It was The Masters 1997. Tiger Woods had announced his arrival on the world stage
by winning his first of four green jackets at the Augusta National Golf Club. This would
be the American’s first of a remarkable 14 Major championship wins, signalling an
era of dominance that took golf to heights never previously reached. In the women’s game,
Sweden’s Annika Sörenstam had already claimed two U.S. Women’s Open titles and would go on to
win an unprecedented 10 Major championships.
These two iconic golfers changed the face of the sport, introducing it to a wider global audience.
At the same time, and away from the spotlight, a generation of future elite-level golfers, many
of whom would go on to attribute their inspiration to Woods and Sörenstam, were just at the start
of their journeys towards becoming world-class golfers.
Tiger Woods wearing the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller 4000
A quarter of a century later and these young men and women are now the ones
changing the landscape of the sport. Athletes such as three-time Major winner
Jordan Spieth and 2017’s breakout star Justin Thomas, both only 24 years of age, are
striving to set new standards. Similarly, Lexi Thompson, who became the youngest-
ever winner of an LGPA tournament in September 2011, aged 16, and Lydia Ko, who
achieved the same feat less than a year later, and went on to win two consecutive
Major championships at the 2015 Evian Championship and the 2016 ANA Inspiration,
possess the individual skill and pursuit of success inherent in the trailblazers that
have come before them. These prodigious young golfers were all welcomed into the
Rolex family of Testimonees shortly after turning professional. Together with a number
of supremely talented golfers of their generation, at the forefront of the sport, they
represent a new era of golfing excellence and are part of a collective known as the
Rolex New Guard
Motivated to achieve greatness and follow in the footsteps of their iconicpredecessors,
every member of the Rolex New Guard prepares for pressure situations with unrelenting
emphasis on precision, performance, passion, reliability and uncompromising quality.
They play with the utmost respect for one another, while sharing a mutual bond and
Rolex’s longstanding commitment to golf is part of the Swiss watchmaker’s
prestigious sporting and cultural heritage that dates back to the pioneering origins of
the company and its desire to support those whose determination and commitment
to excellence transcend limits and inspire greatness.
Rolex has championed golf since 1967, nurturing a relationship with its world-class
family of Testimonees, all of whom exude excellence on and off the course. Their raw
talent and quest for precision and performance have helped them reach the top with
integrity, maturity and respect.
Among them are Americans Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler. Fiercely
competitive on the course, all three men have already accomplished great feats, with
Jordan Spieth winning the 2015 Masters Tournament and the 2015 U.S. Open, followed
by victory at The 146th Open, in 2017. Justin Thomas claimed four PGA TOUR events in
2017, including his first Major victory, on route to being named PGA TOUR Player of the
Justin Thomas with the FedEx Cup
Rickie Fowler, who turned professional in 2009 shortly before his 20th birthday,
held the accolade of number one ranked amateur golfer in the world for 37 weeks
between 2007 and 2008, and in 2016 reached a career high of fourth in the Official
World Golf Ranking following his victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Away from the course, each of these elite competitors are hugely supportive of one
another, having built a friendship based on years of seeing each other develop. The
evolution of their personalities can partly be attributed to the support received from
the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA), an organization dedicated to the growth
and development of young men and women aspiring to earn college golf scholarships
through competitive junior golf.
As a Premier Partner since 1986, Rolex has seen many of its Testimonees benefit from the AJGA,
including Phil Mickelson, Lorena Ochoa, Lexi Thompson and Tiger Woods. Aside from creating bonds
between golfers and teaching them the importance of tradition, etiquette and respect, the AJGA
also rewards the best junior golfer in its ranks with the Rolex Junior Player of the Year award,
instilling the recipient with the confidence and desire to go on and achieve further success
throughout their professional careers.
Reflecting on his memories of being awarded the prestigious title, Jordan Spieth
stated that: “Given the major commitment Rolex has made to supporting junior golf, I
have been aware of the brand since my earliest days of competing. My first personal
connection came when I was awarded the AJGA Rolex Player of the Year in 2009 and
my affinity with the brand has grown as our relationship has evolved.”
Fellow American Brooks Koepka is another member of the Rolex family who has
experienced Major championship success, winning the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills,
just a month after his 27th birthday. Australian Jason Day also experienced his first
Major triumph in Wisconsin, aged 27, when he won the 2015 PGA Championship
at Whistling Straits. His commitment to precision on the course, persistence and
consistency saw him become the No.1 ranked golfer in the world the same year.
Having only turned professional in 2013, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama is one of Asia’s
finest golfers, with an impressive Majors record to accompany his five PGA TOUR
wins. The 25-year-old will expect further accolades in the near future.
Both Rolex Testimonees since 2016, two of the golfers making up the European
contingent of the New Guard are Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick and Spain’s Jon
Rahm. Following his second win on the European Tour in 2017, both of which were
Rolex Series events, Rahm said: “To win two of the European Tour’s Rolex Series
events as a Rolex Ambassador has made these victories that much more special.”
The European Tour, a partner of Rolex since 1995, introduced the Rolex Series in 2017,
an initiative four-time European Tour event winner Matthew Fitzpatrick commends:
“The Rolex Series highlights Rolex’s continued commitment to our game and has
been an exceptional addition to the season, enabling both European Tour players and
fans to enjoy an elevated level of golf, closer to home.”
Along with Fitzpatrick and Rahm, 26-year-old Thomas Pieters, from Belgium, is another
European counterpart who made a name for himself at the 2016 Ryder Cup when he
set a new rookie record for points earned. He is sure to play an integral role in The 2018
European Ryder Cup Team, the esteemed event founded in 1927 that Rolex has been
a partner of, when in Europe, since 1995.
Rolex is also proud to support many of the world’s best female golfers in the world. All
three women in the New Guard are incredibly young, yet have experienced success
beyond their years.
Nobody has achieved more at such a young age than the supremely-talented New
Zealander Lydia Ko. At just 20 years old, Ko holds 12 LGPA Tour wins, as well as two
Major titles. Having spent a record 130 weeks as the top-ranking amateur, Ko went
on to become the youngest player of either gender to achieve number one status in
the Rolex Rankings as a professional. She then became the youngest woman to win
a Major championship in 2015 at The Evian Championship, where Rolex is the Official
Timekeeper, and made history by becoming the youngest golfer to win two Major
championships in a row with victory at the ANA Inspiration in 2016. Her extensive
list of achievements can be attributed to her obsession with precision, practice and
relentless consistency. Ko, like the great Annika Sörenstam, plays with an accuracy
and elegance found only in the very best.
Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson line up their putts
Another rising star is American Lexi Thompson. At just 12 years of age, Thompson
became the youngest golfer to ever qualify to play in the U.S. Women’s Open before
turning professional in 2015. Her incredible level of performance saw her set a record
as the youngest-ever winner of an LGPA tournament, aged just 16. Three years later,
she obtained one of the pinnacle achievements in the sport by winning the ANA
inspiration at age 19 and, with two LPGA Tour victories in 2017, continues to contest for
top honours in the ladies’ game.
Lexi Thomson places her ball on the 16th green
Born in September 1977, the youngest of the Rolex New Guard, Ontario-born
Brooke Henderson continues to make waves in the golfing world. Having turned
professional in 2014, the Canadian won her first Major at the 2016 KPMG Women’s
PGA Championship, the event’s youngest winner at 18. Respect and camaraderie,
as well as a desire to win were evident prior to Henderson’s dramatic play-off win
over Ko at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in 2016 after which the Canadian
stated: “Lydia Ko is definitely a role model for me, and being able to become friends
with her on tour and see her week to week is really cool, even if I know that she is the
Ensuring a bright future for the game
The achievements and accolades of the New Guard are a shining example to young
golfers of what can be achieved in the unrelenting pursuit of individual excellence.
Every member displays the integrity, respect and sportsmanlike behaviour that is so
crucial in inspiring the next generation of true ambassadors of the game.