Well, it’s that time of the year again when we’re supposed to embark on a dry, dieting, disciplined month of bodily renewal and purification while locking ourselves in a joyless prison of abstinence and existing on nothing but steam, twigs and seeds for the next few weeks. Good luck.

It’s also a time to make predictions for the months ahead. In the vicious, incalculable circle of coronavirus measures that we find ourselves birling about in, however, the only thing I’m going to wildly forecast is that by next November we’ll all have a hi-tech USB port carved into our arms and we’ll be downloading the latest booster doses from a cable in our laptops. Mark my words, it’s coming. In the world of golf, meanwhile, there’s plenty to intrigue in 2022.


Trying to get a ticket for the 150th Open at St Andrews this summer has been as mighty a task as breaking through the walls of the Kremlin with a rusty pair of lopping shears. Around 1.3 million applications were made and a ballot was put in place to deal with the unprecedented demand. Apparently, the R&A high heid yins have been dressing up as Willy Wonka and handing out the Golden Tickets to those who were plucked from the tombola. In this big-hitting age of crash, bang, wallop golf, the notion of this historic occasion being illuminated by an historic score remains the talk of the Auld Grey Toun. The idea of a sub-60 round on this hallowed piece of terrain, for instance, has the tortured, agonised purists and traditionalists huffling and puffing like an overworked glassblower. In the 2010 Open, Rory McIlroy whizzed round in 63 on a flat calm opening day when the Old Course was as vulnerable as a newly-born gazelle being watched by a lion. The next day, when Mother Nature got her dander up, he ballooned to an 80. That’s the wonderfully unpredictable nature of the links beast. Whatever happens in July, the Old Course should serve up a shimmering showpiece.


When Tiger Woods targeted the St Andrews Open – “my favourite course in the world” – as part of his latest comeback, the golfing media went into the kind of meltdown you’d get in a smelting yard. After the car accident which almost killed him last year, the prospect – even a distant prospect - of the Tiger returning to the happy hunting ground where he has won two Claret Jugs is a mouth-watering one. Having enjoyed a hit-and-giggle with his son, Charlie, in an event just before Christmas, drooling observers swiftly earmarked April’s Masters as the professional game’s most awaited week. For a man who is still struggling to walk without painful hirples and hobbles, though, Augusta’s undulating, demanding terrain may be a bridge too far. But the flat of St Andrews? Speculation about when and where Woods will return will keep the cogs of widespread curiosity and interest clanking along at a quite furious rate in the weeks and months to come.


If you’d suggested a wee while ago that the Women’s Open would be held at Muirfield, you would’ve been carted off and flung into the Firth of Forth. It’s only five years, after all, since the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers voted against allowing female members and came up against a tsunami of fist-shaking condemnation. In 2017, though, another ballot of the membership overturned that initial verdict and all was good in the world. Muirfield has staged female events before – the Curtis Cup and Vagliano Trophy have been there a couple of times – but this season’s AIG Women’s Open will be a major milestone in a game that has often weighed itself down with the millstone of gender inequality. Rather like the time Augusta National first hosted its own Women’s Amateur Championship, we’ll no doubt hear lots of PR choreographed platitudes and obsequious observations from fawning pundits about Muirfield suddenly being a great advocate of the female cause. Away from the general gushings, we will be able to revel in the world’s best women golfers finally testing themselves on one of golf’s greatest links courses. Asked recently about the idea of a Women’s Open at Muirfield being floated, say, a decade ago, Catriona Matthew said she “probably wouldn’t have believed it”. The golfing times continue to change.


Backed by the bottomless pit of Saudi wealth, the Great White Shark that is Greg Norman continues to give the established tours the kind of heebie-jeebies that a startled Chief Brody got when he glimpsed the menacing fin of Jaws in the water. Yet, while there’s plenty of talk about Norman and his crew obliterating the status quo with some new, money-soaked global enterprise, any big reveal of ground-breaking plans has been largely limited to the unveiling of a chief events officer and a chief commercial officer. They’re not what you’d call earth-shattering headline grabbers are they? Is golf at the very top level on the verge of significant change in 2022 or will the anticipated civil war be nothing more than a phoney war? Stay tuned …