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A season of riches: In 2019, golf shone bright in all fifty shades of purple

Brooks Koepka fattened his resume with another PGA Championship under his belt. There were not one, but two first time winners — Gary Woodland and Shane Lowry. Rory McIlroy won hearts with his consistency and class as he endured more pain in the Masters and then at the Open on home turf.

ET CONTRIBUTORS|
Dec 07, 2019, 09.56 AM IST
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By Anand Datla

In Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese belief sy stem, purple is considered the colour of wealth. If that assumption holds, golf was shining bright in all fifty shades of the colour in 2019. Brooks Koepka fattened his resume with another PGA Championship under his belt. There were not one, but two first time winners — Gary Woodland and Shane Lowry. Rory McIlroy won hearts with his consistency and class as he endured more pain in the Masters and then at the Open on home turf. And to top it all, life came full circle when Tiger Woods slipped into a fifth green jacket to the delirious exultation of millions of people.

It was indeed a season of riches, the game spoilt by the enormous depth and electrifying performances.

Envy Green
Woods turned the lights on with a magnetic performance at Augusta National that rekindled his aspirations of chasing Jack Nicklaus’ holy grail of 18 majors.

Despite his prolific success in majors, Woods never won a major without holding at least a share of the lead. On that Sunday in April, Woods played some scintillating final-round golf. Lying in wait like a hungry tiger, starved from an eleven-year drought, he seized the moment with stunning adroitness. Despite three birdies on the forward stretch, Woods was two behind a steady Francesco Molinari as they approached the famed Amen corner.

Perhaps it was the wind or maybe the exhaustion that comes from being hunted all day. Molinari flinched, landing short and getting wet from a desperate attempt to attack the flag. In his last-ditch attempt to escape the gaze of Tiger, the Italian he found the ditch instead, and lost the lead before dissolving under the weight of his own weariness.

Woods caught the scent of his prey, made three birdies in four holes and secured a pulsating victory that set the season on fire.

Koepka Asserts Himself
Koepka had already established himself as the alpha male of the herd though, having pocketed three majors including a successful title defense in the 2018 US Open. He was just one stroke behind Woods in the Masters this year. The PGA Championship moved up the calendar from this season, served as the perfect stage for him to reassert his superiority. Another major in the bag, with a successful defence to add to his growing brashness. The fact that he was among the men chasing Woods in Augusta and the one giving Woodland the chills at Pebble Beach kept the ambitious young man on the front pages of major golf.

Glory, Glory, Gary
An unheralded Woodland was 60-1 going into the US Open. All the attention was on McIlroy, who was being super consistent and Koepka, who has made a habit of being ever-present at the majors. Woods was in the mix from all the euphoria he produced in the Masters.

Well into his 30s, Woodland has seen the tide ebb and flow. Woodland waited four years after turning professional to collect his first victory. The Phoenix Open in 2018, his third win, came after a five-year drought. This is a characteristic that underlines his perseverance, but not many knew the courage underneath his soft veneer.

At the par-5 14th, with Koepka giving the hot chase, Woodland played a brave 3-wood from 263 yards, carrying the bunkers that were protecting the front edge of the green. It was a moment that would essentially turn pivotal not just for the week, but one that could define his career. A two-putt birdie from 16 feet helped cushion the lead to two strokes, just enough to win him the US Open.

Nobody appreciates the value of success like a man that is still seeking it. Rickie Fowler is one of those men looking to win their first majors. And the American went through another tough season looking for that elusive chalice.

“Obviously last year was pretty special. I think Tiger getting another major, kind of drawing the fans, media and TV viewing, it is astronomical what Tiger is able to do for our sport and how much he moves the needle,” Fowler told ET Sport at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. “But when you look at what other guys have accomplished from Gary at the US Open, Shane at the British and both Brooks and Rory putting together impressive seasons, golf is pretty deep right now.”

Homecoming
“Sport has the power to change the world,” said Nelson Mandela. “It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.” That could have summed up the spirit in Northern Ireland, when the Open returned to the region for the first time in 68 years. But for an Irishman to make the moment his own was nearly the equivalent of a fantasy playing out in real life, to near faultless perfection. Ireland has been torn into two on religious and historical differences; Lowry’s performance united the island, at least through the week of an epochal Open Championship.

Hope for the Northern Irish came from a rampant McIlroy who was playing some of the best golf of his career. But the weight of expectations burnt McIlroy. And Lowry, an Irishman from the south rose to the occasion to offer a taste of unity on a strife-torn island.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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