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A lot to look forward to.

There should be no doubt that 2010 has the potential to be a vintage year for golf. Forget for a moment the credit crunch, the gaps in the calendar, the tournaments under threat and the sponsorship deals still to be done.

Leave aside the current troubles of the sport's top player and instead look ahead to what should be a fantastic 12 months for golf fans.

Here are eight reasons to be cheerful in 2010:

1. New rules on groove size and shape: This will add a fascinating dimension to the new season. Groove edges in the professional game will have to be more rounded and will have less depth. The result should be less control on shots from the rough so there will be a greater premium on finding fairways from the tee.

The feeling among the pros is that the move will put the onus on skill and accuracy and courses will be able to chop back some of the rough that has become such a negative aspect to course set-up in recent years. Seems like a win, win situation

2. The Ryder Cup: The year 2009 didn't lack for excitement or drama, but Ryder Cup years always seem to have that extra dimension. Yes, we are over-obsessed with this biennial clash between Europe and the US but the intrigue of the qualification period provides a strong narrative for the season and the match itself never fails to deliver. Judging by the year-end rankings we will be watching the best players in the world; Europe and America each have 11 players in the world's top 30. Bring it on.

3. The Return of Tiger: Who knows when it will happen, but when it does it will be one of THE sports stories of 2010. Speculation is rife as to what 'indefinite' means. Some say he will skip the entire year, but that seems unlikely. The odds are more likely on a return in time for the Masters. What is certain is that when he does come back golf will immediately jump towards the top of the sporting agenda.

4. Lee Westwood: Europe's number one doesn't believe much in mind gurus, the chaps who encourage clients to set their goals and keep them secret. We know the targets Westwood has in his sights and he is happy to tell us. Immediately after winning the Dubai World Championship he was discussing how he can use this success in his bid to win the Masters in April. For the Englishman, it's simple. The one thing he hasn't won is majors and everything will be pointed at satisfying that aim.

6. Rory McIlroy: Twenty-years-old and already a member of the world's top 10 and he looks at home there. Only Westwood's brilliance denied McIlroy the Race to Dubai crown and the teenager will have learned plenty from the way the experienced Westwood bullied his way past him in Dubai. This could prove his lift-off year that should include a Ryder Cup debut.

7. Pebble Beach: The iconic home of the US Open, it is 10 years since America's national championship was last played on this special piece of California coastline and so anticipation could not be higher for the second major of the year. Pebble never fails to deliver.

8. The extended Road Hole: Opinion is split on the putting back of the 17th tee on the Old Course at St Andrews by 35 yards. A collective groan often meets news of a course being extended to cope with the distances travelled by the modern-day golf ball. But if this move makes the famous Road Hole once again the most feared par 4 in the game at this year's Open then it should be welcomed. We want a player with a two-shot lead not to feel comfortable until this hole has been completed as in years gone by and put a bit of nervousness back into the Open's 71st hole!

The Tour kicks off in South Africa in the first week of January and arrives in our region by the end of the month. Such a lot to look forward, it should be a good one!

A Happy New Year to you all.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Jan 6, 2010
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