- Jason Sobel, Senior Golf Writer
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'Tis the season, golf fans. Time to make your list and check it twice, while hoping that new driver you've been eyeing in the pro shop finds its way to your home with a big red bow wrapped around it for the holidays.
Not all holiday wishes, though, must be for material items. Here are 18 wishes for the world of professional golf. If I was good this year, maybe a few will even come true.
1. I wish ... Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were tied, with nine holes to play and no one else near them on the leaderboard, during the final round of the Masters. I'll take any major, really, so long as we can witness the supposed archrivals on a grand stage, a la their Duel at Doral in '05. We've been waiting for this showdown for close to a decade and if it doesn't come soon, it may never happen.
2. I wish ... the PGA Tour and the PGA of America would combine forces, creating one Ryder/Presidents Cup each year. There could still be three overall teams involved (U.S., Europe and International), but only two competing each year, with the winner staying on to defend their crown. Hey, if it's good enough for hoops at the local playground, it's good enough for golf.
3. I wish ... Michelle Wie would finally make the cut at a PGA Tour event. It not only would help her own self-confidence but also would allow golf fans everywhere to quit the silly notion that making the cut really means anything. It's just a number, folks. Heck, if she had made one more putt at the Sony Open as a 14-year-old in '04, would that elevate her current standing in the golf world today? Reaching the weekend may be a short-term goal, but its a feat hardly worthy of all the coverage it receives. Once she does it for the first time -- and she will make the cut someday -- we can forever stop discussing it.
4. I wish ... talk about performance-enhancing drugs in professional golf was needless and unnecessary. That may, in fact, be the case, but we'll never know until all players are regularly tested. The LPGA and R&A have begun this process. Here's hoping all other major tours fall in line, too.
5. I wish ... young female phenoms like Morgan Pressel and Ai Miyazato weren't considered fizzled flameouts for not capturing any titles in their first full LPGA season. More so than any other major sport, it takes a while for younger players to mature into the upper echelon of their profession. Let's give 'em time.
6. I wish ... some other phenoms would finally make that transition to full-time major winners. Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia are top-10 talents; it's time for them to start acting like it, by finally winning a major championship. Each player has, as we've seen at times, an immense amount of game. Time to show it off on the big stage. The feeling here is they will. And often.
7. I wish ... for Ben Curtis to continue his success. Raise your hand if you thought the 2003 British Open champ was a fluke. Raise your other hand if you thought, after two subsequent mundane seasons, Curtis would fade away into oblivion. Now give the guy some nice over-the-head style applause for his two-win '06 season.
8. I wish ... for more important victories from U.S. Open champ Geoff Ogilvy, just so we get to keep hearing him speak. The Aussie is a veritable quote machine, not in a stand-up comic kind of way, like Peter Jacobsen or Lee Trevino, but for his thoughtful, well-planned comments on every issue from course setups to the future PGA Tour schedule.
9. I wish ... a young American would take the golf world by storm. Not talking Tiger territory here, because that's asking too much, but a super-strong start to next season (including a win or two) from a guy like Ryan Moore or Sean O'Hair would go a long way toward improving the long-term outlook for the future of U.S. golf. Funny thing is, many of the so-called up-and-coming "young" guys right now -- like Arron Oberholser and Brett Wetterich -- are already in their 30s.
10. I wish ... those half-dozen or so "TBA" listings on the LPGA's '07 schedule were filled in already; it would look a lot more, well, professional. What other big-time sports league announces its upcoming calendar without having full knowledge of its contents? Can you imagine the NFL releasing a schedule that had the New England Patriots playing TBA in Week 14? Or Major League Baseball still without a home site for some of its teams? Of course not, and the LPGA should work under those same guidelines.
11. I wish ... Mickelson would realize there is a golf season after August. Sure, it's his prerogative as an independent contractor to compete whenever and wherever he'd like, but it would be nice to see him stick out the remainder of the season. Of course, the FedEx Cup playoffs will be the real test. He's said he'll play, but will it be a one-shot deal?
12. I wish ... that pundits and fans would get behind the idea of the PGA Tour's new playoff system. To a man, every player is excited about next year's format (give a guy a chance at $10 million and two more months off during the year, and it's amazing how he'll endorse your idea). But off the tour, skeptics remain. Hey, it's got to beat the alternative -- a former schedule which lasted too long and generated zero buzz during football season.
13. I wish ... the next rookie crop of PGA Tour players is even half as prolific as that of the past season. That said, I also wish Camilo Villegas lives up to the hype. Magazine covers, fancy clothes and screaming teenyboppers are nice, but we can't exactly put him in the Hall of Fame just yet. He needs to get a victory under that fanciful white belt of his pretty soon.
14. I wish ... for Paul Casey to have a fruitful, profitable venture in any U.S. events he takes part in. Really, were those words he uttered more than two years ago -- "We properly hate them," Casey said, in which "we" referred to the European Ryder Cup players and "them" their American counterparts -- so cold and calculated that he should be castigated in this country for so long? Look, he never said he hated Americans and he certainly didn't write the tabloid headline, "Stupid Americans: I Hate Them," which appeared in the British press. Take a chill pill, folks, and let the guy go on with his career.
15. I wish ... there were more match-play events on the schedule each year. Lots more. This is golf at its truest roots, one-on-one competition, but it manifests itself only once or twice per season. The sad thing is, we'll never see more, because TV networks are worried about a lack of Sunday ratings if two lesser-known competitors reach the finals.
16. I wish ... the PGA Tour was as interested in globalization as its European counterpart. The U.S.-based tour will finally play a nonmajor or WGC event outside the U.S. or Canada in '07, with the Mayakoba Classic taking place in Mexico this February. It's a start. Meanwhile, the Euro Tour, whose season has already begun, will be competed in 24 different countries (many of which aren't even in Europe), enabling fans in such places as Russia, Malaysia and Qatar to watch -- and gain interest in -- their product.
17. I wish ... every golf fan could have the pleasure of attending a lower-level professional golf tournament at least once in his or her life. From the Futures Tour to the Hooters Tour, there are some great players out there, with a skill level only infinitesimally smaller than those on the major tours. You'll have terrific access to the competitors and an absolute guarantee you'll never have to crane your neck or walk four holes ahead just to catch a glimpse of your favorite player.
18. I wish ... the 2007 golf season were here already. Sure, it seems like '06 just ended, but this offseason stuff is no fun at all.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.
2dMicah Adams, ESPN Stats & Information