Wow – 2018 was quite a year for golf fans. For me, it was a real vintage year, and I wanted to give you my thoughts on just a few of the best bits. The Majors delivered some great performances, we saw the return of Tiger Woods and of course it was a Ryder Cup year – but more of that later. Here are just a few of my highlights from a truly memorable 2018.
Francesco Molinari wins the Open.
I challenge any golf fan, however partisan, not to have felt a warm glow when Francesco Molinari managed to seal his first Major title after sealing victory in the 2018 Open Championship on a dramatic day at Carnoustie. It was just a great moment, one where he kept his cool impressively, despite feeling a resurgent Tiger Woods breathing down his neck to add to the pressure. A proud moment for Molinari, but also for Italy, who now have a Major winner in their ranks. While I’m on the subject of Molinari, I have to also mention his remarkable five matches he won for the European Team in the Ryder Cup.
Europe triumphs in the Ryder Cup
Truly the highlight of the year for any fan of European golf – the team’s incredible (and, if we’re honest, a bit unexpected) victory over the United States in France. Europe’s 17½-10½ win was crushing, and made all the more exciting by a spirited USA fightback that, fortunately for my nerves, didn’t last too long. The scenes at the end of this thrilling competition, with the crowds mobbing the players, is something that I’ll never for get. And what a way for Molinari to cap off a truly special year.
Seeing Justin Rose finally get to World Number One
Justin Rose can sit back and reflect on a quietly brilliant year – twelve months of consistent performances at the very highest level. Again and again the Englishman managed to finish in the top two or three of many of the competitions he entered, and remarkably he only missed the cut once all year. It was great to see him secure the number one spot – something that must mean a huge amount to him personally – and round off what has been a great 2018.
The return of Tiger Woods
I’ve personally never really been a huge fan of Tiger Woods. Some players capture your imagination as a spectator and for me there was just something about Woods that I could never really connect with. But that aside, it is impossible to deny the influence on the game of someone who is clearly one of the greatest players of all time, and so it has still been great to see that some of the old Tiger magic is still there. After a tumultuous few years, expectations really weren’t that high for Woods, but he has shown what a competitor he is, as he has begun to really find form as we’ve come to the end of the year. Love him or hate him, Woods is one of the greats, and on the evidence of 2018 he may well be on his way back in 2019.
Phil Mickelson’s moment of madness
The ensuing uproar in the media and the golf establishment was almost as entertaining as the moment itself. For those of you who might have missed it, Mickelson was on the 13th green of the US Open in Shinnecock (four over, with five bogeys already behind him), when his 18 foot putt rolled past the hole. Instead of just shaking his head and carrying on, Mickelson chased after the ball and hit it while it was still moving – a pretty fundamental breach of the most basic rules of golf.
It was something that some people saw as just a momentary rush of blood, while others put it in the context of Mickelson’s long running feud with the US golf authorities. Whatever it was, I’d imagine Mickelson will want to put it all behind him for 2019.
2018 has been a wonderful year in golf – not just for the professionals, but for myself as well. I’ve had the chance to play on some great courses when I have the time, and I’ve made good progress in certain areas of my game thanks to being able to practice regularly on my local courses in Hong Kong.
Here’s hoping that next year will bring as much excitement for golf fans as this one has.