Golf in 2024 – nine talking points for professional game and major predictions

Europe's Solheim Cup team with trophy after retaining title in Spain
Image caption,Will Europe’s Solheim Cup team retain possession of the trophy for an unprecedented fourth time in 2024?
Iain Carter

By Iain Carter

BBC golf correspondent

The new year promises unprecedented intrigue and a host of possibilities for the game of golf. Few can predict the future shape of the professional sport and trying to identify where the biggest titles will go in 2024 is fraught with difficulty.

Here are nine things to look out for in the fascinating year ahead before some (hopeful) predictions.

Will Rahm defend Masters title?

Last year the Spaniard opened with three early wins and played a punishing PGA Tour schedule leading up to Augusta. Jon Rahm was battle-hardened for the task of landing his second major title. But the defending champion is now a LIV player and has five of their 54-hole tournaments to ready himself.

He will be trying to become only the second European to retain the Green Jacket after Sir Nick Faldo’s victories in 1989 and 1990. Despite – or maybe because of – their lighter workloads, LIV golfers confounded expectations and prospered in the Masters last year. Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson were joint runners-up, while Patrick Reed was tied for fourth.

Aberg’s major bow

Ludvig Aberg has already achieved so much in his short professional career. Since joining the paid ranks last June, the 24-year-old Swede has enjoyed victories on both sides of the Atlantic along with a winning Ryder Cup debut that included playing with Viktor Hovland in a 9&7 rout of world number one Scottie Scheffler and PGA champion Koepka.

But Aberg has still to compete in a major, having missed them all despite a stellar amateur career. Expect plenty of attention on him at Augusta National come the second week of April.

McIlroy returns to scene of most recent major win

Let’s not speculate too heavily on whether Rory McIlroy can complete the Grand Slam at the Masters. We have been doing that since 2015. Instead consider the second men’s major, the US PGA Championship which is staged at Valhalla – the scene of McIlroy’s most recent and gutsiest major win a decade ago.

Might memories of his one-shot triumph in near darkness over Mickelson at the Kentucky course inspire McIlroy’s fifth major title?

Will Europe’s women deny US again?

After such a heady autumn in 2023 it is a relief we do not have to wait long for the next professional transatlantic tussle as the Solheim Cup switches back to even years this September.

With two wins and then last year’s epic tied match, Europe still possess the precious crystal trophy.

The US will be hellbent on trying to secure their first win since 2017 when both skippers from last year – Stacy Lewis and Europe’s Suzann Pettersen – renew hostilities in Gainesville, Virginia. Europe will probably need more than they provided in Spain last year from the likes of Charley Hull, Georgia Hall and Celine Boutier to maintain their current successful streak.

Also, don’t forget the amateur version – the Curtis Cup – where the US are defending champions for the match against GB&I at Sunningdale at the end of August.

Will US turn to Tiger?

We know that Luke Donald remains in charge of the European Ryder Cup team for the 2025 match, but who will lead the US? That is one of 2024’s key questions and Tiger Woods is one of the names under consideration. He, no doubt, fancies Adare Manor in 2027, where he has a strong relationship with owner JP McManus.

But could he be persuaded to do a double stint and lead the US at Bethpage as well? A lot will depend on his prominent and pretty arduous current role sorting out the future of the PGA Tour. Stewart Cink, Fred Couples or a return to Steve Stricker are potentially more likely options for the New York match.

Those talks with Saudi Arabia

Woods and his fellow PGA Tour policy board members such as Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth certainly have their hands full trying to thrash out the future of the men’s pro game. Talks with the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) are ongoing and will also shape the future of Europe’s DP World Tour.

What price tour bosses Jay Monahan, Keith Pelley and Greg Norman all still being in position this time next year?

But entrenched positions seem to be softening on both sides. McIlroy’s admission that he was too judgemental on the players who signed for PIF millions has been welcomed by Norman and Mickelson. It might be less fractious but the game remains fractured and the healing process remains a long way from completion.

Women’s future also unclear

It was expected that 2024 would herald a brave new world with the LPGA Tour merged with the Ladies European Tour (LET). But the autumn LET vote on joining forces was called off at the very last moment because “new information” had to be considered.

Does this mean Saudi Arabia are looking to increase their investment in the LET? Is there a women’s version of LIV in the pipeline? Can the LET continue to go it alone or will there be a strengthening of their strategic alliance with the LPGA?

The home of golf is the place to be

In July The Open heads to Royal Troon, a course that has produced some thrilling championships – not least the epic duel of 2016 when Henrik Stenson pipped his now LIV colleague Mickelson in record-breaking fashion.

In August the AIG Women’s Open returns to St Andrews and a refurbished Royal and Ancient clubhouse for Lilia Vu’s title defence.

Throw in the men’s and women’s Scottish Opens as well as the Alfred Dunhill Links and Scotland, the home of golf, is living up to its billing.

It is Olympic year

Many roll their eyes at golf’s place in the Games but since its return to the Olympic fold it has more than justified its place.

Justin Rose’s thrilling gold in Rio eight years ago was a genuine career highlight for one of the sport’s most enduring figures.

Last time in Tokyo Xander Schauffele and Nelly Korda were fine champions while the seven-way play-off for men’s bronze, eventually won by Taiwan’s CT Pan, showed how much the Games mean to players.

There should be a mixed element – let us hope that is thrashed out for future Olympics. Regardless, it will be a refreshing and much-needed change to see leading stars competing for nothing more than glory in this otherwise cash-laden era.

Major predictions

Please take these in the spirit intended and rather than be a critic, why not use the comment section below to pick your own and we’ll compare at the end of the season!

This is the most unpredictable of sports in an unprecedentedly uncertain era, but if any of these come off it should be a thrilling year.

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