2017 Year In Review: 10-1

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10 STEPH

At the end of June, the Web.com Tour announced that two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry would tee it up on a sponsor’s exemption at the Ellie Mae Classic in August. The reaction to it was mixed, as some thought that there was a good chance that Curry would embarrass himself out there and take the spot of someone more deserving, but others looked at it with the obvious potential that it had.

Was Curry likely to contend? Of course not. Was it likely that he would make the cut? Probably not, but he is a plus handicap and someone who loves the game, so the likelihood that he would go out there and fire in the 90’s was pretty remote. That, and of course, Curry’s inclusion in the field was going to bring more eyeballs to the Web than anything else, so at least for me, it was hard to see this as anything but a win and that was before Curry even got onto the course.

So, when the tournament started, everyone had pretty low expectations for what Curry would actually shoot and then he shot 74. He actually beat several pros, including Sam Ryder, who was one of his playing partners on the day. He followed that up with another 74 on Friday, and while he missed the cut by about ten shots, his play was so much better than I think anyone anticipated.

At the end of his two days, Curry was 8-over par at TPC Stonebrae, but he didn’t finish in last place and proved that he was more than worthy of the invitation. The course had way more people on it than it would have had otherwise, and while I’m skeptical that Curry got anyone else to play the game because of him, more attention on the game is never a bad thing.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t as much attention on it as there could have been. Why? There was no live coverage on TV, which I understand if you’re Golf Channel as you have programming already scheduled and it’s not easy to change those things, but there was also nothing in terms of a live stream either. Given the setup of PGA Tour Live and the deal that the tour has with Twitter, I would have thought this would have been the perfect event to stream for anyone who wanted to tune in. Instead, we had to rely on Twitter updates and post-round highlights, and it felt like a big miss on a day when a new audience could have been uncovered.

Curry far exceeded expectations at the Ellie Mae Classic, and while I don’t know what he wants to do in terms of playing more events, it’s clear that he has some game and there’s a large number of people who want to watch him play. It was cool to see, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it again in the near future. Let’s just hope we can actually watch it next time.

9 STACY

Stacy Lewis has been one of the best players on the LPGA Tour for quite some time, and even though she’s played well in recent years, it had been a long time since she had gotten into the winner’s circle. Coming into 2017, Lewis’ last tournament win came in June 2014 at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, but as she played in the Cambia Portland Classic back in September, she had much bigger things on her mind.

Lewis grew up just outside of Houston, and watched as Hurricane Harvey did unspeakable damage to Southern Texas. When it was all over, major flooding was the main culprit of the estimated $200 billion dollars worth of destruction in the area and Lewis wanted to do what she could to help out. Before the tournament got underway, Lewis sent out the below tweet with her pledge to donate all of her tournament winnings to the relief effort.

It was an incredible gesture, and if Lewis needed any added motivation to play well, this certainly qualified. She opened with a 70 and sat four shots back of the lead held by In Gee Chun, but Lewis was on fire over the next two days, posting rounds of 64 and 65 with only one bogey recorded to get into the lead. It’s a lead she wouldn’t give up, eventually winning the tournament by one over Chun, and in the post-round interview, you could tell how much it meant to her to not only win the tournament, but to be able to do something of such importance for people who needed it most.

This is the best kind of story. We have people who received the help that they desperately needed because someone was able to lend a hand. A massive company, KPMG in this case, also pitched in to help and on top of that, one of the best players in the world finally got another win to add to her resume. Everyone won in Portland that week, and it was all thanks to Stacy Lewis.

8 BROOKS

Let’s get one thing out of the way before we talk about Brooks Koepka: the 2017 U.S. Open was probably the least traditional U.S. Open of all-time. There were wide fairways, low scores, an eclectic leaderboard and a complete lack of complaining from the players.

In other words, it was awesome.

Koepka’s 16-under par total was only the third winning score of double digits under par in tournament history, joining Rory’s 16-under at Congressional in 2011 and Tiger’s 12-under par, fifteen shot romp at Pebble in 2000. Six other players (Hideki Matsuyama, Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood, Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas and Xander Schauffele) also ended up with at least a 10-under par score and 31 players ended up finishing under par to set a new record. So, yeah: not a traditional U.S. Open.

Now that we’re looking at it six months later though, it’s easy to forget how difficult the scoring was early in the day on Sunday when the wind finally started to blow. Jordan Spieth’s 69 was five shots better than the morning field average, and the course likely played the way the USGA intended all along. By the time the leaders teed off, the wind was still blowing, but not to the level that it was in the morning and Koepka took advantage. His final round 67 was the second best round of the day behind Matsuyama’s 66, and like he did all week, it was mostly related to his approach play and putting.

At the end of the day, Koepka finished four shots clear of Matsuyama and Harman to claim his first major championship. I don’t want to call this a breakthrough win because he’s won on both the PGA and European Tours in the past, but obviously the U.S. Open is in a different league and it’s a big deal when any player gets their first major. There was a lot of talk going into the tournament that Erin Hills was built for a player like Koepka, and he definitely proved those people right, even if his main competition came from someone at the opposite end of that spectrum in Brian Harman.

I’m not sure what the ceiling is for Brooks Koepka, but it’s clear that the players are fond of him. Back in November, Koepka won his second tournament of 2017 when he took the Dunlop Phoenix, one of Japan’s most prestigious events and one that usually gets a few big name PGA Tour players to show up. Koepka finished at 20-under par, nine shots clear of runner-up Xander Schauffele and ten shots clear of Matsuyama. When asked about Koepka after the round, Matsuyama was pretty blunt in his assessment:

“I feel there’s a huge gap between us.”

Now, granted, this could be the typical Matsuyama routine of not being satisfied with anything related to his golf game, but it is telling that someone of his ability thinks that highly of Koepka. It doesn’t get much bigger than the U.S. Open, but it feels like more is on the way for Koepka in 2018.

7 RORY

Rory McIlroy did not win a golf tournament in 2017. This was the first time that Rory had gone winless since 2008, and as a result, he is likely to start 2018 outside of the top-10 in the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in a decade.

It’s worth pointing out that it’s not like Rory had a completely disastrous season, at least in terms of the results. He finished as the runner-up in two tournaments, and posted five other top-10 finishes and while that’s not the kind of season any of us, or Rory himself, would expect, it’s not like he did what Bubba did over the past twelve months either. So, what happened?

Well, it’s clear that he probably wasn’t healthy at any point during the year. One of those runner-up finishes came in Rory’s first start of the year down in South Africa. Rory lost in a playoff to Graeme Storm, but an MRI also revealed a stress fracture in his rib and as a result, Rory took the next seven weeks off before playing again in Mexico. There were other missed tournaments in the months after as well, namely the BMW PGA Championship and the Memorial, as Rory attempted to plan out a schedule while battling the nagging injury. After playing the Alfred Dunhill Links with his father in October, he shut it down for the remainder of the season to rest.

How did that injury happen? Rory said that it had to do, at least in part, with the amount of equipment he was testing coming into the season. When Nike decided to exit the manufacturing business, it left many players without a deal for equipment, so I can only imagine that someone like Rory was getting gear shipped to him by every manufacturer under the sun. Rory did in fact end up signing on with TaylorMade back in May, but as we’ve seen in the past with pretty much every player who signs on with a new equipment provider, it takes some time to get really used to the new clubs and ball. Rory, it seems, was no exception.

So, we have a player who was clearly hurt all year trying to adjust to new equipment. Throw in the fact that he got married during the year, which had to take some sort of toll on him mentally, and that he felt it was time to split with longtime caddie JP Fitzgerald, and what you have is a whole lot of stuff happening in a twelve month period. I don’t want to speak for him, but it seems reasonable to suggest that he probably didn’t feel like he had his feet under him for a large portion of the year. That, combined with some other factors that he has no control over, seem to explain what happened to Rory in 2017.

It felt like I spent a lot of 2017 defending Rory McIlroy and explaining that what we were seeing was nothing to worry about. So, I guess it’s fitting that I’ll do it one more time to end the year. It seems to me that there’s a very reasonable take out there that says that as the calendar turns to 2018, we see two things happen with Rory:

  1. He’s healthy, with no sign of rib pain whatsoever
  2. He’s used to the TaylorMade gear, and has them as fine tuned and dialed in as possible

If those things happen, it feels like a near certainty that Rory has a much better 2018 with several wins and a whack of other good finishes. He has already committed to eight events prior to the Masters in April, so we’re going to be seeing an awful lot of him at the start of the season. It won’t take us long to see if those two things are true, and if they are, 2018 is going to be a whole lot of fun.

6 BONES

Players and caddies break up all the time, and we should never be surprised when it happens. In fact, so far on this list, I’ve mentioned three big name players parting ways with their caddies just in 2017. Adam Scott, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy all ditched their bag man in favour of someone new, but the highest profile split was definitely Phil Mickelson and Jim “Bones” Mackay parting ways in June. It caught everyone by surprise.

In modern golf, no player-caddie relationship has been more prolific than Phil and Bones. Bones was on the bag for 41 of Phil’s 42 PGA Tour wins, including all five major championships. They became great friends off the golf course and by all accounts, that remains true to this day.

What made them so unique was that friendship, and while in most cases, caddies don’t give fans a whole lot in the way of memories, that wasn’t the case with Bones. Frequently, he would stand up to Phil and have long conversations on the golf course about club selection and how to play certain shots. It was almost always enthralling television, and it gave the viewer a window not only into the mindset of Phil, but Bones as well. He became a star, and anyone who watched the two of them interact were not only entertained but educated as well. That’s without even mentioning all the times Phil had Bones tend the flag from some ludicrous distance because he thought he might hole it.

For Phil, he recruited his brother Tim to replace Bones on an interim basis, and he will apparently be the full time caddie in 2018. Bones made the transition over to TV, signing on with NBC / Golf Channel and was predictably fantastic in his role as on-course analyst. All good things come to an end, right? Here are some of my favourite moments from the two over the years.

Never forget.

5 TIGER

So, it feels like we may be looking at a healthy and effective Tiger Woods in 2018, and that’s great! If it happens, golf will be even more exciting than it already is, but to me, the big story of Tiger’s 2017 wasn’t the return but that it really did seem like he hit rock bottom.

We’ll start in January, where he played a miserable round of golf in the Middle East after a long thirteen hour flight. It was pretty clear to anyone who watched that round that something was up with him. He wasn’t healthy, and even though he didn’t look overly loose and flowing at the 2016 Hero or at Torrey Pines, he looked way worse in Dubai. When he withdrew from the event prior to his second round, Tiger’s agent Mark Steinberg suggested that everything was fine after the first round, but that his back spasmed after dinner and he wasn’t able to make it onto the course. It was a reason that no one believed, and when Tiger went under the knife for another back surgery in April, the idea of him looking as good as he did a few weeks ago at the Hero seemed inconceivable.

tigerdui

Tiger’s mugshot (Courtesy: CBS.com)

Just over a month later, Tiger was arrested for DUI when he was found asleep at the wheel of his car on Memorial Day weekend. The toxicology report that was released a few months later showed that Tiger had five different drugs in his system, a combination of Vicodin, Dilaudid, Xanax, Ambien and THC that led to his state at the side of the road that night. Given his condition that night and how he was found, it’s fortunate that he didn’t injure / kill himself or anyone else. I know we’ve all been shocked at what we’ve seen from Tiger on the golf course over the past few years, but this was the moment where he hit rock bottom. At this point, golf wasn’t even on the radar and the focus was on Tiger getting the help he needed. He entered a program for first time offenders, and completed it in early July before continuing the rehab on his back.

There were other negative things as well. He had nude photos hacked and released to the public, for which he has threatened legal action, and his tournament currently doesn’t have a sponsor or a location for 2018.

Yes, we’re excited for Tiger in 2018, but aside from a few days in the Bahamas, 2017 was pretty awful for him and the crazy thing is that it could have been a whole lot worse, too. I’m hopeful that he has gotten all the help that he needs, and that he continues to get better as the years progress. That is way more important than anything he accomplishes on the golf course.

4 LEXI

Golf failed, and failed hard at the first major championship of the year back in April. The 2017 ANA Inspiration should have been a great story for the LPGA Tour, but thanks to a TV viewer, it turned into a complete mess. Here’s what I wrote about it eight months ago:

Minus Lydia Ko, the LPGA’s biggest names were at or near the top of the board on the weekend, which is exactly what any professional tour wants on the final couple of days, particularly in this case at the LPGA’s first major championship of 2017. This should have been a great weekend for the LPGA Tour, and a sort of warm up for the golf world that will be focusing solely on Augusta and the Masters for the next seven days. Unfortunately, it was anything but a great weekend because of another rules fiasco, this time involving Lexi Thompson and one that cost her a major championship victory, eventually won by So Yeon Ryu.

Now, it should be noted that the ball was definitely not placed back in the exact same spot as it was before. Not that it would have mattered on a putt of that length anyway, but that is a penalty and I don’t have a problem with the two strokes being assessed in that instance. There are two problems though with how this was handled.

The first was that this was something that was noticed by a viewer roughly twenty hours after it actually happened. I don’t really have a good answer on what the statute of limitations should be on this sort of thing because obviously a penalty is a penalty regardless of how long ago it happened, but it feels wrong to me that this was allowed to happen so long after the fact. What would have happened if this viewer, who probably had a load up their VCR to watch the recording, had emailed as Thompson was approaching the 18th green with the lead and ready to win the tournament? Would they have stopped it? Would the LPGA have taken the tournament away from her after she had jumped into Poppie’s Pond? Viewers being referees and impacting tournaments is one of the worst things about golf.

The second thing is that this wasn’t just a two-stroke penalty. Thompson was actually penalized four strokes because she signed for an incorrect scorecard after the round. That’s right: the scorecard that was correct at the time when she signed it, was deemed incorrect because of a penalty that no one knew existed at the time she signed it. Common sense would have said, “assess the two-shot penalty because of the infraction and move on”, but when it comes to the rules of golf, common sense pretty much never comes into play. I talked about this last year with the Anna Nordqvist situation, but the big problem here is that because every single shot from every player can’t be shown on TV, the leaders and the more popular players are always going to get the short end of the stick.

For all of the talk about growing the game, this is the kind of situation that does the exact opposite. No one felt good about the way this ended, and that’s because people know it was wrong.

It was one of those things where everyone in golf was talking about the ruling and the way that it was handled. Phil Mickelson even touched on it prior to the Masters, saying that he knows a lot of players on the PGA Tour are loose with their ball marking, and that Lexi should have been awarded the trophy.

The good thing to come out of this is that the revised Rules of Golf now prevents people from calling in and reporting violations. While this makes sense, it should be pointed out that it always made sense and the fact is that Lexi Thompson should be a two-time major winner instead of a one-time winner. There was a lot of good stuff that happened in 2017, but this was a real low point and one that (thankfully) appears to be behind us as we head to 2018.

3 SPIETH

Coming into the final round of the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, Jordan Spieth had a three shot lead on Matt Kuchar and a six shot lead on Brooks Koepka and Austin Connelly. As good as those players are, particularly Koepka and Kuchar, it was absolutely Spieth’s tournament to lose. He was in the driver’s seat, but early on Sunday, things got off the rails pretty quickly for the Golden Child.

Birkdale played pretty easy on Saturday, as we had the first ever major 62 from Brendan Grace and a bunch of other numbers fired in the mid-60’s as well. Sunday though was a different story, as the opening few holes were playing more difficult. Spieth started slowly with bogeys on three of his first four holes to surrender the lead to Kuchar. They would trade the lead for a few holes until they got to the par-4 13th, tied at 8-under par.

Kuchar was playing his usual brand of steady golf, while Spieth was all over the place. The driver was wild, the irons weren’t saving him and the putter, which was hot for most of the first three days, had run cold. On the 13th tee, Kuchar played into the right rough before Spieth stepped up and sent it miles right. He knew it right away that it was bad, too.

spieth-miss

Roger Maltbie speculated that it was 100 yards right of the centre of the fairway. From me back in July:

The best players hit bad shots in tournaments like any other player, but just like the 2016 Masters, a miss of this much from a player like Spieth was utterly shocking. The parallels to him dunking one in the water at the 12th at Augusta last year, including the Zapruder style examination of his club face at impact, were all there and it looked more than likely that we were looking at the loss of a few shots and a chance for Kuchar to take control. That was made even more likely when Spieth got to his ball, buried in a dune and forcing him to examine all of his options as he took an unplayable lie while Kuchar waited for his turn to play.

The scene was chaotic, and the television captivating. In the span of 20 minutes, Spieth was more air traffic controller than golfer, laying out routes and directing people around the course like he was one of the many orange coated marshals on site. Johnny Miller implored him to go back to the tee from the broadcast booth, but after playing Tetris with all of the spectators, Spieth headed back on the same line to the practice range for his drop. After caddie Michael Greller attempted to yell a general yardage down to his man amongst the equipment trucks, Spieth proceeded to hit his third shot back into play and somehow salvaged a bogey. The fact that it didn’t go so much worse than that was a real turning point, and even though Spieth walked to the 14th tee down a shot to Kuchar, it had to feel like a victory.

Somehow after all that, Spieth was still within range of Kuchar, who only gained a single shot. Kuchar had no idea what was coming, as Spieth stepped up onto the 14th tee and, well, just watch how he finished.

So, just to recap: after nearly blowing one off the planet on the 13th, Spieth managed to salvage a bogey to stay in contention and then…

  • Nearly aces the par-3 14th, makes birdie
  • Eagles on the par-5 15th
  • Birdies the par-4 16th
  • Birdies the par-4 17th

He played the final five holes in five under par, restoring the three-shot lead that he had on Kuchar to start the day, and there wasn’t a single thing that Kuchar could have done to prevent it. It was a masterful display of golf, and one that was made even more impressive by the fact that it was clear that for a large portion of the round, he didn’t have anything that resembled his best game. As I said back in July:

Trying to find the right words to continually describe his greatness has become an increasingly difficult task, especially with how it all unfolded on Sunday at Royal Birkdale. As Ben Coley said, how do you describe the indescribable?

I hate using the undefinable “it factor” to describe players. It always feels like a disservice to how good someone is at what they do; a way to talk positively about someone who has obvious shortcomings. With Spieth though, is there really a better way to explain who he is and what he does? He doesn’t overpower a course like Rory or Dustin, and yes, he’s an elite iron player and fantastic putter, but look at what happened at Birkdale on Sunday. Pretty much none of those positives came together for him until he stepped up to the 14th tee. When it did come together, he was a runaway train that wasn’t going to be stopped and it wouldn’t have mattered what Kuchar did or if it was anyone else beside him. It was his mind and mental acuity that kept him involved when the physical side wasn’t keeping up its half of the bargain, and it’s an advantage that he has over just about anyone else who steps onto the tee.

We always used to marvel at how Tiger would go out and turn a round of 75 into 71 to stay a tournament, or win when it was clear that he didn’t have his ‘A’ game. Much like everything else that he did, that wasn’t normal and neither was this. It would have been so easy for Spieth to fold, and so simple for people like me to make the comparison to the Masters last year and wonder about where his head was at on the biggest stages. Most other players probably would have done just that, but not him. You can make the argument that no one really pushed Spieth all that hard, but the bodyblows that he absorbed, whether internal or external, were very real and he rose above them in spectacular fashion.

What we watched from Spieth at Royal Birkdale wasn’t Mickelson and Stenson at Troon, nor was it Tiger at Pebble or even Branden Grace on Saturday. It wasn’t the dominant runaway victory that we tend to associate with pure greatness, but in another way, that’s exactly what this was. What we saw at Royal Birkdale was special.

What more can you say?

2 SERGIO

The title of “best player without a major championship” is one that no player wants to have hanging over them. For a sport that obsesses over four tournaments per year, it’s the ultimate backhanded compliment.

“Hey, you’re one of the best in the world at what you do, but there’s one thing you’re missing. Oh, and it’s really hard to get one. And if you don’t, a lot of people will think your career is meaningless. Good luck.”

Phil Mickelson had that label for a long time before finally winning the 2004 Masters. Some players, such as Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood, have never been able to get that major win and coming into 2017, there was an argument to be made that Sergio Garcia was the one with that distinction. What’s interesting is that for all of the talk around Sergio never winning a major, he hadn’t really suffered much in the way of heartbreak. Aside from the 2007 Open at Carnoustie where his putt on the 18th somehow didn’t turn right, Garcia really hasn’t had anything terrible happen to him in a major championship. Still though, someone of Garcia’s talent was always expected to win multiple major championships, and as we all know, he was still searching for his first as he approached the Augusta National gates in April.

Coming into Sunday at the Masters, Garcia was tied for the lead with Justin Rose. It was his second career 54-hole lead in a major, with the first being that 2007 Open at Carnoustie. Part of the reason why Garcia had only held one prior 54-hole lead in a major was because of his tendency to blow up at the worst possible times. Either his otherworldly ball striking would fail him, or the putter would get ice cold and he would end up falling back of the leaders. This time though, he started out well with birdies on two of his first three holes. Rose would claw his way back, and as they went to the back nine, the longtime Ryder Cup teammates were tied at 8-under par.

That’s when it all came undone. Garcia basically chunked his tee shot on 10 and had 260 yards to the hole. He would make bogey after pushing his approach into the shrubs on the right, and honestly, it could have been so much worse. Rose made par and was the leader heading to the par-4 11th.

Garcia bogeyed the 11th to fall two shots back of Rose, who made another par and scores stayed the same until they stepped onto the 13th tee. Down two shots, Garcia stayed aggressive and attempted the same tee shot on 13 that he had the previous three days, cutting the corner down the left hand side, but it didn’t work. Garcia ended up left of Rae’s Creek and had to take an unplayable. At this point, anyone watching the tournament was basically fitting Rose for the green jacket and rightfully so. Garcia should have been dead to rights, but he managed to salvage a par, and Rose couldn’t take advantage.

Garcia would cut the lead to one after a ridiculously good approach on 14 that feels like it’ll be forgotten because of everything else that happened on Sunday, but watching that ball trundle down to the hole and seeing Garcia make the putt, gave the tournament its life back. For the first time in about an hour, the ending that we thought we were going to see was now in doubt as we went to the final four holes, and then this happened:

Garcia’s approach on 15 might be the shot of his career. The two were still tied on the 18th, when Rose had a chance to end it in regulation but much like Garcia’s putt at Carnoustie, Rose’s effort slid by the hole when it looked like it was going in, and we had a playoff. Rose teed off first and uncharacteristically sent his drive well into the trees on the right, allowing Garcia to step up and take control. A bullet down the middle of the fairway was followed by an excellent approach. Rose was on in three, but missed a par putt, so Garcia had two putts to finally seal the deal in a major championship.

sergio-final-putt

This is what I wrote about the win back in April:

It wasn’t supposed to take this long. It wasn’t supposed to be this tournament. It wasn’t even supposed to happen the way it did. What was supposed to happen was Garcia was going to win a major years ago, likely the Open Championship, and likely because someone fell back and didn’t play up to their level.

Instead, Garcia got it done at age 37 as a fiancee with a little grey in his beard and much less jump than he once had. He did it at the Masters, a place he loved and then hated and didn’t putt well enough at to consistently contend. And the way it happened? He did it by facing down adversity and not missing a single shot down the stretch against one of the best players in the world. He did what he always supposed to do in the way that he was never supposed to do it.

If there’s one day of golf in 2017 that I’ll never forget, it’s that Sunday at Augusta where Sergio Garcia finally became a major champion.

Vamos.

1 JT

As much as I’ll never forget the day that Garcia won his first major (or Spieth at Birkdale), the number one story of 2017 was Justin Thomas. He ended 2016 as the 22nd ranked player in the world, and was without question, one of the young players to watch coming into 2017, but even the most ardent of Thomas supporters couldn’t have predicted the meteoric rise that took place over the last twelve months. Let’s start at the beginning.

After finishing in the top-10 in four of his last five worldwide starts in 2016 (including a win at the CIMB), Thomas started his year at Kapalua for the Tournament of Champions. He won the tournament by three shots over Hideki Matsuyama, and while that was an excellent start to the year, the following week was even more impressive. Thomas stayed in Hawaii for the Sony Open, and opened the tournament with a first round 59. That 59 also included a bogey.

Thomas would go on to win the tournament by seven shots over Justin Rose, who after rounds of 66-64-66-64 had to be wondering how he lost by so much. Thomas was obviously ridiculously good that week, but the one thing that I’ll take away from it all was the way he played Waialae. The lines he took off the tee were crazy, and he did it with such ease that it honestly felt like he was playing a different golf course than the rest of the field. Oh, and the total score of 253 set a new PGA Tour scoring record, besting the 254 mark from Tommy Armour III.

Then, Thomas actually went a little quiet (by his standards, I guess) over the next few months, missing six of his next fourteen cuts and posting top-10 finishes at the WGC-Mexico Championship, Memorial and the U.S. Open, the latter of which included the fifth 63 in tournament history and the first since Vijay Singh in 2003.

Once that was complete though, Thomas went on a late season run where he was once again the talk of golf. He won the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, coming back from two shots down on the final day to capture his first major, and he did it by giving us some moments that we’ll never forget. Namely, his putt on 10 that hung on the hole for the longest time before dropping and the chip in on 13 that would eventually give him the lead that he wouldn’t relinquish.

After Quail Hollow, he won the Dell Technologies Championship with a weekend of 63-66, and fell one shot short of Xander Schauffele a few weeks later at the Tour Championship, finishing as the runner-up. Even without that Tour Championship win, Thomas had done enough to win the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus that goes along with it. He easily qualified for the American Presidents Cup team where he went 3-1-1, and a month later, he would win again, defeating Marc Leishman in a playoff at the CJ Cup. All of this led to Thomas finishing 2017 as the third ranked player in the world, behind only Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth.

So, let’s recap, shall we?

  • Five wins, including his first major championship
  • Fires a 59 at the Sony, and posts the fifth 63 in the 117 year history of the U.S. Open
  • Wins the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus
  • Plays in his first team competition
  • Becomes the third ranked player in the world

Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty good. Justin Thomas was the story of the year in golf in 2017, and I can’t wait to see what he does over the next twelve months as an encore.

Are you ready for 2018?

 

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