2016 Year In Review: Part Three
80. Steven Bowditch takes on Twitter troll
Sports fans are all guilty of one thing when analyzing a pro athlete: it doesn’t matter what sport they’re watching, at some point we’ve all said the words “he (or she’s) bad” when talking about a player. The reality though is that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Actually turning pro in any sport means you are likely in the top 0.5% of people in the world at what you do, and WAYYYY better than any of us who attempt to play sports recreationally. Back in September, a high school student from Dallas named Charlie Croasdale either didn’t realize this or didn’t think anything would come of his words, and he decided to poke Aussie golfer Steven Bowditch on Twitter. This was a bad idea.
Bowditch had a dreadful 2016 on the course, missing the cut in 19 of his 27 starts and posting his lone worldwide top-10 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in early January. He also failed to break 80 in any of his four rounds at Doral, and because of this, he became the butt of many jokes on Twitter and other places for his poor play. Bowditch has handled this and his performance with an exceptional amount of grace and humour, and is one of the best golf follows on Twitter because of it. He’s refreshingly honest and hilarious, which just like Graham DeLaet’s anxiety issues that I talked about in part two, is something that you just don’t see very often from professional athletes when they are struggling, but back to Croasdale. In early September, Croasdale was chirping Bowditch about his poor play with multiple tweets when Bowditch realized that they lived in the same city and challenged him to a game. Unfortunately, many of the tweets from Croasdale have now been deleted, but you can still get a good sense of the story from Bowditch’s side.
After Croasdale told Bowditch he was a 9 handicap, they agreed to meet at a course of Croasdale’s choosing and they were to bring a partner each for the match. It was then that Croasdale told Bowditch he couldn’t get a tee time in the afternoon at Tour 18, which was the agreed upon course, a notion that Bowditch shot down immediately.
I think you can see where this is going. Croasdale never showed up for his match, but that didn’t stop Bowditch from having a good time as he teed it up with three locals and by all accounts they had a great time.
Remember kids: you’re not better than the pros, and you shouldn’t say something that you can’t back up.
79. ‘Adventures in Golf’ by Skratch
There is a lot of great stuff coming out of Skratch, the forward thinking digital arm of the PGA Tour operation, but nothing was better this year than their ten-part documentary series ‘Adventures in Golf”. Erik Anders Lang traveled the world to get an alternative view of the game that falls outside of the standard country club atmosphere, visiting places like Mumbai, Compton and a prison in Louisiana. He even went to a nudist resort and played a nine hole chip and putt in Florida.
All ten episodes are embedded in the playlist below, and they are truly fascinating and deserve your attention. It’s a reminder that golf takes many forms, and even though it’s different from the experiences that many of us have while on the course, it’s cool to see so many people enjoying the game in a myriad of ways.
I can’t wait to see more.
78. Matt Kuchar didn’t know the Olympic rules
Players skipping out on the Olympics was one of the biggest stories of the year, but one of the beneficiaries of some of the American players taking a pass was Matt Kuchar. He ended up going to Rio and winning the bronze medal, finishing third behind Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, but aside from the dropouts, there was no bigger indication to me that many of the top tour pros had very little interest in going over than Kuchar’s press conference ahead of the Travelers Championship. The men’s Olympic golf competition started on August 11th, and Kuchar was playing in the Travelers the week before knowing that he was going over to Rio. Kuchar was paired at the Travelers with Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson, who were also going over to Rio, and Kuchar was asked about if they still felt like they were all on the same team despite it being an individual stroke play event. His response, courtesy of ASAP Sports:
“Now, I may be miss-informed or just don’t know. You may have to help me. Is there no team format at all? I remember we did Wold Cup a couple years ago and the idea was it was an individual — this is down in Australia — it was individual, yet the two scores would be combined. When they first talked about it, if there were four Americans it was the two highest ranked and they were going to combine the scores for a team event. There is no combined? No team event whatsoever? Just an individual. We did the same thing at World Cup: 72 hole stroke play. I played with Kevin Streelman. We never played together but we did represent the United States in a team format. That was my initial impression of what was happening with the Olympics, but I’m incorrect on that.”
I know that Kuchar wasn’t supposed to be going initially and that the players don’t always envelope themselves in the weekly minutiae like the media does, but how did he not know this? The format was a big talking point for a lot of people from the day it was announced because it probably made more sense to do it in a different way, and on top of that, it’s not like he was going six months later. He was going in a week! And if that media member didn’t phrase their question like that, he might not have known until he got there. Ultimately, the Olympics were a fun event and it all pretty much worked out but instances like this one are proof that some of the big name players didn’t really have a ton of interest in the first place.
77. Jason Bohn suffers a heart attack
During the second round of the Honda Classic in February, Jason Bohn felt some tightness in his chest but wasn’t overly concerned. He recently had the flu, which turned into bronchitis, so he assumed that he wasn’t totally over it just yet but after the round, he asked to see a doctor. When he was examined, he was told that he needed to go to the hospital, and initial reports were that he suffered a mild heart attack. Apparently though, that wasn’t the case as Tim Rosaforte went on the Honda broadcast on the weekend to let people know that it was actually a major heart attack, where Bohn’s left anterior descending artery was 99% blocked and that he was resting comfortably in hospital after having a stent inserted.
It was a scary moment for Bohn, but he recovered well and managed to make a return to the PGA Tour less than two months later at the RBC Heritage and making twelve starts after that to close out his season. This story by Helen Ross of PGATour.com takes a look back at his recovery and is worth your time.
76. The PGA/LPGA agreement
Back in March, the PGA Tour and LPGA announced a “strategic alliance agreement”, with their press release stating that their partnership “will include areas such as schedule coordination, joint marketing programs, domestic television representation, digital media and exploring the potential development of joint events”. As Ron Sirak at Golf World pointed out, the LPGA TV deal expires with Golf Channel in 2019 and all PGA Tour TV deals are done in 2021, so this could be a situation where the PGA Tour works to get some more exposure for the LPGA, of which it has almost none outside of hardcore golf fans. What caught my eye though was the last part about joint events, which I wrote about when the news broke in March. I love the idea of doing some joint events, and for changing up the formats so that we’re not just looking at standard stroke play on a week in and week out basis, and I think that what I laid out in that article above would be the perfect way to run an event between the two tours.
This deal has the potential to be very beneficial for both parties, but particularly for the LPGA. I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes of it in 2017.
75. Journeyman wins on the PGA Tour
One of the things that I always like to reiterate to people is that all of the guys on the PGA Tour are capable of winning when they tee it up. They’re all so talented that if any of them get hot over four days, they have a shot at the winning the tournament but the biggest difference is that the top players like Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and the others are just more consistent on a weekly basis and that’s why you see them win more often. I just wanted to give a quick mention to five journeymen players who won on the PGA Tour in 2016, with four of them grabbing their first ever victories.
- Vaughn Taylor (AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am): Taylor entered Sunday at Pebble as an afterthought, sitting six shots behind the lead of Phil Mickelson but a stunning 65 allowed him to nip the five-time major winner by one. It was his third PGA Tour win, but first since the 2005 Reno-Tahoe Open.
- Jim Herman (Shell Houston Open): The 38-year old Herman entered Sunday with a share of the lead in Houston with Jamie Lovemark, but had to hold off Henrik Stenson for his first PGA Tour win. When it was all over, Herman did an interview with Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis, who let him know that he’d be in the Masters for the first time the following week.
- Brian Stuard (Zurich Classic of New Orleans): It was only 54 holes, but Brian Stuard claimed his first PGA Tour win in May at the Zurich Classic. Three of the four days had delays attached to them forcing a Monday finish where Stuard was able to topple Lovemark and Byeong-hun An for the win.
- Billy Hurley III (Quicken Loans National): Just ten months after his father died due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Hurley was able to win his first PGA Tour event with a Sunday 69 alongside Ernie Els. It’s emotional enough to get your first win, but to do it after everything that happened was pretty special for Hurley and his family. Els giving Hurley a hug as they walked down the 18th fairway together was also one of my favourite moments of 2016.
- Greg Chalmers (Barracuda Championship): At 43 years of age and with a lack of distance at his disposal, Greg Chalmers isn’t exactly the type of player you expect to win much. This is especially true at a tournament like the Barracuda where because of the Stableford format, players can take chances and not have to worry as much about the repercussions, but the Aussie pulled it off in July for his first PGA Tour win. The win at the Barracuda also got him into the Open Championship for the fourth time in his career where he finished in 81st place.
74. Jordan Spieth dominates the TOC
It happened so long ago that a lot of people have probably forgotten, but Jordan Spieth’s dominance of the first PGA Tour event of the year was ridiculous. Spieth’s nearest challenger came from Ryder Cup partner Patrick Reed, and he ended up EIGHT shots behind Spieth, who finished at 30-under par after rounds of 66-64-65-67 to just miss the PGA Tour record of scoring to par (-31), set by Ernie Els at this same event back in 2003.
It was going to be impossible for Spieth to live up to his incredible 2015 season, but he still won three times, finished fifth on the PGA Tour in total strokes gained, finished the year in fifth in the Official World Golf Rankings and was part of a successful American Ryder Cup team. There are some things that I’m sure he’d like to change, this one in particular, but all told it was a pretty damn good year for Spieth and it all started with an absolutely dominant performance at the Tournament of Champions.
73. Ian Poulter misses the Ryder Cup
It goes without saying that, for whatever reason, Ian Poulter is simply a different player at the Ryder Cup. Poulter has had a good amount of success as an individual player, particularly on the European Tour, but when he gets to the Ryder Cup, he turns into Tiger Ballesteros and becomes a massive pain in the ass to the American players and fans. He holes chips and pitches from everywhere, the putter is automatic from just about any spot on the green and as you can see above, he becomes some kind of emotional lightning rod for his side. It’s because of this that even though he was struggling with his game early in 2016, the thought was that there was no way he’d be left off Darren Clarke’s team, especially with the lack of experience expected from the other players.
But then Poulter injured his foot and had to take four months off from action. He was still at Hazeltine in a vice-captain role, but driving the golf cart around just wasn’t the same as having him on the course, putter in hand. Ultimately, it probably wouldn’t have made the difference for Europe had Poulter been healthy, but it was a crushing blow to a team that couldn’t afford it. Assuming he’s healthy, you can mark him down for a spot in 2018.
72. Tiger and Jason Day become BFFs
Despite playing only one event in 2016, Tiger Woods did a remarkable job of staying in the news.. One of the things that kept him in the news was that whenever Jason Day was interviewed and asked about his play, it seemed like Tiger was always on the top of his mind. Day frequently mentioned the amount of advice that Big Cat would give him via text, either about his game or the mental side of things, and it was even reported (though not confirmed as of yet) that Day was making the switch to Nike apparel for 2017. Obviously, the two have a lot in common with both of them having dominated the game, and having serious injury concerns as well but what was interesting to me about this was what it signalled about Tiger going forward.
It’s obvious that he’s had a slight change in mindset when it comes to how he’s handling things on the course, but being super friendly with top players is something he’d never do when he was at his peak. He’s always had his friends on tour, but anyone that was ever perceived as a major threat was never seemingly able to get close to Tiger in any way. He wouldn’t have been caught dead being close with Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh or Sergio Garcia fifteen years ago, but obviously times have changed.
Tiger said at the Hero that he was blown away by the amount of support he received from the other players on the PGA Tour during his absence and Day was clearly one of those guys. I never thought we’d see the day that Tiger Woods would be close with another superstar, but here we are.
71. PGA Tour announces new event in South Korea
While many of us would like to see the golf season shortened or at the very least, not see big events happen after September, that’s clearly not what the PGA Tour has in mind. In October, they announced that a new event would be added to the 2017-18 PGA Tour season, as the CJ Cup will take place from October 16th to 22nd in South Korea. It’ll be the third official PGA Tour event held in Asia, joining the CIMB Classic and the WGC-HSBC Champions event, all of which will be played in October with huge purses to attract the big name players and much like the WGC-HSBC, it’s a no cut event. Seventy-eight players will tee it up, with the top sixty in the FedEx Cup gaining access, and the remaining eighteen will be filled out by to be determined exemptions.
I’ve gone back and forth on the year long calendar idea, as it feels like the players could use an actual offseason break but I also like that golf is pretty much always on if you want to tune in. Tournaments like the CJ Classic are proof though that professional golf being played twelve months a year all over the world is not going away any time soon.
Part four of the 2016 Year In Review will examine stories 70-61.