Golf Majors Preview 2012: Can a revitalised Tiger Woods recapture past glories or will Rory McIlroy cement his place at the top?
The Masters: 5th-8th April
Venue: Augusta National Golf Club.
This year, the Masters would do extremely well to replicate the kind of excitement it produced during the final round of the 2011 tournament. The new World Number One, Rory McIlroy suffered a catastrophic 4-shot crumble, Tiger Woods started an eagle charge and Adam Scott didn’t quite hit top gear. However, it was Charl Schwartzel who boarded the birdie train for the last four holes to take the title.
Luke Donald has always mentioned that the Masters is the major he is most suited to win, but it won’t be easy this year, especially with his Ryder Cup team-mates, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood in fine form.
Tiger Woods, who has tied for fourth in 2010 and 2011, must always be respected when he pegs it up at Augusta. 2010 winner, Phil Mickelson is another challenger on the short-list.
My favourite: Tiger Woods
Venue: Olympic Club, San Francisco, CA.
For the fifth time, the U.S. Open is flying to San Francisco’s Olympic Club, where previous favourites have failed to land the spoils.
In 1966, Arnold Palmer managed to squander a 7-shot lead over the final 8 holes, then lost to Billy Casper in a play-off. In 1987, Scott Simpson won by two strokes over Tom Watson, and, in the last Open played at Olympic in 1998, Payne Stewart was the unfortunate loser to Lee Janzen.
The course measures just 7,145 yards, which it is relatively short by today’s standards. In 2011, Rory McIlroy won at Congressional in an extremely impressive fashion, and this course looks set up for another win for the young superstar. Woods and the big hitters will struggle to deal with the tight fairways and thick rough.
My favourite: Rory McIlroy.
The British Open: 19th-22nd July
Venue: Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
The Open returns to Royal Lytham & St. Annes for the first time since 2001, when David Duval won his first and only major championship.
Lytham has over 200 bunkers which can be card-wrecking, especially if the wind blows. It is an unusual design, the front nine has three par-3s and the inward nine finishes with six consecutive par-4s. As with all links courses, Lytham will require a sharp short game to avoid doubles and triples. If you are not careful, your card will resemble a drinks receipt from the players bar.
Tom Lehman became the first American winner at this venue, while Seve won at Lytham twice, in 1979 and 1988. 2011 winner, Darren Clarke held off late charges from Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson to win his first career major title.
My favourite: Tiger Woods.
The PGA Championship: 9th-12th August
Venue: Kiawah Island, S.C.
The 2012 PGA Championship will be played at Kiawah Island, SC, site of the famous American Ryder Cup victory in 1991. The Ocean course was recently voted to be the toughest course in America.
The course has the capacity measure over 7,600 yards, however, there is plenty of sand, water and heat to make the place difficult enough without pushing the boxes back.
Keegan Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship in his first major appearance, and this year will almost certainly provide another thrilling finish.
My favourite: Ian Poulter