Will the former No. 1 upstage the current top dog? Or will McIlroy tower over Tiger in 2013? Our scribes break down those topics and more in our latest edition of Four-Ball.
1. More victories in 2013, Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: McIlroy again will win in the victories column. In 2013, it will be 5-4 in favor of the kid, but this year they will both have major trophies at their homes. Rory will just have an extra one!
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: It's time for Tiger to reassert himself as the best player in the game. The 14-time major champion will be tough to beat in 2013. It will be close, but Tiger will edge McIlroy for most wins by one or two.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: It wasn't until late in 2012 that Rory overtook Tiger for victories on the PGA Tour with a strong run through the PGA Tour's playoffs. This time, it'll be even. Call it four for each. At the very least, such a scenario would be fun to watch.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Rory McIlroy ... by a nose. Five victories worldwide in 2012 bodes well for the Northern Irishman, who I suspect will finish 2013 with about that same number of wins. For Tiger, three to four W's certainly isn't out of the question, but there's just too much upside to McIlroy's game. He's only getting better while Woods gets another year older.
2. Bigger impact in 2013: The belly putter ruling or change to wraparound schedule so season ends in September?
Michael Collins: Belly putter. The guys play almost year round now and they take vacation time when it suits them, regardless of when in the year it falls. The belly putter has started an internal fight for guys. Hear anyone talking lawsuits about a wraparound schedule? Me either.
Farrell Evans: The putter ban doesn't start until January 2016. The wraparound schedule means that players will have fewer events in 2013 to keep their cards on the regular schedule. That's an immediate hurdle for the average tour player.
Bob Harig: The wraparound schedule. It is too late for the PGA Tour to adopt the anchoring ban for 2013, so players will be still be able to do whatever they want with long putters or belly putters. But 2013 will be unique from a schedule perspective. It is condensed, which means fewer playing opportunities for the rank and file. The Wyndham Championship, which is the last regular season tournament, will get here mighty quick, and will end the regular season.
Kevin Maguire: Although both will impact the game, the belly putter ruling has the potential to change what we see on the course more than a schedule tweak. Will top-tier players like Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson switch back to conventional flatsticks? Will the change hurt their games and their wallets? Could simply practicing with different putters send their strokes into a swan dive? There's just too many 'what ifs' surrounding the anchoring ruling.
3. Go out on a limb and make one "off the wall" prediction for 2013?
Michael Collins: A Monday qualifier will win a tournament this year on the PGA Tour. When it happens, you can all ask me how I knew and I will lay my hands on your babies! HAHA.
Farrell Evans: Ernie Els will finally win that elusive Masters.
Bob Harig: At some point during the season, the PGA Tour will announce that it is banning anchoring effective with the 2013-14 season -- or two years earlier than the USGA and R&A will put it in the official rulebook. The fallout from the anchoring ban will prove to be too much a distraction. It will be best to tell the players to get used to it and move on.
Kevin Maguire: Sergio Garcia gets that first major championship. The Spaniard is still only 32-years-old, but it's been well over a decade since he scissor-kicked on to the world golf scene. It would spell a career resurgence for Garcia.
4. Which non-recurring major venue are you most looking forward to seeing in 2013?
Michael Collins: Being born and raised in Lancaster, Pa., it's pretty easy for me to say Merion is going to be really special because I've never seen it in person -- only pictures. So to be that close to home on such historic grounds ... just give me a cheesesteak and leave me alone for a few hours to walk around and take it all in.
Farrell Evans: Merion, outside Philadelphia, the site of the U.S. Open will test all our assumptions about the ability of a traditional golf course to stand up to technological innovations with the ball and the driver. Merion's East course is a mere 6,846 yard, par 70.
Bob Harig: Muirfield. All of the Open Championship venues are intriguing, especially ones like Muirfield -- which hasn't hosted the tournament since 2002. Many observers think that outside of the Old Course at St. Andrews, Muirfield is the best and most interesting of the nine courses in the Open rotation.
Kevin Maguire: Merion. When the U.S. Open stops by outside Philadelphia in June, the venerable venue will either make or break future sites for our national open. If players set record low scores on the short course, it could doom golf fans to decades of 7,500 yard layouts for the year's second major. Or, if the course's defenses hold up against the best in the game, we might get a few old classics back into the major championship rotation down the road.