INSIDE THE ROPES
Ups and downs on the World Ranking.
Matsuyama, No 6 in the world, finished 2016 as the only top male professional to win five times, including Tiger’s Hero World Challenge in December.
The 24-year-old Japanese star, long considered a great ball-striker who has struggled at times with his short game, captured four of those victories in his last five starts of the year, when he was a combined 89-under-par in 20 rounds, with 17 consecutive rounds in the 60s. He won the HSBC Champions in China, two tournaments in Japan, and the PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open last February.
Matsuyama was just one of an exciting group of young international players to make their mark on the big stage in 2016. Others included Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, England’s Danny Willett and Tyrrell Hatton, and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters. And a more veteran campaigner, 34-year-old Swede Alex Noren, made a heady climb into the top 10 of the World Ranking with four European Tour victories in the second half of the year, thus doubling what he had achieved in his nine previous years.
Evidence of the global spread of the game can be seen among the top 20 players on the World Ranking at the end of 2016.They came from nine different countries – eight from the United States, three England, two each from Australia and Sweden, and one from South Africa, Japan, Spain, Scotland and Northern Ireland.