It’s been a memorable year for golf. 2016 has seen first time winners in each of the four majors, USA dispatched Europe with consummate ease in the 41st Ryder Cup, and it heralded the sport’s first inclusion in an Olympic Games for over a century. We’ve had a household brand quit the industry, other brands seemingly dominate across tours, and bums were on the edge of seats as arguably the best golfer to ever pick up a club made his eagerly-awaited comeback.
But before we recap all of this, 2016 also saw the passing of two World Golf Hall of Famers in Christy O’Connor Snr and Arnold Palmer. O’Connor played in 10 consecutive Ryder Cup matches, finished T2 in the 1965 Open Championship, and won the PGA Seniors Championship on six occasions. Palmer, nicknamed ‘The King’, was part of the Big Three (alongside Nicklaus and Player) who took golf’s popularity to a whole new level. He won seven major titles, racked up 62 PGA Tour titles, and participated in seven Ryder Cups. Two golfing greats whose impact on the game of golf should never be forgotten.
Another man in this bracket is Tiger Woods. He’s done it all. World number one year after year, 14 major victories and over 100 professional wins worldwide. Heck, he even had the sport’s video game named after him. But it hasn’t all been plain-sailing for the American as persistent back problems put Tiger out of action for 15 months before his return at December’s Hero World Challenge.
His comeback was met with rife intrigue as no one quite knew how he was going to fare. During his time in the wilderness, Nike Golf, Tiger’s equipment company, made the brave decision to pull out of the hardware market, choosing to focus solely on apparel and footwear. With several of the world’s best players on their books, it was going to be fascinating to see which brand these guys navigated towards. Nobody expected what was to follow…
Not only did Tiger put TaylorMade’s metals in his bag for his return, but Rory, Olesen and Molinari also opted for the M family too. Nearly all of Nike’s contracted players made the decision - a decision void of any money or obligation - to put at least one TaylorMade club in their bag. There can be no bigger testament to a product’s quality than when the world’s best choose to play that product. This is exactly what happened this year.
At that same moment in time, TaylorMade already had the world’s two best players - according to the rankings - on their books in Jason Day and Dustin Johnson. Jason has been World Number One for the majority of 2016, whilst Dustin finally overcame his major duck by winning the U.S. Open. But, as mentioned above, Johnson was not the only first-time major winner of 2016. Danny Willett’s Masters triumph, Henrik Stenson’s unforgettable Open Championship win and Jimmy Walker’s USPGA victory were all maiden major titles, too.
However, the one title that possible eclipsed all of the above was Justin Rose’s Gold Medal in the Rio Olympics. Golf’s inclusion in the Games was met with widespread negativity as many household names forwent the opportunity to win a medal for their country. Yet the one person who seemed genuinely pleased at the chance to compete for the Gold Medal was Britain’s Justin Rose, how fitting that he went on to produce some brilliant golf en-route to adding a Gold Medal to his trophy cabinet. Thoroughly deserved.
As much as it pains us to say it, another deserving victory came in the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine this autumn as the Americans waltzed to a convincing 17-11 win over their European counterparts. With all but one of Team USA inside the top 30 in the world, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Europeans, and so it proved. After losing the first morning’s foursomes 4-0, Europe’s hopes were quickly dashed as Team USA secured their first Ryder Cup victory in eight years.
And there you have it. Our trip down memory lane ends there as our review of 2016 comes to a close. Let’s hope 2017 offers us more of the same.