Looking back at the 2013 PGA Tour season

Tiger Woods (Courtesy: Zimbio.com)

Tiger Woods (Courtesy: Zimbio.com)

The 2013 PGA Tour season has quickly come to an end, and everyone seems to be doing their end of season wrap before the new campaign begins in just over two weeks. I’m sure that at some point towards the end of the 2013 calendar, I’ll end up doing some sort of year in review that covers more than just the PGA Tour, but for now, here are thirty quick thoughts and awards for the 2013 PGA Tour season.

PGA Tour Player Of The Year: Tiger Woods

The tour is supposed to announce their player of the year officially on Friday, but the general consensus is that Tiger will be the recipient for the 11th time in his career, and first since 2009. There’s been some talk that he doesn’t deserve it based on the rules violations or that he didn’t win a major, but the facts make it a pretty easy case for those who have a vote:

    • Five wins (Farmers, WGC-Cadillac, Arnold Palmer Invitational, The PLAYERS & WGC-Bridgestone). His next nearest competitors had two.
    • His $8.5 million+ earned was over $2 million more than Henrik Stenson, who was the second highest earner.
    • Those two facts are made more impressive by the fact that of those who qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs, only Peter Hanson played less events (15) than Tiger’s 16.

PGA Tour Rookie Of The Year: Jordan Spieth

This will also be announced Friday, but it won’t even be a contest. Spieth finished 7th in the FedEx Cup, won a big tournament and made nearly $4 million despite not starting the season with his tour card. Not bad for a 20-year old.

Best Shot: Angel Cabrera’s approach into the 18th at Augusta

No, it didn’t win him the tournament, but Cabrera’s approach to force a playoff with Adam Scott on Sunday at the Masters was perfect. After seeing Scott in the group in front of him get in with a birdie, Cabrera stepped up knowing he needed a birdie to equal and took an aggressive swipe at the ball, getting it close and making the birdie putt. It was typical Cabrera, and it made for great drama.

Cabrera-approach-to-18

Worst Shot(s): Sergio Garcia on the island 17th at TPC Sawgrass

Ignore all of the Garcia/Tiger nonsense for a second and think about where we were on Sunday at the PLAYERS. Sergio was tied for the lead as he approached the par-3 17th island hole, one of the most famous sites in all of sports. He had won the event previously, but this would probably end up being his greatest victory were he able to come away with it. Instead, he puts two in the water, giving the trophy to Tiger and enforcing the belief, rightly or wrongly, that he’s a choke artist on the biggest stages.

Sergio-reax-to-water-2

Most Entertaining Shot: Phil Mickelson off the cart path at the WGC-Cadillac

Phil Mickelson is a wizard with the short clubs, and that was very clearly on display at the WGC-Cadillac with this approach from the cart path.

Pitching from the cart path at the 2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Pitching from the cart path at the 2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship.

 

Close-up of cart path chip shot. Notice that he does clip the path first before striking the ball.

Close-up of cart path chip shot. Notice that he does clip the path first before striking the ball.

It wasn’t that it was the first time we’ve seen a shot like this. It wasn’t even that he got it as close to the hole as he did. Listen to the interview embedded below with the Golf Channel’s Steve Sands where he claims that it isn’t even that difficult of a shot. It’s great stuff.

Best Putt: Adam Scott wins the Masters

After thinking that he had the tournament won, Scott watched Cabrera hit the shot above and force the playoff. The two were even on the first playoff hole before moving to the 10th in near darkness for the second. Cabrera was first to putt, and I still think that it should have gone in:

Cabrera-misses-putt-on-10-playoff

Scott had a chance to win the tournament now, and stepped up with his gigantic putter and hit the most important putt of his career:

Scott-makes-putt-on-10-playoff

Best Round: Jim Furyk’s 59

This only happened a few weeks ago, but Jim Furyk’s 59 at the BMW Championship is certainly one of the year’s most memorable moments. Doing it on a difficult course with tough conditions made it even more special, and even though he didn’t win the tournament, Furyk’s joining of the 59 club as their sixth ever member is a pretty incredible thing.

Worst Lipout: Mickelson misses 59

Of course, Furyk could have been the second 59 on the PGA Tour in 2013, as Mickelson was awfully close at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February. In Thursday’s opening round, Mickelson needed a birdie from 25 feet on the par-4 9th to close out the 59. He came painfully close to doing it, settling for a 60 en route to his first win of the season.

Lipping out for 59 at the 2013 Waste Management.

Lipping out for 59 at the 2013 Waste Management.

 

Close-up of the lip-out.

Close-up of the lip-out.

 

Mickelson thinks he has the 59, as do the fans.

Mickelson thinks he has the 59, as do the fans.

 

Caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay hits the ground when the putt lips out.

Caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay hits the ground when the putt lips out.

Best Tournament: The Masters

There have been a lot of great tournaments on the PGA Tour this season, but as usual, the Masters takes the cake. From start to finish, the event was full of storyline and intrigue, with big names and fresh faces entertaining the world at America’s most famous course. 14-year old Tianlang Guan, the ageless Fred Couples, Tiger and his rules “violation”, plus an incredible playoff between Scott and Cabrera gave us another Masters to remember. I’m sure that next year will be just as memorable, but I can’t imagine how that’s possible.

Comeback Player of the Year: Boo Weekley

The tour doesn’t give this award out anymore, but even when they did, they usually handed it out to a guy who returned from the depths of poor play instead of the original intention, which was to give it to someone returning from injury. In this case, Weekley applies to both and his win at Colonial was one of the highlights of the year for the simple reason that the game is better with people like Weekley around. He brings a level of entertainment to the game that few can, even if you can’t understand most of what he says. Don’t be surprised if you see him on the Ryder Cup team again next season.

Best Story of the Year: Henrik Stenson’s return

Much like Weekley, Stenson is a great character and his return to form is a great thing for the PGA Tour and the sport in general. After a year where he finished second behind Tiger on the money list, Stenson has climbed back to 4th in the official world golf ranking, a spot he achieved years ago after winning the PLAYERS Championship. How good was Stenson in the latter half of the year? He made north of $15 million from July to the end of the season. Another wrinkle nobody seems to be talking about? Stenson’s going to be great for Europe next year at the Ryder Cup.
Runner-up: Hunter Mahan withdrawing from the Canadian Open with the lead because his wife went into labour.

Breakout Player: Graham DeLaet

DeLaet finished 8th in the FedEx Cup this season despite not winning a single tournament, and he did it because of consistent play throughout the year, making 21 of 26 cuts, with seven top-10 finishes. He’s always been a great ball striker, but in the past, his putting has prevented him from truly breaking out. It still wasn’t great this year, but it was way better than it’s been, which really allowed him to make Nick Price’s Presidents Cup team on merit, instead of getting in as a captain’s pick. He will win at least one event on the PGA Tour next season, guaranteed.

Most Disappointing Player: Rory McIlroy

When the player himself admits that he’s surprised at how bad he played, you know it was a truly awful year. There were glimpses of Rory’s ability at points in 2013, but for the most part, it was utterly forgettable after the much discussed move to Nike. He was just short of $2 million earned on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes and zero wins, which would be good for a lot of players, but not for the guy who entered the season as the world’s number one player, and now sits sixth. Everyone’s got an opinion on him, and I’ve been on the record about mine, but I’ll say it again: he’s going to be just fine, and I fully expect a great 2014 from Rory McIlroy.

Worst Backpedal: Tim Finchem cowers in the face of the USGA/R&A

You know, for a short time, it looked like Tim Finchem was going to stand behind some of his players and fight the anchored putting ban proposed by the USGA and R&A. He looked as defiant as possible during the WGC-Accenture Match Play when he announced that the PGA Tour didn’t agree with the ban, but months later, they decided that they would just go along with it. Regardless of what you think of the anchoring ban, Finchem’s flip-flop made him look pretty weak after showing initial strength.

Best Indicator of PGA Tour Talent: K.J. Choi plays with clubs off the rack

Choi wasn’t happy with the way he was playing, so ahead of the Memorial, he stopped in at a local Golf Galaxy in Columbus and swung some clubs. He liked the Mizuno MP64’s enough to buy them on the spot and take them to the course. He finished tied for 21st at 1-under with new clubs by a new manufacturer without any work done to them. Unbelievable.

Worst Decision Made: Publishing the FedEx Cup rap video

So, I put together this list of moments to discuss, and I had to mention the FedEx Cup rap. Apparently the PGA Tour thought the same thing as anyone else with ears, and decided to pull it from their YouTube page, so I won’t be able to embed it for you here, but just keep in mind that this exists:

furyk1

Weirdest Moment: Justin Rose gets penalty after taking a practice swing divot

I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like this again. Justin Rose takes a practice swing behind his ball, causing a divot which flies into his ball and moves it for a penalty.

09.14.13 rose divot ball

Best blowup: Charl Schwartzel snaps an iron

This could have been just about anything else, but watching Charl Schwartzel destroy a club at the Open was pretty terrific.

07.18.13-schwartzel-club-toss-x3

Worst policy: Still allowing fans to call in violations

Admittedly, this is a tough one for the PGA Tour to change, especially in-season, but fans having the ability to call in rules violations absolutely needs to stop. Put more officials on the course if you need to, and trust that both them and the players will do the right thing when presented the opportunity. If you believe the PGA Tour, they get more calls from fans that are incorrect than correct, so if that’s the case, just end this mess now and move on.

Second worst policy: Adhering to a crazy rule book that the players don’t even understand

Finchem actually brought this up on Golf Channel this week, suggesting that it’s time that the PGA Tour starts looking at simplifying the rules that they follow. Now, I don’t really think they’ll create their own set of rules, upstaging the USGA and R&A, but something does need to be done here as the game is simply too difficult to understand, even for the pros. I’m not advocating that we let them off the hook when they make mistakes, but when just about every rule in the book has something that can cancel it out, there’s a problem. This is by no means an easy thing to fix, but something needs to be done.

Best example of being stuck in the past: The PGA Tour digital media strategy

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know this is something I’ve been harping on. It’s 2013, and golf fans still have no way of watching their favourite players and tournaments digitally whenever they want. Imagine something like an MLB.tv service where you could pay, say $50 to have full access to a player or group of players for the season, majors excluded since all of those events are televised for the entire tournament. The amount of money that the PGA Tour would be able to make selling Tiger Woods’ season online is ridiculous, especially when you consider that they’re already filming the rounds anyway. This is long overdue.

Worst Media Moment: Telling Tianlang Guan what to do

Tianlang Guan was one of the big stories of the early PGA Tour season, and he should have been. The 14-year old was more than impressive in every tournament he played in, and his family was adamant that they were willing to take sponsor’s exemptions for any tournament that was willing to let their son in to play. Of course, this led many in the media to suggest that what they were doing was wrong, and that the kid should be playing in junior tournaments, and working his way up the amateur ranks because they didn’t want him to turn into another Michelle Wie. Outside of being offensive to Wie, I’d also like to point out that it’s nobody’s business what Guan does and if they want to take exemptions, let them do it. I’m sure if those analysts were in their shoes, they wouldn’t appreciate being told what to do, so they shouldn’t have said anything.
Runner-up: Anything said by Brandel Chamblee.

Best use of Twitter: Ian Poulter and Rickie Fowler

I still don’t see any better users of social media in the golf world than Poulter and Fowler, although they go about it in totally different ways. Fowler’s interactions with his fans are incredible, as you can see in this post that I threw together a few months ago. Poulter interacts with his fans as well and is great at it, but the reason to follow him is because he frequently shoots off at the mouth, never afraid to tell you what he thinks. On the Open Championship at Muirfield:

On the fans shouting during tournaments:

Worst Luck: Weather gets in the way

This one actually isn’t anyone’s fault, as the PGA Tour can’t control the weather, but so many tournaments this year were delayed this year because of unplayable conditions that it was surprising when the forecast wasn’t looking awful for the week ahead. Of course, earlier in the season, the tour didn’t really do the best job of handling these situations, refusing to move up tee times in the hopes that they could just play through.

Worst sense of entitlement: Jeff Overton and the PGA Championship

Jeff Overton hasn’t really done much on the PGA Tour in recent years, so when it came time for the PGA Championship, he wasn’t actually in the field. He was listed as the first alternate, and when the PGA of America announced their two exemptions, they went with Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and future Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley. Overton, known for being a petulant hothead at times, decided to take to Twitter to vent his frustrations in messages that have since been deleted, but he was upset that after he helped bring in tons of money for the PGA of America at the 2010 Ryder Cup, that he wasn’t given one of those spots. The answer, as always, is to simply play well enough that you don’t have to rely on exemptions to get into tournaments. Also, don’t be an ass.

Worst timing: USGA announces FOX partnership on the eve of the PGA Championship

Many people were surprised when the USGA announced that they were giving their broadcast rights to FOX in a few years, taking the license away from NBC, but arguably the worst thing that happened didn’t even relate to NBC. The USGA, likely upset with the PGA of America’s initial opposition to the anchoring ban, decided to make their major announcement public on the eve of the PGA Championship. They claimed that their timing had nothing to do with upstaging the PGA, but I don’t think there’s a single person who actually believes that.

Best TV coverage: CBS

As usual, the CBS crew does an incredible job with their coverage, presenting the most balanced of broadcasts. By that I mean that none of their broadcasters offend me, unlike NBC, Golf Channel and ESPN. They do a great job of giving the game respect, but not taking themselves so seriously that they can’t have a little fun out there too.

Best course: Merion

It would be easy to give this to Augusta National, but the golf world hadn’t seen Merion since 1981, and it’s always fun to see how an old track will hold up. There was some real fear that the players would destroy one of golf’s most hallowed landmarks, but Merion proved that great design can stand the test of time. The USGA has been criticized in the past for making their courses too difficult, but I can honestly say that when I was watching the US Open this year, that thought never entered my mind once.

Worst course: Dove Mountain

The players absolutely hate Dove Mountain, the course that holds the WGC-Accenture Match Play every year, and not just because the area has been known to have heavy snowfall in the February month when the tournament is staged. The layout is just uninspiring, and the idea of a World Golf Championship being held in Arizona every year is getting very tired. Move it somewhere else, say Australia and Royal Melbourne and the players will love it. Also, we’d never have to see another snowball fight between Roger Maltbie and Steve Sands as Golf Channel tries to kill time on the air.

sands maltbie snow 1 sands maltbie snow 2

Best tribute: The players after Ken Venturi’s passing

Ken Venturi was one of those guys that was universally loved in the golf world, and it was a sad time when he passed away earlier this year. In May at the Byron Nelson Championship, players wore ribbons in memory of one of the all-time greats.

Venturi ribbon

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3 Comments on “Looking back at the 2013 PGA Tour season

  1. Pingback: Punch Shots: Moving the Match Play | AdamSarson.com

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