Biggest potential storylines of 2009

Although the "silly season" of 2008 ended only recently, the PGA Tour is set to return for its 2009 installment next week with the Mercedes-Benz Championship. With the new season on the horizon, the speculation for the upcoming year can begin. Some potential storylines: 

1. Tiger Woods: Don't call it a comeback? 

At the beginning of 2009, it is still entirely unclear when and where golf's greatest player will return. Some believe Woods could reemerge as late as March at Arnold Palmer's tournaments
 in Orlando. While the details are uncertain, one looming question has not been answered: how will Woods perform? 

Every golf fan may recall the glorious performance Woods put on at Torrey Pines last year as he took down veteran Rocco Mediate while suffering from severe pain. Six months later, golf fans have no idea where Tiger's game currently is. 
With the PGA Tour struggling from the loss of viewers due to the absence of Tiger, could the game afford to endure another "off year" for Tiger? 

2. LPGA Tour: Where have all the stars gone? 

Annika Sorenstam, of course, has officially retired from professional golf. Now what? Michelle Wie, in many ways, has lost her appeal to the golfing public, although she now has earned a membership on the LPGA Tour. Nevertheless, the possibility that the child prodigy would one day be a force even on the men's tour seems to have declined rapidly. 

Even worse, the LPGA will ink a new TV deal for the 2010 season. At this point, the ladies' game must find a new set of stars in order to remain competitive with the golfing public, or the tour could face some real trouble for the next few years. 

3. Padraig Harrington: Undisputed major championship king?

In the absence of Tiger, Ireland's Padraig Harrington, by all means, roared. With two major championships won last season, Harrington has, in a period of two years, placed himself in the upper echelon of golfing greats. 

Assuming that Tiger once again returns to his nearly unbeatable form, Harrington and Woods will be set to square off. For years, fans have been disappointed in the lack of competition for Woods. Arnold Palmer had Jack Nicklaus, right? Even though Phil Mickelson faded away after his memorable disaster, this generation may find Tiger's rival in the popular Irishman. 

4. Sergio Garcia: Will El Nino strike again? 

This week, Sergio Garcia will turn 29. He has finished in second place at a major championship three times at this point (1999, 2008 PGA Championship, 2007 Open Championship). The question remains: will Garcia capture a major title before he reaches 30? 

Even though Garcia had only one victory on the PGA Tour last season, 2008 wasn't too bad. In addition to the second place finish at the PGA Championship, Garcia won the Players Championship and lost in a play off to Camilo Villegas in the Tour Championship. With momentum on his side, will Garcia strike as Woods tries to recover from his break?  

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