2018 Year In Review: 100-81
When I started doing these year in review posts back in 2015, I started with 60 stories, and that felt like a lot. Then, for some reason, I upped it to 100, and it felt like I really backed myself into a corner, and that not every year was going to have that much intriguing stuff to talk about, but then 2018 happened. A lot of stuff went down in golf over the past twelve months, and I can honestly say that for the first time, I didn’t feel like I reached for any stories. It was a pretty great ride over the last twelve months.
For this year’s version, I’ve changed things up slightly by offering twenty stories per post instead of the usual ten. So, without further ado, I present my ranking of the top 100 stories in professional golf for 2018.
Anyone who plays on the PGA Tour deals with fans on a regular basis, and stars like Rickie Fowler get an outsized amount of attention from the paying public. It’d be really easy for someone like Fowler to not notice or remember an individual given how often he interacts with new people, but Fowler always made time for Griffin Connell.
Connell was from Scottsdale, and he loved watching Fowler. He got to meet him a few years ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but he passed away in January at the age of 7 after a long battle with an airway disorder. All week, Fowler had a photo of Connell on his hat, which you can see in the above image.
After an opening round 66, Fowler spoke with the media about Connell and how his situation always put things into perspective for him:
“It just makes you appreciate the position that a lot of us are in. Even if it I hit a bad shot out there the past years you would look over and see him he was just pumped and excited to be out there watching us. And it just puts things into perspective. He could care less if I played well or bad, he was always supporting us. Obviously he wanted to see me play well, if anything, but no, like I said, just kind of humbles you, grounds you a bit, and makes you realize that there’s a lot bigger things than just playing golf.”
View this post on Instagram
This week just won’t be the same without my #1 fan, Griffin!! We lost him last week…he was always our highlight of the @wmphoenixopen…seeing him and his family watch us every step of the way no matter what it took…Griffin you were and always will be a legend in my mind!! You will always be a part of my team!! Rest In Peace bud!! Thumbs Up👍
I know, I know: a John Daly withdrawal from an event really isn’t a new story, and Daly is long past his point of relevance at the game’s highest level, but I’m a sucker for any story that a) involves Daly, and b) includes any player taking a shot at the USGA.
Daly qualified for the 2018 U.S. Senior Open at the Broadmoor in Colorado, but on the Monday of tournament week, Daly sent out a tweet to his followers announcing that he had to withdraw from the event. On its face, that doesn’t sound all that interesting, but Daly blamed the USGA for his withdrawal, suggesting that they turned down his request to use a cart to get around the course thanks to his ailing right knee.
Daly and his lawyers argued that Daly was eligible for the cart under the American Disabilities Act, and he did have a history of recent knee issues, withdrawing from the Insperity Invitational, Regions Tradition, and the FedEx St. Jude Classic in the lead up to the U.S. Senior Open, and had been using a cart on the Champions Tour. On top of that, the USGA was allowing Scott Verplank to take a cart this year due to a similar concern, so what happened with Daly? According to the USGA, Daly didn’t provide sufficient information for the request, and when he was given the opportunity to do so, he opted to withdraw instead.
For his part, Daly denied that this was the case:
Ultimately, nothing came of it, and Daly didn’t end up playing. He made eight starts afterwards between the PGA and Champions Tours, finishing twice, withdrawing four times, and missing two cuts. The USGA moved on, as did Daly, and Eamon Lynch summed up my general thoughts on the matter for Golfweek in the aftermath.
The EurAsia Cup is held biannually on the European Tour as a team event in the same vein as the Presidents or Ryder Cup. Twelve players from Europe take on twelve from Asia, and I usually enjoy watching it for a few reasons: first, it gets played at an odd part of the schedule where there usually isn’t any other super intriguing golf happening. Secondly, any kind of team format with match play involved is always going to be more entertaining to watch, and lastly, the players that tend to play in it are usually a little under the radar, which is right up my alley.
The event was first held in 2014, and the teams tied, but in 2016, Europe absolutely dominated winning by an 18.5 – 5.5 margin. Darren Clarke was the captain of that team in 2016, using it as a form of prep for the Ryder Cup, and the same thing was done again this year, with Thomas Bjorn taking control of the 2018 version. Europe were heavy favourites, with six players inside the top-20 in the world (Stenson, Casey, Hatton, Fleetwood, Noren, and Cabrera-Bello) showing up to play; a stark contrast to the prior two years where many of the top players declined the invite. Conversely, Asia only had two players, Yuta Ikeda and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, inside the top-50 on their roster.
A funny thing happened though: despite the obvious talent gap, Asia was leading after the first two sessions, because as we’ve talked a lot, match play is wholly unpredictable. While not necessarily an apples to apples comparison, a loss for Bjorn as captain to an underwhelming Asian squad would not have inspired confidence ahead of the Ryder Cup eight months later. Europe would go out and dominate the Sunday singles though, taking the session by an 8.5 – 3.5 margin, ultimately winning the event by four points.
Is there something to the idea that Bjorn, and the five players who ended up making the Ryder Cup team, got some experience in taking this event on first ahead of the much larger event months later? I think it’s possible, at least for the rookies in Hatton, Fleetwood, and Noren. Bjorn also spoke to the importance of this event in getting Casey back into the fold, years after his last Ryder Cup selection and the spat with the European Tour over his membership status.
“Paul, when he decided to come back and play in Europe, played in our EurAsia Cup team. That week I spent with him there did so much for him and for me in the way that I knew that he could fit into a team in a really good way.”
Maybe this event didn’t mean anything to the outcome of the Ryder Cup, but it certainly didn’t hurt, and as always, it was a good reminder of the one thing that is true about the game at the professional level: we need more team events, and more match play to break up the stroke play monotony.
When the PGA Tour made the decision to take the WGC-Cadillac Championship away from Doral after the 2016 tournament won by Adam Scott, it was a big deal for a number of reasons. The tour signed a long term deal to keep the event at Doral a few years prior, but they had a clause in the contract that allowed them to move the event if there was no sponsor attached, so when Cadillac opted to not renew, Tim Finchem and the tour decided to bolt for Mexico.
Donald Trump and his ownership of Doral was the biggest reason why this was a story at the time, given his then candidacy for the highest office in the land, and all of the controversy surrounding him about the numerous racist remarks he was making on the campaign trail. Remarks, which as Geoff Shackelford pointed out, were denounced by the PGA Tour and the other governing bodies as they continued to work with him. Brands weren’t exactly flocking to him at this stage, and it’s a pretty safe assumption that his toxicity among certain sections of the audience is what prevented the tournament from landing a new sponsor, and thus, opened the door for the PGA Tour to leave. It was also a huge deal because the PGA Tour had operated an event at Doral every year since 1962, making it one of the longest running stops on the circuit, and even though the Blue Monster is an overrated, boring test of golf, it has been weird not having it on the schedule the last few years.
Even with the controversy surrounding Trump, Finchem maintained that they would continue to look at ways to go back to Doral, and they did this past month when the final event of the PGA Tour Latinoamerica season was played on the resort’s Golden Palm Course, won by Michael Buttacavoli.
It was a good reminder that, ultimately, the PGA Tour is still interested in being in the Trump business, even if he hasn’t changed at all from the time they put out that statement and that, you know, Miami isn’t in Latin America.
The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is one of my favourite events on the golf calendar each year. I love tournaments that are played across multiple courses, largely because even though it’s still a stroke play event, it’s a small wrinkle that has an impact on the outcome of the event, especially when you consider that in Scotland, anything can happen at a moment’s notice with the conditions. Throw in the fact that we’re talking about the event being played at Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and the Old Course, and the Dunhill should be appointment viewing for anyone who loves golf.
The thing is, those conditions that I mentioned above really do have the ability to wreak havoc. We saw it the last time that the Open Championship was held at the Old Course where they had to stop play because of high winds, and the same thing was set to happen for the final round of the Dunhill this year. The European Tour really wanted to avoid a Monday finish, and presumably, also wanted to make sure that they made the end result as fair as possible for all of the players who had a chance to win, so they decided to do a shotgun start.
Yes, a shotgun start. In a professional golf tournament. With some of the best players in the world. At the Old Course.
Words can’t describe how much I love this move, and I’m almost positive that this is the sort of thing that would only happen on the European Tour. It had been done only three times in tour history prior to this, and best of all, it worked! They got it all in on Sunday, with Lucas Bjerregaard holding off Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton by one shot, and they were able to pick up and head to Walton Heath for the British Masters on schedule.
I don’t have to tell you guys that a lot of stupid shit posted on Twitter. Some of it even comes from me! In 2017, Grayson Murray was the unquestioned king, and while no one came remotely close to his throne in 2018, Lee McCoy’s comments in February gave him way more attention than he probably expected.
McCoy was in Colombia playing in the Web.com Tour’s Club Colombia Championship, and he was going along pretty well before making two bogeys on his final three holes, which dropped him into a tie for 20th. In tweets that were deleted soon after getting posted, but saved by Golf Twitter Magistrate Tron Carter, McCoy lashed out at the Colombian fans who came out to watch the event.
McCoy’s takes on South America, the people living there, and Donald Trump led to the kind of reaction that you would expect, including from his fellow tour pros, who were not impressed.
McCoy later apologized for his remarks, and deleted his Twitter account, but has since returned and has been on his best behaviour.
I don’t have to go over the career of Brandel Chamblee and his history of #takes, which much like Johnny Miller, I’ve actually grown to appreciate over the years, even if it can sometimes feel like performance art. If you’re reading this, you’re well aware of Chamblee.
Since last playing on the PGA Tour in 2008, Chamblee has been devoted to his job at Golf Channel, and hasn’t attempted to tee it up on the Champions Tour, but he wanted to play in the Senior Open Championship at the Old Course, so he went to qualify. After firing a 2-under par 69 at Scotscraig, he was in the field, as was fellow Golf Channel and NBC analyst Gary Koch. Koch plays a little on the Champions Tour, but much like Chamblee, he has focused on his broadcasting gig far more than playing in recent years. Koch would go on to make the cut, finishing in a tie for 50th after rounds of 71-73-72-77, while Chamblee didn’t make the weekend after firing 77-75 on the first two days.
The fact that Koch made the cut was amazing, but Chamblee’s run was pretty amazing, too. Sure, he didn’t make the cut, but it’s damn impressive that he even got that far to begin with. Even though it’s pretty obvious that he still plays quite a bit, there’s such a large difference between playing a casual round of golf, and getting yourself prepared to compete at the highest level, and the fact that he not only went to qualifying, but actually went out and got to the Open is pretty cool.
Apparently, Chamblee is looking to add more events to his schedule in 2019, so I’m interested in seeing where this goes.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “OF COURSE, Sarson figured out a way to shoehorn Kiradech into the top 100.” Here’s the thing though: we all agree that Kiradech is great, and his story is something that’s worth celebrating.
Kiradech earned his card by finishing inside the top-125 in the FedEx Cup while not being a member of the tour. This was largely on the backs of strong finishes in the WGCs, namely a pair of T5’s in Mexico and Austin, and as of this writing, is currently the 37th ranked player in the world. He’s clearly demonstrated that he is good enough to compete with regularity on the PGA Tour, and there’s pretty much no one that does it with the flair and style that he does. As mentioned above, there’s also a story here as well. When he secured his card, Kiradech became the first player from Thailand to ever join the PGA Tour, which is pretty damn cool. Alongside that news, the PGA Tour gave him a profile that is worth your time.
If, for some reason, you can’t get behind the smoke cloud raising, club twirling, past-parallel king after watching that video, I feel like that says more about you than it does about him.
I don’t usually get into the equipment scene that often for a few reasons: first, no one in golf does a better job on a specific beat than Jonathan Wall, ex of the PGA Tour, and now of Golf.com. Wall is so good at what he does that anyone who would try to dip their toe into that water would get absolutely destroyed. His eye for detail is crazy good, and borders on a sickness. Get some help, Jonathan. (But keep doing what you’re doing.)
Secondly, you gear heads are insane. Whatever you think about Golf Course Architecture Twitter, the Golf Equipment scene is far crazier, and I just don’t have the time or energy to fight with y’all about low spin drivers, or specifics about the shaft that a player switched to last week.
Having said all that, it’s significant when a star player makes an equipment switch, especially when that player has been with a company for basically their entire career. Sergio Garcia did it last year, leaving TaylorMade to join Callaway, and this year, it’s apparently Justin Rose who is leaving the TM faMily to join Honma, of all places. Wall has all of your details, but it’s huge for the obvious reasons: Rose has been with TaylorMade for as long as I can remember, and arguably, just had the best season of his career, reaching number one in the world, and finishing outside of the top 25 in just three starts all year.
As Wall mentioned on the Shotgun Start podcast though, the move does make some sense, despite the fact that Rose is coming off such a good season. At 38 years old, this was likely Rose’s last chance to really cash in on an equipment deal, and if Honma is really trying to get into the North American market, a very real scenario exists where they just dumped a bunch of money on Rose’s front lawn. Obviously there are risks associated with making a move like this, and there’s almost no chance that Rose doesn’t struggle a little bit, at least at the outset, with the new gear, but at this stage of his career, I totally get why he would make this switch.
Ultimately, I think Rose is so good as a ball striker that it likely won’t matter too much, but it is a story that bears watching over the next few months.
These days, all of the major championships have around the clock coverage during tournament week, but for some reason, the Masters always feels different to me. Even amongst the majors, the Masters and Augusta National has a presence and an aura about it that feels special, and a big part of that is the par-3 contest that happens on the Wednesday before the event starts.
Since legends like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player aren’t playing the main tournament anymore, the par-3 contest is pretty much the only chance that we have to see them play, and it’s usually pretty fun. At 68, Tom Watson is the youngest man in the group of three with Nicklaus and Player, and he still plays a pretty regular schedule. It showed on Wednesday at Augusta National when he became the oldest player to ever win the par-3 contest, besting Tommy Fleetwood and Thomas Pieters by one shot at 6-under par.
While Watson was chasing the top of the board, Jack let his grandson take a shot on the final hole, and well, he did this:
We also got one of our first hints of the “new” Tiger and Phil relationship during Masters week, as the two of them joined Fred Couples and Thomas Pieters for a practice round ahead of the tournament. I’ll get to the Match further on in this list, but take yourself back a decade. How insane would the notion of Tiger and Phil playing a practice round together been, much less one at Augusta National during Masters week?
That’s wild, man.
When the Zurich Classic changed their format in 2017 from a regular stroke play event to a team event, I was a big fan. The regular stroke play event format is fine, and will never go away, but we see so much of it at the pro level that it’s easy to grow a little tired of it. Not to mention that for events like the Zurich, it was hard to draw a decent crop of players to another event in the middle of April at an uninspiring course where it always rains. It was one of many events on the PGA Tour calendar that was just not appointment viewing.
That all changed in 2017 with the team format, and while it’ll still likely rain and the course still stinks, at least there’s something different about the event that sets it apart from the rest! This year, there was more buzz about the event again, as the tournament decided to do something very un-golf like, letting players play walk-up music before hitting their opening tee shots. The end result was a lot of what you’d expect with rock ballads, country tunes, and the occasional hip hop sighting. Shout out Migos.
It was…fine. What was interesting about it was that even though it was very un-golf like, the coverage of it was VERY golf. There was a ton of coverage of the walk up songs in the lead up to the event, and a lot of #LIT tweets to go around.
I’d be willing to bet that they roll it out again in 2019.
Way back in January, Australian Rhein Gibson was playing at the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic on the Web.com Tour, and he was in contention on Sunday. He was one off of the lead on the 18th tee, but he put his second shot into the hazard, and he couldn’t play it. Since it was a par-5, he could still take his drop and hole out for the tie, right?
Gibson’s caddie, Brandon Davis, picked up the ball and the on-site rules official deemed that Gibson didn’t actually consent to Davis picking it up, and therefore, it’s another penalty on top of the one for hitting into the hazard. Neither man fought it, but Gibson wasn’t happy, and he fired Davis on the spot, throwing his putter head cover at him.
The penalty caused Gibson to go from second to third place, and ultimately, cost him roughly $12,000. Gibson apologized on Twitter after the round, and has yet to tweet since.
Meanwhile, Davis didn’t take the whole thing lying down. After the round, Davis took to Instagram Live and posted a highly entertaining, and shirtless, eight minute video on what happened and why the ruling was completely incorrect.
The rules official that was on-site even went on Morning Drive the next day and disputed Davis’ version of events! I don’t know who is right and who is wrong on this one, but if you can’t enjoy this one just on the basis of straight comedy, I don’t know what to tell you.
Steph Curry playing in the 2017 Ellie Mae Classic on the Web made by top 10 stories of the year, and in 2018, we had more exemptions given out.
Curry got another one to the Ellie Mae, but flamed out. After an opening 71, Curry went full Sarson, posting an 86 and finishing in last place. Tony Romo also got an exemption, joining the PGA Tour’s Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship, the week opposite the WGC-Mexico Championship. Like Curry, Romo would finish in last place with rounds of 77-82, missing the cut by a mile.
The most entertaining celebrity exemption though came in May, when the Web Tour gave country music star Jake Owen a spot in the Nashville Golf Open. Owen, who plays off of a 1 handicap and has pegged it at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am for years, was nowhere near his next closest competitor with back to back rounds of 86, but he sent arguably the best golf related tweet of 2018 to a fan who was upset that he was taking the place of a more “deserving” competitor.
The two would eventually sort it out, with money being donated to charity from all sides, though “I have 8 holes left if you want to come out and kiss my ass” is still a great tweet.
On top of that, I’m super sympathetic towards those trying to make their living on any tour, but I’m also totally cool with these kinds of exemptions. The kind of attention that Curry, Romo, and Owen can bring to the game is always going to be good, even if they don’t play well. The sponsor’s exemption is there for this very reason.
Back in February, the Oates Vic Open was held at the 13th Beach Golf Links near Melbourne. Don’t worry if you don’t know what it was, and why it’s important, as it didn’t get as much play as it probably should have. The tournament was a joint men’s and women’s event, co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and the Australian LPGA on the women’s side, and solely by the PGA Tour of Australasia for the men. While the men and the women played together in groups, they ended up having separate divisions, with Simon Hawkes taking the crown for the men, and Minjee Lee winning on the women’s side.
Now, this was a minor event in the golfing calendar in 2018, but I’m very interested in it because of what it might mean going forward, and even putting this event aside, there are a ton of signals that we’re not far away from a tournament or two doing a proper merge. Women have played with the men in the past; notably Michelle Wie and Annika Sorenstam, and back in July, LPGA star Brittany Lincicome joined the field at the Barbasol, and while she missed the cut, she did post an under par round of 71 on the second day. Georgia Hall and Charley Hull also took part in the European Tour’s GolfSixes event, making it through the round robin, before losing to Ireland’s Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan.
There’s definitely some momentum here in trying to get the men and the women involved on the same course, and maybe even playing for the same trophy. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said back in April that “it’s just a matter of time”, with LPGA commissioner Mike Whan echoing the thought. For his part, Whan has already jumped the gun on Monahan, as the 2019 Vic Open will be co-sanctioned by the LPGA, and it has also been added to the European Tour schedule. These two organizations being involved should give the event some added credibility, and hopefully, exposure.
I’m always up for trying new things like this, and it’s good to hear that the people in charge seem to be behind it as well. If done correctly, a joint event like this could be fantastic, and would hopefully turn more people on to the women’s game. I can’t remember who suggested it, but a while ago, someone put out the idea of playing the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua with the winners from both tours, and I think that would be tremendous.
Given that the schedules are already nailed down for 2019, I don’t think that we’re looking at this being a thing over the next 12 months, but I’d be shocked if there wasn’t something done for 2020 that involves both men and women. I really hope it happens.
Every year, team selections around the Ryder or Presidents Cup is a big story, and that was no different in 2018. There’s plenty of Ryder Cup #content later on in this list, but one thing I wanted to highlight early on here was that there has been a trend over the last few years with the vice captains: it feels like they’re way younger now than they were before.
It makes a lot of sense that you would want more contemporary players around the team when making decisions. I would assume that as a captain, it’s comforting to know that the guys who are hitting shots have actual relationships with the other guys in the team room, but that wasn’t always the case, and it actually wasn’t that long ago either that there was a significant generational gap between players and captains.
Back in 2014, Tom Watson pegged his friends and contemporaries, Raymond Floyd and Andy North, to join him. Even Paul McGinley brought in Des Smyth and Sam Torrance, in addition to some more modern names, but in the last few years, it has started to change, and in 2018, the captains basically flipped the script entirely.
On the European side, Robert Karlsson was the oldest vice captain under Thomas Bjorn at 49, and he was joined by Padraig Harrington (the odds on favourite for the 2020 captaincy), Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, and Lee Westwood. Now, you can absolutely say that those last four guys aren’t the same players that they used to be, but it wasn’t that long ago that they were playing in this event, and in Westwood’s case, he played in the last one. McDowell isn’t even 40 yet! Contrast that with Floyd, who last played in a Ryder Cup in 1993, and it’s pretty stark.
For the Americans, it honestly seemed like Furyk made vice captains out of anyone who he was considering taking for the team, but didn’t make it. Davis Love III and Steve Stricker were there from the beginning, and when Tiger played his way onto the team, his vice captain spot was filled by Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson, who were likely in the playing conversation until the end. David Duval also made an appearance on the team, which was interesting on a number of levels, and so did Damon Green, though I don’t think anyone is overly sure as to why.
In any case, this was just more of an interesting observation than anything with a ton of weight to it. It makes a ton of sense though, and I’m sure it’s something that we’ll see continued in the coming years.
It’s really, really hard to get onto the Open rota. The R&A wants to make sure that their championships are contested on the best possible grounds, and rightfully so. Only fourteen courses have hosted the event that dates back to 1860, and of those fourteen, only ten are still considered worthy, and capable, of hosting the event. As it stands right now, Turnberry, is still considered one of those ten, but it doesn’t sound like the South Ayrshire course will be getting its fifth Open Championship anytime soon.
R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers talked about the reasons why back in February, with the below quote coming from Will Gray’s Golf Channel story:
“It would be very complex having an Open at Turnberry at the moment,” Slumbers said. “It’s a course where you’ve got the ownership issue of the course, and the staging there, and we want to make sure that we stay true to the golf, the playing of the golf. But I see there’s a number of other courses we haven’t been to for a few years, and looking forward to going back to all of them.”
Ah, yes. The ‘ownership issue of the course’ is a clear signal that the only reason why Turnberry isn’t being considered right now is because Donald Trump’s name is on the marquee. The fact that Slumbers later mentioned that he still considers Turnberry as part of the rota renders the rest of his comments about staying true to the golf completely moot. Turnberry, without question, is more than capable of hosting the Open, and is still one of the best courses that Scotland has to offer, especially when you factor in the modern requirements for tournament hosting.
This is an important story because as much as golf is about the people around the game, it’s more about the land over which its played, and Turnberry is still important. The Duel In The Sun was about Watson and Nicklaus, but it also wouldn’t have been as good if it wasn’t for Turnberry. Having said that, I totally understand the hesitation on the part of Slumbers and the R&A to go there, for the obvious reasons. Given the fact that the next three Opens have already been given out (Portrush, St. Georges, Old Course), the earliest that Turnberry could host again would be 2022, but even that seems a touch optimistic at this stage.
Over the last few years, if you’ve been paying any attention to golf coverage online, you’ve definitely come across Eddie Pepperell. Whether it’s his Twitter account, his blog, or news coverage of people telling you about those two things, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the kind of stuff that Pepperell posts. He has become a favourite of people because he isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind on Twitter, and he backs that up with really insightful commentary when he decides to write longer pieces.
In the current landscape where many prominent players feel the need to censor themselves, players like Pepperell have shown that being honest and open is also a good way to grow a fanbase. Part of what has made Pepperell popular is that over the last few years, some of those tweets and blog posts have been pretty introspective, and he has opened up about any struggles that he has had, both on and off the golf course. Coming into 2018, Pepperell’s only win that gave him OWGR points came in 2012 on the Challenge Tour, but he had a nice end to 2017, finishing inside the top-10 in six of his last nine starts, allowing him to jump up to 133rd in the world coming into 2018.
While 2018 didn’t start off great with three missed cuts in his first four starts, Pepperell’s fifth start at the Qatar Masters produced a win.
He had a good summer, contending in Scotland, Portugal, and at the Open Championship before winning again in October at the British Masters.
Pepperell is now ranked 37th in the world, comfortably inside the top-50, which will make him eligible for the Masters for the first time in 2019. It’s cool to see Pepperell achieve this kind of success given the way he has let us in over the years, and he’s still tweeting and writing, which is obviously great news as well.
He’s one to watch again in 2019.
John Peterson is a great example of how hard it is to really succeed at the professional level. Peterson was an excellent college player at LSU, winning the NCAAs in 2011, and being named as an All-American three times. He turned pro in 2011, and finished fourth at the 2012 U.S. Open, making an ace on the par-3 13th. It’s far and away the most memorable moment of his professional career.
Outside of that, Peterson has bounced back and forth between the Web.com and PGA Tours, and appeared on a few leaderboards, but he hasn’t been able to break through. It happens. So, earlier this year, Peterson, who was playing on a medical, announced that if he didn’t regain his playing privileges, he was going to retire. He has a family, and an opportunity in real estate, so the life of a tour pro just wasn’t for him anymore if he couldn’t make it work on the PGA Tour.
Peterson’s last start on his medical was at the Greenbrier, where a final round 66 shot him up the leaderboard, but still left him 0.58 FedEx Cup points short of conditional status. So, it was his last start, and Peterson said his goodbyes.
Two weeks later though, Peterson was back, getting into the Barbasol Championship as an alternate, and finishing tied for 21st. These finishes put him inside the top 200 in the FedEx Cup, meaning that he was eligible for the Web Tour Finals, and if he could do well in those, he would have some level of status for 2019, so the retirement was put on hold. His T56 at the DAP Championship was the only event out of four where he made the cut, so he never came close to regaining his card. Once again, Peterson was retired.
The story is over, right? Well, not exactly. Peterson has also now applied for amateur reinstatement with the USGA, which is something that doesn’t seem overly fair to the players who would potentially be teeing it up beside him. If I had to guess, we haven’t seen or heard the last from John Peterson.
Back in January, Tommy Fleetwood defended his title in Abu Dhabi, winning by two shots over Ross Fisher with a final round 7-under par 65. Ordinarily, that would obviously be a great round and something worth remembering, but it was the way in which Fleetwood did it that was so impressive.
It was super windy during Sunday’s final round, but aside from Fleetwood’s flowing locks flapping in the breeze, you would be forgiven if you thought he was playing in a dome. The sawed-off finish that he employs, wind or not, was the perfect way to tackle the conditions, and he put on a ball striking display that has been forgotten given how long ago it happened, but it shouldn’t be. He was pure from start to finish, with his best shot of the day coming on the 16th. Wind was whipping around, and the tournament was on the line, and Fleetwood just flushed one onto the green and made his birdie putt.
Fleetwood came in with 30 to steal the tournament from Fisher, and while he became known on a wider level thanks to his 63 at the U.S. Open in June, and his remarkable performance at the Ryder Cup, there’s an argument to be made that nothing was better than his Sunday 65 at the end of January.
Back in June, Golf Twitter was mesmerized by the swing of one man. Not Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, or Rory McIlroy. No, someone who has a swing that no one would ever try to replicate because a) it would never work and b) you’d be ridiculed forever. Thankfully, Tee-k Kelly was watching the Kolon Korea Open, and shared Hosung Choi’s swing with the world, in multiple tweets.
Choi’s swing was all anyone was focusing on at the time, and for good reason. In the final round on the next day, Choi fell back a bit and missed out on Open Championship qualifying. Still, he was the talk of certain subsections of the golf audience, and was the subject of a story by Golf.com’s Alan Bastable where we were able to learn a little more about Choi, his background, and how the swing actually became what it is today. I encourage you to read it because it is a compelling story, and it would be interesting on its own if it just stopped right there, but it actually didn’t. While most of the golf world turned away to the bigger events, Andy Johnson of the Fried Egg kept tabs on Choi, updating everyone through his various channels with regularity, and he was having a pretty good season in Asia.
Then something incredible happened: Choi won the Casio World Open in Japan at the end of November, his first win since 2013, moving him up 142 spots in the OWGR to number 209. Even better? He did it while striping an approach on 18 to get past Brendan Jones at the finish line.
At 44 years old, I have no idea if we’ll ever see Hosung Choi play anywhere outside of Asia, but you know, I’m perfectly happy with that. Just knowing that him, and his swing, actually exist is enough for me, but I’ll tell you something: someone on the PGA or European Tour should absolutely be giving him a sponsor’s exemption to an event. Imagine the buzz! In a world where the swings of young players are becoming more and more cookie cutter, this one is anything but, and it, along with Choi, deserves a little more exposure.
What are you waiting for, PGA Tour? Make it happen!