It’s a quiet time for world golf before we enter what promises to be an exciting 2017. And as we have done at the end of each year, we take a look back at the major happenings of the past 12 months.
Last week, while handing out the annual report card, I named Sweden’s Henrik Stenson as my Male Player of the Year, and Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn as the Female Player of the Year.
Stenson may have been a slightly contentious choice, but I felt he was consistent throughout the year, and he would have earned more world ranking points than Dustin Johnson had he not pulled out halfway through the FedEx Cup Playoffs to give his knees some rest before the Ryder Cup.
So, here are my thoughts on everything else that happened in the world of golf…
TOURNAMENT WIN OF THE YEAR: RORY MCILROY AT THE DUBAI DUTY FREE IRISH OPEN
He wasn’t playing his best golf, and has a rather poor record at his home Open, a tournament that is now hosted by his own Rory Foundation.
Not only did he turn a one-shot deficit into a three-shot victory on Sunday, he did that in style by hitting unforgettable shots on the par-5 16th and 18th holes.
ADITI ASHOK AT HERO WOMEN’S INDIAN OPEN
Another home win that was all the more amazing because it was the first time Ashok played the event as a professional. Just 18 years of age and in her rookie year, she kept her nerve to beat the field by two shots.
BEST ROUND OF THE YEAR: JIM FURYK’S 58
I loved every bit of Stenson’s 63 on the final day of the Open Championship at Royal Troon, but when you have had a 58 during the year, it is hard to ignore.
On August 7, in the final round of the Travelers Championship at TPC Cromwell, Jim Furyk became the first man on the PGA Tour to shoot 58, 12-under par for the round. He made one eagle and 10 birdies.
It was the second time Furyk had broken the 60 barrier – having shot 59 at the 2013 BMW Championship.
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR: THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Nothing comes even close to the quality of the final round and the battle that took place at Royal Troon between Stenson and Phil Mickelson.
As they traded one blow after another, with Stenson finally prevailing following a sensational 63, even the legendary Jack Nicklaus was moved to say it was better than the ‘Duel in the Sun’ at Turnberry in 1977 between him and Tom Watson.
CONTROVERSY OF THE YEAR: OLYMPICS GOLF
The scheduling of the tournament, which was making a comeback after 112 years, was already an issue when the Zika virus cropped up.
That was just the excuse many top male players needed to pull out of the Rio spectacle. In the end, Olympics golf was a success, with Justin Rose beating Henrik Stenson to the gold medal.
The ladies responded superbly though, with almost every top player participating.
SHOT OF THE YEAR: MCILROY’s SECOND TO THE 18TH AT IRISH OPEN
Leading by one shot, the Northern Irishman hit a most fabulous three-wood shot to two feet for an eagle. The title was on line, but McIlroy never thought of playing safe, hitting over the water at the K Club from 253 yards.
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR: TIGER WOODS
The former world No1 showed he still has what it takes, making more birdies than the eventual champion in his comeback, and only tournament of the year – the Hero World Challenge.
There are questions yet to be answered, but he has made 2017 a whole lot more exciting.
MELTDOWN OF THE YEAR: JORDAN SPIETH
Just when it looked extremely possible that the Masters will have its first repeat winner since Woods in 2002, Spieth threw it away.
At the heart of Amen Corner, his heart broke as he wound up making a quadruple bogey seven on the par-3 12th hole. Leading by one, he fell behind by three shots.
BEST RUN OF THE YEAR: HIDEKI MATSUYAMA
The Japanese suddenly became unbeatable at the back-end of the year. From the Japan Open, he played five tournaments in eight weeks, winning four of them and finishing second in the fifth. One to watch in 2017.
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