A home Ryder Cup, European assault on the majors and the Tiger question
Can Westwood build on a fine 2009 with major glory next year?
"With the Masters, as ever, at Augusta, The Open back at on its greatest stage in St Andrews and the Ryder Cup scheduled for Celtic Manor next autumn (Welsh weather permitting, I suppose) there is much to look forward to next year."
There's much to look forward to on the 2010 golfing landscape but plenty of questions that need to be asked, not least whether we'll see Tiger on the course doing what he does best. Bill Elliott surveys the scene
Glancing back while looking forward is never easy but, as 2010 hurtles towards us, this time the old reverse-clairvoyant trick is harder than ever.
First, let's plug into the easy bit, the retrospective stuff. Was 2009 a vintage season for pro golf? No, absolutely not. It had its vintage moment, of course, when Tom Watson pulled on a disguise, channelled a younger man's game, and damn near won The Open.
But in the end he faltered as only an oldish bloke can do, his nerve spilling all over Turnberry's 18th green. Instead of a sensational Watson victory what we got in Scotland was a Stewart Cink win. At which point many of us wished we were elsewhere.
This followed on Angel Cabrera's Masters success and Lucas Glover's (oh, please) US Open surprise and came before YE Yang did what no-one had done before by overtaking and beating Tiger Woods in the final round of a major, this time the USPGA.
So while these big weeks were not without interest, the eventual outcomes rather dulled the senses of many of us who follow the old game with more than superficial interest. Cabrera is about as predictable as Tiger's mobile phone list, Glover is duller than the average accountant, Cink is as likeable as any bloke who thinks he has a direct line to God while Yang is no-one's idea of a major star.
Good luck to them all but don't expect me, or anyone else, to queue up in 2010 to actually see them play golf.
Elsewhere we were able to enjoy the continuing emergence of Rory McIlroy as something substantially more than a cute Belfast boy who can whack the ball a country mile. McIlroy's feisty approach to the game and his grounded attitude to life away from the hoopla of tournament play promises much over the next 12 months.
His decision to join the US circuit - and so ignore his management team's advice - seemed a classic example of youthful, and misplaced, impetuosity at the time but now in a Tigerless landscape it appears timing of the most exquisitely perfect type. We'll see.
Rory is not alone in this regard of course. There is now a posse of younger players with the apparent abilities to achieve something substantially more than merely earning a shedload of money. England alone can now boast the likes of Paul Casey, Ross Fisher, Ross McGowan, Simon Dyson, Oliver Wilson and Chris Wood. Elsewhere, Martin Kaymer continues to impress hugely as does Francesco Molinari and is there a better prospect than Sweden's Alexander Noren? I don't think so.
Right now, European golf is stronger than ever even if those majors appear harder to secure. Six Europeans - Lee Westwood, Casey, Padraig Harrington, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and McIlroy - occupy six positions in the world's top ten, truly an historic first.
Any is capable of winning a big title but Westwood, whose thrilling yomp through the inaugural Race To Dubai (was it also the last as this part of the Emirates stumbles into financial chaos?) suggests that at last the decent bloke from Worksop might be about to pull off a major breakthrough. If so, the smart money suggests this will be in the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach.
And with the Masters, as ever, at Augusta, The Open back at on its greatest stage in St Andrews and the Ryder Cup scheduled for Celtic Manor next autumn (Welsh weather permitting, I suppose) there is much to look forward to next year.
But will Tiger Woods play in any of them? I doubt even he knows the answer to this question at present. What I do know is that his absence, however long, diminishes the old game significantly. If he does come back - and how can we be certain either way? - then we may not see the same player.
However, what we may hopefully see is a slightly humbler man who, with a bit of luck, also cuts out the spitting. I am not, however, holding my breath about any of this. Are you? Have a successful, and therefore happy, New Year.