I think every European Tour golfer will be encouraged by the schedule for 2021.
The coronavirus pandemic made 2020 a very difficult year for the tour, but I was really impressed with how they responded to that challenge.
To put together a schedule containing 42 events for 2021 is a great effort.
The tournaments are a lot closer together than used to be the case, which is a great step forward. It is probably something which should have been done long before now to cut down on the travelling, but the pandemic has forced the issue.
We have groups of three or four tournaments bunched together, which limits the travel and allows players to get a bit more rest between events.
It will encourage players to tee up in more events than they used to because it is easier to do so.
I am delighted the Scottish Open has retained the coveted pre-Open slot. The event will return to the Renaissance Club in July, with Aberdeen Standard Investments remaining as title sponsors.
So many players love playing a week of links golf at the Scottish Open to get their game sharp for a tilt at the Claret Jug. It has proven to be a winning formula for so many players in recent years, so hopefully the Scottish Open will be rewarded with a strong field in the summer.
It was essential that ASI continued to back the event because, without a main sponsor, the tournament simply wouldn’t go ahead.
It will be the third year in a row that Renaissance has played host to the Scottish Open, but the European Tour will be looking at different options in the coming years.
I’m sure they would be keen to return to the north-east of Scotland at some point and, if they did, the 2014 Scottish Open host Royal Aberdeen would tick a lot of boxes.
I can’t see the tournament going to the Aberdeen area for three or four years in a row in the same way as it has gone to East Lothian for the last few years.
But it would be nice to see the tournament in the north-east once every five years.
The one thing that remains uncertain is the impact of the European Tour’s strategic alliance with the PGA Tour.
I must admit, I have no idea what it will mean for the players on the tour.
My prediction, trying to read between the lines, is this could be the start towards a world tour.
In fewer than five years, I could see us having a world tour which is not too dissimilar to what the LPGA Tour have, where they travel and play different events around the world but most of the events are in the US.
I expect there will be feeder tours with promotion and relegation to the main tour with higher prize funds for the top tournaments.
From the perspective of the top players in the world, that would probably be a better arrangement.
It would avoid a clash of big tournaments on the PGA and European Tours, where members of both tours have to choose which event to miss.
It would also create stronger fields because the world’s best would be teeing up in the same events every week.
That direction of travel seems to be inevitable.
That has been caused by a potential competitor emerging in the Premier Golf League, and the European and PGA tours know they have to see off that challenge by ensuring the consumer will choose them over another rival tour.
Prospect of big year ahead for Robert MacIntyre
This could be a huge year for Robert MacIntyre.
The left-hander from Oban claimed his maiden victory on the European Tour at the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown and ended the year inside the top 60 in the world.
There is no reason why he can’t push for a place the European team for the Ryder Cup match in September.
He will already be firmly on the radar of European captain Padraig Harrington.
At the moment, I reckon he would be on the cusp of getting a pick for the team, so, if he can produce some strong form during the course of the season, he will have every chance of teeing up at Whistling Straits.
Aiming to adopt more aggressive approach
My aim for 2021 is to play more aggressively.
Making cuts and finishing somewhere like tied 34th is nice and consistent, but you need to play more aggressively to get those high finishes that can really make the difference to your season.
I’m working hard on my technique, but I feel it is a more aggressive mindset that could make the real difference.
I want to play like I did when I was a kid. When you are young, you aren’t noticing the dangers to the left or right, you are just playing straight for the flag.
It has been nice to have some time off around Christmas. I have been doing quite a bit of work on the technical side of my swing.
Now the 2021 schedule is out I’m trying to plan ahead and get myself ready to start the new year in form.
One event I’m really looking forward to is the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie. It’s always a fantastic week at some of the best courses in the country. It is a more relaxed format and a fun event.
After lockdown, it was great to get back playing competitive rounds.
I really missed playing in tournaments in 2020, so hopefully we can enjoy plenty of that in 2021.