The 2021 golf season saw several first-time major winners including Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit, American Nelly Korda, and Spain’s John Rahm.
It was a good year for Asian golfers or players with Asian blood on the biggest stages.
On the men’s side, Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese man to claim a major with a one-shot Masters win at Augusta National.
He was also the first Asian to claim the coveted green jacket.
Collin Morikawa flew the flag for the young guns, sealing his second major at the British Open after his triumph at the 2020 PGA Championship.
The 24-year-old, who is of Chinese-Japanese descent, ended the year as the European Tour No.1 — the first American — to do so with victory at the DP World Tour Championship.
American star Phil Mickelson became the oldest major champion at 50 with his PGA Championship win.
Covid-19 continued to affect players and a second infection in two months cruelly denied world No.1 Rahm, who won his first major title at the US Open, a shot at the Olympic gold medal.
The virus earlier forced Rahm to make a tearful exit from the Memorial Tournament while leading by six strokes.
American Xander Schauffele, who was born to a Taiwanese naturalised immigrant mother who grew up in Japan, won the gold medal at Tokyo 2020, ahead of silver medallist Rory Sabbatini and third-placed CT Pan of Taiwan.
Bryson DeChambeau, who also missed the Olympics due to Covid-19, grabbed the headlines for his feud with Brooks Koepka before the pair buried the hatchet to help the United States seal a 19-9 Ryder Cup win over Europe.
Tiger Woods is no stranger to trials and tribulations and 2021 proved to be another test of his resolve after a serious car accident left the 15-time major champion in a wheelchair, facing doubts about his career.
The 45-year-old, who won the last of his majors at the 2019 Masters following multiple back and knee operations as well as personal problems, was close to having his leg amputated after he lost control and crashed in Los Angeles in February.
A recovering Woods, who returned at last week’s PNC Championship and played with 12-year-old son Charlie, told fans hoping he can have another title tilt on the grandest stages that there was some way to go.
“Maybe one day it’ll be good enough where I can get out and compete against the best in the world again,” Woods said, adding he hoped to play in the British Open at St Andrews in July.
He and Charlie finished second at the PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida.
A dream come true
Asian women excelled on the LPGA Tour as Patty (ANA Inspiration) and the Philippines’ Yuka Saso (US Women’s Open) tasted major success for the first time and South Korea’s Ko Jin-Young won the player of the year award.
Patty, whose Thai name is Paphangkorn, also won the LPGA Tour’s rookie of the year title and the Annika Major Award which recognises the player who has the most outstanding record in all five major championships in the season.
Patty, now 22, wanted to follow in the footsteps of Tiger Woods, whose mother is Thai, when she was a kid.
She watched TV footage of Woods winning a tournament and decided that she wanted to be like him one day.
“It’s a dream come true,” Patty said after winning the ANA Inspiration.
World No.1 Korda stole the spotlight by winning four tournaments — including her first major at the Women’s PGA Championship — and the Olympic gold medal.
Japan’s Mone Inami finished second and Lydia Ko of New Zealand third at the Olympics.
Minjee Lee, an Australian of Korean blood, claimed her first major crown at the Evian Championship, while Anna Nordqvist of Sweden took the Women’s British Open title.
Meanwhile, Ariya Jutanugarn became the first local player to win the LPGA Thailand.
Compatriot Atthaya Thitikul won two tournaments on the Ladies European Tour and took the Race to Costa del Sol, player of the year and rookie of the year honours. The 18-year-old recently secured a ticket to play on the LPGA Tour next season.
Europe retained the Solheim Cup in style by beating the US on their home soil at the Inverness Club in Ohio.
The Asian Tour announced a major overhaul by introducing 10 events after inking a US$200 million partnership with LIV Golf Investments, led by Australian golf legend Greg Norman.
The company is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) which recently took over English football club Newcastle United.
The tour resumed after 20 months of inaction due to the Covid-19 pandemic with two recent events in Phuket.
Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai finally secured his breakthrough win on the Asian Tour when he claimed the Laguna Phuket Championship title earlier this month.
Golf lost several names, none more prominent than 87-year-old Lee Elder, a champion of racial justice who in 1975 became the first Black man to compete in the Masters, paving the way for Woods and others.
Power hitters continued to wow fans, but in a move to curb them the Royal & Ancient and United States Golf Association said organisers of professional tournaments could reduce the maximum length of clubs from 48 inches to 46 inches from next month.
Source: Bangkok Post