Punch Shot: Who will be 2016 Player of the Year?

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Jordan Spieth ruled in 2015, but Jason Day wasn't too far behind. So who will emerge as the top dog in 2016? Our writers weigh in.

By RYAN LAVNER

Rory McIlroy.

He says there is “no reason” he can’t be world No. 1 by the time the Masters rolls around, and he’s absolutely right. With seven scheduled starts before Augusta – two more than in 2015 – it’s clear that McIlroy is determined to be in top form for the year’s first major and not coast through the opening months of the season as he has in recent years.

Jordan Spieth will be adjusting to his new normal as a global superstar. Jason Day will be adjusting to his new normal as a parent of two young kids. And Rory? Well, his personal life has quieted down, and the alpha dog should be nothing if not motivated in 2016, after a frustrating and humbling year in which he lost his No. 1 ranking, his spot atop the sport’s marquee and his chance at two majors because of an ill-timed kickabout.

McIlroy is poised to reclaim his spot atop golf’s pecking order. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.


By RANDALL MELL

This year ended with Rory McIlroy holding up a pair of trophies in Dubai.

It was a nice image with a strong message.

McIlroy might have slipped behind Jordan Spieth and Jason Day in the Official World Golf Ranking and major championship title hauls in 2015, but he’s highly motivated to catch up. Winning the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai left McIlroy with good feelings about making the best of his injury-interrupted year and taking some strong momentum into 2016.

You remember how McIlroy bounced back from his struggles in 2013, winning a pair of majors in ’14? He didn’t really struggle in ’15. There was the ankle injury in the important summer run, but he still won four times around the world. The swing and confidence are intact. With all the talent he possesses, it’s all you need to know about his prospects coming into the new year. He’s still the best all-around player in the game, and he’ll be looking to remind Spieth and Day of that fact.


By REX HOGGARD

Jordan Spieth was historic in 2015, dominant on the game’s biggest stages and otherwise unrivaled in the final PGA Tour Player of the Year voting, but in 2016 that honor will shift back to Rory McIlroy.

We’ve seen the Northern Irishman’s modus operandi before.

In 2012, McIlroy won four times on Tour, including the PGA Championship by eight strokes, and was the consensus Player of the Year; but he followed that campaign with a relatively pedestrian 2013.

McIlroy rebounded in 2014, winning three times on Tour including the Open Championship and PGA Championship to claim the Jack Nicklaus Award for the second time only to endure another lackluster season in 2015 that featured two victories but no major championships.

Although his struggles in ’15 were born from a mid-season ankle injury that forced him to miss the Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, it has become a familiar ebb and flow to the 26-year-old’s career – periods of brilliant play framed by stretches of mortal performances.

McIlroy also seemed to learn a valuable lesson from his injury-induced hiatus in 2015. After winning the season-ending DP World Tour Championship on the European Tour, he lamented his missed opportunities in ’15 and talked of a renewed desire to continue his dominance.

If history is any guide, another “bounce-back” year is likely.


By WILL GRAY

Hey guys, remember me?

Just little old Patrick Reed, sitting here with my four PGA Tour trophies and a game that many seem to have forgotten.

It was a year ago, after all, that Reed kick-started his 2015 campaign with a playoff win at Kapalua. But the rest of the season didn’t go according to plan, and even though he made the Tour Championship it was seen as a bit of a disappointing season for Reed, as the brunt of the discussion shifted to names like Spieth, Day, and McIlroy.

But then a funny thing happened this fall. While spanning the globe and cementing his European Tour status, Reed rekindled his game. In fact, he closed out the year with six straight top-10 finishes in OWGR-sanctioned events, highlighted by runner-up finishes at the BMW Masters and the Hero World Challenge, and cracked the top 10 in the world for the first time.

No one disputes Reed’s ability to win on a big stage, or his desire to perform under the brightest of spotlights. So don’t be surprised if this year ends with Reed winning multiple events, and not only earning a spot in that elusive top-5 category – but taking home Player of the Year honors, as well.