Following all that happened in 2016, it might be good for everyone to enjoy a little break.
As the wraparound season began not much occurred during the fall of 2015 as new PGA Tour cardholders jockeyed for position, trying to earn as much money and as many points as they could before the first reshuffle.
The top 125 is a set number with a locked-in guarantee those players can select any tournament they wish to enter, limited only by a few so-called invitationals (which in reality amount to restricted fields decided by FedEx points) and the majors.
However, the next group from 126 to 175 has a precarious dilemma. They may only enter fields after the top 125 and various champions and in order depending on their number or position.
Complicating matters is the fact that during the fall and winter events fields are reduced because of the shortened daylight hours. The bottom line is that just earning a tour card isn’t a licence to print money.
It’s a five-month sprint, making use of every conceivable playing opportunity to accumulate enough points/money to move up the ladder to get more opportunities once the reshuffle occurs, daylight hours increase and the really big purses are up for grabs.
If you have the skills and nerves to survive, you advance; if you don’t, you are caught in a huge tumbling, spiral that bounces you back to the Web .com Tour.
Between October and March this year, there wasn’t much excitement.
We all sat by eagerly awaiting a repeat of the fantastic year enjoyed by Jordan Spieth in 2015.
Our new idol replacing Tiger Woods was looking to successfully defend his Masters title. On the lush emerald green fairways and the polished roller coaster greens amid the cathedral pines, Spieth had a five-shot lead going on to the back nine.
One hour and 45 minutes later, Spieth dragged himself up the 18th fairway having dumped balls into ponds, clunked shots, losing six strokes to par. Danny Willet emerged as a new name in golf and slipped into the Green Jacket.
The year of excitement had begun.
In May, we began to hear about international golf stars beginning to reject the first opportunity in over 100 years to play in the Olympics in Rio.
People were dumbfounded. Who would do such a thing? Who would stand up and say openly that their interests were more important than their country’s?
The Zika virus and personal safety were cited most commonly when the real reason was more than likely awkward scheduling.
In the end, the person who could most act as a future ambassador due to his desire to be the gold medal winner came through with a well-deserved victory.
Justin Rose travels with his medal everywhere he goes, proudly displaying it at every venue he visits. The players who withdrew can only hope their career path continues to glow and they qualify for a second chance.
Rose is proving an Olympic gold medal are rare but valuable achievements in a player’s legacy as is the silver medal won by Henrik Stenson and the bronze won by Matt Kuchar.
Coming into the 2016 season, Canada’s last major golf champion was Mike Weir. After winning the Masters in 2003, he enjoyed a wonderful few years at the top, but the next Canadian player to win a major championship was Brooke Henderson 13 years later later.
The 18-year-old pounced on world No. 1 Lydia Ko in a playoff. By defeating Ko, Henderson grabbed an arm full of accolades, first place money and a bonafide place on the LPGA Tour marquee/
Then we saw one of the worst bungled rulings ever produced by the USGA and the subsequent emergence of Dustin Johnson as a major champion – finally.
Johnson not only blasted prodigious drives, punctuated by laser like irons and solid putting, he controlled his emotions in what could have erupted into comedic farce.
Instead, he left grand old Oakmont intact as a championship course, but won the U.S. Open trophy and the task force struck to focus on winning this year’s Ryder Cup took notice.
Troon is the site of one of the greatest head-to-head matches ever played. Starring roles by Stenson and Phil Mickelson produced a thrilling finish to the Open Championship.
Stenson shot a record 20 under par in beautiful weather on a wonderful links-style course. Closing with a superb round of 63 while his playing partner could only manage a 65 he became the Champion Golfer of the Year, leading to Stenson’s three-stroke margin of victory.
The American task force was buzzing once again.
In August, a good thing happened to a nice guy.
Jimmy Walker won the Wannamaker Trophy at the PGA Championship.
If you look at the final scores you would think the tournament was close between Jason Day and Walker as they ended the 72 holes just one stroke apart.
Walker was cruising along the back nine of the final round with a three-stroke lead. Suddenly, his position became similar to a kid sliding down a banister who failed to consider the post at the bottom as Day hit a miraculous shot on his 72nd hole and drained the putt for eagle. A three-stroke lead dwindle into a precarious lead of just one.
Walker barely hung on from the ‘short side’ to an elevated green with a pitch to 40 feet where he squeaked in the second putt from three feet so he could hoist the huge cup overhead.
The task force pot continued to boil.
Finally after a two year wait for redemption the USA Ryder Cup Team had the opening to validate all the planning, solicitation of input and team “Love-in.”
One of the most nerve-wracking, high intensity atmospheres and tests of sporting skills was upon us at the Ryder Cup. It brought fear, joy, despair, honor and fun. It also produced some of the finest golf ever played.
Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy were sensational. Phil and Sergio Garcia unbelievable and Europe’s Thomas Pieters let the Task Force know that for 2018 they will be required to put forth an even more stellar effort.
The USA finally won and by a wide margin, but if you analyze each match closely, you will see the difference was less than you might think, meaning there probably isn’t a need for a European task force, at least not yet.
The 2016 professional golf season is almost over. There remain a few LPGA events, the Web .com Tour has concluded and Bernhard Langer is not quite finished writing the last chapter on the Champions Tour.
From my point of view, I don’t think I have ever enjoyed watching tournament golf more in any other year. The quality, the personalities, the politics, the winners, the venues – what a ride.
The only sad note in 2016 was the passing of Arnold Palmer. Arnie’s first PGA Tour win was the 1955 Canadian Open. He won the Canadian PGA championship, was a PGA of Canada Honorary Member and was given the PGA of Canada’s George Cumming Distinguished Service Award.
His passing was sad, but his memory caused smiles, the way it should be going forward as we recalls his legacy and the fine season behind us.