The New Guard
How Rolex is supporting the millennial golfing champions
Perhaps more than any other sport, golf at the highest level is about precision, consistency and the uncompromising pursuit of perfection. The game’s finest exponents are rightly celebrated for their passion, drive and skill.
At the same time, golf is also an expression of other qualities – sportsmanship, a respect for opponents and for tradition – that have endured across the years. This unique blend of competitiveness and ritualised honesty has sustained the enduring relationship between golf and Rolex.
The company has been associated with golf since 1967, more than half a century ago, when Arnold Palmer became a Rolex Testimonee. His successors constitute a golfing who’s who, with Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Annika Sorenstam, and Tiger Woods among their number.
But a sport can only thrive when younger players are emerging to infuse competitions with fresh vigour. Rolex has always acknowledged this, and is now welcoming a new generation of golfers, dubbed the Rolex New Guard, into its family of Testimonees.
Made up of players born mainly in the 1990s, the New Guard includes Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, Thomas Pieters and Matthew Fitzpatrick, together with female golfers Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson and Brooke Henderson. Several will be competing at The Open in Carnoustie.
Pushing to be the best
Jordan Spieth (above and top), 24, has three major titles to his name. Ranked fifth in the world, the American believes that golfing success is about digging deep, “finding a way to will that victory, being brilliant when you need to be”.
Spieth acknowledges the importance of promoting young talent. “Given the major commitment Rolex has made to supporting junior golf, I have been aware of the brand since my earliest days of competing,” he says.
Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka, both from the US, are also recent additions to the Rolex family. Thomas, ranked second in the world, was just 24 when he won his first major in 2017. In the same year, he won three other PGA Tour events and was named PGA Tour player of the year. He says making a great shot reminds him of why he got into golf in the first place and why “I’ll always push myself to be the best”.
Ranked two places below Thomas, 28-year-old Brooks Koepka has won the US Open the last two years running. During his 2017 victory he equalled the US Open score record with a 16 under par total, four shots clear of fellow Testimonee Hideki Matsuyama of Japan.
For Koepka, his achievements are the result of perseverance. “Whatever happens in golf, you have to stay patient and stick it out,” he says. “That’s how I won the US Open and that’s how I got where I am today.”
Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick (above), Belgium’s Thomas Pieters and Jon Rahm of Spain make up the New Guard’s European contingent. Rahm, a winner of two Rolex Series events on the 2017 European Tour, says he likes to play golf the way he lives his life – with passion. And he is unequivocal about the importance of Rolex to his career. “To win two of the European Tour’s Rolex Series events as a Rolex ambassador has made these victories that much more special,” he says.
‘Golf is in good hands’
The ages of all three women in the New Guard confirm Rolex’s commitment to fostering new female talent.
Although just 21 years old, New Zealander Lydia Ko (below) holds 15 LGPA Tour wins and two major titles. At 18 she became the youngest woman to win a major at the Evian Championship. Lexi Thompson, of the US, was 12 when she became the youngest golfer ever to qualify to play in the US Women’s Open. Now 23, she has nine LGPA Tour wins and one major title.
Brooke Henderson, who at 20 already has six LGPA Tour wins and one major, cites Ko as a major influence: “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 competition!”
Away from the course, many of these Rolex New Guard competitors are hugely supportive of one another – in part because they play together in the rarefied world of elite international sport, but also because they share an understanding of what sporting success involves.
It means perseverance, digging deep, pushing yourself to the limit, and playing with passion.
In the words of golfing legend Annika Sörenstam, herself a Rolex Testimonee: “There is certainly a new generation emerging, and I feel golf is in good hands.”