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Bold golf predictions for 2024: A Canadian wins a major, Tiger Woods contends

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Professional golf, certainly on the men’s side, had a year unlike any other in 2023.

And if you’re a Canadian golf fan, you saw the greatest season by a group of professionals in history.

So, what’s the plan to top that?

The PGA Tour returns to a calendar-year season for 2024 after more than a decade of a wraparound FedExCup season. So come Jan. 1, the slate is wiped clean and everyone – well, save Jon Rahm and the rest of the LIV Golf roster – will have a sprint to the FedExCup Playoffs in August.

After a record-setting 12 months for Canadian golfers and some never-before-seen news bombs for everyone else, certainly on the men’s side, here are four bold predictions for golf in 2024.

A CANADIAN WILL WIN A MAJOR

The Canadian success in professional golf through 2023 has been long repeated, but the only thing missing from the collective resume of those at the highest level is a major championship victory. That, I believe, will change in 2024.

On the men’s side, Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin are returning to Augusta National for the first time since 2020, while Corey Conners — who has been a stalwart in the top 10 at the Masters the last few years — will continue to build off his recent successes there. The rest of the men’s majors will take place at Valhalla Golf Club (PGA Championship), Pinehurst No. 2 (U.S. Open), and Royal Troon (The Open).

Canada enters 2024 with five golfers ranked inside the top 100 in the world on the men’s side (with Taylor Pendrith at No. 102) and they’re all vying for a spot on Mike Weir’s International Team at the Presidents Cup on home soil at Royal Montreal. The best way to earn plenty of points is to play well at the majors.

With this Canadian collective all hitting their primes right now, it’s time to take advantage of the momentum, the fine play, and the fact that this group is pushing each other year after year.

“Canadian golf is certainly on the rise,” Corey Conners said at the Grant Thornton Invitational in December. “It’s really fun to be part of it.”

But: I said, ‘a major’ and not necessarily one from the PGA Tour’s schedule.

Stephen Ames comes into next year’s PGA Tour Champions season after winning four(!) times in 2023 on the over-50 circuit. He had three top-20 results in senior majors this past year and a win on one of the senior tour’s five major championships is the only thing missing from his resume.

And of course, there’s Brooke Henderson. Her best chance in 2024 will likely come when the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship returns to Sahalee Country Club, the site of her major breakthrough on the LPGA Tour in 2016. Henderson has also finished 1-2 the last two years at the Amundi Evian Championship and had three top-15 results at majors in 2023.

So, whether it’s Henderson, Ames, or one of the half-dozen PGA Tour members with a real shot at a real special win — don’t be surprised if a Canadian tilts a trophy on a big stage in 2024.

THE INTERNATIONAL TEAM WILL WIN THE PRESIDENTS CUP

The last time the Presidents Cup was contested at Royal Montreal, yes, the International Team lost. But the story of the week unfolded just as everyone had hoped — Mike Weir, on the team as a captain’s pick, defeated Tiger Woods in a dramatic Sunday singles showdown.

Now the biennial competition between the best from the United States and the best from the rest of the world (not including Europe) will try to take inspiration from Weir and see David beat Goliath.

It’ll be a tall task, certainly. This will be the 15th Presidents Cup competition and the International side has won only once, in 1998. There was a tie in 2003, but otherwise, Team USA has won nine in a row.

It defeated the Internationals 17.5-12.5 in 2022 at the Quail Hollow Club in North Carolina.

Still, Weir will be bringing the bulldog mentality that has long helped him succeed in his multi-decade career (including winning the Masters in 2003 and getting to No.3 in the world at the peak of the Tiger Woods era) as captain and will lead an International team featuring the best-of-the-best against a battered-and-bruised American squad that got wiped by the Europeans at the Ryder Cup in September.

Weir has changed his qualifying criteria so that the first six spots will go purely off of world ranking – perhaps opening the door for golfers who jumped to LIV to be able to play. The other six will be captain’s picks.

American captain Jim Furyk told Sportsnet in the fall that about 75 percent of the American Ryder Cup team would likely be on his Presidents Cup team. That collection of individual stars couldn’t get the job done in Europe. I predict Team USA will suffer two straight losses on foreign soil.

THE LIV GOLF/PGA TOUR AGREEMENT WILL ACTUALLY BE A GOOD THING

For Canadian golf fans, the buzz from the RBC Canadian Open has been usurped by some sort of LIV Golf announcement (only early in the week, however, has the last two tournament finales — Rory McIlroy going back-to-back and Nick Taylor’s drought-busting playoff winner — were all-timers) but here we are, six months later, and still nothing has been officially done about the future of men’s professional golf.

The PGA Tour cannot compete with the Saudi-backed circuit when it comes to straight cash. Full stop. Jon Rahm was rumoured to receive at least $300 million (U.S.) to make the jump. The fractured stage isn’t great for fans or sponsors alike.

If those in the negotiating room have an end objective is to get the best golfers in the world together more often to compete, outside of just the majors, then it’s a win for everyone. Anything else, and we’re right back where we started.

TIGER WOODS WILL GET INTO CONTENTION AT LEAST ONCE

I’ll be the first to admit: I just can’t quit Tiger Woods.

Woods, too, can’t seem to give it up.

If the last two weeks of the season for the 15-time major winner were any indication, he showed plenty of positive signs at both the Hero World Challenge and the PNC Championship alongside his son Charlie.

Woods said he was hopeful to play at least one event per month in 2024, likely starting at the Genesis Invitational (of which he is the host). Then he’d perhaps tee it up at The Players and then the majors before seeing where he was on the FedExCup standings. Of note, Woods is not technically in the field for the U.S. Open, but it’s likely the USGA will extend a special exemption to him as he has won the U.S. Open three times (and both the U.S. Junior and U.S. Amateur three times apiece).

Woods is swinging well. His walk is much improved. And, mentally, he’s still as strong as ever. Although he’s inching closer to 50, I think he’ll get into contention at one of the biggest events on the golfing calendar in 2024.

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HONOURABLE MENTION: A CANADIAN WILL WIN AN OLYMPIC MEDAL IN GOLF

Golf returns to the Olympics in 2024 at Le Golf National in Paris, France.

Xander Schauffele and Nelly Korda, both of the United States, are the defending gold medallists.

Currently, Corey Conners and Adam Hadwin plus Brooke Henderson and Maddie Szeryk are in for Canada. Henderson is the popular pick for a medal, but I’d say Conners is a sneaky selection to find the podium as Le Golf National is a ball-strikers paradise — and Conners is one of the best in the world at doing exactly that.

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