2013 preview: 10 European storylines to watch

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell have both won a major. Will any Euros join them in 2013?
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell have both won a major. Will any Euros join them in 2013? ( Associated Press )

Sunday, December 23, 2012

It’s hard to think things can get any better for European golf in 2013, following a fantastic 2012. However, I’ve looked into my crystal ball and have come up with 10 things to look out for next season.

• • •

1. What does Rory McIlroy do for an encore?

He won his second major in 2012 this season and added four other victories. He’s the world number one by a long margin. Scary thing is he can get better. It’s going to be interesting to watch the Northern Irish phenomenon in 2013.

• • •

2. How will Muirfield handle sexist claims?

The all-male Muirfield hosts the Open Championship, and will come under pressure to admit women in the wake of Augusta National’s decision to admit two women. The pressure will start in April when the British media gather at Muirfield for the customary press conference. My guess is they will stick to a bullish we don’t discuss membership issues. In other words, they will do whatever they like. Or what clubs did in the early 1900s.

• • •

3. How will the Final Series play out?

The European Tour has added a Final Series similar to the FedEx Cup. Will the top players support it? And will it make any difference to who wins the money list, or the Race to Dubai?

• • •

4. Will the European economy further impact the European Tour?

Six tournaments fell by the wayside in 2012, but the Tour still will consist of 45 events in 2013, with possibly three more to be added. As usual, the tour visits the far corners of the globe, but will it lose more events in its own backyard?

• • •

5. Who will join Rory McIlroy as major winners?

There are a few Europeans due to join McIlroy as major winners. Lee Westwood and Luke Donald are the two obvious names. They’ve been World No. 1, but have yet to make major breakthroughs. Add the likes of Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose, too. Who will be the next European major winner?

• • •

6. Can Europe taste Solheim success again?

The European Solheim Cup team will strive to win the Cup in the United States for the first time when the teams meet in Colorado. Europe will also look to successfully defend the Cup for the first time. Europe had strength in depth last time out. Will the Euros make history in the shadow of the Rockies?

• • •

7. What next for the Ladies European Tour?

The LET has a new chief executive, Ivan Khodabakhsh. He doesn’t have a golf background. His last post was chief executive of the World Series of Boxing. Honest! File this one in the folder marked “You couldn’t make this up.” Will he turn out to be Ivan the Terrific or Ivan the Terrible?

• • •

8. Will the World Amateur Golf Rankings determine the Walker Cup?

If you go by the amateur rankings then the United States should run away with the Walker Cup. At this stage it’s hard to see the U.S. not entering the match as favorites. It should be interesting to see how the match pans out.

• • •

9. How will Royal Cinque Ports hold up against world’s best amateurs?

Royal Cinque Ports hosted two Open Championships (1909 and 1920) but isn’t on the rota because it can’t handle all that goes with a modern Open. Pity, because it’s a classic course made better recently by a program to restore traditional grasses. It hosts the 2013 British Amateur Championship. It will be interesting to see how the world’s top amateurs fare on this classic links.

• • •

10. How will the teenagers fare on the 2013 Ladies European Tour?

Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn comfortably took the top card at the LET Q-School. It will be fascinating to see how the 17-year-old handles professional life. Ditto for Charley Hull. The 16-year-old English amateur just missed out on a card and will get about 12-15 starts in 2013. Watch out for the two teenagers. They could make big impressions.

Golfweek.com readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.