It's only been a fortnight since the PGA TOUR season ended, and what an exciting and eventful season of golf it was...
Rory McIlroy claimed the FedExCup title in dramatic fashion, winning two of the four playoff tournaments, the Deutsche Bank Championship and the TOUR Championship.
Dustin Johnson claimed his first major championship at the U.S. Open in route to a historic season that saw him become the second player ever to win a major, World Golf Championship and Playoff event in the same season. Oh, and he finished in the top 10 in 15 of 22 events, an incredible 68 percent of his starts. Johnson’s career-best season landed him the Jack Nicklaus award as the PGA TOUR Player of the Year, the Byron Nelson Award for Adjusted Scoring Average (69.172) and the Arnold Palmer Award as the TOUR’S leading money-winner ($9,365,185).
Jim Furyk also created some fireworks last season when the 2002 winner of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide cleaned up a 2 foot putt on the 72 hole of the Travelers Championship to etch his name in history as the first player to ever shoot 58 in more than 1.5 million competitive rounds played on the PGA TOUR. On September 20, 2016 Furyk received The Payne Stewart Award, which is presented annually to a professional golfer who best exemplifies Stewart’s steadfast values of character, charity and sportsmanship.
And a thrilling Ryder Cup capped off the 2015-16 season as the United States registered a convincing 17-11 victory over Europe, its first victory in the biennial competition since 2008 at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.
No rest for the weary though... the PGA TOUR ramped up again Oct. 13 with the Safeway Open in Napa, Calif., the first of 47 events on the FedExCup schedule for the 2016-217 wraparound campaign.
The upcoming season could be one of the most intriguing in years with the highly anticipated return of five-time Memorial winner Tiger Woods looming. Woods, a 14-time major champion and winner of 79 PGA TOUR titles, entered the 2016-17 PGA TOUR season opener, Safeway Open, only to withdraw three days later, citing that his health is good and that he feels strong but that his game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be to compete against the best golfers in the world. Woods missed all of the 2015-16 season to heal from back surgery. He competed only 11 times the previous season due to the same injury. The former No. 1 player in the world has not won since the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, in 2013.
If Woods, who turns 41 in December, returns to full health, it sets up a special season in golf as he becomes the challenger to a new breed of top players, including world No. 1 Jason Day, a member of Muirfield Village Golf Club, who isn't playing until 2017 to deal with his own back issues. Other top players with which Woods has to contend include No. 2 Dustin Johnson, the reigning U.S. Open champion, and Rory McIlroy, who won twice in the FedExCup Playoffs to edge Johnson for the season title. McIlroy, 27, of Northern Ireland, captured the Deutsche Bank Championship and Tour Championship to rally past Johnson, who won three times overall and is favorite for the Jack Nicklaus Award as PGA TOUR Player of the Year after also winning the money title and the scoring crown.
Major champions of the last year all were first-timers, which hadn't occurred since 2011. Danny Willett of England won the Masters over Jordan Spieth, Johnson won the U.S. Open, Henrik Stenson outdueled Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon for the Open Championship, and Texan Jimmy Walker claimed the PGA Championship. This year's major venues, in addition to the traditional first stop at Augusta National Golf Club: Erin Hills in Wisconsin, Royal Birkdale, and Quail Hollow Club.
The most significant change on the schedule is the longtime WGC event in Miami moving to Mexico.
Among the new TOUR members worth eyeing this season is new fan favorite Andrew "Beef" Johnston of England, whom American crowds embraced during his Web.com Finals run.
And speaking of the Web.com Finals, Grayson Murray, a 23-year-old North Carolina native, will be especially fun to follow. After beginning the season with conditional status, he made the most of his chances after getting a foot in the door with a special exemption at the Rex Hospital Open, posting eight top-10s in 17 starts and topping it off with his victory at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship at Ohio State University Golf Club's Scarlet Course, which turned out to be the final event of the Finals after Hurricane Matthew forced the cancellation of the Web.com Tour Championship Oct. 6 in Atlantic Beach, Fla.
As the leading money winner of the Finals, Murray earned a spot in the Players Championship. His win at OSU Scarlet also gave him an exemption to the 42nd Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
The 2017 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide will feature Greg Norman, Harvie Ward, Ken Venturi and Tony Lema as Tournament honorees for the 42nd Memorial May 29-June 4. Will McGirt is the defending winner after defeating Jon Curran in a playoff. Both men shot 15-under 273.