2017 Year In Review: 90-81

Previous posts: 100-91

I want to start this story off by saying that one of my favourite things that has happened over the last sixteen months or so is that Pat Perez has gotten involved on the PGA Tour. For years, Perez was often given the underachiever label and was known way more for his outbursts than his play. So, the fact that Perez now has two wins since November of 2016, including a big one recently at the CIMB, makes me happy.

However, the thing that Perez made headlines for more than anything in 2017 was when he talked about Tiger and where his game was at in February.

Of course, everything that even tangentially involves Tiger becomes news, so Perez had to clarify his remarks and mention that him and Tiger had texted about the whole ordeal. Here’s the thing: Perez is always going to tell us what he thinks, and he doesn’t care about my opinion, your opinion or anyone else’s, really. And that’s great! He shouldn’t care, and we should all be thrilled that someone is willing to speak honestly on anything that he’s asked about. Of course, that didn’t stop people from firing off their takes about Perez. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time in February:

Most of the hate was directed at Perez’s lack of a resume, which is the most ridiculous take possible because by that logic, Jack is essentially the only one who is allowed to have an opinion on Tiger. I do think that some of what he said is unfair, particularly the part where he basically said Tiger faked a back injury after that 77 in Dubai, which if you watched him play that round, it was pretty obvious that something was wrong. Ultimately though, I don’t really have a problem with what he said and to be honest, I’m sure that a lot of other players are thinking the same thing but they are just afraid to say it publicly.

The percentage chance of it happening is essentially zero, but people really need to chill out when it comes to anyone saying anything negative about Tiger. It’s just going to lead to the players not saying anything of value, which is something Graeme McDowell talked about years ago, and that just ends up as a negative for all of us.

I have two hopes for Perez going forward. The first is that he keeps playing well, and the second is that he keeps talking. The game is better when Pat Perez, and others, speak their mind. The good news is that it doesn’t appear like he’s ready to change anything anytime soon.

Augusta National is never going to open its doors to the LPGA Tour. The Old Course has only hosted the Women’s Open Championship once in 41 years, and the USGA hasn’t exactly given the U.S. Women’s Open too many prestigious venues to be contested on since it first started play in 1946. To be honest, it often feels like the women’s game is an afterthought when it comes to the professional ranks, and if I’m being totally fair, I’m guilty of that as well.

One of the unfortunate things about covering golf in a part-time (sometimes very part-time) role over the last few years, is that I haven’t been able to watch the women’s game as much as I would have liked. I tend to duck in and out of coverage, and weigh in when big news hits instead of giving the women the proper level of coverage that they deserve.

Thankfully, the USGA decided to do something different in 2023, as they announced back in October that for the first time, Pebble Beach would be hosting the U.S. Women’s Open. It’ll be the fourteenth USGA event hosted by Pebble, coming after the 2018 U.S. Amateur and the 2019 U.S. Open. It was also announced that the men would be heading back in 2027 for the U.S. Open.

This is a big deal, as it’s the first time that any major female event will be held at Pebble since the 1948 U.S. Women’s Amateur. It’s also a sign that the USGA is looking to elevate the women’s game in some capacity, on top of the fact that it’s going to be really cool to finally see the women play on one of the game’s most hallowed grounds.

I know it’s always pretty easy to rip on the USGA (and I will later in this list!), but you have to give them credit for this move. It’s really cool, and hopefully we see more steps like this from them and other governing bodies going forward.

Back in February, Jordan Spieth went wire to wire to claim his ninth career PGA Tour win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, winning by four shots over Kelly Kraft. Spieth made it look super easy that week, especially with the back to back 65’s on Friday and Saturday, and it really felt like there was no way anyone was going to catch him on the weekend. It was a great performance, but something else happened that week that caught my attention as much as the win.

Ahead of the tournament, Spieth met with reporters and got super animated in a way that we don’t often see from the composed Spieth in a press setting. The topic? Autograph chasers, particularly the ones who are there to make a profit on the signature of players like Spieth, and get in the way of kids who are just there to get an autograph of their favourite players.

Go get a job! Scums! It’s amazing to me that even in a moment where Spieth is clearly exceedingly pissed off, he remains stoic and composed and he’s absolutely correct about this, too. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for someone like Spieth to see another person make money off of his own success, but you can tell that he was more upset about their interference and language around the young kids in the area.

Imagine how you’d feel if you were, say, 10 years old and you only get one chance to see Spieth or Rory McIlroy because there’s only one tournament in your area and you can only get out to the course for one of the four rounds. You get your chance to get an autograph, and you get pushed out of the way by an adult. It would suck, and good on Spieth for speaking out about it when he saw it.

Pampling tees off quickly (Courtesy: PGA Tour)

We’ve all been there.

Fighting darkness over the final few holes, you want nothing more than to just finish the 18th and complete your round. Well, the pros are that way, too, and we saw no better example of that in 2017 than Rod Pampling during the second round of the PGA Championship.

After a rain delay that lasted nearly two hours, the late afternoon wave was in danger of not finishing their rounds and having to come back early on Saturday morning to complete them. None of Pampling’s group of himself, Thomas Pieters and Xander Schauffele were going to make the cut, so the idea of them coming back in the morning probably sounded even worse than it did to the guys who were going to be playing on the weekend. So, Pampling finished the eighth hole and rushed to the ninth where he proceeded to hit the quickest and worst shot that you’ll likely ever see from a professional, way down the left side.

My favourite things about this shot:

  1. Pampling’s walk after he hit it.
  2. That Pro Tracer was on, proving once again that it has an incredible amount of value for bad shots as well as good ones.
  3. The group in front of Pampling, who is clearly not far away and walking up the right side, which is probably the larger reason why Pampling missed so far to the left.

Most importantly, with Pampling’s ball in play, the group was able to finish the hole and didn’t have to come back on Saturday. It wasn’t a great shot, but it was definitely one of the most memorable of the last twelve months.

My formative years as a golf fan were spent watching Tiger dominate the golf landscape, with Phil Mickelson (depending on what you think about Ernie Els) typically considered his closest rival. I shouldn’t have to tell you that back in those days, Tiger wasn’t exactly an open book and from the outside looking in, was so laser focused that it was hard to picture him having many friends on tour, particularly the ones that were trying to knock him off of his perch.

For a lot of people, Tiger’s relationship with Mickelson was always considered cordial at best, and frosty at its worst, even though both guys have been on the record in the past that the relationship was much better than perceived. That has definitely been true in the last few years as Tiger has mostly been on the sidelines, and both players have taken on more of a mentorship role to the younger players on tour.

Even with all of that said, this was not what I was expecting to see at any point.

Maybe I’m making more of this than I need to be, but even if you believe that they’ve always been closer than suggested, public displays of affection are a whole lot different than “our relationship is better than most people realize”. Previously, the only time you’d see Tiger smile in Mickelson’s presence would be at some official photo like the Masters Champions Dinner or if he cracked a joke about how good Tiger was.

2017 was a weird, confusing year for a lot of reasons, golf and otherwise, and this moment was a great example of that very thing. I can’t believe this actually happened.

Speaking of big name players who haven’t always had a great relationship, Sergio and Padraig, come on down! Admittedly, this relationship was always a little more icy than Tiger and Phil’s was, and had been this way for quite some time. Harrington first spoke about it with the Guardian in 2008:

“We have zero in common, bar the fact that we both play golf. He is the antithesis of me, and I am the antithesis of him. We play the game in exactly the opposite way. He is destined to find the long game easy and the short game hard, and I am the opposite.”

“We’re also competitors who for the last few years have been vying over who is the No. 1 golfer in Europe. I think in the hearts and minds of a lot of people García would have been No. 1, while I have been ranked No. 1. As you can imagine, no quarter is given. It is not as if we have ever had a row or a run-in. I have had plenty of run-ins with people and we would be friends but [with García] it is just, well, we are just so much the opposite of each other.”

It actually continued this year as well, with Harrington going on Irish radio after Garcia’s win at the Masters and saying that he’s always been a sore loser, and intimating that Garcia has always been poor with the etiquette of the game.

Apparently though, the two cleared the air back in May while attending Rory McIlroy’s wedding, with Sergio suggesting that they had a good chat and that they both respect each other. I don’t think they’re ever going to be best friends by any means, but Harrington believes that their relationship has never been better. Given that Harrington is absolutely in the running to be a captain of the European Ryder Cup team shortly, having an influential voice like Sergio in his corner can only help his chances, plus it helps to avoid any tension going forward when the two get together.

From Sergio’s end, 2017 was a year of big events, from winning the Masters and his national open to getting married and announcing that him and his new wife are expecting a child in 2018. It was an undoubted year of growth for Sergio and burying the hatchet with Harrington, albeit much smaller than those other items, was another example of just that.

In 2016, Wesley Bryan was a big part of my Year In Review, as his road from trick shot artist to three time Web.com champion came in at number 49 on my list. I was skeptical of his prospects on the Web Tour, but those three wins not only proved me and many other people wrong, they also made him a super intriguing guy to watch on the PGA Tour in 2017.

After a slow start where he missed his first three cuts, Bryan made his next seven cuts, including a stretch of T4-T4-T7 at the Genesis, Honda and Valspar. About a month after that T7 at the Valspar, Bryan had his first win on the PGA Tour, nipping Harbour Town legend Luke Donald en route to taking the RBC Heritage. The win secured Bryan’s playing privileges for the next two seasons, as well as entry into the final three majors of 2017 and the 2018 Masters Tournament.

Not bad for a guy who was essentially only known as a trick shot artist two years ago, right? We talk an awful lot about the young players in the game right now, and rightfully so, but it feels like we’re not talking enough about Bryan’s story in the overall. It’s beyond impressive, and something that I hope he can keep up as we enter 2018.

Coming into the 2017 Presidents Cup, you would have been hard pressed to find many people who gave the International team much of a chance. Sure enough, when the event started it became clear that the Americans were not only not going to lose, but they weren’t going to allow the Internationals to even come close to a tie, much like they did in 2015. To the credit of the International side though, they still played hard and players like Si Woo Kim, Anirban Lahiri and Jhonattan Vegas, relative unknowns compared to the Americans and more popular Internationals, probably picked up some new fans because of their performances.

Those American fans in attendance though drew the ire of Audrey Leishman, wife of International player Marc Leishman, and she wrote about it on her blog in the aftermath of the event. It’s an interesting read because even though I think we all know that golf fans have gotten progressively rowdy over the years, especially at team events like the Ryder and Presidents Cup, Leishman gave a new perspective as the wife of a player and it’s one that shouldn’t be ignored. This section in particular caught my eye:

“There were many times last week that I thought about what the kids were seeing. The crowds booing for good shots and cheering for missed putts.  The drinking at 7am? Screaming “Big Easy” to Ernie Els and begging for his autograph and then yelling at his players. Heckling a wife for her beauty and then her husband for his play. I was thankful my boys weren’t there to see the way people were treating their daddy. Their hero. My parents could simply turn the television off.”

Yelling for balls to go in the water from the opposing team is just not something that is in the spirit of the game, and heckling someone’s wife for their looks clearly isn’t either. It’s disgusting, and the people who do it are reprehensible.

One of the popular refrains around golf, usually from non-Americans, is that American fans tend to be more boorish than the ones in other places. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, as I’m sure that the European fans in France next year won’t be entirely charitable to the Americans at the Ryder Cup, but I’m also sure that there’s nothing that can be done to change this, unfortunately. Tournaments aren’t going to stop selling alcohol, and even if people are ejected, things are still going to be said and done that shouldn’t be. Hopefully it’s better in France than it was at Liberty National.

This is a bizarre one, and something that didn’t really get a ton of attention when it happened back in July. Bernd Wiesberger finished in a tie for 27th place at the Open de France on the European Tour, but after his second round was complete, Wiesberger took to Facebook and alleged that his Titleist driver had been tampered with prior to his round:

“Struggle at the end but happy to have scored in the 60s. Found out during the round that the settings on my Titleist Driver have been changed by somebody (this also happens to other Players today apparently). Never happend to me before. Still, looking forward to the HNA Open de France Golf Weekend!”

Despite the tampering, Wiesberger still managed to shoot 69. After seeing Wiesberger’s post, Scotland’s Duncan Stewart also made the claim after he shot 78, with the quote of “the more people you speak to, the more it seems to have been going on.” For their part, the European Tour were made aware of the issue and told the players to ensure that they check their clubs before going out to the course. That makes sense, but I’d also like to think that if it’s as prevalent as Wiesberger and Stewart made it out to be, that the tour would take action and try to figure out what was going on. Considering that we didn’t really hear anything about this after France, I’m guessing that it’s not a huge deal, but it’s still very weird.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I frequently mention the difficulty of golf and how the margin for error is incredibly thin at the highest level. There might not be a better example of that in 2017 than Adam Scott.

Scott entered 2017 as the 7th ranked player in the world, and had what you could definitely term as a down year for someone of his immense skill level. In eighteen worldwide starts, Scott posted four top-10 finishes, and went winless worldwide for just the second time since 2001. He really just didn’t seem to get himself involved at any point, and I know what you’re probably thinking. The anchored putter ban finally caught up to him, right? No matter how well you strike the ball, if you can’t make putts, eventually it’s going to catch up to you on the PGA Tour.

Well, that’s actually not the case. In 2017, Scott actually posted a positive Strokes Gained: Putting number for just the second time in the last decade. Now, he wasn’t a huge positive, but considering that he’s usually a large negative, this was a big step forward. So, it had to be the ball striking, right?

Coming into 2017 and since 2012, Scott had been outside of the top-10 in Strokes Gained: Tee To Green just once, and in 2016, he was first, gaining over two shots on average on the field before he got the putter out. In 2017, he gained nearly a full shot and finished in 19th, so still really good, but not at the super high end that we’ve come to expect. In other words, Scott had a good year statistically by just about any measure that really matters in 2017, even if it was slightly down from what we would expect, and it feels like he struggled. That is what I mean by the incredibly thin margin of error: roughly one shot per round worse than he was last year, and I’m not sure I can pinpoint anything of note from Scott’s 2017.

Believe it or not, Scott actually turns 38 in June and has split from longtime caddie Steve Williams. I’m still a believer in someone who is this good of a ball striker, and I’m betting that we see a more successful version of Scott show up in 2018.

Even if that means he only gets one shot better.

Next, we’ll take a look at stories 80-71.

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One Comment on “2017 Year In Review: 90-81

  1. Pingback: 2017 Year In Review: 80-71 | AdamSarson.com

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