Golf in 2016 will be remembered for its first time major winners and the success of the Olympics. As a new year begins, we look at who and what will make the headlines in world golf.
We saw some extraordinary golf in 2016. From the greatest final round in a major at The Open, courtesy of Henrik Stenson, to the brilliance of Ariya Jutanugarn in the women’s game, it was a year to remember.
The crystal ball and tea leaves are out as we look ahead to the rest of 2017, which promises to be another great year. Will we see four first-time winners again in the majors? Unlikely. Will the Korean’s dominate women’s golf? More than likely.
Here’s what we believe is in store in this eagerly anticipated golfing year.
1. Golf Australia and its commercial partners come to an agreement to leave the OneAsia Tour. But there’s nothing in the tea leaves to suggest it will join the Australian PGA Championship as part of the European Tour, at least not in the foreseeable future while the Open occupies a November time slot.
2. An American player, not competing in the Presidents Cup picks up a lucrative appearance fee to play in the Fiji International and unlike his predecessors Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker, he doesn’t win the tournament.
3. Jason Day makes his first appearance on home soil in four years at the Australian Open at The Australian Golf Club.
4. Hopefully we’re wrong about this one. The World Super 6 event being played at Lake Karrinyup next month will end in farce when the winner is decided by a nearest to the pin play-off on a purpose-built 90-metre hole set up beside the 18th fairway. For a tournament to be decided in such a way, after four days of competition, is no better than asking the play-off competitors to play rock-paper-scissors to see who takes home the oversized cheque.
5. Jordan Spieth’s Masters press conference will be two questions old when he will be asked about the ‘meltdown’ that cost him the green jacket in 2016.
6. A man-bun will make its first appearance at a Masters green jacket presentation ceremony when Curtis Luck claims the low amateur prize, emulating Oliver Goss’ performance in 2014 having been the only amateur to make the cut.
7. In tribute to the late Arnold Palmer, an empty chair will be placed on Augusta National’s 1st tee for the ceremonial opening tee shot performed by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
8. A play-off will be needed to decide the Masters and in fading light Jordan Spieth will hole a ridiculously long birdie putt to deny Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott. Those that have been questioning Spieth’s ability under pressure will ask for second servings of humble pie.
9. Tiger Woods will play the Masters and finish in the top-10. It will be his best finish in a major for 2017. It won’t be all bad for the big cat this year. He will win twice, including a WGC event, and finish in the top-10 on the PGA Tour money list.
10. For the first time in the history of the Presidents Cup, a captain’s assistant from both teams has to be replaced as Geoff Ogilvy (Internationals) and Tiger Woods (US) are selected to play.
11. Having been so close to a major win at Augusta, Rickie Fowler will claim his second Players Championship less than a month later.
12. Ariya Jutanugarn (below) will improve on her fourth placing in 2016 at the LPGA’s first major by winning the ANA Inspiration and taking the dive into ‘Poppies Pond’. It will move her to within two points of Lydia Ko in the women’s world ranking. It will be the first of six victories in 2017 for the Thai phenom.
13. Cameron Smith breaks through for his first win on the PGA Tour, which puts him in contention for Presidents Cup selection, adding to the record number of Australians in the International team.
14. Su Oh will breakthrough for her first LPGA victory on home soil by winning the Women’s Australian Open at Royal Adelaide in front of a record crowd.
15. Minjee Lee will claim her maiden major victory in 2017, with her best chance being at the Women’s US Open.
16. Adam Scott comes from four shots back on the final day to finally hoist the Claret Jug he has yearned for so long. It is, sadly, at the expense of his mate Sergio Garcia, who bogies Royal Birkdale’s final hole with a three-putt to lose to Scott by a stroke.
17. Matt Fitzpatrick dominates the European Tour with four victories including back-to-back DP World Tour Championship titles and claims his first Order of Merit title and the first Englishman since Luke Donald in 2011 to achieve the feat.
18. After a few near misses at the majors, Hideki Matsuyama will dominate at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow to become Japan’s first major champion. Not surprisingly, he will play the last hole in the dark after his final round takes more than five hours to complete.
19. Applications for credentials from Japanese media for the 2018 Masters will double as they follow Matsuyama to Augusta in hope of another victory.
20. Phil Mickelson will climb back into the World Top-10 with a stunning performance at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It will spark plenty of talk about a run at another Masters title for ‘lefty’.
21. Jason Day will front the media two days before the Masters starts and reveal he’s feeling a little out of sorts with the flu or a virus “generally just a bit run down” but “I’ll be good to go for the opening round”. He will end the year as the leading scorer across all four majors but won’t add to his US PGA win.
22. Lydia Ko will record her first LPGA Tour victory for 2017 on home soil at the co-sanctioned NZ Women’s Open in Auckland. The World No.1 will then donate some of her winning purse to victims of the recent Christchurch earthquakes.
23. Young Aussie pro Cameron Davis (right) will win somewhere around the globe in 2017. He is a great talent and if given a start in a handful of PGA Tour events, he’s a big chance to earn enough money to win a Tour card for 2018.
24. Karrie Webb will announce she is halving her schedule to 10 events as she contemplates full-time retirement from the LPGA.
25. Slow play continues to dog the PGA Tour, while rounds on the European Tour drop to record times for the modern era.
26. Monday finishes again dog the PGA Tour, with eight events being pushed back a day because they couldn’t be completed by Sunday evening.
27. The PGA Tour, through its new Tokyo office, announces a new tournament to be added to its Asian swing with the co-sanctioning of one of Japan’s biggest events.
28. In the name of exciting concepts for tournament golf, European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley announces a new event for the schedule called the Three-Club Classic, where players will be restricted to using just three clubs during their rounds. To add some spice, the final round will be played under lights so a fireworks display can be factored in to the entertainment at the venue.
29. There will be a rule controversy at the US Open. You can take that to the bank.
30. President Donald Trump tells US Captain Steve Stricker “You’re fired!” on the eve of the Sunday singles at the Presidents Cup after the Americans suffer big losses in the Saturday fourballs and foursomes. He reinstates assistant captain Fred Couples but it’s not enough to overcome the Internationals who claim the Cup for the first time ever on US soil. A working party is established to investigate where it all went wrong.