Lots going as season gets undeway in earnest

AS the world of golf hit full stride with all the main Tours coming on stream over the last fortnight, including the LPGA’s Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in Orlando, Florida this week, there were a few notables that stood out for many.

Among them was Hideki Matsuyama’s timely return to the world’s top-10, the Singapore Open championship bringing down the curtain on the Asian Tour’s 2020/21 season, the crowning of Bernhard Langer as the Champions Tour’s Player of the Year and Jin Young Ko recognised as the top earner in women’s golf over the past year.

Matsuyama, the reigning Masters champion, moved back to number 10 in the world rankings this week. He did it after fighting back from five shots down on the back nine at the Sony Open in Hawaii, where he duly won it in a playoff over Russell Henley.

That triumph was also highlighted by the brilliance of a 3-wood to within three feet for an eagle – the shot that secured the victory and saw him climb up the ladder from number 19.

It has been a busy two weeks in Singapore. Last weekend Joohyung Kim won the Singapore International, also with a play-off. He beat Thailand’s Rattanon Wannasrichan and in the process leapt 49 places up the world rankings to a career best No 89.

The Singapore Open, scheduled to come to an end today at Sentosa Golf Club, is the finale of the Asian Tour, after which the regional circuit will announce its Order of Merit, or Player of the Year.

Langer picking up the 2020/21 Jack Nicklaus Award as the Player of the Year did not come as a surprise to many. The 64-year-old German won twice en route to capturing the Charles Schwab Cup for the sixth season and the prize money title (US$3.25mil) for the eighth time.

Langer said: “I’m humbled because our Tour is incredibly competitive and there are many deserving candidates. To earn this award through a vote by my fellow peers is very rewarding.”

South Korea’s world number two Ko was the leading earner in women’s golf over the last year, according a list published by business magazine Forbes.

Ko, sixth on the list of the world’s highest-paid female athletes, reportedly took home US$7.5mil, while world number one Nelly Korda banked US$5.9mil in ninth place.

Japan’s tennis star Naomi Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion, topped the Forbes list with US$57.3mil in prize money and endorsements.

Korda is in this week’s season opener, but not Ko. All the same, an intriguing the duel for supremacy is expected to unfold over the course of the campaign, and it is one we all look forward.