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Stephen Gallacher column: Fingers tightly crossed golf can have disruption-free year

It's only been five months since 2019 Masters champion Tiger Woods, right, presented 2020 winner Dustin Johnson with the Green Jacket.
It's only been five months since 2019 Masters champion Tiger Woods, right, presented 2020 winner Dustin Johnson with the Green Jacket.

Every golf fan will hope all four majors in 2021 can proceed as planned after the difficulties we encountered last year.

The Masters, US Open and US PGA Championship were all moved, while the Open was sadly cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It seems strange to be looking ahead to the 2021 Masters only a few weeks after Dustin Johnson’s victory at Augusta in November.

Masters golf champion Dustin Johnson holds the tournament trophy after his victory Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020.

Hopefully, this time the champion will be crowned in the usual April slot and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dustin in contention again.

The last 11 winners at the Masters have all been ranked inside the top 30, so it isn’t a competition that favours an outsider.

The soft conditions in November suited Dustin, but he will find it tougher if the course is firmer.

Jon Rahm this week announced he is joining Callaway for the 2021 season and I expect him to win a major this year.

He is always knocking on the door and he has the game to get across the winning line in one of the big four events.

I’m almost certain he will win a major this year, I’m just not sure which one it will be, but I fancy him to do well at Augusta.

My wish would be to see Rory McIlroy win the Green Jacket and claim the career Grand Slam.

A month later, the US PGA Championship will be contested at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island from May 12.

Rory won the 2012 US PGA by eight strokes when Kiawah Island last hosted the event, so he has to be in the running again.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.

The course will suit a player who plays well in the wind, such as Tommy Fleetwood.

As 2021 is a Ryder Cup year, we want to see Europeans topping the leaderboards at the majors early in the season to put down a marker.

It is always difficult to predict a winner without knowing the form each player has going into the event, but if Rory is playing well in the build-up to this one then a lot of people will fancy him to repeat his 2012 success.

Paul Casey also springs to mind for this one and it would be foolish to rule out guys such as Brooks Koepka and Dustin.

The US Open returns to Torrey Pines in June and I fancy Bryson DeChambeau to defend his title. He won by six shots at Winged Foot last year and if the course is set up like a traditional US Open then it could play into his hands once again.

Return of the Open Championship, hopefully

We will hopefully have the Open to look forward to at St George’s the following month. My prediction is Dustin Johnson for the Claret Jug.

He finished runner-up in 2011 when he hit the ball out of bounds on the 14th on the Sunday and Darren Clarke was victorious.

Dustin is going to win the Open at some stage and this might be his year.

St George’s is quite a quirky course with a lot of blind shots and elevation changes. If the surface is brick hard like the last time, then there are three or four fairways that are nearly impossible to hit because they are so bumpy.

The weather will be a huge factor, so you could get an outsider coming through the field.

Robert MacIntyre finished sixth last year and he will hopefully be going into the major in a bit of form.

Branden Grace is a great links player and Shane Lowry, the winner at Royal Portrush in 2019, is capable of adding another Claret Jug to his collection.

Lee Westwood would love to emulate his good friend Darren Clarke’s victory and given how well Lee has played in 2020, there is no reason why he can’t do it.

Lee Westwood.
Lee Westwood.

Hopefully, by July, we will be in a much better place in terms of dealing with the pandemic.

It would be great if we are able to have a decent number of fans at the Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club in July and at Royal St George’s the following week.

I don’t think we will get crowds at events in Europe in the foreseeable future, given the way things are but hopefully the picture has changed by the summer.

The first event of the European Tour season is in Abu Dhabi on January 21, so I’m working hard towards that.

I’m glad we are still able to golf in Scotland because some of my colleagues who live in England aren’t able to get on the course under their lockdown rules.

The only problem is the golf courses near me have been covered in ice and I can’t leave my local authority area to play somewhere else.

But I’m looking forward to getting competing again, so I’m trying to do as much work as possible.

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