Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez to look at the golfing year ahead:
“Golf’s in a great place as we start the new year, the new decade. The sponsors seem to be happy, money is pouring into the game, there are so many good players at the top of the sport and so much to look forward to.
Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing if Rory McIlroy can complete his own career Grand Slam of the majors by winning the Masters in April. I’m also intrigued to see if Tiger Woods can maintain the return to form he showed last year.
Can new European number one Jon Rahm complete his meteoric rise by picking up his first major victory? And what can we expect to see from the game’s greatest left-hander, Phil Mickelson, in his 50th year?
Phil had a poor year by his high standards in 2019 but he still looks hungry and passionate about the game and I know his work ethic remains strong. He’s now down at number 73 in the world rankings but it wouldn’t be a surprise to me if he battled his way back into the world’s top 50 this season.
If Tiger can stay fit and healthy, he will be the story again wherever he plays. He brings such excitement to golf whenever he tees it up and you just know whatever the state of his game in April, he is almost certain to be in contention for yet another Green Jacket.
He simply loves Augusta National and wouldn’t it be something to see Tiger and Rory fighting it out down the stretch around Amen Corner in a few months’ time, with so much up for grabs for both guys?
Rory’s 30 now and it’s extraordinary what he has achieved already. It’s important, though, for him that he makes the right decisions in his career now. He’s got to be selfish and do what’s right for him, despite the fact that he has commitments on both sides of the Atlantic and it’s sometimes difficult to serve the two masters.
I look back at my own career and I regret some of the decisions I made at the same stage. My management team advised me to play more in Europe but I wish I’d stayed strong, listened to my own heart and moved permanently to the USA.
It was a whirlwind time for me after my two major wins in 1969 and 1970. It was the start of appearance money on our fledgling tour and I still won tournaments in Europe but my game and my life was seriously compromised.
I was busy trying to be all things to all men and it was a huge mistake on my part because I knew deep down that I needed to play against the game’s elite week-in, week-out to stay at the top and I should have been firm and ignored the advice of my management team.
It’s the same in any sport at the highest level, you have to make sacrifices, you have to be selfish and commit 100 per cent to your chosen profession because only then can you get the absolute maximum out of your talents.
The schedule you map out for the season is always vital and you can’t be flying here, there and everywhere all the time.
The fact Rory has amassed a vast fortune at such a young age frees him up in a lot of ways but that can also serve to screw up your life in the long term. In situations like that, your offspring can become spoiled and sometimes they can go off the rails.
Kids, especially these days, need to put a value on a hard day’s work, take satisfaction from earning a good day’s pay from a good day’s graft.
I’ve been lucky from that standpoint. I fathered four children and inherited two more and thankfully they are all independently successful. They’ve all turned out well in spectacular fashion and when I look at them all it’s something I am most proud of.
None of them went badly off the rails, they’re all been responsible citizens and, from my point of view, that’s a lot to be thankful for.”