Headed by a Ryder Cup in Paris, an Open Championship at Carnoustie and, of course, Tiger Woods continuing his comeback, 2018 looks like being exciting for golf and here are ten things we’d like to see in the game this year:
SANDY LYLE GETTING A PROPER OPEN SEND-OFF
It’s a disgrace that the two-time major winner missed out on captaining Europe in the Ryder Cup, so big Sandy deserves the whole nation getting right behind him at Carnoustie in July when he makes what is likely to be his last appearance in the Claret Jug event. He turns 60 this year so his exemption runs out and from start to finish the event in Angus should be used by Scottish golf fans to show their appreciation for an outstanding golfer and a lovely man.
SCOTTISH SUCCESS ON EUROPEAN TOUR
It was back in March 2015 when Richie Ramsay landed Scotland’s last victory in a regular European Tour event – Russell Knox, admittedly, won a WGC later that year – and it’s time for the Saltire to be sitting at the top of the leaderboard again after 72 holes. That will certainly be a target for the likes of Ramsay and Scott Jamieson, pictured, who produced the best effort last year when finishing second in the Nedbank Challenge, while a return to winning ways is also a possibility for both Marc Warren and Stephen Gallacher if they can take up where they left off at the end of last season.
RORY COMPLETING HIS CAREER GRAND SLAM
Starting in Abu Dhabi next week, it will be fascinating to see how much Rory McIlroy has benefited from a self-enforced three-month break after being hindered for most of last season by a rib injury. It would be wrong to expect him to be firing on all cylinders straight away, but Rory will definitely be hoping he is back to his best for the first week in April, when he will make his fourth attempt to become just the sixth player to complete golf’s Grand Slam by winning the Masters.
EVENTS IN SCOTLAND BEING WELL SUPPORTED
It’s certainly not ideal for four events to be held in the east of Scotland in a three-week period in July, but that’s still no excuse for the Open at Carnoustie, Senior Open at St Andrews and both the men’s and women’s Scottish Opens at Gullane being any less appealing than they should be. All of those events, after all, will boast world-class fields so let’s see Scottish golf fans getting back to supporting events wholeheartedly.
TIGER WINNING AGAIN
Predicting what lies ahead for Tiger Woods in 2018 is a difficult task given he has made just four appearances in the last two years due to a series of back operations. There is no denying, though, that the 14-time major winner made a pretty impressive comeback in the Hero World Challenge late last year and those TV ratings would go through the roof if Woods can use that encouraging performance as a springboard for a first title triumph since 2013.
‘GUARDIANS OF RYDER CUP’ GETTING STUCK IN CHANNEL TUNNEL
In golf, there’s nowhere really that comes close in terms of atmosphere than the first tee at a Ryder Cup. However, this bunch of numpties were responsible for that being somewhat subdued at Gleneagles in 2014 and could do so again at Le Golf National in Paris in the autumn. A hearty rendition of La Marseillaise every now and again from normal fans will do much more to inspire Thomas Bjorn’s team as they try to win back the trophy.
SCOT SELECTED FOR CURTIS CUP
The one disappointment for Elaine Farquharson-Black when she led Great Britain & Ireland to victory in this event at Dun Laoghaire in 2015 was the fact her side did not contain a fellow Scot. But getting into the initial squad for the match at Quaker Ridge in June was definitely a boost for both Connie Jaffrey and Shannon McWilliam and now they need strong starts to the year to make the final eight.
NEW SCOTTISH GOLF CEO BEING IN TOUCH WITH GAME
Scottish Golf ended 2017 in a state of disarray after CEO Blane Dodds announced he was leaving to take up a similar role at Tennis Scotland and a proposed new strategy then being put on hold. The process to appoint his successor is about to enter the final phase and it really is vital that the person appointed is au fait with the game at grass-roots level in particular. Some positivity was created from a first Scottish National Conference in December and this appointment is key in trying to build on that.
PLAYERS PUNISHED EVERY WEEK FOR SLOW PLAY
The new Shot Clock Masters on the European Tour in Austria in early June alone will not solve golf’s ongoing problem with slow play. It really is time for players to be punished frequently and to be named and shamed in the process. That’s the only way we are going to see the culprits speed up.
SCOTLAND WINNING MEN’S HOME INTERNATIONALS
One of the most disappointing performances in 2017 was Scotland ending up with the wooden spoon in the Men’s Home Internationals after losing all three matches at Moortown. With Connor Syme, Robert MacIntyre and Liam Johnston all having turned professional, this will be a transitional year for the Scots, but let’s hope a young crop led by Sam Locke, Jamie Stewart and Darren Howie rise to the challenge in the latest instalment of the four-cornered event in Wales.