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Golfing world can be excited for 2016

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Volcanoes as a backdrop, thrill seekers surfing a crystal blue ocean, foliage to rival anywhere on earth; one would be forgiven for thinking this describes a tropical paradise fit for a summer holiday.

Whilst Hawaii remains a popular destination for that, this stunning scenery also plays host to the opening PGA tour event of the calendar year, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

A stellar field including Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, and Rickie Fowler have gone to the island of Maui to kick off the busiest golf season ever as a result of golf's debut in the Olympic Games in Rio.

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Golf's entrance into the Olympics has brought changes to the traditional calendar, with the Bridgestone WGC now taking place before the Open and consequently clashing with the French Open on the European Tour.

Furthermore, there is now just one week between the Open and the PGA, leading to a hectic five-week stretch that includes these two majors on opposite sides of the Atlantic, and then the Olympics in Rio.

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The impending tournament in Rio has received much publicity, especially given former world number one Adam Scott's outspoken views on his ambivalence towards the event, and Rory McIlroy's choice between representing Ireland and Great Britain. The format itself has also been questioned as it is just the regular 72 hole strokeplay that we see every week on the PGA Tour.

Whether you think golf should be in the Olympics may boil down to whether you think they are already bloated enough, whether an Olympic sport should have the Olympics as the pinnacle of its event, or whether they should offer lesser known sports a chance to be in the spotlight every four years.

The days of Olympics being solely the preserve of amateur athletes have long been and gone, but in the case of golf, personal preference would have been for 36 holes of strokeplay to whittle the field down to 16, followed by matchplay, and contested by amateurs from around the world.

Hyundai Tournament of Champions - Final Round

The majors this year will be contested at Augusta, Oakmont, Troon and Baltusrol and key storylines will include the search for a career slam for Phil Mickelson and McIlroy, whether Spieth and Day can back up their 2015 performances, and if Americans such as Fowler and Dustin Johnson who have been knocking on the major door for a while now will be able to take that next step.

An even numbered year does, of course, mean that the Ryder cup will take centre stage in September, with this year's edition being played at Hazeltine - where YE Yang beat Tiger Woods down the stretch in 2009.

Back on home soil, and with a significant edge in world rankings right now, this appears to be a Ryder Cup the USA have to win following the implementation of a task force to solve their recent woes in this competition.

An early prediction would be for a narrow win for the USA at home, but recent editions have shown us that the Europeans have a great ability to play above themselves in the team event.

2016 Ryder Cup Captains' Press Conference

As for Tiger Woods, who recently turned forty, it remains to be seen how he recovers from his most recent back surgery. Tiger's legacy is already secure; whether he has done enough to overhaul the Golden Bear as the greatest ever is down to personal preference, but in this writer's eyes whilst he has not had the longevity of success that Nicklaus had at this point in time, his spell from 97-08 saw golf played at a higher level than ever before and produced an era of dominance that is unmatched.

What 2015 showed us though is that the PGA Tour will continue to thrive even without its greatest star, thanks to the emergence of a number of young, marketable talents such as Spieth and Day.

In addition, standards are now higher than ever, crowds are bigger, international players continue to increase their presence, and the shadow Woods had cast over the Tour has been swept away by this new generation of players who are much more approachable for both the public and media.

Throw in the expected season long battle for world number one between the new 'big three' and 2016 promises to be another superb year on the PGA Tour.

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Topics:
PGA Tour
Tiger Woods
Golf

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