5 key golf questions for 2012

rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 6, 2012 

As the 2012 PGA Tour season opens today at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, here are five questions blowing in the trade winds in Maui:

1. What will Tiger do?

Apparently healthy and happy with the state of his rebuilt golf game, is this the year when he becomes Tiger Woods again or not?

He's played a full season just once in the past four years - his six-victory season in 2009 before his world changed. But Woods has pronounced himself ready to roll again.

Woods has been stuck on 14 major championship wins since the 2008 U.S. Open. He may never dominate like he once did, but he sounds convinced he'll win big again. Time for him to show it.

2. Is it Rory's time?

Winning the U.S. Open in record-setting fashion after his Masters meltdown solidified the belief that Rory McIlroy is poised to be the game's next dominant player.

Not unlike the way Jack Nicklaus came along to challenge and eventually supplant Arnold Palmer in the 1960s, McIlroy and Woods may be in a similar situation. The Woods-Phil Mickelson rivalry was more about personalities than head-to-head showdowns. It may be different with McIlroy.

3. Will Luke Donald win a major?

It's not too late to pause and appreciate what Donald did last year, winning both the PGA Tour money title and the European Tour Order of Merit, a feat Darren Clarke recently said will never be duplicated.

Donald is the clear No. 1 in the world at the moment, but his resume lacks one thing.

"I have done everything but win a major," Donald said at the end of his spectacular season.

Perhaps this is the year.

4. Who's next?

Last year, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Jason Day were among the new wave of players who emerged on the global stage along with McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa and others.

Bubba Watson established himself as a serious force, as did Bill Haas. Rickie Fowler is a star still chasing his first tour victory and Dustin Johnson nearly won the Open championship. There's no reason to expect any of them to slow down.

5. Will Love win the Cup?

It's a Ryder Cup year with Davis Love III charged with recapturing the Ryder Cup when the matches are played at Medinah outside Chicago this fall.

Winning the Presidents Cup as the American side did in November in Australia is one thing. Winning the Ryder Cup is something else. Just ask Europeans McIlroy, Donald, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell.

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