Giving Thanks to the Game
As the 2016 year draws to a close and we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, we thought it would be a good idea to give back. To do this, we’ve made a list giving thanks for the Top 10 things that the Game appreciates:
- The everyday golfer. The fan. The passionate pursuer of the little white sphere who continually seeks that one perfect moment, or new milestone in the Game that mirrors Life like no other. The player who coordinates a once in a lifetime trip with their 3 best friends, the player who organizes the Tuesday afternoon 9-hole league, or the player who sleeps overnight in-line to make a tee-time at Bethpage Black. For the player who has played for 80 years and the one who just had their first lesson and experienced the pure unadulterated joy of getting their first 7 iron airborne. And most particularly for Bird Golf, all of the wonderful students who have allowed us the privilege of being a part of your games http://www.birdgolf.com/category/super-student-shots/ To all golfers we say: “magna cum laude!” (with great praise).
- The 87 years that Arnold Palmer was on this earth. The King’s life and legacy will never be matched. Ever.
- Dustin Johnson winning his first major Championship at the U.S. Open at Oakmont. The brilliant but until now tragically unlucky Johnson won despite playing the back 9 with the possibility of an unfair penalty being assessed, hanging over his head http://www.birdgolf.com/redemption/ (he was assessed a 1-shot penalty after finishing his round but still won the tournament by 4 shots). Johnson had previously lost the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straights to Martin Kaymer when he unknowingly, illegally, grounded his club in a waste area on the 72nd hole and then again at last year’s U.S. Open when he 3-putted on the last hole from 12 feet to lose to Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay.
- The new “Big 3”. The triumvirate of the game’s new superstars: Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. While winless in this years’ Majors, all three players still played some spectacular golf and are all worthy of carrying the torch for the professional ranks. Day won 3 times on the PGA Tour while Spieth won twice in the U.S. and added a second Australian Open to his trophy case earlier this month. McIlroy was held back with poor putting in the first half of the season before winning his national Open in Ireland and capping off his year with two wins in the FedEx Cup playoffs and capturing the richest prize in the game ($10 million) at the FedEx Cup.
- Ariya Jutanugarn became the first golfer from Thailand (male or female) to win on either of the world’s two major Tours, the PGA and LPGA. The 20-year old Jutanugarn has also overcome the baggage of heartbreak most notably when in the 2013 LPGA Thailand; she made a triple-bogie on the last hole to lose by a stroke. Jutanugarn broke through into the winner’s circle in May with her first Tour win at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic and then won the next two events at the Kingsmill Championship and the Volvik Championship. Jutanugarn became the first player in history to have her first victory be part of three consecutive wins on the LPGA Tour. In summer she captured the Ricoh Women’s Open to win her first Major and ended up with 5 wins for the year. Jutanugarn claimed the 2016 Rolex Player of the Year Award and the season-long Race to the CME Globe in addition to being the leading money winner and rising to #2 in the world.
- The Ryder Cup. The sports’ most venerable trophy was in danger of becoming very uninteresting after the European team captured 8 of the last 10 matches. That all changed when the American’s dismantled the Europeans by a score of 17 points to 11 at Hazeltine National in September. For any competition to be compelling it has to be competitive.
- The New Duel http://www.birdgolf.com/the-new-duel/ In the modern era’s most dynamic and supremely played Major, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson produced a caliber of play seen once only every 30 or 40 years. In the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon, Stenson closed with a breathtaking 63 to beat Mickelson by 3 shots on the day and for the week, setting the Open Championship scoring record of 20-under par. Mickelson’s 17-under par total would have won any other Open except one and he finished 11 shots ahead of third place finisher JB Holmes. It was the 40-year old Stenson’s first Major Championship win and Mickelson’s 11th runner-up in a Major (he has also won 5 of them).
- Where’s the Beef? On the PGA Tour. When 27-year old Englishman Andrew “Beef” Johnston qualified for the 2016-17 PGA Tour at the Web.com Tour finals, the PGA Tour got decidedly meatier. The affable Johnston is the anti-pro who embraces his cult status as a burly fun-loving eccentric who likes nothing better than a good laugh and a few drinks. When asked what he would do after winning his only European Tour event to-date, the Spanish Open, Johnston replied: “I can’t wait to get hammered”.
- Tiger Woods. Woods will be teeing up at his own event next Thursday at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. It will be his first event (although it is not an official PGA Tour event) in 15 months since he finished in a tie for 10th at the Wyndham Championship. Now 40 years old, the 14-time Major Champion still has the ability to push the needle of interest in the game, more than any other player.
- Lydia Ko. The #1 ranked Women’s player in the world won 4 times on the LPGA Tour in 2016. The 19-year old New Zealand phenom has now been the top ranked player in the world for 130 weeks and has won 14 times on the LPGA Tour and 11 other times around the world. Ko is bright, articulate, and has a grace that belies her age. As we did with Woods 20 years ago, we are watching the evolution of a once-in-a-generation prodigy.