10 things to look forward to in….

UnknownAS THE RAIN falls and we await the name of the latest hurricane sweeping eastwards  across the Atlantic let us take a few minutes to reflect on a 10 good reasons to be cheerful over the coming months of 2016 and what promises to be a thrilling year of tournament golf.

  1. The US Open championship will be held at a classic course unlike the topographical nightmare that was Chambers Bay in the American northwest. There will be no players suffering from vertigo or spectators injuring themselves at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania. Neither is there any need to ‘trick-up’ this classic 1903 design with its famous Church Pew bunkers on the third hole amongst 210 others awaiting to blight a scorecard. Widely recognised as one of the toughest golfing tests in the country with greens described by one player as ‘Like putting down a marble staircase’ the winner of this Open will rightly be acclaimed a champion golfer.
  2. The contest to be the world’s number one golfer will be as intense as it will be entertaining. Rory McIlroy will be doing his damnedest to regain the crown from Jordan Spieth and Jason Day and the fact that all three are under 30 should help extend the rivalry over the years to come. Many years ago Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player were known as the big three and between them they collected 13 green jackets over 28 years. The names may have changed but the big three are very much back in town.
  3. Golf will be appearing at the Brazil Olympic Games for the first time since 1904. A maximum of 60 players for both men and women’s teams will compete over 72 holes stroke play with the world’s top ranked 15 players automatically qualifying. Rory McIlroy will be representing the Republic of Ireland although he has been less than enthusiastic about the contest, but then he described the Ryder Cup as an exhibition match until he played in it. Spieth will most certainly be playing, barring injury, whilst New Zealand’s Lydia Ko looks the whitest of white hot favourites to walk off with gold in the women’s event. There will be some wonderful golf played and, hallelujah, terrestrial TV will be covering it.
  4. Whilst on the subject of Lydia Ko, it is to be fervently hoped that we get as much TV  coverage as possible of this golfing phenomenon. Quite simply she is the Tiger Woods meets Jack Nicklaus of the women’s game, a genius who is only 18. Annika Sorenstram did not get her first LPGA win until she was 24- Ko already has 10 victories with 40 more tournaments to play before she leaves her teens. She is also pleasant and unassuming. The first thing she wanted to buy with a bonus cheque for $1m was a new mobile phone as she keeps losing hers. Michele Wie said, ‘I don’t know how a person can be that nice. I would probably explode inside.’
  5. We bid farewell to the anchored putter. Already users are struggling to readjust, with Ernie Els in particular, plagued with the dreaded yips and missing a tiddler of a putt at Carnoustie in the Dunhill Links trophy. He will not be the only one to suffer and club golfers will at last be able to relate to hardened tournament professionals as they twitch, stutter and grimace over short putts routinely holed with the broomstick. It should be a lot of fun.
  6. John Daly and Miguel Angel Jimenez will be joining the seniors on the Champions tour bringing a good deal of colour and entertainment to the veterans’ scene. On shorter courses Daly should be able to compete over a full four days whilst Jimenez is bound to be a front runner at all the big tournaments putting some much needed pressure on Colin Montgomerie.
  7. At the younger end of the scale keep an eye out for four precocious talents: Matthew Fitzpatrick of England had not been born when Jimenez won his first two tournaments. Winner of the US amateur in 2013 the 22 year old Yorkshireman won his first pro tournament last July at Woburn when he lifted the British Masters trophy and more big wins look certain. American Justin Thomas is another 22 year year old who looks to have a gilded future following his first win in the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, beating Adam Scott into second place. His fellow countryman, Patrick Rodgers, turned pro in June 2014 having amassed 11 wins whilst at Stanford University the same number as a former alumni, one Eldred Woods.  Lastly, the Argentinian Emiliano Grillo, has been described as the McIlroy of the pampas, being only 5′ 9″ but drives the ball over 300 yards and won on his PGA tour debut.
  8. The Ryder Cup is going to be raucous and, with America dominating last year’s majors, the Europeans face a daunting task at Hazeltine National. US captain, Davis Love’s selection of Tiger Woods as a non-playing vice captain adds even more spice to an already simmering pot. If Phil Mickelson fails to qualify will he be chosen to occupy the fourth vice captain slot? In which case his already strained relationship with Woods could make for a tantalising sub-plot.
  9. The Open Championship at Royal Troon will be hosted by both the men and women’s clubs based there to head off any rows over golfing sexism. Once again many of us south of the border will be hoping to cheer on an English winner for the first time since 1992. There had been an 18 year wait before Tony Jacklin triumphed in 1969 but this gap is the worst since the 19th century when the tournament was in its infancy. Can the flag of St George be raised on the Ayrshire coast? Here’s hoping.
  10. The rain stops, Royal Ashdown Forest’s two wonderful courses dry out, and we can all get out and start hitting a golf ball again. Wherever it is played, here’s to the very best of golf in 2016.


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