Surely things can’t get any better for European golf next year, can they?
I made the same statement at the end of 2010. With three European Tour players lifting majors and victory in the Ryder Cup, it seemed inconceivable it could get any better this year.
Another three European Tour members lifted major trophies this season. Again a European, Luke Donald, finished the year as World No. 1. Three other Europeans – Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer – occupy the next three spots, respectively, on the Official World Golf Ranking. Donald went even further, topping the European Tour and PGA Tour money lists.
No wonder officials at European Tour headquarters had to pinch themselves again this year.
How do you top that? What does 2012 hold in store for European golf?
Here are five realistic 2012 European wishes, and five unrealistic ones.
1. Major wins for Luke Donald and Lee Westwood: Both players have held the World No. 1 spot and have suffered criticism, too. There are those who don’t deem a player unworthy of the World No. 1 title if said player hasn’t won a major. Rubbish! Both players earned their way to the top of world golf under the same system that Tiger Woods earned his way to World No. 1, and they deserve the same recognition.
2. Major breakthroughs for other Europeans: Paul Casey, the Molinari brothers, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Robert Karlsson, Simon Dyson, Anders Hansen, Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez have all played well on the world stage. It would be great to see one of them break through in the majors next year.
3. A GB&I Curtis Cup victory: The biennial match will be held at Nairn, Scotland, and should give the Great Britain & Ireland girls home-course advantage. I hope so. I’d love to see the Curtis Cup match the Walker Cup for parity.
4. A European to win a women’s major: After the success of the European Solheim Cup team, a win in one of the women’s majors would be the icing on the cake. And being partisan, I’ll concede that a win for a British golfer, especially a Scot, would suit me down to the ground.
5. A good season for Tom Lewis: All eyes will be on the Englishman next year. He has a hard act to follow. As the likes of Pablo Martin, Shane Lowry and Danny Lee found out, backing up a win is hard. Hope he plays well.
And the unrealistic wishes…
6. Good riddance to the five-hour-plus round: I’ve been saying this for years, yet play seems to grind on at a funereal pace.
7. More kids playing golf: Seems to me the average golfer in the western world is about 55. I would love to see that drop significantly. Getting more kids involved is the way to go.
8. More minorities playing golf: That average age seems to apply to white golfers. I don’t see many ethnic minorities taking up the game. Fifteen years on from Tiger Woods’ Masters victory and the PGA Tour has a dearth of black golfers. No black golfers playing the Euro Tour, either. Would love to see the game become more diverse.
9. Good riddance to male-only clubs: Muirfield, Royal St. George’s, Royal Troon and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club continue to discriminate against women. It would be great to see them become part of the 21st century and admit female members, especially the latter club. The sexist attitude of the clubs does the game no favors whatsoever.
10. Five strokes off my handicap: That would take me down to four and a category one player. I know next year I’ll get there. Where have I heard that before?