Tuesday 27 September 2016

McIlroy leads way in setting targets for 2016 challenge

Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30

Nothing less then number one will satisfy Rory McIlroy as he prepares for the new campaign and (below) Michael Hoey. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Nothing less then number one will satisfy Rory McIlroy as he prepares for the new campaign and (below) Michael Hoey. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The New Year offers a clean slate and a fresh start for our Tour stars as they look forward to an exciting 2016.

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A Ryder Cup, the return of golf to the Olympics, the four Majors and a host of top tournaments offer plenty of motivation for the big names.

Before a shot is played, most golfers focus on their ideal outcomes.

Last year Rory McIlroy revealed he annually writes his goals on the back of a boarding pass en route to pre-season preparations ahead of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

Others may carry out this exercise in a different way, but ultimately it boils down to setting out targets for personal achievement.

Rarely do the professionals reveal their goals at this time of year, but it's intriguing to consider their possible aspirations for the campaign.

Rory McIlroy

World - 3; Euro Tour 2015 - 1

Positives from 2015:

Strong finish at end of year with victory in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and retained his number one spot in Europe. Won four times in total during the year. Also won European Tour Golfer of the Year award.

Likely goals for 2016:

Win the Green Jacket at Augusta. Had his best finish in the Masters last year when finishing fourth. Will want to contend strongly in all four Majors and is likely to aim for six tournament wins worldwide, ideally at least one of them yielding his fifth Major title. And, of course, a Race to Dubai hat-trick. Olympic Gold? That would be a bonus, but true glory for the likes of McIlroy comes wrapped in Major championship packages.

Shane Lowry

World - 21; Euro Tour 2015 - 5

Positives from 2015:

Sensational win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and finished fifth in Race to Dubai. A breakthrough season in terms of winning in America and in a World Golf Championship event.

Likely goals for 2016:

Lowry has made no secret of his desire to play in the Ryder Cup and to represent Ireland in the Olympics. Will surely be hoping for another tournament win because, as he himself admitted, he is not a prolific winner on Tour, with only three to his credit. Definitely wants to test himself in the heat of the back nine in a Major. A push forward to the top 10 in the World is also a strong possibility.

Graeme McDowell

World - 57; Euro Tour 2015 - 68

Positives from 2015:

Important and timely victory in the OHL Classic on the PGA Tour after a long season of grind and grapple with his game.

Likely goals for 2016:

Maintain his forward progress and drive up the World rankings. Gain a place in the Ryder Cup team and make an impact in the Majors.

Pádraig Harrington

World - 141; Euro Tour 2015 - 119

Positives from 2015:

Won the Honda Classic and made a run at the Open Championship at St Andrews.

Likely goals for 2016:

Find a way to slot into the mental groove which worked for him at the Honda Classic and for the first three rounds of the Open on a regular basis. Improve putting stats and get into contention more often as opposed to battling to make cuts.

Michael Hoey

World - 312; Euro Tour 2015 - 88

Positives from 2015:

Not too many highlights. Hoey's best finish was tied 4th in the M2M Russian Open in September.

Likely goals for 2016:

Get some momentum early in the season and hope to rediscover the form which brought him his fifth European Tour win at the 2013 Russian Open.

Kevin Phelan

World - 563; Euro Tour 2015 - 125

Positives from 2015:

Tied-2nd in the Jo'Burg Open and Tied-3rd at the Trophee Hassan 11.

Likely goals for 2016:

Win his Tour card for 2017.

Darren Clarke

World - 573; Euro Tour 2015 - 139

Positives from 2015:

None on-course.

Likely goals for 2016:

Be the winning captain in the Eurasia Cup in Kuala Lumpur and use that as a springboard to retain the Ryder Cup in the autumn. Captaincy will take more of his time as the season goes on but no doubt he would love to find a touch of magic on the greens.

Paul Dunne

World - 667; Euro Tour 2015 - 168

Positives from 2015:

Turned pro last September. Has won almost €100,000 so far, and earned playing rights for this year via Tour School.

Likely goals for 2016:

Gain a solid platform in his first year on Tour and keep his card. Anything more would be a bonus.

Five to watch in 2016

1 RICKIE FOWLER - Surely the time has come for Fowler to leave the ranks of ‘best players never to have won a Major’ and emulate Jason Day by making a breakthrough this year.

2 MATT FITZPATRICK - The 21-year-old Englishman won the British Masters in his rookie year on Tour and should contend for a place on the Ryder Cup team captained by Darren Clarke.

3 LEONA MAGUIRE - The World number one female amateur will surely have opportunities to turn professional after the Curtis Cup match at Dun Laoghaire next June.

4 SERGIO GARCIA - He’s 36 on January 9. He hasn’t won a Major – could this be his year to shock the pundits? Now there’s an outside bet!

5 THOMAS PIETERS - The 6ft 6ins Belgian won in Prague and Holland on successive weeks last September. He’s a big hitter with a superb swing.

Irish Independent

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