Tiger faces his sternest test Unity of rivals will draw close attention
THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, Britain
If Tiger Woods is to defend his Open title at Royal Liverpool this month, he will need to beat at least 12 former winners of the tournament. He will also need to bounce back from a missed cut at the US Open, the first time he has not played the weekend rounds of a major event since he turned professional. While Woods has left the golfing world in awe at his ability to rise to challenges, this will be the sternest test to date, as he adjusts to life without his father and mentor, Earl Woods. Other players under the microscope will include local favourite Colin Montgomerie and dual Masters winner Phil Mickelson, both of whom imploded on the final holes of the US Open to hand victory to gritty Australian Geoff Ogilvy. Perennial gallery favourite John Daly will be looking for his second claret jug trophy, his first triumph coming in a memorable four-hole playoff against Italy's Costantino Rocca. If the sun shines, the low-round record of 67, scored by both Gary Player and eventual winner Roberto de Vincenzo when the Open was last played at Hoylake in 1967, will almost certainly be matched or broken. But if the weather turns nasty, as it has a tendency to do during the Open, then watch the scores and reputations blow out as players struggle to come to grips with the links layout.
Course will likely favour the big hitters
US PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
Medinah Country Club,
Chicago Illinois, United States
Golfers competing for the 88th US PGA Championship, the fourth and final Major tournament of the year, could be forgiven for thinking they were playing an extra hole each round. After a recent renovation by Rees Jones, the famed No3 Course at Medinah Country Club will play to an incredible length of 7,561 yards, a record for a Major championship course. This is almost 30 yards longer than the previous record of 7,536 yards at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin for the 2004 PGA Championship, and 120 yards longer than the layout for this year's Masters at Augusta. Straight-shooting Fijian Vijay Singh will be looking to continue his remarkable string of success at the PGA championships. In 14 appearances, he has two wins and six top 10 finishes to his credit. Phil Mickelson, another big hitter, will also be in contention for the Wanamaker Trophy if he can keep his drives on the fairway, something he struggled to do at the US Open. Mickelson won the second of his three Majors at the last PGA at Baltusrol last year. Tiger Woods, who won the last PGA at Medinah in 1999, will be looking for a repeat performance, and fellow Americans Jim Furyk and David Toms are consistent performers. Perhaps Geoff Ogilvy's unlikely win in the US Open will open the door for Australians to start winning Majors again. Certainly, players like Adam Scott and Stuart Appleby are more than capable of winning at Medinah.
Unity of rivals will draw close attention
THE GOODWILL TROPHY
Mission Hills, Shenzhen, China
Over the years, the Ryder Cup has threatened to explode the time-honoured tradition that golf is a game played only by gentlemen. Relations between the American and European teams, who battle for the Cup every two years, have at times been strained to breaking point as the intense rivalry has turned into outright hostility. So it will be fascinating to see how the two Ryder Cup adversaries play together when they combine to take on a Rest of the World team for the inaugural Goodwill Trophy to be held at the world's largest golf course, Mission Hills, in Shenzhen, later this year. Scottish-born Ryder Cup legend Colin Montgomerie will lead the combined Europe and US team, while two-time US Open winner Retief Goosen will captain the international team selected from other golfing nations around the world. Montgomerie, who came close to shedding his tag as the world's best golfer not to win a Major at the recent US Open, said he was thrilled to captain the Ryder Cup countries in the first ever Goodwill Trophy. 'Normally, it's a case of us against them but for this tournament we'll be coming together to play as a team. It will be interesting to see how well players from the Ryder Cup countries can perform against the Rest of the World side in what will be a truly international tournament.' The event, which is sure to captivate golf fans worldwide, is a further indication of China's growing involvement in international golf, and it is hoped that a mainland player will be included in the Rest of World team.
The Barclays Singapore Open
Sentosa Golf Club, Singapore
Golfing superstars Ernie Els and Adam Scott will be the main attractions at the Barclays Singapore Open, Asia's richest national Open. They head a strong field of international and Asian golfers vying for the US$3 million prize purse on Sentosa's par-71 Serapong championship course. Scott is defending his title.
The K Club,
County Kildare, Ireland
Cup organisers have done their best in recent years to play down the war-like rivalry that has characterised this historic, transatlantic golfing duel between the Americans and the Europeans. But the intense emotions are never far below the surface, and that is just the way fans like it. The Cup course alternates between the two continents. Europe won the last two Cups and will no doubt feel confident on home soil.
Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai, China
The world's top 50 players will be invited to compete in Asia's richest golf tournament, the second US$5 million HSBC Champions event in Shanghai. Last year, England's David Howell memorably held off the challenge of world No 1 Tiger Woods to claim a three-shot victory and the inaugural crown. Eight Chinese golfers will also play in what will be the opening event of the European Tour for next year.
UBS Hong Kong Open
Hong Kong Golf Club,
Colin Montgomerie has an added incentive to defend his title - the prize money for this year's Open has been almost doubled to US$2 million. The Scot pipped the luckless James Kingston and four other players to win at Fanling by one shot last year. South African Kingston double-bogeyed the par-four 18th.
Volvo Masters of Asia
Thai Country Club, Bangkok, Thailand
Asia's elite golfers battle for supremacy in this classic event, which marks the end of the Asian Tour for this year. Only players who fill the top 60 positions on the Tour's UBS Order of Merit are invited to play, and the competition is always intense. Rising Indian star
Shiv Kapur, who is the defending champion, compatriot Jeev Milkha Singh and veteran Thai star Thongchai Jaidee are all likely to figure prominently.
Motorola Blue Canyon International
Blue Canyon Country Club, Phuket, Thailand
March 8-11, 2007
When 200 players tee off for this inaugural tournament, they will be breaking new ground. The
US$1 million event marks the first time the three major tours - Asia, Japan and Australasia - have come together to sanction a tournament in the region. Asian Tour chief Louis Martin is hailing the tournament as a major step forward for golf in the Asia-Pacific.
Race turns up a few surprises
AROUND THE ISLAND RACE
There are not many boat races in the world which pit teenage schoolgirls against hardened, international sailing professionals. But Hong Kong's own Around the Island Race does just that. The popular annual event, which is open to the Hong Kong sailing community, requires contestants to circumnavigate Hong Kong Island, starting and finishing at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's Kellett Island clubhouse. More than 200 boats will compete this year, including outriggers, catamarans, dinghies and big cruisers. It is a handicap race, with boats starting at five-minute intervals, depending on the size and speed of the boat. Slowest boats go first and the fastest set off last. If the organisers get it right, many of the boats will approach the finishing line at the same time, creating a spectacular Sunday afternoon dash for victory. 'That's the great thing about the race,' says the Yacht Club's Lindsay Lyons. 'One year, it will be won by a tiny Hobie Cat, and the next by a big cruiser.' Last year, Hong Kong schoolgirl Eva Leung delighted spectators and proved the minnow theory correct when she skippered her dinghy Fa Sang into first place.
Hoist the spinnaker
HONG KONG VIETNAM RACE
Admiralty to Nha Trang
Now here is an event for ocean-going sailors who love to race - and race fast. Due to the prevailing north to northeasterly winds, competitors in this relatively new biennial event between Hong Kong and Nha Trang on the southeast coast of Vietnam will complete almost the entire race with their spinnakers up. Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club manager Alex Johnston describes the charge across the South China Sea as a '656-mile downhill slide'. The race record is held by Grant Wharington's super-maxi Skandia, with a time of 42 hours, 45 minutes and 41 seconds and, according to Mr Johnston, is still the boat to beat this year. It has not always been smooth sailing, though. When the race was first held in 1996, competitors were in for a surprise when they reached the finish line. The Vietnamese authorities did not recognise leisure boating and so all the arriving boats were treated as commercial shipping. Things have changed since then.
Regatta with a royal touch
PHUKET KING'S CUP REGATTA
While much of the world knows that Thailand's popular monarch is celebrating his Diamond Jubilee anniversary this year, it is less known that His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (right) is an accomplished sailor. The world's longest reigning king and his daughter, Princess Ubolratana, shared a gold medal, representing Thailand in the fourth Southeast Asian Peninsular Games - now known as the SEA Games - in 1967, in the OK Dinghy Class. Twenty years later, in 1987, the king agreed to be the patron of the Phuket King's Cup, widely regarded as one of Asia's best sailing regattas. With Thailand celebrating the 60th anniversary of the king's accession to the throne, this year's event will be bigger than ever. A record fleet of more than 100 boats and 1,000 crew members from more than 20 countries will compete on the beautiful waters of the Andaman Sea, including one of the first teams from mainland China. Usually, a candlelit ceremony is held during the regatta to recognise the king's birthday on December 5. Regatta president Santi Kanchanabandhu promises more spectacular festivities this year.
Louis Vuitton Act 12
June 22 to July 2
America's Cup fans used to wait four years between races. Now there is a four-year schedule of races called Acts, featuring contenders and Cup defender Team Alinghi, leading up to the next challenge. Act 12 sailed off the Spanish coast this month, prefacing the drama of the main events - the Louis Vuitton Cup and the 32nd America's Cup - held between next April and July.
Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge
Mediterranean circuit, Europe
May to September
Vintage yachts (pre-1950) and Classic yachts (1951-1976) compete in this glamorous series of races that glide elegantly between Mediterranean ports such as Antibes, Santo Stefano, Imperia and Cannes. No production-line yachts among this lot - just plenty of gleaming timber, classic styling and tradition.
Hobie Asian Championships
September 30 to October 2
While sailing is unlikely to challenge the Fifa World Cup as a spectator sport, catamaran racing offers action-packed viewing, with sailors leaping about multi-hulled boats as they fly across the water. Watch all the drama unfold as teams including China, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Fiji, Australia and Hong Kong race between Po Toi, Lamma and Beaufort islands, and Stanley Point.
China Coast Regatta
The regatta kicks off the China Coast Race Week and signals the start of the Asian regional sailing season, bringing overseas boats and crews to Hong Kong waters. The upper level of Ocean Park is a great place to watch the racing off the southwest corner of Lamma Island. About 35 boats will compete in four divisions, including premier cruising, which is also known as the 'furniture division' because the bigger boats have everything from state rooms to wine cellars.
Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta
Port Klang to Langkawi, Malaysia
It takes a good deal of seamanship to navigate the Malacca Strait and the Raja Muda is considered one of the region's more tactical regattas. Stately classic vessels compete against modern racing yachts in this annual island-hopping event along the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia, starting from the Royal Selangor Yacht Club in Port Klang and finishing in the Islands of Langkawi.
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
Known as one of the toughest challenges in world sailing, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race is an iconic event on the world sports calendar. Boats and occasionally lives have been lost during the treacherous crossing of Bass Strait en route to the safety of the Derwent River and the finishing line. The race has been organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia for more than 60 years.