5 things to look out for over the next month
A resurgent Anthony Kim
Anthony Kim burst onto the scene a few years ago, and was seen as one of the only golfers in the world with the aptitude to challenge Tiger Woods in his prime. Kim, however, has fallen into the doldrums of late; he is almost the forgotten man of golf, swept under the carpet by the plethora of rising stars that have emerged over the last three years. Kim, though, showed signs at the end of last season that he is on the way back to his best. Even Rory McIlroy, who defeated him in a playoff at the Shanghai Open, has tipped Kim to recapture some of the form that saw him labelled as one of the hottest prospects in golf. In Asia at the end of last season, he played very well, and had two top five finishes at the CJ Invitational and Barclays Singapore Open. He will be hoping to start 2012 on a positive note this week at the Humana Challenge. If he gets off to a good start, one of the most exciting players to watch when on form will have a prominent role to play this season, and could well record his first victory since the 2010 Shell Houston Open.
Monty on the charge
Colin Montgomerie is making his season debut this week at the Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he made a mark. He was in a jovial mood at his first press conference of 2012, displaying some youthful exuberance and a wide smile that suggested he still believes he has an impact to make at the top level. Let’s hope that his relaxed demeanour will translate into some good golf this season. Montgomerie has embraced technology, switching back to Callaway, the brand he used to win five European Tour Order of Merit titles in a row. He claims to be hitting the ball as well as ever, and if he can find an exceptional week with the putter, a victory is within grasp. He had a disappointing first week in 2012, but it was his first competative event with his new equipment. We have seen countless examples of players thriving in their late 40s. Monty may not be the most poplar man in golf, but the vast majority would love to see him return to the winners circle.
Quirós reigning in the desert
After the season ending Dubai World Championship at the Jumeira Estates, the European Tour returns to the desert for a three week spell, starting next week at the Abu Dhabi Championship. All eyes will be on Tiger Woods, who will play his first event of 2012 next week, but he will again be overshadowed by the undisputed king of the desert. Spaniard Álvaro Quirós won twice in the Middle East last season, and I fully expect him to add to his victory tally over the next month. Quirós has the perfect game for desert golf, and will be supremely confident heading into 2012. He will be reinvigorated after a relatively long off season and determined to clinch a Ryder Cup berth. If he has used the off season to work on improving his wedge game, then he will be a threat in any tournament; not least in the desert, where he recorded the two biggest victories of his professional career last season.
Mickelson showing why he is so popular
Phil Mickelson returned to action last week at the Humana Challenge, and will again prove why he is one of, if not, the most popular golfer to have ever walked the earth. The beauty of Phil Mickelson is that he plays the game for himself, and refuses to play the percentage. Perhaps that is why he is so revered by peers and fans alike. Regardless of context, he will take on a shot that most would only dream of being able to play. And pull it off. He is a man that loves the challenge of finding innovative ways to get round a golf course. Innovation leads to experimentation, excitement, and a vast following – you simply never know what you are going to get with the best shot-maker in the world game. He is often erratic but endlessly entertaining, and one of the most genuine golfers on tour. With all the talk of a resurgent Tiger, the ‘new generation’ and European domination, Mickelson will come out in 2012 and prove that he is, and will continue to be, one of the best draws in the world game.
The belly putter debate raging on
Unfortunately, the debate over the belly putter looks set to continue long into the future. Unless governing bodies outlaw the belly putter, those short-sighted individuals championing its eradication from the game will continue to put pressure on the authorities. It is an issue that has been blown massively out of proportion. It is almost as if people believe that if you adopt the belly putter, you are guaranteed success: simply ludicrous. An improved stroke comes at the sacrifice of feel; many people complaining about the belly putter have no qualms about using an adjustable driver; it is an option available to anyone, and, most importantly, no current legislation deems it an illegal implement. If you had your mortgage riding on someone to make a 10 foot putt, who would your money be on: Robert Allenby with a belly putter, or Steve Stricker? Only a severely deluded individual would select the former.