter to be strong contenders at the big four.
Rose has stepped up a gear, his swing has got even better and he’s become a more accomplished all-round player. The Masters looks the best fit for him, while fellow Englishman Poulter seems better suited to the Open or US Open, which favour fighters.
We all eagerly wait to see whether Tiger Woods can continue his resurgence and return to the top, because last year he looked at about 90 per cent of his best. Age is certainly no barrier – he’s only 37 and I played my best golf at 43 – so it’s a question of desire. If Woods wants it enough, he can win another Major and challenge McIlroy.
It was unfortunate to see Miguel Angel Jimenez break his leg over Christmas, and you have to wonder how easy it’ll be for a more experienced player like him to come back from a five-month lay-off.
Time is also ticking for Lee Westwood. The Englishman has been so consistent but is still hunting that elusive first Major. Is this his last year as a serious contender? He must be getting close.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam