Martin’s Crystal Ball

Jan 08 2018

Thought for the Day
If you’d known you were going to live this long, wouldn’t you have taken better care of yourself?

This prediction business is a dangerous thing but nonetheless I’m going to stick my neck out and have a punt on what I think 2018 may bring to the world of golf. Incidentally, the reason why pundits like me continue to prognosticate is because we type with fingers crossed (never easy) in the hope that no-one who reads this now will remember to go back in 12 months’ time to check how accurate we were.

The Majors
Rory McIlroy will win the Masters. After the disaster of 2011 when he hoicked his drive miles left on the 10th en route to a disastrous last day 80 he understandably had a couple of so-so performances. In the last four years, however, he’s finished in the top-10 and clearly loves the Augusta National course. But my main reasons for optimism are that a) he is due another grand slam event, he’s just too good and b) this year he is changing his schedule and playing eight events leading into the first major, rather than two or three. If Rory doesn’t win, Dustin Johnson, who is already showing frighteningly good form, will.

rory masters 2011

Phil Mickelson will win the US Open. I know, this is heart writing, not head because the man has famously finished runner-up in his own national championship more often than anyone else (six times) without winning it. And he’s 46-years-old, and no longer with Bones, the man who caddied for his entire professional career. But because of this I believe Phil knows he’s running out of chances and needs to summon all his considerable talent for one last effort. I’m also a believer in omens (not really) and remember thatJack Nicklaus was the same age when he won his last major, the 1986 Masters, after everyone thought he was over the hill.

 

A relatively unknown American will win The Open. As a very rough rule of thumb, two majors are won every year by golfers who have done it before and two by players breaking their majors duck. Carnoustie is the venue and it has a reputation for throwing up unexpected winners – remember Paul Lawrie? And although Padraig Harrington went on to win another Open and a PGA Championship, when he landed his first big one at Carnoustie in 2007, he wasn’t much of a favourite with the bookies at the beginning of the week. I think this year it will be someone like Xander Shauffele, Daniel Berger or Brian Harman (I include Shauffele simply because I love his name and want to type it as often as possible).

Rickie Fowler will win the US PGA Championship because he’s about due to turn significant potential into actual achievement. Seven top-5 finishes in majors is good but not good enough. It’s time, Rickie

The Ryder Cup
Hate to say it but the Americans will successfully retain the trophy. Quite simply, many of our recent stalwarts, such as Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter and Colin Montgomerie aren’t cutting it anymore and America has a production line of very talented youngsters to replace the old guard. We’ve got Rory, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm and possibly Henrik Stenson. They’ve got Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Kevin Kisner, Kevin Chappell, a few mentioned above and a bunch of others coming from their college production line. And although we’re supposedly playing a ‘home’ tie, the Paris National venue isn’t likely to be in the home country of any European team members.

Tiger Woods will win a tour event but his major winning days are over. Sorry.

Elsewhere
The R&A alongside the USGA has shown a great turnaround in the last few years, by showing they are prepared to react quickly when events show the rules to be unwieldy or just plain nonsense. In the wake of Dustin Johnson’s problems at the US Open, when no-one knew if he was to be applied a penalty stroke, and Lexi Thompson’s debacle at the ANA Inspiration, sanity has broken out. Lexi, you will remember, inadvertently breached a rule in the third round that didn’t come to attention until she had started her fourth – thanks to a nit-picking, anally retentive numpty watching a highlights show on TV. Thankfully, as of January 1st this year, anyone calling a broadcaster or tournament host as a result of spotting something on television will be told to take a hike. About time.

Final thoughts on 2017
Does it seem possible that this year sees the 20th anniversary of Justin Rose announcing himself at the age of 17 by chipping in at the last in The Open?

Where has plumb-bobbing putts gone?

Quote of the Week
There are three things in the world that he held in the smallest esteem: slugs, poets and caddies with hiccups
P G Wodehouse

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