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January 02, 2012

Top 10 Golf Tournaments to Watch in 2012

Not counting the majors and the Ryder Cup, here are the top 10 tournaments to watch in 2012.

1. Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 26-29

Officially replaces Torrey Pines as the unofficial start of the 2012 golf season now that Tiger's playing, although the field would still be pretty strong without him. Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Jason Day will all make the trip to the desert this year.

2. AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Pebble Beach, Calif., Feb. 9-12

There’s been a lot of buzz that Tiger Woods is considering adding Pebble to his 2012 schedule. If he does show up, he’ll be the third-biggest star here, after the course and a former greenskeeper who became the pro-am champion last year.

3. Accenture World Match Play Championship, Manana, Ariz., Feb. 22-26

March Madness comes early for golf fans. Last year, Luke Donald announced his candidacy for world’s best golfer with a dominating performance. Match play always creates some compelling drama, especially in a Ryder Cup year.

4. WGC-Cadillac Championship, Miami, Fla., March 8-11

The best players in the world are all together in a stroke-play event for the first time all year. The golf season might start at Kapalua, but it gets serious at Doral.

5. Arnold Palmer Invitational, Orlando, Fla., March 22-25

The King's tour stop is one of the crown jewels of the PGA Tour: great field, great atmosphere and great history.

6. Kraft Nabisco Championship, Rancho Mirage, Calif., March 29-April 1

Do you think having the world’s most dominant athlete in any sport (Yani Tseng) and a teenage phenom who’s won twice before even becoming an official LPGA member (Lexi Thompson) could create some stirring battles at the 2012 LPGA major? Yeah, us too.

7. Wells Fargo Championship, Charlotte, N.C., May 3-6

Less than 10 years old, the Wells Fargo Championship is already one of the most important regular events on the schedule. Wells Fargo is back in the tournament name after a couple of years as the Quail Hollow Championship. Let's hope the Michael Jordan-Tiger Woods pro-am pairing returns as well.

8. The Players Championship, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., May 10-13

Forget what the doubters say -- this is still the fifth major, and the finishing holes are as recognizable as any in the game. When Rory McIlroy was at home tweeting during last year’s Players Championship, you could tell he wanted to be there. He’ll be back this year.

9. BMW PGA Championship, Surrey, England, May 24-27

The best final round of 2011 that didn't happen in Augusta, Ga., was the playoff duel between Luke Donald and Lee Westwood at the European PGA Championship with the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking on the line. We can't wait for the rematch.

10. The Barclays Championship, Farmingdale, N.Y., Aug. 23-26

The USGA doesn't sound too keen on returning the Bethpage Black any time soon, so this year's Barclays Championship will be your best chance to see America's greatest municipal golf course, unless you want to sleep in your car.

The Big Ones:

The Masters, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga., April 5-8

U.S. Open, Olympic Club, San Francisco, Calif., June 14-17

British Open, Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Lancashire, England, July 19-22

PGA Championship, Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, S.C., Aug. 9-12

The Ryder Cup, Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Ill., Sept. 28-30

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