3. Ending months of speculation about their relationship, Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki announced their engagement on New Year’s Eve. Will this development help or hurt McIlroy’s play in 2014?
VAN SICKLE: Rory's marital status won't change a thing about how he plays this year. He's going to come roaring back after 2013, which amounted to an attention-getting kick in the pants for him.
LYNCH: As long as she doesn't start giving him swing advice or sue him, it won't matter much.
SHIPNUCK: Well, planning a splashy wedding is a big distraction, but overall Rory’s life seems to be way more settled than it has been in at least 15 months. And for a jet-setting bachelor to decide to settle down is a big deal and reflects a certain contentment, so I think this is another positive sign as Rory continues to piece his career back together.
GODICH: It can only help, because it will put to rest any rumors about his relationship status -- that is, until someone catches Caroline without that rock on her finger.
PASSOV: Improved iron accuracy and more confident putting, as witnessed at the Australian Open, will help his play most in 2014. That said, he had SO many distractions in '13, relationship questions being one of them, not that it's any of our business. As he continues to eliminate these distractions, from legal issues to his equipment learning curve to his love life (answering questions about them, anyway), he'll reach his 2012 heights.
SENS: As long as he doesn't get distracted choosing china for the bridal registry, it will help. As for having fun off the course, as a married man I can confirm this: he's through.
RITTER: Rory struggled last year amid a myriad of changes (management, clubs, pressure to stay No. 1, dentistry). Anything that adds stability would be a positive, so I'd say this news helps. And congrats to him.
BAMBERGER: In the years before I was engaged and married, my spelling was off, I was mixing metaphors, I was reaching for semi-colons at all times of the day and night. Then came Christine. A positive career development for both these young athletes, and, one hopes, in other ways, too. Mazel tov, kids!
4. The Tour moved to Kapalua this week to continue its new wraparound 2013-14 schedule. No longer meaningful as the season-opener, and lacking a fistful of the Tour's winners, including main drawing cards Woods and Mickelson, has the event lost its luster?
VAN SICKLE: This event shows just how little money and ranking points matter to the game's top players. With the previous season stretching into November and even early December, January is prime vacation time for the game's elite. Sure, the tourney is in Hawaii -- players and their families love that. But the course is on the side of a mountain, it's a bitch to walk, not much fun to play and it's usually blowing a gale, or worse. Nothing like starting the year by getting your swing screwed up in the wind. This event needs a different venue. Um, La Costa anyone?
GODICH: The T of C lost its luster many years back, but at least the Tour was wise enough to move the event to Hawaii. It certainly beats what seemed to be an annual slogfest in Southern California. I just wish they'd do away with the Monday finish. I wonder if Jason Dufner petitioned this year for a 36-hole Sunday finale.
SENS: Lost its luster? Nah. The luster of this event has always been the eye-candy of Hawaii, a swaying-palm salute to the start of another year. Yeah, officially, it's a wraparound season. But Kapalua still does what it was always meant to do: get us all in a golfing mood.
LYNCH: Once upon a time the Tour decreed that a winners-only event in Hawaii would have such elite status that every golfer should aspire to be there. But then the Tour decreed that the FedEx Cup was the reward for a great season, not a winter cash grab in Maui at the Tournament of Champions. The chance to pocket $1.14 million and have a Hawaiian vacation just isn't as appealing as it used to be. Lost against the NFL playoffs and miserable weather nationwide, the Hawaiian swing seems like a far-off exhibition that really only matters to those who are there.
PASSOV: I love Kapalua's Plantation course, partly because it's not a cookie-cutter PGA Tour layout and partly because its jungle-on-the-edge-of-the-Pacific setting is blessed relief for the shivering half of the U.S. population. The tournament itself feels like an exhibition, however. Its tiny field, with no Tiger, no Phil, few of the top Europeans -- and with football playoffs garnering most of my attention -- just doesn't grab me. After a legitimate break from the previous season, like it was in the old days, I was ready for Tour golf again. Now, not quite so.
RITTER: When did it have luster? It's a nice event, and it's fantastic in HD, but it needs a lot of help to create much of a blip beyond the pretty pictures.
BAMBERGER: The event has lost its luster because of the wraparound schedule, because marquee players don't play, because there is no PGA Tour anymore. There's a world tour and Kapalua is just another limited-field event on it, among many others.
SHIPNUCK: The venue is the star this week, not the players, and it’s been that way for years. I gotta think with most of the country snowed-in, the sun-drenched telecast is a welcome respite. If you like golf, you tune in because the course is a blast and because it’s the first meaningful action in a while. There are plenty of players here to root for. Or against.