Shane Lowry confessed he’s glad to see the back of 2016 and confirmed he is looking forward to becoming father before trying to win the Masters next year.
While Danny WIllett threatened to skip the trip up Magnolia Lane to be with his wife as she gave birth to the couple’s first son, the Englishman managed to make it to Augusta National and claim his maiden major.
Lowry is hoping he can do something similar in 2017.
The affable Offaly man, 29, missed out on his first major title in June when he was outplayed in the final round by Dustin Johnson and finished joint second having held a four-stroke lead following the completion of round three early on Sunday morning.
His putting was one of several areas of his game that was exposed at Oakmont. But he’s already taken steps to improve both his putting and his mental game after a sorry second half of the season.
While he’d struggled most of the year, failing to record a top 10 finish between the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the US Open, he appeared to be going through the motions for the rest of the year, such was his disappointment at what happened in Pittsburgh.
From feeling like he was destined to make the Ryder Cup team, he ended up scrambling with his schedule to try and make it, made a series of mistakes and ended up failing to be considered for a wildcard and even saw his FedEx Cup run reduced to just the opening events.
Down 22 places from 21st to 43rd in the world this year, his closing 69 for a share of 19th behind Matthew Fitzpatrick in the DP World Tour Championship was another reminder that he must start winning more titles if he is to become a genuine major contended over the next few seasons.
Three wins since 2009, one of them as an amateur, is a modest return when one considers that 22-year old Fitzpatrick is now the youngest Englishman to win three European Tour titles, beating Sir Nick Faldo’s previous record from 1980 by a margin of 220 days.
Pleased he “mentally held it together” in Dubai — a nod to his new mental coach — Lowry confessed that the year had been “pretty average”.
“I probably could have won a US Open but there are probably only one or two other Top 10s, or maybe only one other top 10,” he told Meridian Media’s Denis Kirwan.
“I did struggle on the greens for a long time and I am looking forward to next week for a start and then wiping the slate clean and getting ready for 2017.”
On the US Open, he sounded almost loathe to thing more about it but confessed: “I did shoot 76 and Dustin Johnson did go out and shoot a good score. That golf course was tough. If I had it back, I would do things differently again. When I am in that position again, I know what to do and how I need to go about my business. Hopefully I can put myself there soon enough.”
Having missed his first four cuts after the US Open and then failed to record a Top 10 finish in his last six starts, he said: “I was standing over that putt on the last and just thinking, let this be the last putt on 2016. I am happy for this year to be over to be honest.
“People might look at that as a negative but to be honest, I feel it was a pretty average year and that just shows the standards I have set for myself and the standard I feel my game is at.
“There will be a lot of people on the European Tour and in America who would be pretty happy with the season I have had but bit me. I set high standards for myself and I want to do things a little bit differently and try and be a bit more consistent.
“I am really looking forward to play (the World Cup of Golf with Graeme McDowell) next week and I feel like I am playing well and me and Graeme have a shot.
“After that I will put the clubs away until January and that will be a nice four weeks. I will do some work with Robbie [Cannon] and try to keep things ticking over.
“Then I start in Torrey Pines.”
On his impending fatherhood, common knowledge in some circles since August, and the arrival of a first child for him and his wife Wendy at the end of February, he said: “Wendy is due a baby and we are having our first kid at the end of February, So that will be nice.
"I am going to take a few weeks off when we are having the baby and I will be back for Augusta and hopefully I can do what Danny Willett did this year.”
Rory McIlroy also has designs on the green jacket but after closing with a 65 to finish tied ninth, five behind Fitzpatrick on 12 under, he was thinking of Thanksgiving in New York, time at home and some testing in Dubai before cranking up the new season in the BMW SA Open Championship proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni at Glendower Golf Club from 12-15 January.
Left to rue his opening 75, he said: “I guess if I had of even just shot something around level par, 1-under, I would have been right in the tournament. But these things happen, and you know, I played well for the remaining three days and at least I redeemed myself a little bit.”
Henrik Stenson claimed the Race to Dubai and McIlroy, who all but gave up the title by refusing to honour his commitment to the Turkish Airlines Open, was happy to congratulate the Swede on a major winning season.
“It’s a great achievement,” said McIlroy, who won the Irish Open and twice in the US to claim the FedEx Cup.
“I think what you need to do, especially someone like Henrik, who plays both sides of the Atlantic and plays two tours, you have to have those big wins, and obviously winning The Open was huge for him.
"You know, he's been one of most consistent players in the world the last, nearly ten years I guess. I remember when he won the Dubai Desert Classic back in 2006, I think, and I was still an amateur at the time and he was winning. He’s been one of the most consistent players for the last few years.”
Pádraig Harrington, who tied for 46th on three under after a 71, will reflect on a winning season following his victory in the Portugal Masters.
While he didn’t quite break into the world’s Top 100, he has renewed hope for 2017 and lots to work during what will be a 10 week winter break.
As for Fitzpatrick, he continued his remarkable rise by claiming his third European Tour title on a dramatic final day of the 2016 season.
The 22 year old Englishman took advantage of Tyrrell Hatton’s bogey on the 18th hole with a closing birdie to swap positions with his compatriot at the top of the leaderboard, with his final round 67 sealing a one stroke victory.
Fitzpatrick only claimed his maiden European Tour title 13 months ago at the British Masters supported by Sky Sports, but since then he has also won the Nordea Masters and featured in his first Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National.
His victory at Jumeirah Golf Estates now means he is the youngest Englishman to win three European Tour titles, beating Sir Nick Faldo’s previous record from 1980 by a margin of 220 days.
The win also earned Fitzpatrick the biggest pay day of his fledgling career – a cheque for €1,217,174 - and moved him into sixth position on the final 2016 Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, a spot securing him a further €319,509 as part of the top ten Bonus Pool.
Meanwhile, Hatton’s only bogey of the day on the last meant he ended the year with a round of 68, but the Alfred Dunhill Links champion’s second place finish behind Fitzpatrick meant he replaced McIlroy in fourth position on the Race to Dubai.
The top spot in the season-long contest went to Henrik Stenson for a second time in four years following the Swede’s final round of 65, which meant he finished alongside McIlroy in a four-way share of ninth position on 12 under par.
“I love playing golf obviously but it's been a long year for me, and I've got to admit, this is just icing on the cake. As a year goes, it’s been a great one.
“I had a rough idea (what happened to Tyrrell) on the last. I saw that he had missed a putt and there were a few groans in the crowd. But it wasn't until I saw the scores and that I knew what I needed for the win. Tyrrell, he's a great lad, he was just coming down and I saw him as I was walking into the scorer's and he said congratulations. For someone to do that after he's been in contention is very special. He’s a credit to the tour.
“This win means the world. To win one of these Final Series events is really special, and this one in particular, being the last tournament of the year is special. Words can't describe it. It's not going to sink in for a while. But you know, it’s been a special year and then to end it like this with a win is amazing.”
“It's a bitter pill to swallow, but it's been a great week and for me it's been the best year of my life. So I can't get too downbeat, these things happen. You know, it is what it is and I'm happy with how the week went. I’m sure hopefully in the future, I'll take my next chance.
“It was nice to be up there. You know, my putter helped me out a lot this week. I felt I played better tee-to-green the other previous weeks. Just this week I putted well and that's what it boils down to. It was nice to be up there again and I’m looking forward to some time off now before the start of the new season.”
“It was a nice way to finish. If you're going to be Europe's Number One, you don't want to finish with a 75, even if you can afford it. It was nice to play some good golf finally and to shoot a good number on a Sunday. That never hurts. It was a solid round of golf today, and it just sneaked me into the top ten. And top-tens are always fine.”
Complete final round scores
271 M Fitzpatrick (Eng) 69 69 66 67,
272 T Hatton (Eng) 71 66 67 68,
274 C Schwartzel (RSA) 70 67 70 67,
275 V Dubuisson (Fra) 70 69 64 72, N Colsaerts (Bel) 67 71 66 71, S Kjeldsen (Den) 70 69 68 68, B Wiesberger (Aut) 70 67 70 68, F Molinari (Ita) 68 67 70 70,
276 J Campillo (Esp) 72 71 68 65, Rory McIlroy (Nir) 75 68 68 65, T Fleetwood (Eng) 70 71 67 68, H Stenson (Swe) 72 69 70 65,
277 D Horsey (Eng) 72 71 67 67, J Luiten (Ned) 68 69 73 67, L Westwood (Eng) 66 70 69 72, B An (Kor) 70 69 70 68,
278 J Wang (Kor) 75 72 65 66, R Fisher (Eng) 72 71 67 68,
279 Shane Lowry (Irl) 70 71 69 69, S Garcia (Esp) 68 67 74 70, T Olesen (Den) 71 70 68 70, M Kaymer (Ger) 71 74 67 67,
280 R Karlberg (Swe) 72 70 67 71, J Quesne (Fra) 67 76 68 69, R Cabrera Bello (Esp) 71 71 63 75, A Noren (Swe) 71 69 69 71,
281 A Levy (Fra) 69 73 71 68, F Aguilar (Chi) 74 73 67 67, B Grace (RSA) 72 74 65 70,
282 R Paratore (Ita) 70 73 70 69, L Haotong (Chn) 74 70 69 69, G Coetzee (RSA) 72 70 71 69, R Sterne (RSA) 70 70 71 71, N Elvira (Esp) 70 69 68 75,
283 J Van Zyl (RSA) 69 71 73 70, K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 69 74 73 67, D Lipsky (USA) 72 71 72 68, G Bourdy (Fra) 72 73 68 70, C Wood (Eng) 75 72 71 65,
284 J Lagergren (Swe) 74 69 72 69, A Cañizares (Esp) 73 72 70 69, S Hend (Aus) 72 73 69 70, A Sullivan (Eng) 76 66 70 72, T Pieters (Bel) 72 72 70 70, T Jaidee (Tha) 74 70 70 70,
285 L Oosthuizen (RSA) 69 74 74 68, R Gouveia (Por) 72 69 71 73, Pádraig Harrington (Irl) 72 71 71 71,
286 R Jacquelin (Fra) 72 71 72 71,
287 M Ilonen (Fin) 70 73 73 71, D Willett (Eng) 71 70 76 70,
288 M Fraser (Aus) 69 74 78 67, P Larrazábal (Esp) 71 71 71 75,
289 R Bland (Eng) 71 76 70 72, M Southgate (Eng) 72 74 70 73,
290 S Lee (Kor) 71 73 76 70,
292 R Wattel (Fra) 82 68 70 72, B Dredge (Wal) 72 75 72 73,
293 B Stone (RSA) 74 73 74 72,
294 A Johnston (Eng) 78 70 78 68.