After looking back at the year with former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez, Tony came up with his own version of the 2019 ‘Tony Awards’:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
“I can’t separate Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Jon Rahm. Rory didn’t win a major, which of course he sets out to do every year, but he won four times and his consistency throughout the season was something to behold.
Rahm also played some terrific golf. He was identified as a precocious talent a few years ago and there’s a lot of expectation on him when he plays. But I think he proved he’s the real deal in 2019. He has learned to control his temper, it seems, and worked out how to turn that natural aggression into a real determination to succeed. He’s just got married and, historically speaking, choosing the right life partner has always been important for the greatest golfers. To become only the second Spaniard to finish the year as Europe’s number one is a superb achievement.
What a year Tiger had too! Winning the Masters, equalling Sam Snead’s record for PGA Tour victories and then performing so well at the Presidents Cup. He’s right back at the top again and I believe he’s the best player in the world again when he’s firing on all cylinders. It was a brave move to be a player-captain at the Presidents Cup but he carried it off the way only he can.
No one has better control of his mind than Tiger. He’s got that side of the game off to a fine art and if he can stay physically fit we will see lots more fireworks from him next year.”
“The dramatic conclusion to the Solheim Cup will live with me for a long time. For Suzann Pettersen to make that 6-foot putt on the last green to win the trophy for Europe when everything was on the line was truly unforgettable. And it also ended up being the final shot of her career. It was spectacular. Team events in golf have a habit of producing moments like that. What a way to bring the curtain down.
That moment touched me beyond anything else because I know that when it’s a team event, it’s a lot harder for the players. It’s not just about you as an individual, you’ve got so much more awareness of what’s going on around you. There’s no greater pressure than what we see in the Solheim Cup, the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. They all go to great venues and massive TV audiences are watching how things unfold. Suzann’s putt topped everything, for me. It was the stuff of dreams.”
SHOCK OF THE SEASON
“I mentioned Rory’s stellar year earlier but his failure to make the cut on his home course at The Open certainly was the shock of the season. It was such a surprise to me that he turned up at Royal Portrush so unprepared and tender-minded. He hit back on the second day, of course, but he had left himself a mountain to climb.
At the top level you need to know as much about the mental side of the game as you can and Rory made novice mistakes. He seemed to have been taken in by all the pre-tournament hype and fell apart mentally. That was a huge lesson for him. When he’s in full flow he’s arguably the best player on the planet but he got it so wrong in Northern Ireland.
On the plus side, Shane Lowry’s Open victory was so captivating. He embraced the occasion of playing with the Irish fans cheering him on. He’s a lovely guy and it was a very popular win. It was fairytale stuff from him. It was pure theatre and great to see the oldest Major championship go back to Ireland after such a long absence. I enjoy it when golf courses are highlighted as part of the story, it was the same for the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne, which is another wonderful layout.”
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
“There are some fantastic young players coming through in both the men’s and women’s game but Norwegian Viktor Hovland really caught my eye. We haven’t seen that much of him on the PGA Tour but he is someone I’m going to enjoy watching in the future. Not just for his golf but for his whole demeanour. He is like a breath of fresh air because he’s got a permanent smile on his face and looks as if he’s enjoying himself on the course. I love the way he conducts himself and can see great things ahead for him.”
MOST ENCOURAGING ANNOUNCEMENT
“The partnership between the LPGA and Ladies European Tour is a really positive move. The LET have been struggling for sponsors and tournaments for years and the new alliance can only benefit the girls in Europe. I’m a big fan of LPGA chief Mike Whan. I think he does a great job for the women’s game and I’m sure he will continue to push it forward.
It’s encouraging to see the two tours either side of the pond joining forces and I’m sure Mike will come up with the goods now. He’s a sharp cookie with a real entrepreneurial instinct. I suspect that the new partnership will mean that his tour becomes a much more global affair with a lot more travelling involved for the American girls. In order to get the prize money increasing, it will be a case of have clubs, will travel for the players on both sides of the Atlantic.”