#1 The resurgence of Jason Day and Rory McIlroy in the OWGR
Given the recent ascendance of American players—Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, and Jordan Spieth—to the heights of the golfing world, an era when Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, or Australian Jason Day, dominated the FedExCup points seems difficult to fathom.
Recall when Rory McIlroy topped the Official World Golf Rankings, had just won his second consecutive major at the 2014 PGA Championship (and his fourth major victory in three years), completed a season with five European/PGA TOUR victories, and was still only twenty-five years old?
Remember when Jason Day, after narrowly missing a four-way playoff at the 2015 Open Championship, proceeded to tie the all-time lowest winning score in a major championship (-20 relative to par) at the 2015 PGA Championship?
Is it possible to recall Jason Day’s unprecedented PGA TOUR winning streak—with victories in the 2015 RBC Canadian Open, The Barclays, and BMW Championship—that propelled him to the coveted position of world #1?
Jason Day of Australia proudly holds the Wanamaker Trophy after his…
Jason Day of Australia proudly holds the Wanamaker Trophy after his victory with a record Major score of 20 under par during the final round of the 2015 PGA Championship on The Straits Course at… Get premium, high Resolution News Photos at Getty Images
Memories of these accomplishments, though undeniably brilliant, have been overshadowed by more recent accolades—and the list of noteworthy mentions is extended. In the past two years alone, the reigning world #1 Dustin Johnson has won three world golf championship (WGC) events , two FedExCup events, a United States Open, and a total of seven worldwide events.
Justin Thomas, currently ranked third in the OWGR, won five events in 2017 alone—including the PGA Championship, the Dell Technologies Championship, and claiming the $10 million FedExCup prize. And, of course, Jordan Spieth’s victory at the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, which cemented the third-leg of a potential career grand slam, was also noteworthy.
Justin Thomas of the United States poses with the Wanamaker Trophy…
Justin Thomas of the United States poses with the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2017 PGA Championship during the final round at Quail Hollow Club on August 13, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
To summarize: professional golf just isn’t as exciting when all of the top talent isn’t performing at peak ability, and duo of Jason Day and Rory McIlroy certainly qualify among that elite group. With both McIlroy and Day finishing winless in 2017, a resurgence of these two paragons of the game is certainly on the 2018 wishlist for the majority of golf aficionados.
#2 A continuation of Justin Thomas’ dominance
As previously mentioned, Justin Thomas experienced a remarkable breakout year in 2017: five PGA TOUR victories, a FedExCup triumph, a major championship win at the PGA Championship, a surge to #3 in the Official World Golf Rankings, and a near miss at the TOUR Championship.
Beyond this, Thomas was likely disadvantaged by the untimely end to the PGA TOUR season after his victory at the first ever CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, which occurred precisely at the peak of his dominating performance.
A continuation of Thomas’ supremacy, and perhaps a duel for the world #1 position between fellow Americans Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, is high on the wishlist of this golf writer. Even more alluring and captivating (and perhaps a bit too wishful) is the thought of a major championship duel between world #3 Justin Thomas and world #2 Jordan Spieth, two childhood friends who played junior golf together throughout adolescence.
Hopefully, the winter offseason doesn’t prove too lengthy for Thomas, and he retains the momentum that propelled him through a memorable 2017.
Justin Thomas of the United States celebrates with the FedEx Cup…
Justin Thomas of the United States celebrates with the FedEx Cup trophy after the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sept. 24, 2017. Thomas finished the season-ending… Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
#3 To witness a career grand slam (or more than one)
The last time that a year began in which three current players could complete a career grand slam was 1994—and the golfers contending for the coveted career slam were Tom Watson (PGA Championship), Raymond Floyd (Open Championship), and Arnold Palmer (PGA Championship). Palmer retired permanently that following year, Floyd played his final Open Championship in 1995, and Watson—despite competing in thirty-two total PGA Championships—would never claim a victory in the event.
For nearly twenty years, the preeminence of Tiger prevented the parity necessary for three players to concurrently hold victories in three different major championships—therefore, fans were deprived of the intrigue that these earlier eras provided.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on during the first round of…
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on during the first round of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 6, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
Now, however, in the post-Tiger era, the careers of players like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and Phil Mickelson have thrived, allowing a unique opportunity for three different players to plausibly win the career grand slam in the same year.
Phil Mickelson, now forty-seven years old, still pines for that evasive US Open victory. Rory McIlroy, after triumphing in the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, now contends in his fourth opportunity to claim a career grand slam at The Masters. Jordan Spieth, after winning the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, will have his second opportunity to obtain the coveted slam—after placing a disappointing T-28 in the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.
Jordan Spieth of the United States kisses the Claret Jug after…
Jordan Spieth of the United States kisses the Claret Jug after winning the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale on July 23, 2017 in Southport, England. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
With 2018 dawning, history awaits.
#4 A Team USA triumph on European Soil at the 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris
It has been a long time since a United States Ryder Cup team was victorious on European soil. But, how long, precisely?
When asked about the possibility of playing for a winning Ryder Cup team on European soil, eleven-time Ryder Cup player Phil Mickelson replied, “That’s the one thing I haven’t done.” To add context, Mickelson has played in eleven Ryder Cups and twelve Presidents’ Cups—not missing a single hosting of either team event since 1993.
Mickelson’s first Ryder Cup was the 1995 edition of the event, hosted at Oak Hill, in which the Americans lost 14½-13½ to a European surge in the Sunday singles matches. Of what would likely be his final Ryder Cup appearance, Mickelson has commented: “I want to go win a Ryder Cup over there and I want to be part of that as a player… because I’ve never been on a winning Ryder Cup team over in Europe.”
Tom Watson of the USA holds the trophy aloft after the Ryder Cup at…
Tom Watson of the USA holds the trophy aloft after the Ryder Cup at The Belfry Golf Club in Sutton Coldfield, England. Mandatory Credit: Chris Cole/Allsport Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
Summarily, it’s been awhile since Americans hoisted the Cup on the eastern shores of the Atlantic. Specifically, the last time an American team won on European soil was in the 1993 Ryder Cup at The Belfry.
To add perspective, the Americans were coached by Tom Watson, and the Europeans by Bernard Gallacher. Although the USA has been on the precipice of victory in Europe on multiple occasions—losing 14½-13½ in 1997 at Valderrama Golf Club in Scotland, falling short 15½-12½ at The Belfry in 2002, and foundering 14½-13½ in heartbreaking fashion in 2010 at Celtic Manor–a victory across the pond has remained a pipe dream.
However, with what will likely be one of the strongest Ryder Cup teams in decades—considering the stars-and-stripes monopoly in the Official World Golf Ranking, and the overwhelming 19-11 team USA victory in the 2017 Presidents Cup at Liberty National—2018 may finally be an opportunity to reclaim a unique accolade that has stymied American Ryder Cup squads for nearly a quarter century.
Tom Watson captain of the United States team with team members Fred…
Tom Watson captain of the United States team with team members Fred Couples,Chip Beck,Lee Janzen, Corey Pavin, John Cook, Payne Stewart, Davis Love III, Jim Gallagher, Jr., Raymond Floyd, Tom Kite,… Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
#5 A US Open victory for Phil Mickelson at Shinnecock Hills (finally)
For Phil Mickelson, the hourglass on his United States Open career is down to its final few grains of sand. Dusk is painting Mickelson’s career a crepuscular shade of orange, and only one glaring question remains for a player whose golfing life has been typified by continuous success: in the gloaming, will Phil ever finally win the United States Open?
The 2013 inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame has six-runner up finishes in the tournament—an all-time record for any player in the US Open—and has recorded ten top-ten performances. “Lefty” has eleven runner-ups in major championships, twenty-two appearances in USA team events, forty-two PGA TOUR victories (9th most all time), five major championships, and is one of only eighteen men in the history of golf to have claimed three of the game’s four major championships.
The United States Open is the only asterisk blemishing Mickelson’s hall of fame resume.
Phil Mickelson of the United States holds his head as he loses the…
Phil Mickelson of the United States holds his head as he loses the lead at the 18th hole during the final round of the 2006 U.S. Open Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club. Mickelson was poised to… Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
And in 2018, at Shinnecock Hills, he’ll have a unique opportunity to seize redemption in an almost poetic fashion.
Golfer Phil Mickelson stares at the ground June 18 on the 18th green…
Golfer Phil Mickelson stares at the ground June 18 on the 18th green after realizing he would double-bogey to lose the U.S. Open by one stroke to Geoff Ogilvy. “I’m such an idiot,” Mickelson told… Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
In 2004, Shinnecock was the site of a particularly stinging US Open runner-up performance for Mickelson, in which he three-putted from five feet on the 71st hole en-route to a two-under-par score of 278, which left him two-shots shy of champion Retief Goosen.
This year, however, forty-eight year old Phil Mickelson will have the opportunity to exorcise his demons at a host course that haunted him more than a decade ago.
Phil Mickelson of the United States walks on the 16th hole during the…
Phil Mickelson of the United States walks on the 16th hole during the continuation of the weather delayed first round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club on June 17, 2016 in Oakmont,… Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
Regardless of whether these captivating narratives prove to be stunning eventualities, or just wishful thinking, 2018 is certain to be a memorable year in the golfing world.
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