KAPALUA, Hawaii Even without the top four players in the world around to kick off the season, every new year in golf is shrouded in mystery like clouds over Molokai across the channel from Kapalua.
Among the questions: What will Bubba Watson have served for the past champions-dinner at the Masters? "When you show up for dinner on Tuesday night, that's when you'll find out," Watson said.
One problem. The press isn't invited.
"That's what I mean," Watson said.
With a wink and a smile, he walked over to the first tee and smashed the first of what figures to be several 400-yard tee shots. There were 67 tee shots that went at least 400 yards last year on the PGA Tour, and 41 of them were on the Plantation Course at Kapalua.
There are more serious issues going into 2013. Here's a snippet of what to look for in the new season.
The biggest news in Abu Dhabi later this month won't necessarily be the first showdown between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods. This is where the European Tour traditionally selects its Ryder Cup captain, and the choice became more complicated when the Americans went back in time by picking Tom Watson.
Watson is beloved in Scotland, site of the 2014 matches. Does that mean Europe needs to answer with a larger-than-life figure for its captain? That has led to suggestions Colin Montgomerie would return as captain, though Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley were said to be next in line.
The PGA Tour season might feel more like a sprint than a marathon this year. The season, in effect, ends with the Wyndham Championship on Aug. 18, the cutoff for qualifying for the FedEx Cup playoffs. And once the playoffs end at the Tour Championship, the 2013-14 season starts in October.
That might mean more players competing more often, which could put the squeeze on the qualifying tournament and Web.com Tour graduates by limiting the number of tournaments they can play to try to qualify for the playoffs.
The motto for problem-solving always has been, "Play better." A tweak might be in order this year. "Play better, now."
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and United States Golf Association announced late last year that anchored strokes used for the belly putter and long putter will be banned starting in 2016. The question is whether the PGA Tour, which has the right to set its own rules, will enact the new rule sooner.
There already is evidence of a stigma attached to those who anchor their putters Keegan Bradley said a fan called him a cheater at the World Challenge last month and it might be in the best interest of the tour to make the change quickly. But when? At the end of the FedEx Cup, meaning a player can use a belly putter in September but not October? At the start of 2013, meaning the rule would change in the middle of a season?
Minors vs. majors
With the PGA Tour starting a new season in October, the only way to earn a card will be through a series of four tournaments called "The Finals" that will include the top 75 players from the Web.com Tour and the next 75 players from the PGA Tour who fail to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Privately, the brass at PGA Tour headquarters is curious to see how the Web.com Tour players will fare against the second-tier PGA Tour players who faced stiffer competition and tougher golf courses all year.