Punch Shot: Biggest storyline in 2016

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Major championships. The Ryder Cup. The Olympics. A Jordan Spieth encore. 2016 is shaping up to be a huge year. What will be the biggest storyline? Our writers weigh in.

By RYAN LAVNER

The Olympics.

It’s going to be fascinating to see how the summer unfolds, because in 2016 the biggest tour in the world will resemble the Champions circuit, with three majors and a WGC in a seven-week span.

There are so many unknowns: How will the new course hold up? Will players be interested? Will any A-list players skip? How will the joy of winning a gold medal compare to hoisting a major trophy? Because of the crowded schedule, will other events suffer? Will a player get hot and rip through the summer, sweeping all of the big events? Will the best players have anything left for the playoffs and Ryder Cup?

No other event in 2016 will produce so much intrigue.


By RANDALL MELL

The Olympics won’t trump the majors or the Ryder Cup.

There won’t be another run at the Grand Slam.

Tiger won’t win and he won’t retire, but we’ll have an even better sense what his future holds.

No, the big story will be Rory McIlroy reasserting himself as the best player in the game today, the best all-around talent. He’ll make history completing the career Grand Slam in golf, joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to have accomplished the feat. He’ll win more than anyone else next year, more than Spieth or Day, and he’ll climb back to No. 1 in the world.



By REX HOGGARD

The narrative will change from week to week, as is normally the case as the PGA Tour makes it way through the major championship season, and golf’s return to the Olympics in August will generate plenty of headlines, but it will be the Ryder Cup that will dominate the conversation in 2016.

The biennial matches have become one of the biggest spectacles in all of sports and that intensity will be even higher as the season builds toward this year’s event.

Following the U.S. team’s eighth loss in the last 10 matches in 2014, the PGA of America embarked on an extreme makeover with the creation of the Ryder Cup task force.

Players became part of the decision making, the selection process was overhauled, Davis Love III was named captain for the second time, and Tiger Woods committed his support to the event even if that means serving as a vice captain.

The American side has been infused with a level of optimism that has been missing since the last time the U.S. won the Ryder Cup in 2008, and it seems likely Love’s team will include plenty of new faces.

A win by the U.S. team at Hazeltine National would be the year’s biggest story, and a loss might be even bigger.


By WILL GRAY

Spieth’s encore.

Regardless of the direction Jordan Spieth’s season takes, all eyes will be on the world No. 1 as he attempts to follow up a season that seemingly can’t be topped.

Spieth’s play over the last two years has set the bar impossibly high for him heading into 2016. So should he regress a bit to the mean, should he falter in some big spots, or should he fail to keep up his regular rate of trophy acquisition, it will become just as big of a story as the names ahead of his on the leaderboard.

Should he somehow find a way to raise his game – or even just keep up with his 2015 pace – Spieth will be the biggest storyline of the year without question.

We enter the new year with a three-headed monster atop the world rankings, but no one captivated the landscape this past year quite like Spieth. So the question leading through the spring, and into the Masters, and into the U.S. Open and perhaps beyond will be ... what’s next?