By Paul Myers
The major season in men’s professional golf is over for 2016, and each of the four events saw a player claim his first career major championship title. At The Masters, it was Danny Willett who was ready to claim the Green Jacket when Jordan Spieth famously stumbled on the par three 12th. Dustin Johnson put on a masterful performance at the U.S. Open at Oakmont to win despite a ridiculous ruling by the USGA. The Open Championship was taken by Henrik Stenson, who came through despite a tremendous challenge from Phil Mickelson.
And now, at the final major of the year, Jimmy Walker has added his name to the major champion list by prevailing during a wet week at Baltusrol. Walker played a brilliant final round to hold off Jason Day by a single stroke, after Day made a thrilling eagle to add some drama to the finish. Although he might not be a name that is familiar to the casual golf fan, Jimmy Walker is no ‘flash in the pan’ in the world of professional golf – this is his sixth win in the past three seasons.
No Majors for the Big Three
While the World Rankings might tell a different story, most people consider the top three players in the world to be Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, and Rory McIlroy. Although each of these three players has played nicely at times throughout the 2016 season, none wound up claiming a major title. Spieth was the runner-up at The Masters, and Day was runner-up at the PGA, but there were not major trophies to be hoisted between the three of them. This has to be considered a surprise, although it is always tough to win a major regardless of how many credentials you have to your credit.
Ryder Cup Implications
With the Ryder Cup only a couple of months away, it is time to start thinking about what each team will look like in Minnesota. For the U.S. team, the PGA Championship saw a big move for two players – Jimmy Walker, of course, as well as Brooks Koepka. Koepka is an outstanding young player who has been bothered in 2016 by injuries, but he seems very likely to make the team should he be in good health. Some notable names are now outside the cut line for automatic qualification, including Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar. On the European side, big names such as Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer still have work to do if they would like to automatically qualify for the matches.
On to The Olympics
With the majors completed for the season, the next big event on the world golf stage will be golf’s return to The Olympics. While this is certainly a big occasion for the game as a whole, the story is going to be about the players who are not there, rather than those who are in attendance. The majority of the world’s top players, including Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, and more have decided to skip the event for various reasons. While there will still be some of the top players on hand, there is no doubt that the choice to skip The Olympics has taken much of the shine off of the event. With that said, someone will be walking away with the first gold medal in golf in many generations, so there is still plenty on the line.