Year in review: Palmer leaves a lasting legacy

Rory McIlroy reacts after sinking a putt on the fourth hole of a play-off to win the Tour Championship and with it the FedEx Cup.
Rory McIlroy reacts after sinking a putt on the fourth hole of a play-off to win the Tour Championship and with it the FedEx Cup. John Bazemore

Death of the king

THE golfing world and beyond stopped and paid tribute to the man they called "The King” in September following the death of Arnold Palmer.

Palmer was the man credited for bringing the game to the masses, especially in the early days of sport on TV.

His on-course battles with the two other members of the "Big Three”, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, was the stuff of legend.

Palmer became an ambassador for the game once he finished tearing up courses around the world and today's golfers have him to thank for a lot of the benefits they receive now.

In a career lasting more than 60 years, Palmer won 62 PGA Tour titles from 1955 to 1973, placing him at that time behind only Sam Snead and Ben Hogan. He is still fifth on the Tour's all-time victory list.

In a message on Twitter not long after his old pal died, Jack Nicklaus wrote: "He has always been a fighter and he never gave up on anything.

"He didn't give up even now.

"Maybe his body did, but I know Arnold's will and spirit did not.”

Nicklaus regretted that he hadn't had another chance to speak to his old friend, whom he called a legend, an icon and a pioneer.

"We were great competitors, who loved competing against each other, but we were always great friends along the way,” he said.

"Arnold always had my back, and I had his. We were always there for each other. That never changed. He was the king of our sport and always will be.”

Masters meltdown

THE US Masters at Augusta has seen some fadeouts down the years and 20 years on from the most famous one of all - Greg Norman's final-round collapse in 1996 - Jordan Spieth contrived to do something similar.

The American had built what looked like an unbeatable lead of five shots going into the back nine on the last day after being in front since the opening round.

But on holes 10, 11 and 12, he lost six shots to par, culminating in a quadruple- bogey on the 12th where he hit two balls in to Rae's Creek.

Unsung Englishman Danny Willett held his nerve to become the first winner from his country since Nick Faldo in 1996, defeating Spieth and fellow Englishman Lee Westwood by three shots.

"It's been crazy,” said Willett after his win.

"You can't really describe the emotions and feelings.”

Final-round shootout

THE last round of the British Open at Royal Troon will go down in history as one of the best last days of a major tournament.

Much like the 1977 championship at Turnberry when Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson went head to head in the "duel in the sun”, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson battled it out for the Claret Jug.

No one else came close to the duo, who went shot for shot in a thrilling encounter.

As the round came to a close, Mickelson narrowly missed an eagle putt on the 16th, while Stenson got up and down from the greenside rough for a birdie to maintain his advantage before sealing his win with a birdie at last for a round of 63.

Stenson equalled the major championship scoring record on 20-under, while establishing a new Open mark on his way to his first career major title.

McIlroy's payday

RORY McIlroy has won almost everything in his short career but he had never had such a pay day as he did at the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta.

McIlroy was three shots off the pace with three holes to play on the final round before holing a wedge shot for an eagle.

The shot helped him into a play-off and four holes into that, he knocked in a birdie on the 16th to beat Ryan Moore for the Tour Championship and also claim the FedEx Cup.

That putt earned the Northern Irishman $US11.53 million - the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus and $1.53 million for the Tour Championship title.

His second victory in three weeks made him the first player to win four FedEx Cup play-off events, after two wins in 2012.

Jason Day of Australia holds the trophy after winning the Players Championship.
Jason Day of Australia holds the trophy after winning the Players Championship. ERIK S. LESSER

Day's big year

AUSTRALIAN Jason Day had a wonderful year, winning three tournaments - the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the WGC Dell Match Play and the Players Championship - to give him the world No.1 ranking.

"I want to be to be able to be looked back on and know that 'he was one of the greats in the game'. If I have the opportunity to do that, I'm going to try my best,” Day said after his four-shot victory at the Players Championship, considered the unofficial fifth major.

"And I have the opportunity to do that right now, try and work as hard as I can to really leave my footprint in this game.

"I'm very motivated to win as much as I can right now.”

Day finished second and third in two other tournaments as well as having 10 other top-10 finishes.

He also finished second behind Jimmy Walker in the US PGA and was also in contention for the FedEx Cup $10 million bonus before a back injury cut short his season.

Gold medal glory

INBEE Park had seven major titles to her name, a career grand slam and was a former world No 1.

She also became the first Olympic champion in women's golf since 1900 after holding off the challenge of world No.1 Lydia Ko and China's Feng Shanshan at the Rio Games.

Park recorded a five-under 66 to finish on 16-under (268) for the week, five shots clear of Ko, who won the silver.

"I feel extremely honoured and proud that I get to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games,” world No.5 Park said.

"It feels truly unreal. I am just so happy to be standing on the highest spot on the podium. I have won many tournaments but I have never felt this before.”

Great Britain's Justin Rose won the gold in the men's event, the first time men's golf had been at the Olympics since 1904.

Henrik Stenson this time was runner-up in a thrilling final round in Rio.

Rose, 36, was level with Stenson on 15-under-par after 17 holes but the Swede bogeyed the last, while Rose sank a birdie putt to win by two shots.

"That felt better than anything I've ever won,” Rose said.

"It was the best tournament I've ever done.

"Hopefully we've shown Brazil what golf is about.

"I'm glad it was close. Not for my nerves, for golf.”

Topics:  henrik stenson jason day jordan spieth pga tour rory mcilroy sportfeature us masters year in review

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