Rolex Celebrates 50 Years of Sportsmanship and Style in Support of the World of Golf

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18th Green St Andrews with Jordon Spieth. Photo credit: Rolex/Chris Turvey

Golf has come a long way since its origins on the windswept dunes of Scotland’s east coast some seven centuries ago.

The game is believed to have been first played at St Andrews around 1400 AD, while The Old Course at Musselburgh Links, near Edinburgh, is widely accepted to be one of the oldest in the world. Mary, Queen of Scots, reputedly played the course in 1567, taking a somewhat different stance towards the game than her great-great grandfather, King James II, who banned golf in 1457 because the country’s young archers were practicing their swing rather than their aim.

Musselburgh no longer hosts The Open, the sport’s oldest Major championship – it did so six times between 1874 and 1889 – but links golf, especially at St Andrews, remains at the heart of the sport, as does the game’s most fervent supporter, Rolex.

From historic St Andrews, overlooking the slate expanse of the North Sea, to the azalea-lined Augusta National Golf Club, in Georgia, U.S.A, and Le Golf National in the leafy suburbs of Paris where the 2018 Ryder Cup was staged, golf has become a sport with a truly global reach.

Swiss watch manufacturer Rolex has been a key supporter in helping to deliver this ancient game to the modern age, while continuing to champion the traditional values that remain at its essence.

Photo credit: Rolex/Chris Turvey

Rolex’s enduring relationship with the game of golf began more than 50 years ago, in 1967, with Arnold Palmer, joined by fellow members of The Big Three, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. These legendary players changed the face of golf forever, and their partnership with Rolex marked the beginnings of a relationship based on a mutual quest for performance excellence and respect for time-honored values.

Photo credit: Rolex/Chris Turvey

As Rolex Testimonee Rickie Fowler, of the United States, says: “The game of golf has been elevated as a sport by Rolex’s long-standing support and sponsorship. My relationship with Rolex began in junior and amateur golf. I have been fortunate to call Rolex a friend and partner of mine since early in my professional career as well. It is a privilege to be associated with a brand that has such long-standing relationships with the greats of the game such as Arnie, Jack, Tiger and Phil.”

A GLOBAL SPORTING CAPITAL

Rolex has enjoyed a long-standing role as the Official Timekeeper and Global Partner of the Presidents Cup, contested biennially by two teams of elite golfers, from the United States on one, and all other nations outside Europe on the other.

The 13th edition returns for the first time since 2011 to the cosmopolitan metropolis of Melbourne, Australia, where The Royal Melbourne Golf Club will host the match for the third time.

Considered Australia’s sporting capital, Melbourne has hosted the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, and is home to the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix and the Australian Open, the first of the year’s four Grand Slam® tennis tournaments.

Photo credit: Rolex/Chris Turvey

Tiger Woods, one of the most successful players of all time, will captain the United States Team in Melbourne in December 2019 at his ninth Presidents Cup. Woods is one of five Rolex Testimonee to have assumed that mantle, joining Fred Couples, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

SPORTSMANSHIP & ETIQUETTE

Rolex and golf have a mutual appreciation for tradition and heritage. The emphasis the sport places on etiquette and respect for the rules and spirit of the game is something that resonates strongly with Rolex’s own intrinsic beliefs.

The Presidents Cup has produced many memorable moments, perhaps none more so than at the 2003 tournament in Western Cape, South Africa. In a magnificent display of sportsmanship, Rolex Testimonees Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, the respective captains of the United States and International teams, agreed to share the trophy after three grueling playoff holes between Woods and Ernie Els failed to deliver a winner. To this day, it remains the only tie in the history of the tournament.

Photo credit: Rolex/Chris Turvey

Rolex Testimonee Adam Scott, from Australia, enjoyed his first taste of the Presidents Cup at that historic event, recording three precious points for the Internationals, the joint second-highest total on the team. Ahead of the 2019 event, he said: “I’ve played in the last eight Presidents Cups and as it’s in Australia I want to play but especially being at Royal Melbourne, where I’ve won tournaments in the past. I’ve played a Presidents Cup there in the past, too, and I have quite a knowledge of the golf course. I think I’ll be a valuable member, so I certainly have set the goal to make the 2019 team.”

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

In June 2019, Rolex’s involvement with golf reached to the rugged granite outcroppings and small islets of California’s Pacific coast for the U.S. Open, renowned as golf’s ultimate test. 

Photo credit: Rolex/Chris Turvey

Staged at a different course each year, Rolex has been intimately involved with the oldest of the three Majors played in the United States since 1980, when it partnered with the USGA, the organizer of the U.S. Open.

Monterey, located along the Pacific Coast Highway, offers some of the most stunning views that North America has to offer and served as a backdrop for the 119th U.S. Open, which returned to California for the 13th time, and for a sixth time at the revered Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Overlooking the azure waters of Carmel Bay to the south and framed by a vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean to the west, and with long, winding roads hugging the shinglestrewn beaches from which the area gets its name, Pebble Beach is a showcase for the area’s natural beauty. But this idyllic setting is also where the world’s best golfers faced a severe examination of their skills during the U.S. Open.

This Major is famed for presenting courses that require the greatest precision and skill from its competitors, no matter where it is held. The legendary Pebble Beach provides other unique features, including cliff-side fairways that hug the rugged coastline, wide-open vistas and small, sloping greens. The venue enjoys a rich history of producing winners of the highest caliber, including Jack Nicklaus, whose haul of 18 Major titles is unrivaled in the sport, and whose name is given to the gold medal presented to the winner of the U.S. Open; and Tiger Woods, whose 2000 win at Pebble Beach was the first step to becoming the first golfer to hold all Major titles at once, a feat now known as the “Tiger Slam”.

This year’s U.S. Open venue was particularly poignant for Rolex Testimonee, and one of the greatest players of all time, Tom Watson. It was 37 years ago at Pebble Beach that he won his only U.S. Open title in a thrilling duel with fellow Testimonee Nicklaus, one that will live long in the annals of the sport.

Photo credit: Rolex/Chris Turvey

Watson had enjoyed some success in his previous appearances at the U.S. Open, including six top-10 finishes, but the trophy had eluded him going into his 11th tournament in 1982. By the final day he was in a strong position, tied for first with a real chance to finally see his name etched on the trophy. Nicklaus, his friend and great rival, engineered a surge from eighth place to be clubhouse leader, putting extreme pressure on Watson to finish as well as he had started. The Kansas City native’s 17th hole began disastrously. When his two-iron shot sailed left of the flag and into the dense rough behind the green and above the hole, it seemed to many that Watson would yet again be denied a maiden title.

Assessing the lie of the ball, Watson’s caddie Bruce Edwards knew the resulting chip shot would be difficult to control and advised Watson to just “get it close”, to which the five-time Champion Golfer of the Year prophetically replied, “Get it close? Hell, I’m going to sink it.” Watson struck the ball sweetly and watched it bounce against the flagstick before dropping in. He carried his confidence into the final hole, which he also birdied, resulting in a two-shot win over Nicklaus in what is regarded as one of the greatest moments in U.S. Open history.

ROLEX SERIES

The Rolex Series was founded in 2017 and comprises the eight most prestigious tournaments on the European Tour’s International Schedule. Featuring the highest quality golf and promoting the global spirit of the game, these events take place in traditional strongholds, such as the sparkling western coastline of Ireland and the rolling green hills of the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, South Africa, along with modern oases in the Middle East.

The jewel in the crown is the final event of the European Tour, the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, which from 2019 offers the largest first prize in the history of golf.

Photo credit: Rolex/Chris Turvey

Set in the heart of Dubai, surrounded by desert and the burgeoning high-rise city, the tournament encapsulates Rolex’s commitment to golf and the ethos handed down by Rolex founder Hans Wildorf that permeates everything the company does to this day: remembering the past while looking to the future.

Only the top 50 golfers based on the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex are invited to this exclusive event, which is staged at the luxurious Jumeirah Golf Estates. In 2019, the season-long Race to Dubai features 48 tournaments spanning 31 countries, across five continents.

THE ‘FINEST PARCEL OF LAND IN THE WORLD’

Gleneagles, on the edge of the Scottish Highlands, hosted the world’s premier team event for professional women golfers in September 2019. At the Solheim Cup, the biennial tournament contested by teams representing Europe and the United States, players set aside their individual pursuits to compete for the good of their team, for the glory of their country and continent.

Historic Gleneagles. Photo credit: Rolex/Chris Turvey

Rolex has a long and illustrious association with the women’s game, not only as a partner of the Solheim Cup since 1994, but as the driving force behind the first comprehensive ranking system for female golfers, the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.

Founded in 2006, these rankings are based on performances on the premier tours throughout the world and help decide Solheim Cup selection. Anna Nordqvist and Lexi Thompson, both Testimonies and members of the Rolex New Guard – a group of young, aspirational golfers who confidently go about their business with integrity, maturity and respect – were selected as part of the European and United States teams respectively, Nordqvist emerging victorious for the third time in her career.

Rolex’s association with this esteemed event extends beyond the players who will tee off on what Jack Nicklaus, who helped redesign the course, once described as the “finest parcel of land in the world”. The women who have captained Europe in the previous two tournaments are Rolex Testimonees Annika Sörenstam and Carin Koch, highlighting Rolex’s enduring support for leadership at the highest levels of the game.

In 2019, Rolex was also proud to have partnered the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, which in April featured, for the first time at the revered Augusta National Golf Club, the world’s leading female amateurs.

AN ENDURING LEGACY

For a sport that can trace its history back more than half a millennium, 50 years may seem a brief period in which to build such an important relationship, but it is impossible to picture the sport as it is today without the support of Rolex. The enduring partnership is built on a perpetual commitment by both parties to quality and reliable performance, along with a pioneering spirit, foundations that define Rolex’s approach to watchmaking and all its other activities.

What began as a handshake agreement with the legendary Arnold Palmer has become a multi-dimensional relationship with global benefits, highlighted by partnerships with governing bodies and organizations in five continents, including men’s and women’s Majors, events and amateur championships in Britain, the United States, Latin America and Asia, and eight international golf federations.

Rolex’s continued support for the game reflects the core principles at the heart of the brand. Inscribed on every Rolex Oyster watch is the word perpetual, which also describes the brand’s support for golf, evidenced by its family of Testimonies that spans several generations, from The Big Three to the Rolex New Guard.

The brand’s belief in continuous improvement, in always pushing the boundaries of what is possible and taking the long-term view, will never cease, much like the rotor in a Rolex timepiece. Over the past 50 years, Rolex has been there at golf’s most memorable moments and will be there again in the special moments to come.

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