Buckle up for 2017, the mother of all golfing years

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Not since Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, and Tom Watson put golf on the international sporting map has there been a galaxy of stars in the same era.

They mightn’t become legends, but Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth, and Hideki Matsuyama are poised to head the next era of high-quality golf.

Just for openers, Day is 311 under par since the 2014 season teed off, Spieth is 308 under, Matsuyama 282, and Johnson 263.

The form guide for 2017:

Jason Day (ranked 1)
Majors last year – Masters (T10), US Open (T8), The Open (T22), PGA (2)
Tournaments won – Arnold Palmer Invitational, WGC-Dell Match Play, and The Players Championship.

Day will be the leading light in Nick Price’s International side for the President’s Cup, at the Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City from September 28 to October 1.

Day played his first tournament last week since September, when he was forced to withdraw with chronic back problems that were career threatening.

He was understandably tentative in carding 70, 69, 70 and 70 on the par 73 Plantation course at Kapalua, with out-of-character putting lapses leaving at least six shots on course among his eagle, 19 birdies, and eight bogeys.

Day will rest for a fortnight to see how he recovers, and will resume at the Farmers Insurance.

Rory McIlroy (2)
Majors last year – Masters (T10), US Open (mc), The Open (T5), PGA (mc)
Tournament wins – Deutsche Bank Championship, Tour Championship, FedExCup
Ryder Cup at Hazeltine – 3-2-0.

After an ordinary 2016 by his lofty standards, McIlroy will tee off for the first time in 2017 this week at the South African Open and next week at the Abu Dhabi Championship, have a week off, and resume with the Dubai Desert Classic.

Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy leads the British Open

Dustin Johnson (3)
Majors record last year – Masters (T4), US Open (won), The Open (T9), PGA (mc)
Tournaments won – US Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and the BMW Championship
Ryder Cup – 2-2-0.

Cracking his first major gave the heavy-hitting American his best year yet, and he resumed after the Christmas-New Year break this week at Kapalua, carding a consistent 69, 70, 69, 69 with an eagle, 16 birdies, and just three bogeys.

Henrik Stenson (4)
Majors last year- Masters (T24), US Open (wd). The Open (won), PGA (T7)
Tournaments won – BMW International Open, The Open
Ryder Cup – 2-3-0.

Like Dustin Johnson winning his first major last year, the Swede has yet to open his account this year, but is scheduled to play the Abu Dhabi Championship, and the Dubai Desert Classic.

Jordan Spieth (5)
Majors last year – Masters (T2), US Open (T37), The Open (T30), and PGA (T13)
Tournament wins – Tournament of Champions, Dean and DeLuca Invitation, and the Australian Open.
Ryder Cup – 2-2-1.

Blowing a second successive Masters really set this superb golfer back on his heels for most of last year. He hasn’t started well this wrap-around season until this week at Kapalua.

With rounds of 72, 69, 70, Spieth was in a fair bit of trouble during those three rounds with an eagle, 15 birdies mixed with five bogeys, two doubles, and a triple.

But the real Jordan Spieth is back, firing in a flawless 11 birdies in his final 22 holes to finish with a 65, leaping 19 places up the leaderboard.

He’s playing again this week at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Hideki Matsuyams (6)
Majors last year – Masters (T7), US Open (mc), The Open (mc), PGA (T4)
Tournaments won – Japan Open, Taiheiyu Masters, Phoenix Open, and the WGC-HSBC Championship.

He will be a very important cog in the International machinery for this year’s President’s Cup.

In the latter part of last year and early this year, Matsuyama was the undisputed best golfer in the world, winning four of his last six tournaments, and finishing second in the other two, beaten on both occasions by 23-year-old American Justin Thomas, the latest last week at Kapalua.

Matsuyama carded 69, 68, 66, 70 there with an eagle, 23 birdies, four bogeys, and a double for 19 under.

Like Spieth, Hideki will be playing this week at the Sony.

Can’t wait for the Masters.