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The Greatest Game Ever Played
Lavonne Cheah 
Adam Scott at the 2016 WGC Cadillac Championship
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In 1967, Rolex began an enduring love affair with the game of golf. It first began when the late Arnold Palmer, one of golf’s greatest players, became the brand’s inaugural golf Testimonee. Their partnership marked the beginning of a beautiful relationship based on shared values of perfection, excellence and sportsmanship.

 

Three’s company

Palmer quickly established himself as the first great of the game and changed the face of golf forever. As time went by, he was joined by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, competitors on the green and companions off it. Now part of the Rolex Family, they were known as The Big Three.

“What comes to mind with Arnold and Jack is that we wanted to win so badly,” recalled Player. “But at the same time, when one of us won, the other two would put out their hands and say ‘Well done, you beat me today but I’ll get you tomorrow’.”

Over nearly two decades, the Big Three challenged one another with equal skill and endeavour at almost every tournament, and in the process, paved the way for the next generation of golf professionals. Since then, the affiliation between Rolex and golf has grown into one with a global reach. 

From left: Player was one of the original Big Three of golf, Palmer was hailed as golf’s first legend while Nicklaus’ 18 major titles remain unsurpassed 


Perfect timing

Rolex has played a significant part in golf and is a long-time supporter of great sportsmanship and traditions unique to the game. As the official timekeeper, Rolex supports the game at all levels, from elite players and legends of the game to the foremost professional tours and global amateur tournaments.

“Time in golf is essential,” said Sarah Hirshland, USGA senior managing director of business affairs and a member of the executive team. “Golf is a very prompt sport because the fundamental nature of putting 150 players on the course and through 18 holes is very well orchestrated through time. You can’t let it get out of sync.”

As such, Hirshland believed that Rolex and its expertise in timing precision have contributed significantly to the game.

“Rolex sends experts with very high-quality products to make sure we are 100% accurate with our timing. There is a five-minute window of time, and then you get a two-stroke penalty. That’s why you see Rolex clocks everywhere the players have to be, so they can know the time.”

The brand’s association with golf blossomed in the Eighties when Rolex added prestigious tournaments including the Open Championship and the US Open; guardians of the traditions and rules of the game, The R&A and USGA; as well as the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA), to its growing number of golf partners.

In the Nineties, new partnerships with the Masters Tournament, The Ryder Cup and the European Tour were added, as well as selected talents including Fred Couples (US), Phil Mickelson (US) and Annika Sörenstam (Sweden).

The following decade, the relationship deepened, growing exponentially. By now, Rolex was supporting men’s and women’s golf across five continents, as well as tours, federations, organisations and competitions reaching all golfers from junior to senior levels.

In 2017, the commencement of a new initiative on the European Tour – The Rolex Series – denotes the continued commitment of Rolex to the game.

 

Major winners

For 50 years, Rolex has worked with some of the game’s most illustrious players, including Eldrick “Tiger” Woods, Justin Rose and Adam Scott, to name a few.

Woods is a Testimonee who came close to Nicklaus’ record tally of 18 major championships. The American first announced his arrival in the professional ranks in 1996 during a memorable news conference, where his first words were, “I guess… hello world?” After that, he embarked on a career that would change the world of golf.

Sörenstam, the greatest female golfer in history

While he was dominating the men’s arena, another was doing the same in women’s. Annika Sörenstam, deemed the greatest female golfer in history, has claimed 10 Majors over 12 years and won 72 LPGA tournaments in total.

The Swede was also the only female player to card a 59 in competition and holds the record for the lowest scoring average for a season, 68.6969 in 2004.

“Women’s golf has always been a second thought but not with Rolex. They have been there from the beginning and supported the game at every level,” enthused Sörenstam.

 

On the wrist

In line with the company’s passion for golf, Rolex watches are elegant and prestigious, and sleek enough to be unobtrusive golf timepieces.

The best wristwatch for golf is one that keeps precise time, doesn’t get in the way of the game, and is stylish enough to flaunt on the course. Rolex makes several that fit the bill.

Some of the more popular for men include the Submariner, the Datejust, the Explorer, the Milgauss and the Oyster Perpetual Datejust. For the ladies, the Lady-Datejust and the Lady Oyster possess serious sporty appeal.

 

Next generation

There is a burgeoning group of young, aspirational golfers who are bringing a new brand of integrity, maturity and respect to the course. They are the Rolex New Guard, a new generation of golfers who, like The Big Three before them, are asserting their authority on the sport and inspiring future generations of athletes to follow them.

These prodigious young golfers include Adam Scott, Jason Day, Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson. Then there is Brooke Henderson, the 18-year-old winner of the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and Justin Thomas, who claimed back-to-back PGA Tour wins in January 2017.

Keep an eye also on 2015 Players Championship winner Rickie Fowler; Hideki Matsuyama with his impressive Majors record to accompany four PGA Tour wins; and Daniel Berger, who joined the winners’ circle in 2016. On a meteoric rise too are Jon Rahm, a former number one in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and 2015 US Amateur Champion Bryson DeChambeau.

Also among the Rolex New Guard are Carlota Ciganda, with six professional wins to her name; Matthew Fitzpatrick, who won the European Tour season finale and the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai in 2016, as well as Brooks Koepka, winner of the US Open in 2017, who honed his skills on the European Challenge Tour and European Tour.

“Golf goes through cycles and through generations,” mused Sörenstam. “Jordan, Rickie and Jason are fun personalities and powerful players as well as quality individuals. There is certainly a new generation emerging and I feel golf is in good hands.”



This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 263.