You couldn’t pick a better place for the first hole-in-one of your career. At the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Sam Ryder hits the perfect shot on what is probably the biggest party hole on the PGA Tour and makes the crowd go crazy.
The 32-year-old played the ball with a 54-degree wedge onto the green at the 124 yard par-3, the ball bounced briefly and rolled into the hole! After that, the cheers knew no bounds. Sam Ryder himself jumped into his caddie’s arms, high-fived his group partners and could hardly believe his luck. “Still kind of coming down off the adrenaline,” Ryder said, “it was pretty crazy.”
But it was not only a special moment for the golfer: the numerous fans at the legendary hole, which is completely surrounded by grandstands, knew no bounds. No one in the spectator stands was left dry, drinks were ecstatically spread into the air and cups were hurled onto the course. The 16th hole was a party mile and the title sponsor of the tournament was able to pursue his main occupation. The clean-up lasted about fifteen minutes before Brian Harman and his group could continue their round. For the spectators, too, the hole-in-one was unique: “The craziest thing I have ever seen” and “the greatest experience of my life”.
First Ace on 16 since 2015
The ace on the 16th at TPC Scottsdale was the first since Francesco Molinari teed off at the same spot in 2015. It also brings back memories of other legendary hole-in-ones like Tiger Woods’ 25 years ago. For Sam Ryder, however, it’s quickly getting down to daily business. The American brought an even-par round into the clubhouse and will start Sunday’s final round in tied 29th place. “I’ll try and get ready for tomorrow and hopefully have a good day and finish the tournament strong,” Ryder said. He will, however, make sure that the staff around the event are well compensated: “All the drinks on me!”
World Number Two and reigning Open champion Collin Morikawa and four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy are among the world’s best who will join defending champion Paul Casey as a new era begins at Emirates Golf Club from January 27-30.
World Number Six Viktor Hovland became the first Norwegian to play in the Ryder Cup last year. He will make his second appearance at the event, alongside teammates Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Bernd Wiesberger, as well as their Captain, three-time Major winner Pádraig Harrington.
The 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry, who also made his Ryder Cup debut at Whistling Straits, will join Europe’s all-time leading points scorer and fellow Major winner Sergio Garcia in the field, with the Spaniard aiming to lift the famous Dallah trophy for the second time.
Danny Willett is seeking to achieve the same feat, with the Englishman setting the precedent for Garcia by winning at the Emirates Golf Club just months before securing the Green Jacket.
Anniversary for Adam Scott
It promises to be a memorable anniversary for another former winner at Augusta National, with the 2013 Masters Tournament champion Adam Scott returning to the event exactly 20 years after his last appearance in 2002. Meanwhile it will be a 13th appearance for the 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell.
Slync.io, the logistics technology provider that is revolutionising the way global supply chains work, is the new title sponsor of the Dubai Desert Classic, an event which boasts a glittering list of former winners.
Amongst those once again teeing it up this month are 2016 Open Champion Henrik Stenson, victorious European Ryder Cup Captains Thomas Bjørn and Colin Montgomerie, Spanish Ryder Cup stars Rafa Cabrera Bello and Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher – the only player to have lifted the trophy in consecutive seasons. With two-time DP World Tour winners Lucas Herbert and Li Haotong also in the field, 10 of the 13 winners in the past 15 years will appear.
The Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic will also provide a unique opportunity for one up-and-coming star, with Texan Sam Bennett claiming a sponsor exemption as the top-ranked player in the PGA TOUR University Velocity Global Ranking.
Simon Corkill, Executive Tournament Director, Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic, said: “This year’s Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic has attracted some of the world’s best golfers, and we look forward to welcoming a world-class international field for a truly memorable edition of the event. With free entry for spectators this year, a first for the tournament, there is sure to be an incredible atmosphere befitting the elevated status of a Rolex Series event on the DP World Tour.”
The Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic 2022 will be the second of back-to-back Rolex Series events in the Middle East in January, with the tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Dubai also part of the European Tour’s traditional ‘Desert Swing’ which annually attract the sport’s leading players.
Tournament’s 33rd edition
Celebrating its 33rd edition in 2022, the iconic tournament has been won by some of golf’s greatest names, including Major Champions Seve Ballesteros, Fred Couples, Jose Maria Olazábal, Mark O’Meara, Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau.
The winners’ circle over the past 32 years has also featured Ryder Cup stars such as Mark James, the inaugural champion in 1989. The tournament is now set for an even brighter future with the support of Slync.io.
This year’s event offers plenty to interest spectators both on and off the course. Tournament Town will provide a wide range of family- friendly entertainment in addition to food trucks from some of the city’s popular brands including Shawarma Station, Aballi Arabic Concept, Wok Boyz, Koshari, Choma BBQ, Burro Blanco and more.
Other initiatives include ‘Pink Saturday’, where players, caddies and fans are encouraged to dress in pink to raise awareness about breast cancer in the UAE and beyond, and ‘Sustainability Sunday’, a day dedicated to bringing the tournament’s many green and sustainable initiatives into focus.
The stars of the PGA Tour around Rory McIlroy are asked performance reviews – and still have plenty of room for improvement for the upcoming year.
As the year draws to a close, it’s time for the annual performance reviews. This is also the case on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, where the stars like Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Co. are called into office for the year-end performance reviews.
PGA Tour: year-end performance reviews
Actor John C. McGinley, known as Dr. Perry Cox from the hospital series “Scrubs”, sits in front of them and sums up the performance of the professionals in the past year with many allusions. Rory McIlroy, for example, looks back on two wins in 2021 and considers himself his harshest critic, “but that could all change.”
Jordan Spieth has to face the interview without his caddie Michael and is “very nervous” about it, and Justin Thomas has to answer for his beer action at the Ryder Cup. Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton, whose height and emotional nature are always a topic, Henrik Stenson, Scottie Scheffler and Collin Morikawa also have to make an appearance. The latter is “by any estimate, perfect” but that’s where the danger lies, the interviewer said.
McGinley, who plays management consultant Bob Slydell in the film “Office Space,” analyzes the stars and their performances. In the process, it also becomes clear that many stars have no plan B up their sleeves in case their golfing career should come to an end overnight. Finally, the interviewer himself is taken for a ride.
The captain of the winning Solheim Cup team, Catriona Matthew, was awarded for her achievements as a player and captain.
Catriona Matthew has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Confederation of Professional Golf (CPG). The Scot received the award for her achievements in her long career as a player and captain.
Catriona Matthew: “Very prestigious”
The Lifetime Achievement Award, which was introduced in 2011, has been given to Seve Ballesteros (posthumously), Alison Nicholas, Bernhard Langer and José María Olazábal, among others. “It is very prestigious to be following on from these fantastic names” commented Matthew, as she received the award at her home club, The North Berwick Golf Club. “I am delighted and honoured to be given this award. It is fantastic recognition for how I have played and performed over the years.”
The 52-year-old has had a successful career on the LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour, and recorded her greatest success of her singles career in 2009 when she won the British Women’s Open. As a player on the European Solheim Cup team, Matthew claimed victory over her American counterparts on three occasions. Most recently, the four-time LPGA Tour winner captained the women’s continental competition in 2019 and 2021, leading Europe to victory each time.
“We are delighted to be able to recognise Catriona with this award for the significant achievements she has had as a player and more recently as a captain” commented CPG Chief Executive, Ian Randell. “This year’s Solheim Cup success for Europe was one of, if not the, highlight of the golfing year and Catriona’s leadership of a team that contained 8 different nationalities from across Europe was truly outstanding. The fondness and respect that Catriona commands across the game is there for all to see and I could not think of a more deserving recipient of this year’s award.”
New figures reveal an increase in golf participation. 2.3 million more adults played on-course in Great Britain and Ireland last year, and the sport is now being encouraged to grasp the opportunity to retain new and returning players.
Research led by The R&A, together with England Golf, Golf Ireland, Scottish Golf and Wales Golf, demonstrates how the sport thrived in 2020 despite the significant challenges of Covid-19.
The two new participation reports, produced by specialist research agency Sports Marketing Surveys, show that a significant number of players enjoyed golf on full-length courses as well as alternative forms of the sport, including the use of driving ranges, Par 3 golf and pitch and putt. Other encouraging findings show an increase in the number of female golfers and a reduction in the average age of participants.
Richard Payne: “We are really excited”
Reflecting on the research, SMS director Richard Payne noted, “For golf participation to have grown in the way it has in the context of the external pressures it has faced is nothing short of amazing. We suspected this might be the case when our figures showed that more rounds were played in 2020 than in 2019 despite course closures, but rounds played is only one part of the story. We now know that the growth wasn’t only down to existing golfers playing more, but also significantly boosted by new players coming into the sport. More people on driving ranges, par 3s and full-length courses is good for the whole game, from course operators to manufacturers to retailers, events and broadcasters. We are really excited to help the golf industry take advantage of this, and we’ve already been having lots of great conversations with clients keen to understand how research can help them build on the momentum.”
Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, said, “We have seen a real surge in the number of golfers in Great Britain and Ireland playing the sport and this is reflected by the high demand for tee times and clubs reporting a strong interest in membership last year.”
“Golf has shown that it can provide significant health benefits, and this has been important for many golfers during these very challenging times. It is vital that golf seizes the opportunity to maintain this heightened interest by offering new and returning golfers compelling reasons to stay within the sport and enjoy it with friends and family,” he said.
Key highlights from the 2020 Great Britain Golf Participation Report:
Total adult golfers on a full-length course (9 or 18 hole) increased by 2.1 million players to 5.2 million – the highest figure recorded this century;
Of these golfers, 36% identified as returning or new golfers – with 16% of players starting or trying golf for the first time because of the pandemic;
The average age of golfers fell by five years to 41, with the majority of new golfers aged under 55;
25% of female golfers were new to the sport – and tried it for the first time because of the pandemic;
Driving range use increased from 2.3 million to 4.3 million players;
The number of golfers who only used Par 3 courses more than doubled, and those who only played on pitch and putt courses more than tripled.
Key highlights from the 2020 Ireland Golf Participation Report:
Total adult golfers on a full-length course increased by 219,000 to 540,000
18% returned to golf or started or tried golf for the first time because of the pandemic
A third of adult golfers who tried golf for the first time were under 25 years old
Following the easing of lockdown restrictions, The R&A identified the need to further understand the new demand and how different types of golfers were engaging with the sport.
Post Covid Opportunity Research
The Post Covid Opportunity Research was a supplementary project carried out by SMS. It assesses the experiences of golfers during the pandemic, their motivations for playing and their long-term plans for the future. Among new golfers, 98% of those interviewed identified they are enjoying playing golf and 95% see themselves playing golf for many years to come.
The impact of Covid-19 restrictions on mental and physical health and loneliness has been considerable, with the research showing how golf has helped in these areas.
Key findings include:
Among avid/regular golfers, 31% had experienced some negative impact on their feelings of loneliness/isolation as a result of the pandemic. Of these, 79% believe playing golf had a positive impact.
Among lapsed/returning golfers, 44% had experienced some negative impact on their mental health as a result of the pandemic. Of these, 92% felt that playing golf had a positive impact.
Among occasional/infrequent golfers, 34% had experienced some negative impact on their physical health as a result of the pandemic. Of these, 70% agreed that playing golf had a positive impact.
The research also outlined recommendations that clubs can take to retain new players. These include making sure golfers feel welcome and valued; cultivating a friendly culture and relaxed atmosphere; promoting participation options based on ability and experience; offering excellent customer service; providing an efficient booking system; and prioritising the quality and maintenance of the course.
Anderton added, “The mental and physical health benefits of golf have helped boost participation in 2020 and that is hugely encouraging given the sport offers a wonderful form of exercise out in the fresh air for all ages and abilities.”
“With more female players also coming into the sport, it presents an opportunity for golf clubs to harness interest from this key demographic and to engage in our #FOREveryone campaign.”
“The campaign encourages clubs to consider how they can attract more women and girls into the sport and challenge unhelpful stereotypes to demonstrate that it is an enjoyable pastime and career for people of all ages and backgrounds.”