Olympics and Ryder Cup have a lot to live up to after thrilling golf Majors
Simon Sinclair | August 1, 2016
Walker brings an end to a year of Major firsts
An action-packed summer of Major golf ended with Jimmy Walker claiming his maiden title by clinching the US PGA Championship.
Walker’s consistency over the four days in New Jersey guided him to the crown, narrowly edging out world number one Jason Day.
The 2016 Majors each had a first-time winner, with Walker following the triumphs of Danny Willett (US Masters), Dustin Johnson (US Open) and Henrik Stenson (The Open).
A selection of players will now descend upon Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic Games, although the field will be missing many of the world’s best, including all of the top four.
Stenson and Willett to lead the way
Golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904, although many of the world’s brightest stars will not be present in Brazil due to fears over the Zika virus.
However, two Major winners from 2016 will be on the course come the beginning of the competition as Stenson and Willett are willing participants, as well as Justin Rose and Bubba Watson among others.
Sweden’s Stenson will fancy his chances to continue his excellent form, after breaking his Major duck at The Open.
Outstanding throughout the competition at Royal Troon, Stenson continued his efforts with a strong performance at the US PGA, finishing in tied-seventh.
Yorkshire native Willett, meanwhile, struggled in the latter half of the season after his momentous win at Augusta where he capitalised on Jordan Speith’s collapse on the back nine to claim the Green Jacket.
The 28-year-old failed to finish inside the top 20 of any of the final three Majors of the year, leaving him desperate to ensure that his season on an individual note does not end with a whimper.
Quality players to end their struggles
Rose was solid in his displays at the Majors this season, although he never threatened to add a second title to his collection.
The Englishman did round into form at the US PGA, and will be one of the men battling it out for the gold medal on August 14 in Brazil should he maintain the level of his game.
Since winning The Masters for the second time, Watson has struggled on the big occasions – being a boom or bust player. He hasn’t finished inside the top 20 of a Major since his victory in April 2014, but an Olympic medal could jolt his career back on track.
Rickie Fowler has failed to deliver on his potential, failing to lift the level of his form to championship level to compete for the trophy at the Baltusrol Golf Club.
He worked himself into a decent position on his opening two rounds, but recorded a score of one-over on the final two days to finish in tied-33rd.
The American could take heed from the lesson of Andy Murray at the 2012 Olympics as he won the gold, which sparked Grand Slam triumphs at the US Open and Wimbledon over the following year.
All eyes on Hazeltine
At the end of the Olympics there will be just six weeks until the start of the Ryder Cup, with players from Europe and the United States making a late scramble to be included in this prestigious biennial team golf event.
Darren Clarke’s Europe are 6/4 outsiders with Coral to win the competition for the fourth time in a row, which would be an upset considering the US are considered odds-on 8/11 favourites.
Europe have been the stronger team over the past three tournaments, including in the Miracle at Medinah where the Jose Maria Olazabal’s side rallied from a four-point deficit to claim victory on the final day.
Davis Love III was the captain of Team USA on that occasion, so he will be desperate for revenge, and this time boasts a team with four players inside the top 10 in the world rankings.
Spieth, Watson, Fowler and Dustin Johnson will all the make the grade or are strongly backed to be part of Love’s 12-man squad. Walker’s win at the US PGA could well be enough to push him into the mix after a below-par 2016 season prior to his Major success.
Love appears to have an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, although talent alone has not been enough to clinch the title for the States over the past decade.
At the present time, Clarke appears to be heading into the tournament with an inexperienced squad. Only Stenson, Rose, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy having been selected in previous teams, although the Northern Irishman will likely use his wildcard picks on veteran players.
There is never a shortage of drama in the Ryder Cup and, should the competition follow in the footsteps of the action we have seen this year, it will be a must-see event.