By Thomas Dodd
- Britwatch Sports looks back at 2016 golfing season by re-counting 10 memorable moments.
- Matt Fitzpatrick won final European Tour event in Dubai last Sunday
- Season saw four first-time major champions, USA Ryder Cup success and Rory McIlroy claim $10million Fedex Cup prize on PGA Tour
We take a look back at some of the highlights of the 2016 season.
Danny Willett wins Masters (April)
Yorkshireman Willett wasn’t even meant to be in the field in Augusta owing to the birth of his first child. But the little bundle of joy arrived ten days early, allowing the new Dad to go and make his own little piece of history, becoming the first Englishman since Nick Faldo 20 years ago to slip on the famous green jacket after 72 holes.
Willett shot a final round 67 to finish on five-under par, beating Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood by three. Defending champion Spieth had the tournament in his hands with a five shot lead with nine holes to play, but capitulated around Amen corner to leave Danny boy the last man standing.
Home comforts for Rory McIlroy (May)
For all his worldwide wins , Ireland had never been particularly kind to McIlroy. But all that changed in 2016 as the four-time major champion and tournament host finally broke his duck on home soil with a sparkling final round performance at the Irish Open played out at the K Club.
Inclement weather had caused several stoppages by the time McIlroy and final group playing partner Russell Knox reached the 16th fairway.
The Northern Irishman launched a fairway wood from 276 yards to the heart of the par-5 green and two putted to turn the tide on Knox and take a one shot lead to the 71st hole. On the closing par-5 he hammered a five wood to three feet to set up an eagle and seal a highly emotional and long-awaited win in front of his own fans.
Dustin Johnson claims first major at US Open (June)
Given his dramatic record in previous majors when on the cusp of victory, it was no surprise that DJ’s maiden major came under a cloud of controversy.
The big-hitter started his final round strongly at Oakmont before almost having to call a penalty on himself after appearing to have potentially moved his ball before address on the fifth green.
Johnson seemed to have clarified the issue with playing partner Lee Westwood, but the USGA had other ideas, telling Johnson on the 11th tee he may face later punishment. As it was it didn’t matter, Johnson birdied the last to win by four, which eventually became three after tournament organisers decided he had broken the rules on the fifth green.
Dual of the Sons/High Noon at Troon (July)
The day Phil Mickelson shot 65 in the final round of a major playing in the last group out and still finished further behind than when he started the day.
Quite possibly the greatest day’s play in major championship history saw third round leader Henrik Stenson shoot 63, break the all-time major scoring record for strokes taken and win by three to collect his first major title.
The pair distanced themselves from the field at Troon by some margin, evoking memories of Jack Nicklaus‘s and Tom Watson‘s infamous ‘Dual in the Sun’ at Turnberry in 1976. The weather caught the majority of the 156 man field out, but the two forty-somethings simply focused on one another, producing continuous moments of magic in the swirling winds and rain.
Justin Rose becomes Golf’s golden boy (August)
112 years after its last inclusion at the Summer Games, Golf returned to the Olympics in Rio amid a cloud of uncertainty. With several high profile names pulling out for a variety of reasons many wondered how the event would go down with such a depleted field.
Thankfully, the two-highest ranked players who did turn up in Brazil put on a treat for the fans and those watching round the world as Justin Rose and Stenson duelled it out for an historical gold medal.
The Britain triumphed – without doubt the highlight of his season – leaving the newly crowned Open champion to take Silver. USA’s Matt Kuchar claimed the bronze several shots adrift.
Jim Furyk shoots 58 at Travelers Championship (August)
The magic number on the PGA Tour had always been 59. Until Furyk decided that was all far too mainstream at the Travelers Championship in August, having already shot that number in 2014.
On championship Sunday in Connecticut, Furyk hit all 18 greens, recorded 10 birdies and an eagle without dropping a shot to re-write the record books. Having teed off at 8.41am in the morning at Even par, the Florida native finished the week two off eventual winner Knox and in a tie for third after the lowest round in Tour history.
Furyk was one of six players to have shot 59 in competition but became the first to go even lower and now proudly holds the title of ‘Mr 58’ among the media and his peers alike.
McIlroy wins the Fedex Cup (September)
After finally winning on home soil in Ireland in April, the only thing missing from McIlroy’s resume was the $10million FedEx Cup prize. After a stunning final round at the second play off event in Boston McIlroy went into the final round at the season-ending Tour Championship with an outside chance of success if he could take home the tournament and have results go his way.
After overnight leader Dustin Johnson capitulated on the final day, McIlroy seized his opportunity outlasting Kevin Chappell and then Ryan Moore in a play-off to claim victory and scoop the FedEx Cup riches at the same time.
Ryder Cup- US regain trophy and ‘those’ singles matches (September)
After three successive defeats, including the sensational European comeback at Medinah the last time the cup was held in the States in 2012, this was a Ryder Cup the Americans could ill-afford to lose.
Meticulous preparation, a change in the selection process and a determination to win perhaps never before seen combined perfectly at Hazeltine to help Davis Love III’s side regain the trophy for the first time since 2008.
Leading 9.5 to 6.5 ahead of the Sunday Singles, the US never looked like collapsing as they had done four years previously, closing out Darren Clarke‘s side convincingly. McIlroy and Patrick Reed played out one of the most high-quality games ever seen in the competition in front of an electric crowd, the American eventually prevailing on the 18th, before Mickelson and Sergio Garcia halved a sensational dual which saw 19 birdies, a combined score of 18-under par and a better ball total of 58.
Tiger keeps us all waiting (year-long)
Will he? Won’t he? Tiger Woods kept us all guessing throughout 2016, regularly posting enticing updates as to the state of his recovery following back surgery at the end of 2015, only to pull out of all tournaments before October.
Everything seemed in place for a return at the start of the new season as he confirmed his participation at the Safeway Open at the beginning of the same month, only for the 14-time Major champion to leave us all disappointed, withdrawing at the last moment.
As opposed to previous withdrawals Woods cited a rusty game and not his ailing fitness as the reason. He is due to play his own World Challenge event in the Bahamas in December, but until the now 40-year old tees off and walks up the first fairway, nothing can be taken as certain.
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