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Exciting calendar ahead
AS another year ends on the golfing calendar, it's time to look back and revisit some of the events which made news in the golfing world. It's also a good opportunity to feature one or two key events to look forward to in Singapore in 2016.
The 20-something Brigade
When it came to winning the major events, it was a cast of male 20-somethings who dominated the headlines with record-breaking achievements. Leading the pack was world number one American Jordan Spieth, 22, who clinched both the US Masters and the US Open when he was only 21. He played like an Augusta veteran and was a deserved wire-to-wire winner for his first major, finishing with 270 over the four rounds - 18-under-par - and in the process setting a couple of records at the US Masters in April.
He set a Masters record as the youngest in the lead after the first round, broke the 54-hole record at the Masters shooting a 16-under 200 through three rounds, tied the 72-hole record set by Tiger Woods in 1997 and became the second youngest to win the Masters, behind Woods.
To back it up and win the year's second major (US Open) - to become the event's youngest winner since Bobby Jones in 1923 - two months after the Masters, was truly phenomenal. In the other two majors, Spieth missed a playoff at the Open Championship and finished second at the PGA Championship.
Australian Jason Day, 28, in addition to Rickie Fowler, 27, and Rory McIlroy, 26, also had a season to remember. See-sawing with Spieth for the number one position, Day went on a winning roll with four titles in six starts around September time which included his first major title - the PGA Championship and he finished the year as world number two. Fowler won the Players Championship in May, and while McIlroy may have missed some cuts here and there and have had a shortened season due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury prior to the Open Championship, the world number three nevertheless won the Race to Dubai and was crowned European Tour Golfer of the Year.
Youngest major winner
And speaking of youngsters making their mark, New Zealander Lydia Ko has lived up to the hype. Firstly, she became the number one ranked woman professional golfer in February at 17 years, nine months and eight days, making her the youngest player of either sex to be ranked number one in professional golf. She also won The Evian Championship by six strokes over Lexi Tompson to make her the youngest woman ever to win a major. This is the second year she has taken the top spot and US$1 million in the Race to the CME Globe and she was also awarded Rolex Player of the Year.
Asian Order of Merit
Another youngster deservedly won this year's Asian Tour Order of Merit in a season he is unlikely to forget. Anirban Lahiri earned over US$1 million in 2015 with victories at the Maybank Malaysian Open, the Hero Indian Open and a string of strong finishes over the year. He was also part of the 2015 Presidents Cup squad, the first player from India to earn the honour.
The Presidents Cup
Speaking of the President's Cup, which is played in a similar format to the Ryder Cup and pits a US team against an international team (rest of the world minus Europe), this year's October event was played at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon City. The competition was nail biting and full of drama, with it coming down to the final hole of the final match with Bill Haas clinching the Cup for the US team which was led by his father, Jay. With a final score of 15.5 to 14.5, Team USA earned its sixth consecutive victory.
USA wins Solheim Cup
Just as dramatic, and certainly more controversial, was the Solheim Cup, which is a biennial tournament in a similar format to the Ryder Cup and features players representing either Europe or the USA. Played in Germany this year, the US Team showed grit and determination on the final day to win by 14.5 to 13.5 points. Going into the singles, Europe led 10-6 and only needed four and a half points to claim their third successive Solheim Cup victory.
And while Team USA deservedly won, this year's event will probably be remembered most for the 17th green controversy in the Saturday matches when Suzann Pettersen of Team Europe denied that she had conceded American Alison Lee's one foot putt. Lee believed it had and picked up the ball. Pettersen walked back and said the putt had not been conceded, causing Team Europe to claim a point. While Pettersen did post an apology on social media following criticism from a number of people, it was just the impetus Team USA needed to swing into action and claim victory.
Jurong Country Club
Jurong Country Club, which was founded in 1975 and has been through an extensive course renovation which started back in 2010, was told that it would have to hand over its land by November 2016 to make way for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail terminus as well as other development and community facilities.
Bye Bye Belly Putters
The ban on the use of belly putters and long putters that are anchored to the chest or chin will be effective from Jan 1, 2016. Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Ernie Els and Kevin Stadler are just some of the professional golfers who will be affected by this ruling.
HSBC Women's Champions, Singapore
HSBC announced the renewal of their HSBC Women's Champions sponsorship for another three years. The event has been staged in Singapore since 2008 and has seen the top women in the world teeing off in what has become affectionately known as "Asia's major".
The ninth edition will take place in March, but this year, there will also be a four-day music and food festival. UK Pop Band Take That will headline the event and there will also be other world-class entertainment from the likes of EDM artist, Jack Novak, as well as exciting food events. Confirmed players at the tournament include Lydia Ko, defending champion Inbee Park and 2014 winner Paula Creamer. The HSBC WC will be held on Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course from March 3-6, 2016. Tickets for the golf event and Take That concert are now available at sistic.com.sg.
The Rio Olympics
Golf was first played at the Olympic games in Paris in 1900, but was removed after 1904. It returns in 2016 after more than a century's absence and will be played in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Return of the Singapore Open
Aside from the excitement of once again having a national Open, thanks to Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), the event this month has attracted some big names on the circuit.
World number one Jordan Spieth will be in the field as will fellow major champions Darren Clarke and YE Yang. While Spieth admits he doesn't know much about the Serapong Course, other than it "boasts great champions", he's expecting it to be hot and is expecting to see some beautiful buildings.
He tells BT: "I've seen pictures of places where there are infinity pools on the top of buildings. Maybe I'll go explore one of those. I've seen Singapore through a couple of movies and certainly seen pictures of it, and I'm excited."
- The SMBC Singapore Open will be held at The Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club from Jan 28-31, 2016. Tickets start from S$20 and can be purchased at smbcsingaporeopen.com and ticketing partner APACTix
For more of BT's year-in-review stories, visit bt.sg/review_15