I’m proud of my part in great golfing 2017

Rory McIlroy is tipped to have a winning year by Chris McDonnell
Rory McIlroy is tipped to have a winning year by Chris McDonnell
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Observer golf columnist Chris McDonnell looks back at the year in golf – and predicts who may take the sport’s big prizes in 2018

As we approach the end of 2017, it’s time to look back on what’s been a fantastic year for English players on the European Tour, with four out of the top six in the standings coming from this country.

Sadly the Walker Cup and President’s Cup both ended up in American hands, but I’m extremely proud of the fact that I was part of the Great Britain and Ireland team who kept the PGA Cup on this side of the pond.

Moment of the Year

Sergio Garcia’s victory at The Masters in April was a momentous occasion as he beat Englishman Justin Rose in a play-off on the famous 18th at Augusta National.

After making his majors debut in the 1996 Open Championship and never claiming a title, 21 years later he finally got the monkey off his back.

I’m extremely proud of the fact that I was part of the Great Britain and Ireland team who kept the PGA Cup on this side of the pond.

Why has it taken him so long to secure a major championship? There was lots of debate and we all knew Sergio had the skills and experience to win a major, but when it came to the crunch he had simply put far too much pressure on himself to win.

But he got used to the idea he would never win one, which lowered his expectations considerably. When he entered contention at The Masters, I think all golf fans were rooting for the Spaniard to win his first green jacket, and boy did he do it in style.

Player of the Year

This is European Tour ‘Race to Dubai’ winner Tommy Fleetwood.

The Southport star broke through on the European Tour in 2013 after gaining his tour card through qualifying school. Since then he has progressed into a familiar face on the Tour, and this year has won twice, finished runner-up twice and finished in the top ten on ten other occasions out of 21 events played.

The key area of his game that has led him to the number-one spot is his driving accuracy. He has gone from hitting 60 per cent of fairways to 70 per cent this season, which has enabled him to attack more flags to make birdies and reduce the number of mistakes in his rounds.

The challenge now for him is to feature in the major championships and secure his place in the European Ryder Cup team for 2018.

My 2018 predictions

Masters winner – Rory McIlroy

US Open winner – Rickie Fowler

Open winner - Justin Rose

US PGA winner – John Rahm

Ryder Cup – Europe

Player to watch – Tiger Woods!

* Chris McDonnell is the academy manager at Golf at Goodwood. Email chris.mcDonnell@goodwood.com or follow @goodwood_golf on Twitter

GOODWOOD

The shortlist of outstanding finalists for the England Golf Awards 2018 has been revealed – and Golf at Goodwood is in the running for one of the prizes

The finalists been selected by the judging panel from a record-breaking entry which shines the spotlight on fantastic achievements in golf in England by volunteers, coaches, clubs and counties.

Goodwood are nominated in the ‘most welcoming golf club’ class, sponsored by American Golf, alongside Burghill Valley Golf Club, Herefordshire; Garforth Golf Club, Yorkshire and Norwood Park Golf Centre, Nottinghamshire.

England Golf Chief Executive Nick Pink said: “We were thrilled by the number and quality of nominations we received and delighted that so many people are helping us to tell golf’s great stories to the wider community.

“Our finalists are all outstanding and we are looking forward to highlighting their successes at our gala dinner and to applauding our winners.”

The winners will be announced on February 22 at the awards dinner at the Royal Lancaster, London. Visit www.englandgolfawards.org to book.