What stories will grab the biggest headlines in golf in the new year? Chances are they'll have something to do with the following subjects. So here's your primer for 2017.
Jason Day has been No. 1 since winning the WGC-Dell Match Play in March, but his only highlight from the second half of 2016 was a spectacular closing eagle while finishing second at the PGA, and his propensity for nagging injuries does not bode well for staying at the top. Dustin Johnson, coming off his first major and all the Player of the Year awards, wants to get to No. 1 for the first time, and he should if he continues his new-found determination to keep the pedal to the metal. Rory McIlroy carries the most momentum into 2017, having won the FedEx Cup and demonstrating some much-needed improvement on the greens under the direction of putting coach Phil Kenyon. He’ll be calling on those gains at the Masters, where he’ll look to complete the career Grand Slam. Jordan Spieth might be the most motivated big name, eager to get past the scars of the Masters and return to No. 1, and his T-3 at the SBS Tournament of Champions was a good start. Two dark horses are Henrik Stenson, playing the best golf of his life after 40, and Hideki Matsuyama, who in his past six tournaments has four wins and two seconds after his runner-up showing at Kapalua.
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Woods seems to have a new outlook and brighter attitude. He’s committing early, and playing more often. His newsletter is long, and he has a book coming out. His performance at last month’s Hero World Challenge was a triumph over low expectations, and Paul McGinley was right to call the reaction over the top. Who knows how Woods will play once he finally rejoins the rank and file, but if he’s sound of mind and body, here’s a sage view from legendary instructor John Jacobs in 2011: “When Tiger’s mind was clear, he was probably as good as Jack, but I wouldn’t say better. Jack was not as well-equipped in his short game, so he had to be better internally, and that’s where Tiger is being tested now. Tiger hits more bad shots than Jack did, but he has saved them with his putter and short game. Going forward, he should be focused on hitting fewer bad shots and needing his putter less.”