Golfer Henrik Stenson, who overcame American Phil Mickelson in a thrilling final-round duel to triumph in the British Open at Royal Troon in July, has won the Golf Writers’ Trophy for the second time in his career.
The 40-year-old Swede beat off competition from US Masters winner Danny Willett, Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose and Alex Noren who captured four European Tour victories in 2016.
The award is voted by members of the Association of Golf Writers and recognises the individual, born or resident in Europe, to have made the year’s most outstanding contribution to golf.
As far as golf is concerned, 2017 is already upon us and 2016 has been consigned to the record books despite the fact that we’re not quite done with 2016 just yet even though we’ve played two events on the 2017 schedule. These wraparound schedules play havoc with the calendars.
The official unveiling yesterday of the programme of events for next year – which features events already played this year – may be an exercise in peering forward but it almost looks like a step back in time. The Portuguese Open, for instance, will return to the schedule for the first time in seven years but you could say it’s something of a blast from an even more distant past. The modest purse of 500,000 euro is almost the same as it was in 1997. Even for the rank and file of the European Tour’s membership, it’s hardly a blockbusting addition to a programme that will feature at least 48 worldwide tournaments. What it is, however, is another chance to play and in this game, every opportunity, particularly for the lesser lights, has to be grasped.
The all-singing, all-dancing Rolex Series, a raft of highly lucrative events, may have been designed with the big name stars in mind but a couple of new dates in the 2017 diary certainly won’t register on their radars. For the lower-ranked players, though, the addition of both the Portuguese Open and the Rocco Forte Sicilian Open, an event last played in 2012, will be welcomed. The fact they are also in the tour’s own backyard of continental Europe, not some far-flung outpost requiring the kind of costly trek that Ranulph Fiennes would have been wary about attempting, is a bonus.
Valderrama, the venue of the 1997 Ryder Cup, will host a reincarnation of the Andalucia Masters, supported by Sergio Garcia’s Foundation but there is one notable omission from the schedule. While there is still another event to be announced, there is no sign yet of the Spanish Open, a tournament which has been played on the European Tour every year since the circuit’s inception back in 1972.