5. MASTERS INVITATIONS: For the last six years, the Masters has been awarding invitations to winners of PGA Tour events that offer full FedEx Cup points. The Fall Series didn't count, nor did the events opposite a major or World Golf Championship.
One problem. Starting later this year, there is no Fall Series. When the tour goes to the wraparound season, there will be an additional six tournaments that under the previous policy would award the winner a spot in the Masters.
The concern for Augusta National is keeping a small field — it has not had more than 100 players since 1966. The question is whether the tour's change will mean an end to tournament winners driving down Magnolia Lane.
6. ALL-MALE CLUBS: Just because Augusta National now has two women in green jackets doesn't mean the debate over all-male clubs is going away. If anything, it might be more intense than ever when the British Open returns to Muirfield. There are no female members in the “Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers,” nor are there any female members of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club.
That received cursory criticism over the years, though most of the scrutiny was on the Masters. Now that the British Open is the only major played in which the host club has no women on their membership rolls, R&A chief Peter Dawson might have some explaining to do. If he's not too busy talking about changes to the Old Course.
7. DISTANCE DEBATE: Those concerned that distance is ruining the game and making golf courses obsolete might appreciate a prediction in Golf Illustrated magazine that if the “carrying power of golf balls is to be still further increased all our golf courses will be irretrievably ruined as a test of the game.”
That was in 1910, and the game has been evolving since.
The R&A and USGA have leaned on their “Joint Statement of Principles” in 2002 when it comes to distance. Even so, Dawson sounded an ominous tone while announcing the ban on anchored strokes.
“We haven't shelved distance. It's very much on the radar,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said. “Anchored strokes are separate. Just because we're doing one doesn't mean we have taken our eye off the other.”
8. 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.
9. TIGER: Woods and Jack Nicklaus were talking about rivalries a decade ago when Nicklaus told him it was important to always be part of the conversation. That's never been a problem for Woods. Even with McIlroy assuming the role of golf's No. 1 player, Woods is part of every conversation in golf.
The only difference is the context.
Can he end a four-year drought in the majors? Can he get back to No. 1? Will he ever dominate as he once did?
The new season should provide some answers.