The world stays tuned to Tiger’s tale
In a year of emotional highs and lows in global golf, Tiger Woods’ comeback was the biggest story.
Tears were shed over the death of icon Arnold Palmer, but four first-time men’s major champions, golf at the Olympics and Woods’ return to competition from a 16-month layoff set the stage for more thrills in 2017.
Woods, a 14-time major champion with 79 career US PGA Tour triumphs, made his long-awaited return two weeks ago following a long absence while recovering from back surgery.
He finished 15 th in a field of 18 at the Hero World Challenge in Nassau, Bahamas, showing flashes of his peak form but lacking consistency. Watching him fight back to tournament fitness figures to be one of 2017’s biggest attractions.
Another should be Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who won the Challenge for his fourth victory in two months and fifth of the year. He won twice in Japan and at a WGC event in Shanghai, finishing a career-best sixth in the rankings and serving notice he is a major threat.
When the world’s best teed off at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics for the first time since 1904, England’s Justin Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, and South Korean Park In-Bee, a seven-time major winner, captured gold in the men’s and women’s tournaments.
But the Olympics was haunted by the withdrawal of several top men’s players — many over Zika virus concerns and the course’s failure to boost the sport’s impact in Brazil.
Australia’s Jason Day finished atop the world rankings with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy second, American Dustin Johnson third, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson fourth and US star Jordan Spieth fifth.
But only two of them won major titles in the first year since 2011 that produced four first-time men’s major winners.
England’s Danny Willett won the Masters after Spieth had a Sunday back-nine meltdown while poised to claim back-toback green jackets.
Johnson won the US Open on his way to US PGA Player of the Year honors, ending a series of major near misses.
Stenson won the British Open, outlasting Phil Mickelson in a two-man duel down the stretch at Royal Troon, only to fall short in an Olympic last-day showdown for gold with Rose. Stenson also claimed his second Race to Dubai crown on the European Tour.
American Jimmy Walker was the wireto-wire winner of the PGA Championship, edging defending champion Day by a stroke after rain set up a marathon final day and “lift, clean and place” rules.
Day won three PGA events in 2016 – the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC Match Play as well as the Players Championship.
Johnson took the PGA money and lowscoring awards, although it was McIlroy who claimed the FedEx Cup playoff points crown after winning the Deutsche Bank Championship and season-ending Tour Championship.
The Americans defeated Europe 17-11 at Hazeltine to reclaim the Ryder Cup after losing three in a row and six of the previous seven team showdowns. A US task force assembled after a 2010 loss brought a new push for the trophy fight.
Top-ranked New Zealand teen Lydia Ko, who took a silver medal at Rio, won the ANA Inspiration at Rancho Mirage for her second major victory in a row.
Thailand’s world No 2 Ariya Jutanurgarn won the LPGA season Race to the Globe and five LPGA events — including the Women’s British Open for her first major crown and the Canadian Women’s Open. She took the LPGA money crown and Player of the Year honors.