KAPALUA, Hawaii — Even without the top four players in the world around to kick off the season, every new year in golf is shrouded in mystery like clouds over Molokai across the channel from Kapalua.
Among the most pressing question: What will Bubba Watson serve for dinner at the Masters?
“When you show up for dinner on Tuesday night, that’s when you’ll find out,” Watson said.
One problem. The press isn’t invited.
“That’s what I mean,” Watson said.
With a wink and a smile, he walked over to the first tee and smashed the first of what figures to be several 400-yard tee shots. There were 67 tee shots that went at least 400 yards last year on the PGA Tour, and 41 of them were on the Plantation Course at Kapalua.
There are more serious issues going into 2013. What follows is the front nine of what to look for in the new season.
1. Eurpean Captain: The biggest news in Abu Dhabi later this month won’t necessarily be the first showdown between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods. This is where the European Tour traditionally selects its Ryder Cup captain, and the choice became a little more complicated when the Americans went back in time by picking Tom Watson.
Watson is beloved in Scotland, site of the 2014 matches. Does that mean Europe needs to answer with a larger-than-life figure for its captain? That has led to suggestions Colin Montgomerie would return as captain, though Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley were said to be next in line. Clarke would seem a better fit when the matches return to America at Hazeltine in 2016, though McGinley might be dwarfed by Watson’s presence.
2. Rory and the Swoosh: Players changing equipment companies is nothing new. It’s different when that player is No. 1 in the world. Nike is not likely to announce its deal with McIlroy until he starts his season in Abu Dhabi, and that’s when the scrutiny begins.