Golfs’ Winners and Losers from 2016: Is It the End of a Sporting Era?

January 13, 2017

- Grant Whittington

There is no doubt about it; 2016 was a seminal and potentially game-changing year in the sport of golf. After all, all four majors were secured by first-time winners, while promising players like Jordan Spieth and Rory Mcllroy struggled to replicate the form that had served them so well during 2015.

Not only this, but the highly-anticipated comeback of 14-time major winner Tiger Woods also failed to materialise, creating a genuine sense that golf had come to the end of an illustrious era. With the stellar careers of veterans like Phil Mickelson also coming to an end, a new generation of stars may be about to take centre stage in the years to come.

For now, however, let’s take a look back at a memorable 2016 and see which golfers enjoyed highs and who endured considerable lows…

The Major Winners and Ryder Cup Glory

There were four separate major debut winners in 2016, starting with Danny Willett (who secured the Masters in April with a three-stroke victory over Jordan Spieth). The summer then saw American Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson claim the U.S. Open and the The Open Championship respectively, before Jimmy Walker won the PGA Championship by a single stroke against Jason Day.

We also saw the 41st Ryder Cup contested at the end of September, which the United States ultimately won 17-11 against Europe. This represented the first American success since 2008 at Valhalla, as Europe’s leading stars flailed in a hostile and combustible atmosphere at the Hazeltine National Golf Club.

The Losers: A Testing Year for Tiger

2016 was a challenging year for Tiger Woods, who announced in March that he would miss the Masters tournament and a number of additional summer tournaments as he looked to recover from back surgery. He then suffered a series of minor setbacks in his attempt to resume his place on the tour, pulling out of the Safeway Open in October while citing the vulnerable nature of his game.

While Woods did eventually return after an absence of 466 days at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, an underlying lack of fitness and confidence mean that the man remains a pale shadow of the dominant force that first emerged back in 1997.

So although Woods will most likely start 2017 fully fit and quickly reclaim his status as the most watched player in the modern game, he may yet look back on this year as a decisive chapter in his gradual decline.

The Honourable Mentions: Stenson’s Stellar Year

At the other end of the spectrum, Henrik Stenson enjoyed the type of year that Woods used to experience regularly. Not only did he win The Open at Royal Troon to claim his inaugural title (while equalling the lowest ever score at a major), but he also secured a silver medal at the Rio Olympics after narrowly losing out to Justin Rose.

To cap a superb year, Stenson was also named European Tour Golfer of the Year for the second time in December, having first claimed the prestigious honour back in 2013. His anointment followed a victorious Race to Dubai, which ensured that the 40-year old Swede recorded the best year of his professional career.

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