2017 proved to be a record-breaking year for many reasons.
Julian Suri became the first player to win a full European Tour event and a Challenge Tour title in the same season. China’s Li Linqiang became the youngest player to make a cut aged just 13 years and 345 days old.
As for the Class of 2016, they became one of the most successful in history, with six of the top 15 keeping their cards – the best return since the top 15 was introduced in 2013.
Leading the way was Dylan Frittelli.
The South African came into his rookie campaign on the European Tour in fine form after an outstanding 2016 on the Challenge Tour, which saw him win once and rack up nine top ten finishes – the most by any player that season.
Frittelli took that consistency into 2017, making five consecutive cuts from the end of January before arriving in China – where he truly kick-started his European Tour career.
A share of fifth place at the Shenzhen International was followed by Frittelli coming agonisingly close to lifting his first European Tour title the following week – he lost out to Alexander Levy in a play-off at the Volvo China Open.
But the 27 year old would not have to wait long for victory. After an outstanding final day 67 he soared up the leaderboard to clinch the Lyoness Open powered by Organic title, and in doing so became the first member of the Class of 2016 to win on the European Tour.
Frittelli was also firmly in contention for a second title of 2017 at the Turkish Airlines Open, event six of the prestigious Rolex Series.
Another excellent closing round in Antalya – a seven under par 64 which included three chip-ins in four holes – almost put Frittelli into a second play-off of the season.
Despite Justin Rose making a birdie at the 18th to win by one, Frittelli still picked up the biggest pay cheque of his career by finishing in a share of second place.
In the final event of the 2017 Race to Dubai, the DP World Tour Championship, Frittelli once again went toe-to-toe with some of the world’s leading players and challenged for the title down the stretch before finishing in a share of fourth place alongside Sergio Garcia, Rose and fellow South African Dean Burmester.
Although he finished his rookie season 19th in the Rankings, securing him the Graduate of the Year award, Frittelli was not finished for 2017.
Having faltered in a play-off earlier in the season, Frittelli showed nerves of steel against Arjun Atwal at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open by birdieing the first extra play-off hole.
Having finished 2017 at a career-high 54th in the Official World Golf Ranking, Frittelli will be looking to break into the top 50 next year – a sign of how far he has progressed since leaving the Challenge Tour in 2016.
Also excelling during his debut season on Europe’s top tier was Jordan Smith.
The 2016 Road to Oman Rankings winner, who two seasons ago was competing on the satellite EuroPro Tour, quickly showed his class by going toe-to-toe with Rory McIlroy in the final group on Sunday at the BMW SA Open in January. Although he ultimately missed out on a play-off by one shot, a third-place finish was a sign of things to come.
His breakthrough win came in July at the Porsche European Open, where the Englishman clinched a maiden European Tour title in dramatic fashion, overcoming Levy in a play-off to win in Germany.
A top ten finish in his first Major appearance at the US PGA Championship was another highlight in an excellent rookie campaign for the 25 year old, who is now firmly on the golfing radar.
Ryan Fox showed his talent over two seasons on the Challenge Tour. After finishing just outside the top 15 in 2015, the big-hitting Kiwi was outstanding in 2016 when he won once and finished inside the top five on five further occasions in his 13 starts.
After graduating in fourth place in the Rankings, the 30 year old immediately found himself at the top end of world golf, playing with Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson in his first two months as a European Tour member.
This season Fox has also shown that he is comfortable competing against the game’s elite by thriving in the Rolex Series.
After claiming a share of sixth place in France, Fox secured back-to-back top-five finishes in Ireland and Scotland, qualifying for the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in the process.
Fox, who also teed it up at the US PGA Championship this season, surpassed one million points at the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player – he really has taken to the European Tour like a duck to water this year.
Another player who has impressed during his rookie season on the European Tour has been Sweden’s Alexander Björk, so much so that Richie Ramsay recently said he was ‘the best player yet to win on Tour’ this season.
The 27 year old was firmly in contention for a maiden European Tour title at the HNA Open de France but, after taking on Tommy Fleetwood in a final-day battle, he eventually finished in a share of third.
Having had that experience of going toe-to-toe with the Race to Dubai Number One, Björk has shown he can hold his own on golf’s greatest stages and he will be well fancied to progress even further in 2018.
Matthieu Pavon, like Björk and Smith, has made the transition from satellite tour star to promising European Tour player this season .
The Frenchman, who two seasons ago was plying his trade on the Alps Tour, catapulted himself into the golfing spotlight this summer by carding a sublime final round of 66 at Dundonald Links to finish in third place at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
The 25 year old has shown he can compete with the finest players in the world, an excellent start to European Tour life indeed.
Hotly tipped to excel on the European Tour this season was Belgium’s Thomas Detry – who did not disappoint.
After joining the paid ranks in June 2016, Detry found himself on the European Tour five months later after a series of impressive performances put him into the top 15 – including a record-breaking 12-shot victory at the Bridgestone Challenge.
The 24 year old made the fastest start to European Tour life too. A third-place finish in his first outing of the season at the Alfred Dunhill Championship showed that he had the game to follow in the footsteps of compatriots Nicolas Colsaerts and Thomas Pieters.
A runner-up finish in the BMW International Open against a world-class field, which included Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson, was the other standout result of Detry’s rookie campaign.
Having finished in 86th place in the Race to Dubai, the lowest of the six card keepers, Detry will be hungry to turn his near misses into victories in 2018.