Richard Boxall reflects on a golfing year to remember on Sky Sports
Last Updated: 25/12/16 11:08am
From major memories to new success stories, Richard Boxall reflects on the standout moments from a golfing year to remember, live on Sky Sports.
I was delighted to be part of team that broadcast The Open live for the first time, and the tournament was spectacular and served up a captivating battle between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson.
We witnessed a lot of "firsts" on that special Sunday, but it was also the first time I had ever seen a leaderboard pop up on screen with only two names on it!
The standard of golf from the top two was of outstanding quality, the lead kept changing hands over the front nine, and you couldn't keep your eyes off the action throughout the day.
Few will remember that JB Holmes won the "other tournament" and finished third - albeit a distant 11 shots behind Mickelson.
The US Open also provided a dramatic finale, although much of that was for the wrong reasons. I was full of admiration for the way Dustin Johnson handled himself over the last six or seven holes having been told he "might" be subject to a one-shot penalty.
To play the way he did when he did not know exactly where he stood was great to see, and his second to a couple of feet on a very difficult final hole was certainly one of the shots of the year.
One of my favourite events on the regular European Tour was the Made In Denmark, a tournament that attracts fantastic support and is played on a superb golf course.
The feature hole at the Himmerland resort is the par-three 16th, a hole which proves you do not have to have a 200-yarder to make it exciting. It played under 100 yards on a couple of days and the green is surrounded by thousands of fans.
It's a colourful, vibrant amphitheatre and the Made In Denmark is popular with the players - I can see that tournament gaining stature in the future. Crowds make tournaments, and the Danes turn out in force in Farso.
And it was also a cracking finish, with Thomas Pieters making birdies at each of the last three holes to snatch a one-shot win over Bradley Dredge and stamp his ticket for the Ryder Cup.
The season finale in Dubai was also an exciting affair, and Pieters' European team-mate Matt Fitzpatrick played brilliant golf down the stretch to land his third title in 13 months … at just 22 years of age.
Fitzpatrick's win capped an excellent year for British and Irish golf, with English players winning the Masters, the BMW PGA and the Olympics before Fitzpatrick claimed the DP World Tour Championship.
Chris Wood earned the biggest prize of his career with an impressive performance at Wentworth in the European Tour's flagship event, and there was another home win in Ireland the week before when Rory McIlroy finished with a flourish at the K Club.
McIlroy's three-wood to the 16th and five-wood to two feet at the last were the marks of a true champion, and winning his home championship is a box he has been determined to tick for many years.
One of the standout players of the year was Alex Noren, who started the season with four wins to his name and managed to double his tally in the space of five months.
I was delighted to see Alex have so much success, barely two years after he thought his career might have been finished as he battled a serious wrist injury. But he fought his way back and also changed his attitude to the game. Instead of beating balls for hours on end at the range, he just went out and played.
He'd head straight to the course rather than the practice area and play a couple of rounds a day, and the "back-to-basics" approach certainly paid handsome dividends for the Swede.
Can he keep that form going? I think he can next year. Alex is a great ball-striker and a proven winner, and I'd expect him to reach double-figures for career wins in 2017.
It was an overwhelmingly positive 2016 for golf in general, but of course there were disappointments. Top of that list for Europeans was the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, where Team USA regained the trophy for the first time since 2008.
But there can be no arguments with the result. The Americans putted better throughout the week and were deserved winners, and now Thomas Bjorn has the responsibility of trying to win the Cup back for Europe in 2018.
The big Dane has huge experience and has been a part of several Ryder Cup teams whether as a player or as a member of the backroom staff. Darren Clarke had a tough act to follow after Paul McGinley masterminded victory against a very strong American team in 2014, but hopefully Bjorn will get Europe back on track in France.
The planning starts now, with the qualification system probably first on the agenda for discussion, but I'm confident Europe have the best possible man in charge.