Golf in 2019: Tiger’s resurgence, Rory’s brilliance…it’s been quite a year

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Published: December 29, 2019 6:05:53 AM

Woods, 14 years after donning his first Green Jacket, won the Masters Tournament, again. And this time instead of father Earl Woods, his children were there to hug him.

Straight off the bat, the one defining memory for me in 2019, is the 3-wood Rory McIlroy hit on the 18th hole to wrap up his first round at the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship.

It’s never easy. Trying to recap a year in golf in a concise manner is of the same order of difficulty as nailing a downhill, side-breaking ten-foot putt. I like to start with stuff I remember: now that might seem like a myopic methodology but if you watch as much golf as I do, then moments that stick out in the memory justify a place in the highlight reel.

Straight off the bat, the one defining memory for me in 2019, is the 3-wood Rory McIlroy hit on the 18th hole to wrap up his first round at the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship. I would recommend you run an online search as you read this: faced with 291 yards to the green for his second at the closing Par-5, Rory hit, what he later called, ‘his shot of the year,’ to within four feet that he duly drilled for Eagle. Rory eventually finished tied-fourth while Jon Rahm made a dramatic birdie finish to edge out England’s Tommy Fleetwood by a stroke and win both—the event and the Race to Dubai. The DP World Championship carries the biggest first-prize in golf—$3 million—and with a bonus of $2 million for the Race to Dubai, the long-hitting Rahm had the biggest payday of his career. Rahm was pretty emotional at the post-event celebrations, not because of the money he made, or the event he won, but because he became only the second Spaniard to become the top-ranked European player in history after Seve Ballesteros. Seve, I tell you, that man’s legacy on this game will never die.

Another big fillip in McIlroy’s cap, if you ask me, and in Tiger Woods’, for that matter, is turning down an invitation to play in the European Tour’s Saudi International this month, on moral grounds. Even though he did not elaborate, McIlroy refused to deny a report that he’d been offered a $2.5 million fee to simply turn up and tee it up at the event. “It’s just not something that would excite me. You could say that about so many countries, not just Saudi Arabia, but a lot of countries that we play in that there’s a reason not to go, but for me, I just don’t want to go. One hundred percent, there’s a morality to it as well,” he said. Good on you Rory, and on you Tiger. You guys are role models and not just for your golf.

In other notes, I was particularly pleased to see the lovely swing of Adam Scott help the affable man from Down Under win again. Scott won the Australian PGA Championship for his first win in almost four years. “I am stoked with this. It has been a long time coming,” said the 39-year-old Scott. So are
we Scott!

We’re only a few weeks removed from the Hero World Challenge and I’ve already lost my shirt on this once so no point re-iterating my anguish at Patrick Reed’s intransigence of wilfully improving the ball’s lie in a bunker. Suffice to say that cheating in golf is hara kiri and Reed’s career is unlikely to be freed from that blemish. It’s unfortunate because the man has game and it’ll call into question legitimate victories in the past. But I have no sympathy for a cheat. And there’s really no other way to look at that.

The year though, as it has so many times in the past, belonged to Tiger Woods. But even by his lofty standards 2019 has been a watershed year for the legend that was considerably sweetened by his winning captaincy in the Presidents Cup. Trailing 10-8 to the International squad going into the final day’s singles matches, the US team led a stirring fightback to turn the tables and win 16-14 at the end. And it was the captain who led from the start—getting the better of unbeaten spearhead Abraham Ancer three-and-two in the opening singles match. Woods’ 27th victory is now a record in the prestigious matchplay competition.

I know reams have been written about it, but this year really was about the greatest comeback in golf if not all of sport. Woods built his back, then worked on getting his old up-and-down swing back, and finally re-constructed his confidence with a couple of top-10 finishes at the British Open and the PGA Championship. Finally, Tiger Eldrick

Woods, 14 years after donning his first Green Jacket, won the Masters Tournament, again. And this time instead of father Earl Woods, his children were there to hug him. Talk about life coming full circle. To further embellish 2019, Woods also won his first event in Japan—the Zozo Championship—to equal Sam Snead’s long-standing mark of 82 PGA Tour victories.

TW’s resurgence has a ripple effect across the golfing world. Sample what Tony Finau, Wood’s teammate in the US squad at the Presidents Cup had to say. “I was four down with eight to go and I basically told myself, ‘I can’t give up on my teammates, my guys, my captain’,” Finau said. “Tiger, the story of his resilience, coming back from what he has with injuries and everything that he’s been through, I think each of us, we just believe in each other because we know we could do what we did today, and we really believed that we could win the cup. We were kind of against the odds, but we are very inspired to play for Tiger, with Tiger, and it’s so satisfying to win this cup because of that.”

Is TW the greatest golfer who ever lived? Without a doubt if you ask me. He showed us why in 2019.

A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game.

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