2004...HERE WE COME
Next week is the opening of the 2004 golf season with the Mercedes Championships, an event reserved for the winners from the 2003 PGA Tour season. With the next campaign on the horizon, I thought I would take some time to make some bold predictions for the upcoming year:
Tiger Woods will not go majorless in 2004. In fact, he'll win two (Masters and PGA Championship) to join Jim Furyk (back-to-back U.S. Opens) and Darren Clarke (British at Royal Troon where he took second in '97) as the season's major winners.
The LPGA Tour's majors will go like this: Sorenstam, Sorenstam, Sorenstam, Pak, Sorenstam. All Annika by the way. Sorry Charlotta.
Tom Watson will not have the same year. Bruce Edwards will not be on the bag and Watson, justifiably, will be preoccupied.
Big year on the Champions Tour next season for Des Smyth. I said last year and I'll say it every year until he has one. It's called hedging your bet. Or looking foolish.
Phil Mickelson will return to the winner's circle but not in a meaningful event. Never criticize the man for sticking with his family, but that doesn't excuse him from not exercising.
Darren Clarke, already mentioned and someone who lost a lot of weight already, will win the Order of Merit on the European Tour in a big way.
Some names you will not hear anything about in 2004: Ty Tryon, Ricky Barnes, Bryce Molder, Ben Crenshaw, Hilary Lunke and Dottie Pepper.
Some names you will hear a lot in 2004 (other than the obvious ones): Aree Song, Chad Campbell, Lorena Ochoa and Bob Estes.
The U.S. will win the Ryder Cup and it won't be easy. For whatever reason the Europeans will paste the Americans the first two days but captain Hal Sutton will have the boys and the crowd ready on Sunday.
Karrie Webb's career will keep swirling down the bowl while Koreans, you know Jan, the ones killing the tour, will pose the greatest threat to Sorenstam. Hee-Won Han in particular.
More women will play in more events with men and unless one of the ladies beats an entire field of men, I'll still yawn. It will be out of control in 2004 and chap my fanny because it will diminish what Sorenstam did at the Colonial.
Michelle Wie's father and Danielle Ammaccapane's father will duke out the night before the start of the U.S. Women's Open. My money's on Mr. Ammaccapane. If B.J. Wie was smart, he would keep that 14-year-old kid out of the spotlight. This of course is after she plays with the men at the Sony Open in Hawaii at the request of the governor.
David Duval will slide further than Arnold Palmer on the Official World Golf Rankings. I don't want to joke but I don't see how Duval can turn this thing around.
Lee Westwood will keep winning, thanks in part to his drinking buddy Darren Clarke's ascension up the ladder. Westwood won't win huge events like majors but pencil him in for a win in one of Europe's bigger championships.
Big things for the young guns from Europe. Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Justin Rose, John E. Morgan and Fredrik Jacobson will all try hard for Ryder Cup berths but I see Poulter and Jacobson as the only guys making the trip to Michigan.
Suzann Pettersen will earn victory No. 1 on the LPGA Tour in 2004. Her golf will be the story this year as opposed to two years ago when her claim to fame was dropping an 'f-bomb' in an interview with NBC after the Solheim Cup.
That's all. Have a happy and healthy New Year.