Paris - A watershed year in golf saw the
emergence of a new "Big Three", filling the vacuum left by the
fast-fading Tiger Woods.
Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy
ended the year on the world rankings podium, in that order, and their rivalry
is set to shine brightly in the new year.
Spieth, at just 22, is the youngest of the
three and, for much of the year gone by, he was the story.
He won the Masters for his first major
title in April and followed up by taking the US Open two months later. He then
set sail for St Andrews with talk of the never-before achieved calendar-year
Grand Slam starting to dominate sporting pages.
He came agonisingly close to becoming just
the second player, after Ben Hogan in 1953, to win the first three majors of
the year, but a bogey at the 17th, the Road Hole, saw him miss out by one
stroke on a three-man playoff won by Zach Johnson.
Spieth then lost the world number one spot
he had taken from McIlroy in June to the then 27-year-old Australian Day, who
won four tournaments from late July to mid-September, including his first major
at the PGA Championship.
The Texan though regained the number one spot
with his win in the closing Tour Championship, clinching the FedEx Cup into the
McIlroy in contrast had a mixed bag of a
year, failing to add to his haul of major titles which remains at four.
He only had himself to blame after being
forced to miss the defence of his British Open crown because of an ankle
ligament injury picked up during an impromptu football kick about with friends.
But the 26-year-old from Northern Ireland
finished the year strongly, a superb showing in Dubai in November giving him
the DP World Tour Championship title and the Race to Dubai European Tour crown.
Spieth says he fully expects himself to win
at least one major championship in 2016, but he believes it might be too early
to put himself and Day up on a pedestal with McIlroy.
"I think for Rory it's a bit different
because he's been consistent for a number of years now," he said.
"It's still so early in my career so
it's hard for me to compare to others. But what an exciting year it was for
golf, with so many young players playing so well.
"If Rory was healthy for the whole
year he would have made a bigger impact than he was able to make in a shorter
"And then with what Rickie Fowler did
this season, breaking through with three wins and Jason and myself it was
McIlroy says he has learned a lesson from
the football injury mishap and that he is energised by the challenge presented
by such as Spieth and Day.
But his current focus is very much on the
Masters at Augusta National in April where he will attempt, for the second
straight year, to become just the sixth man to win all four of golf's majors.
"It's always going to be there until I
get to put a green jacket on my back," he said.
"It's obviously the first real goal of
the year is to try and get ready for the Masters and be in as good a shape as
possible going in there.
"But golf's in a great place. Guys are
playing better than ever it seems like, at least for me, the last couple of
As for Woods, the 14-time major winner
turns 40 on December 30 at a time when his very future in the game is up in the
Asked in early December if it was possible
he may not play at all in 2016 as he recovers from two operations on his back
in September and October, Woods replied: "You know, I've been asked this
quite a bit lately and the answer is I don't know, only because I really don't,
I really don't.
"For my 20 years out here, I think
I've achieved a lot, and if that's all it entails, then I've had a pretty good
run. But I'm hoping that's not it.
"I'm hoping that I can get back out
here and compete against these guys.
"But if that's not the case anymore,
then I'll find other avenues, that being growing my foundation, golf course
design or other projects I have going on right now that will certainly take up
more of my time."