From Major winners Hideki Mastuyama and Jon Rahm to Silver Medal Winner and Rookie of the Year Matti Schmid, take a look at the men who set new records in the game of golf for their respective nations in 2021.
Hideki Mastuyama – First Japanese player to win the Masters
The Masters Tournament returned to its customary slot in April following the first November Masters in history, and with it produced a new Major winner worthy of his spot in the record books.
After carding a closing 73, Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese man to win a Major Championship with a one shot victory at the 2021 Masters Tournament.
The 29-year-old entered the final day at Augusta National with a commanding four shot lead and he had extended that to six as he reached Amen Corner but the procession turned to high drama on the back nine.
Japan has had two winners in the women’s Majors but Matsuyama has now shattered that ceiling for the men, beating his own finish of second at the 2017 U.S. Open and that of Isao Aoki, who also finished second at the same event 41 years ago.
“Hopefully I’ll be a pioneer in this and many other Japanese will follow. I’m glad to be able to open the floodgates, hopefully, and many more will follow me” he said.
Jon Rahm – first Spaniard to win U.S Open
Jon Rahm added another layer of history to his career with his maiden Major triumph earlier this year as he became the first Spanish winner of the U.S. Open in June.
When he was crowned European Number One in 2019, and then became World Number One for the first time in July 2020, he was following in the footsteps of the late, great, Seve Ballesteros as the only other Spaniard to achieve either accolade.
But when he lifted his maiden Major trophy at Torrey Pines to regain his position as World Number One, history belonged to him alone as he accomplished something that had until Sunday eluded even Ballesteros: A Spanish victory at the U.S. Open.
The magnitude of that achievement was not lost on Rahm, who quickly dedicated his first Major title to his idol.
“I’m the first Spaniard ever to win a U.S. Open. This was definitely for Seve,” he said following his one stroke victory over Louis Oosthuizen at Torrey Pines.
“I know he tried a lot, and usually we think a lot about him at the Masters, but I know he wanted to win this one most of all. I just don’t know how to explain it.”
Adrian Meronk – First Polish player to play in a Major/ in the Olympics/ at the DP World Tour Championship
It was a year to remember for Adrian Meronk and Polish golf, with several records falling in 2021.
Not only did Meronk become the first Pole to hold full playing privileges on Tour, but he also become the first Pole to play in a Major Championship at the U.S. Open in June, the first to play at the DP World Tour Championship, and was Poland’s first – and sole – golf competitor at the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
Like Mastuyama, Meronk is hoping his own achievements lead to growth of the game in his home nation.
“When I found out golf is coming back to the Olympics, that immediately was one of my goals to represent Poland,” he said.
“When people see golf in the Olympics, it will be a huge factor. It’s going to be a positive thing. There’s still a stereotype in Poland that golf is only for the wealthy, that it’s not a sport. If they see me on TV playing in the Olympics, that will help, for sure.
“I’ll try my best to grow golf as big as possible.”
Viktor Hovland – First Norwegian to win on Tour / First to play in the Ryder Cup
In his short professional career Viktor Hovland had already broken barriers for Norwegian golf, and this year he cemented his name on two more separate lists of history makers for his country.
In June, the then 23 year old captured the BMW International Open in Germany. Beating out an impressive field, Hovland secured his maiden Tour title – and with it became the first Norwegian to win on the DP World Tour.
Just three months later, Hovland secured a new first. Teeing up in at Whistling Straits with 11 other members of Team Europe, Hovland became the first player from Norway to compete in a Ryder Cup when he stepped on to the first tee of the Friday foursomes with Paul Casey.
“Obviously Ryder Cup is a big thing, and Norway doesn’t have a very long-standing tradition in the event,” said Hovland ahead of the event.
“So for me personally, it’s going to be a huge honour to wave the Norwegian flag alongside the European flag.”
[Viktor Hovland (header only – cropped for Rolex)]
Matti Schmid – first German to win Silver Medal
Matti Schmid joined a prolific list of winners this season when he made history for Germany on two separate occasions.
The first of those feats was during this year’s Open Championship at Royal St. George’s in July, where a second round record-tying 65 helped him to become the first German to win the Silver Medal for earning low amateur honours at the year’s final Major.
He turned professional in the immediate aftermath, and racked up a runner up finish at the Dutch Open and two further top 10s on his way to being crowned the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year – just the second German to achieve the feat after Martin Kaymer.
“To be finishing the year as the second German after Martin Kaymer to win Rookie of the Year is quite incredible to me to be honest, and something I never thought would happen,” Schmid wrote in his Player Blog.
“When my manager Irek called me and told me the news, he sent me an article with a list of the names of players I would be joining who had won this before me, and it’s an honour to be alongside them. It’s been such a surreal few months for me, and I’m obviously very excited about it.
“It’s the second time in the last few months I’ve had this feeling, and as a true golf fan who loves watching and following golf, it’s incredible to be added to part of the game’s history. The other time I felt like this was after winning the Silver Medal at The Open in July. It also has an exceptional list of former winners, and it’s amazing to think that my heroes growing up were Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, and between these two honours my name is now alongside all three of them.”
Abraham Ancer – The first Mexican to win on Tour
Abraham Ancer was also among the players to earn his place in history this season when he became the first Mexican to win a DP World Tour title.
The 30-year-old carded a 68 to finish at 16 under after 72 holes at the 2021 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, before defeating Sam Burns and Hideki Matsuyama in a play-off for victory at TPC Southwind.
Ancer, who first joined the European Tour in 2019 and whose previous best finish had been tie for fourth at that season’s WGC-HSBC Champions, said he hoped his win would help inspire the next generation.
“I know Mexico is in a better spot than some years prior right now, Mexican golf, but I think it’s getting a lot better,” he said after his win.
“Hopefully this week will inspire some kids to get out there and play golf and learn about the game and just grow the game in general. I’m really pumped where things are headed in my country.”
Bernd Wiesberger – The first Austrian to play in the Ryder Cup
Bernd Wiesberger, an eight-time winner on Tour, also made his history during his rookie debut at the Ryder Cup.
Wiesberger previously had two experiences of competing for Europe in the EurAsia Cup, but had been side-lined with an injury and was doing commentary for SKY Germany during the previous Ryder Cup contest at Le Golf National.
Inspired, Wiesberger returned in 2019 and won three times that season – and he carried that momentum into the qualification period for the Ryder Cup team, which included an eighth Tour title at the 2021 Made in Himmerland.
Teeing off in the first group on Friday afternoon alongside Paul Casey, Wiesberger became the first Austrian to compete in a Ryder Cup.
“There were two real stand-out moments for me during the week, but the most pride I felt was when I was announced by Paddy at the opening ceremony as the first Austrian to play in the Ryder Cup,” Wiesberger wrote in his player blog.
“That was very special for me, the people around me and the Austrian golf community as a whole. And then really getting everything going as a Ryder Cup player on the Friday afternoon for the first time was a big deal.
“There’s nothing that compares to it in golf. I’ve played all of the Major Championships, and that’s a different level success, but it’s unlike any other experience I’ve had before and one I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”
[Wiesberger Hovland Ryder Cup]
Collin Morikawa: The first American to win the Race to Dubai
Collin Morikawa capped off a stunning 2021 by becoming the first American to win the Race to Dubai with a victory at the 2021 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
In just under two-and-a-half years as a professional, Morikawa has won two Major Championships and a WGC title, and has now added both a Rolex Series victory and the Harry Vardon Trophy to his Wanamaker Trophy and Claret Jug.
After starting his European Tour season at the Dubai Desert Classic, Morikawa won his first World Golf Championships title at the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession, vaulting himself to second in Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex.
He would not drop out of the top three for the rest of the season, finishing in the top 20 at the Masters Tournament, top ten in his US PGA Championship defence and top five at the U.S. Open.
Morikawa said, “It’s special, it’s an honour, really, to be the first American to do that on the European Tour to put my name against many, many great Hall of Famers, it’s special,”
“I get touched up just talking about that. Two years ago, it wasn’t my thought. It was, ‘yeah, let’s go play around the world’ but we didn’t know what the cards were going to be dealt.”