2018 Year In Review: 80-61

Previous posts: 100-81

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Let’s be clear about this: the only reason why we’re talking about this situation at all is because it involves Tiger. Given the amount of #takes that were flying around when this happened a few weeks ago, I’m going to go on the assumption that the majority of you have already seen the video, but in the event that you haven’t, here you go:

Tiger admitted that after watching the video, that his club did make contact with the ball twice, but he didn’t feel like that was the case while on the course. There was no penalty given to Tiger under one of the newest rules in the book, as HD cameras are not to be used to administer penalties that could not be reasonably seen with the naked eye. When Tiger said that he didn’t think he double hit the ball in real time, he was exonerated, and that was the end of the story. The other thing about this is that next month, when the new Rules of Golf are put into place, even the double hit wouldn’t be considered a penalty.

I’m going to echo the thoughts of Andy Johnson on this: I just don’t care. It’s a meaningless event, that happened to someone at the bottom of the leaderboard, where a double hit happened, but it had zero material impact in anything of value in the world of golf. There are way worse offenses that happened in 2018 that weren’t given anywhere near the level of coverage that this one was, and it’s all because it happened to Tiger. Moving on.

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I think it’s fair to say that Smylie Kaufman is known more for his connections to the game’s superstars than his actual playing ability. It’s probably unfair to Kaufman given that, you know, he’s a professional as well and someone who has won tournaments at the highest levels of the game. It’s an unfortunate thing given the way that the game is covered, and when some of Kaufman’s closest friends happen to be Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, and Rickie Fowler, there’s a natural amount of overshadowing that is going to happen.

Those associations have definitely given Kaufman more of the spotlight, and it hasn’t gone well recently. After his performance at the 2016 Masters, Kaufman moved inside the top-50 in the world, but injuries and poor play have sent Kaufman into the 600s. In his last 43 starts on the PGA Tour, the ones that count toward his current ranking, Kaufman has missed 29 cuts and withdrawn twice. There have been some bright spots, but for the most part, it’s been rough, which is something that Kaufman spoke to Brian Wacker about back in August as he announced his application for a medical extension. The whole piece is worth reading, but this quote stood out to me:

“Social media doesn’t help,” Kaufman said. “That place sucks. It was so great for me for so long, but it was never anything good the last six months. When I go to Twitter, it’s like reading the newspaper for me. Well, I don’t wanna see Tom or Joe telling me how bad I suck when I read the newspaper.”

Kaufman still hasn’t teed it up since that last start at the Greenbrier, but we should be seeing him sometime soon. I’m pulling for the guy, and hope that we see him regain some form. He’s definitely too talented to not be a factor on the PGA Tour, so hopefully he can stay healthy as we head into 2019.

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We all know that golf likes to purport itself as a game of honour, tradition, and respect. For better or worse, it usually ends up being true, and that’s why when a story comes along that challenges those ideals, it becomes a thing. No story in 2018 lives up to this dynamic quite like that of Doris Chen.

Chen is a former NCAA champion, taking the individual crown at USC in 2014, but she hasn’t put it all together at the professional level. Chen was in the field at the LPGA’s Q-Series event at Pinehurst back in November, and she was disqualified from the event for violating Rule 15-3b, which is when a competitor plays a ball that was out of bounds, but was put back in play.

Sure, it’s a weird one in that we don’t it called often, but it’s just a DQ, right? Well, not exactly. After being told by a homeowner near the course about the incident, the LPGA Tour suggested that an “outside agency” had moved Chen’s ball. That “outside agency” was later revealed to be Chen’s mother, who is alleged to have kicked the ball back into play. Chen released a statement, before locking her social media accounts, and it was grabbed by the New York Post:

“I did not have any direct involvement, nor was it my intention for it to happen,” she said in the statement. “It was a stressful week and I did my best in terms of resolving it at the moment. Unfortunately, I did not have the best judgement [sic] at the moment and this resulted [in] a ruling. It was my responsibility as a player to call for a rules official at the time to investigate, whether the event to be true or mistaken. However, I thought I knew the rules clearly. I have to firmly clarify that my caddie, the volunteer nor I at the time we were searching for the ball saw anything suspicious. I did not hear or see anything, nor did I do anything that would interfere. I found the ball and hit it.”

So, we’re done here, right? Nope! After that statement was released, Golf Channel’s Randall Mell was in contact with Chen’s caddie for the event, Alex Valer. Valer, who does not caddie for Chen regularly, told a completely different version of events than Chen, suggesting that both of them were told by the homeowner that Chen’s mother had moved the ball. When telling Chen that a rules official should be consulted, Valer suggests that he was told to back down and to not say anything, but when officials asked him about it, he told them what he knew and Chen was given the boot.

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It can be hard sometimes for the LPGA Tour to gain attention in the golf world, much less in the wider world of sports. Usually, it takes a major championship or a crazy story to have any light shone on the tour at all, and it’s really a shame given how much talent is on display on a regular basis. I say that as someone who also doesn’t give them enough attention, and would like to rectify that going forward.

Michelle Wie, though, is one of the players out there that can bring a level of attention to the game when she does well. Wie is always going to be a story in some capacity, and watching her win the 2014 U.S. Open is still one of my favourite moments as a golf fan. Somehow, that remained her last victory coming into 2018, but that all changed in March when Wie took the HSBC Women’s World Championship, winning by one over Brooke Henderson, Danielle Kang, Nelly Korda, and Jenny Shin. Wie fired a final round 65, including a long birdie putt on the 18th to get into the clubhouse with the lead.

The reaction to the putt going in is phenomenal.

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In recent golf history, there have been few players who have been more consistently good than Adam Scott. He had at least one win every year from 2001 to 2014, and aside from a 15 week stretch at the end of 2009, Scott has remained inside the top-50 in the world rankings since September of 2002. What’s amazing about that is that he’s managed to do it despite being considered a terrible putter for the vast majority of that stretch. Despite being an incredible ball striker with arguably the best looking swing in the game, Scott’s inability to find any level of positive consistency on the greens has probably kept him from achieving even more success than he has had to date. The anchored putter ban, instituted in 2016, definitely hasn’t been kind to many players, with Scott being the most prominent player to be affected.

His struggles with the putter bring us to this year where that consistent play really started to erode. For the second consecutive year, Scott didn’t win anywhere around the world. He did have some good finishes, namely a solo 3rd at the PGA Championship, which allowed him to end a 26-week stretch of him not being ranked inside that all important top-50 in the world, but for the most part, Scott was not in the picture at all on the PGA Tour.

He made news in August though when it was discovered that at that PGA Championship, he was actually carrying two putters in the bag, sacrificing another club just in case he wanted to make a switch on the greens. His logic was that he felt the two putters, at different lengths, were better for either long or short putts. Weird, for sure, but even weirder? He didn’t even really use the short putter much in competition, opting to pretty much stick with the regular broom handle.

We’ve all had rounds where we don’t use certain clubs in the bag, but imagine being so far in your own head about your putter that you willingly got rid of another club just in case you wanted to make a change. And you did it while contending for a major championship! The parallels to Phil using two drivers at Augusta are obvious, but the difference is that Phil actually used them. I don’t understand this, and I don’t think I ever will.

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Marc Leishman didn’t win the Masters this year, but he did have a good week, finishing in solo 9th. He also hit what was probably the shot of the year at the tournament.

On Friday, Leishman is playing well at 5-under par as he gets to the par-5 15th. He finds the fairway, but the ball leaks a little left and ends up behind the trees. With the flag tucked on the left hand side, the safe (and likely, sensible) approach would be to either lay up short of the water, or go to the right side of the green.

Now, Phil Mickelson was kind of in a similar position back in 2015, and there was no chance that he was going to lay up short, and he pulled off a pretty spectacular shot.

Leishman though, isn’t left handed, and was further into the trees than Phil. So, what did he do? He slung a draw in there to five feet like it was the easiest shot humanly possible, and made eagle.

In his post round interview, Leishman told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt that where it ended up was not exactly what he intended. He wanted to hit a 30 yard draw, but it ended up drawing about 40 instead.

Find me a better shot in 2018. Given the situation and the stage, I’d be shocked if you can.

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Back in March, a story surfaced about 2017 Women’s British Open winner I.K. Kim, and how she had lost her clubs at some point a few months prior while traveling. So, Kim had to rebuild her bag from scratch, and she had to do it with really brand new stuff, as some of the clubs that she had been using were no longer being made. That may seem like a real first world problem, but given that she had just won a major championship with them, I can understand the frustration in having to get completely new gear.

In any event, it seems like Kim had resigned herself to the fact that she was never going to see her clubs and bag again when doing the below interview with Alison Whitaker:

Something amazing happened though, as some fans saw the video and happened to come across her clubs at a Play It Again Sports store in California. Unfortunately, not all of the clubs were accounted for, but at the very least, Kim was able to get reunited with some wedges, her bag, and some items from her time on the tour that were still in the pockets.

I don’t think we’ve ever had an update on how exactly they ended up at the store, but it definitely feels like someone at the airport was trying to make a quick buck on some high end tour gear. Crazy story that simultaneously makes you feel better and worse about the world, and the people in it.

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I’m not going to lie to you: it takes a whole lot for me to care much about the Champions Tour, and even then, it’s usually only because Bernhard Langer’s dominance of the circuit is pretty incredible. This year though, the story of Scott Parel really caught my eye because, well, I’d never heard of him prior to this year. That’s a fairly common occurrence on the regular tours, but usually, anyone who has had success on the Champions Tour has at least been a player before he became eligible for the senior circuit.

This year, Parel won twice on the Champions Tour, taking the Boeing Classic in August, and the Invesco QQQ Championship at the end of October. Those two wins, along with four runner-up finishes allowed Parel to finish in third place in the Schwab Cup, and fifth on the money list, totaling $1.85 million.

Not bad for a guy who didn’t play college golf at Georgia, and was working in IT until he turned 31. Parel’s success also allowed for his wife, Mary, to quit her nursing job and join him on the road, which is probably something that neither thought would be possible at a variety of points in Parel’s journey.

Eamon Lynch wrote a nice piece on Parel for Golfweek back in November that provides more context, and is worth your time because Parel’s just a great story. Think about the fact that this guy that you probably didn’t know anything about until this year, is having a tremendous amount of success against the likes of Langer, Vijay Singh, Miguel Angel Jimenez, David Toms, and all of the other guys that we have been watching for the last couple of decades at the world’s biggest events. It’s crazy.

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In recent years, the Scottish Open has seen a return to relevancy. With its spot on the schedule being right before the Open, many of the best players from the PGA Tour come over a week early to play the event in prep for the third major championship of the year. It’s also usually one of the best events of the year to watch on television, with a great field and tremendous tracks that usually challenge the players in ways that other courses do not.

This year was no exception, with Gullane once again being a great host to a star studded, eclectic field. Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Thomas Pieters, and Tyrrell Hatton all finished inside the top-10, and even Trevor Immelman had a shot to win the thing on the weekend. Golf Twitter was pulling for Immelman, or Eddie Pepperell, but South Africa’s Brandon Stone was way too good on Sunday, posting a final round 60, with a back nine 29. The capper was his eagle on the par-5 16th, as Stone hit a gorgeous 30-foot curler, and even though he fell just short of the first 59 in European Tour history, Stone’s round was simply incredible.

It was a huge win for Stone, too. He had won twice on the European Tour previously, but had fallen to 371st in the world prior to the win, and that 60 was able to move him to 110th. Stone is a talented player, and one that shouldn’t be this far down in the world. He started to play a little better around this time, and is one that we should be watching as the calendar flips to 2019.

Julio Bell signals a 4, something he didn’t do much of in February. (Courtesy: Golf News Net)

Over the last few years, tournament exemptions have become a larger news story as many events have become more willing to have non-golfers join their fields. I already touched on this in part one of the Year in Review, focusing on Steph Curry, Jake Owen, and Tony Romo, but the biggest exemption of the year happened in February on the Web.com Tour.

This is when we were introduced to La Máquina.

La Máquina, officially known as Julio Bell, played in the Club Colombia Championship. From what I could tell, no one really knew how Bell got into the event, and the light was shone on him by NLU’s Tron Carter after an opening round 93. I don’t think I have to tell you that 93 is not usually a number that you see on a professional leaderboard, but somehow, it was twelve shots better than his second round 105.

One. Hundred. And. Five. Shots. And then, he didn’t even turn in his card!

So, what the hell happened here? Who is Bell, and how did he get into the field? The rumour, which I don’t believe has ever been fully verified, is that Bell paid for his spot, which makes a ton of sense when you look at the scores that were posted. Tron did a deep dive into him that I highly recommend reading because, frankly, it’s an amazing ride, and he even got quotes from the man himself, who has since disappeared online, deleting all social media accounts.

England’s Ben Taylor won the event by six, by the way, with Bell ending up DQ’d after not turning in his laughable card. If he had turned it in after Friday’s round, he would have clocked in at a stunning 56-over par, 35 shots worse than his next closest competitor, Hiram Silfa, and a full 56 shots off of the even par cutline. When you think about exemptions, and their proper use, don’t think about Steph and Tony. Think about La Máquina, and how all of this played out if you really want to be upset at something.

The Machine, indeed.

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At my best, I’ve been down to about a 10 or 11 handicap as a player. At this point, I don’t play enough to be consistent at any number, and as I’m sure many of you can relate, it’s an incredibly frustrating experience. Sometimes I’m great, and it looks like I really know what I’m doing, and other times, it’s a nightmare (shoutout #BlogCabin and #ThirstyCup).

However, one thing that is almost always a constant in my game is that there’s one blowup hole that inflates the number drastically. I don’t know why it happens, but it just does. On some level, it’s a little heartening then to see that even at the pro level, this happens on a fairly regular basis. It’s not just me! Back in September though, Max Rottluff took this to an extreme at the Web Tour Finals.

Rottluff opened his round at Atlantic Beach with a par, and then proceeded to make a 10 on the par-4 second. Six over on one hole would be enough to send me into absolute orbit, so I can only imagine what Rottluff was thinking at the time, but then something pretty amazing happened: Rottluff ended up getting into the house in a 1-under par 70.

Two birdies on the front, and five on the back allowed Rottluff to post a 70 when I feel comfortable saying that almost every other player would have been at least five shots worse than that. Having the mental fortitude to stick with it, and not completely lose his mind is, frankly, amazing to me, and it allowed him to end up finishing in a tie for 46th place at the end of the week.

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Trying to get used to a new set of clubs can be an arduous exercise. It can take months for a player to feel comfortable with even the slightest tweaks to their gear, but in the case of Cody Blick, he didn’t have anywhere near that amount of time to get used to a new set ahead of his final round of Web.com Tour Q School.

Blick, who played regularly on the Mackenzie Tour in 2017, was attempting to gain status on the Web Tour for 2019, and had a chance going into the final round to do just that. When he woke up on Sunday morning though, he realized that someone had stolen his clubs out of the garage of his rental home. Blick, understandably, was in full-on panic mode at the time, and took to Instagram in an attempt to find the clubs, offering $5,000 to anyone who would bring them back to him, no questions asked.

No one came forward, and so, Blick had to piece together a set to go and play his final round. Thanks to Titleist, and some people at the course, Blick was able to get some clubs to play with on extremely short notice, but as he said on the Golf Digest podcast, he didn’t really have any time to try them out before he had to hit real shots. He hit a few on the range with the driver and 3-wood, and went to the practice green to hit some putts. He didn’t even have time to test the irons out before going to the first tee. So, how did he do?

Blick shot a 63, which was enough to earn him eight starts on the Web Tour in 2019, and probably made him reconsider why he even needed a custom set of clubs in the first place.

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I’m going to preface this section of the top 100 by saying a few things: first, it is really hard to win at the highest level, for men or women. Second, Lydia Ko is 21 years old, and she already has 20 professional victories, so she would be well within her right to tell me that I’m off base and that she knows what she’s doing. Lastly, Ko did have a better end to 2018 than I think most people realize, at least when compared to her start.

I say all of that to pose this question: she should be better, right? The chart below shows the world ranking of Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn in the qualification period, with Ko in green and Jutanugarn in gold. Ko is still a fine player, ranked inside the top 20 in the world, but much like Jordan Spieth on the men’s side, there has been a curious fall from the very top of the game.

Friend of the blog Kevin Van Valkenburg posted a great piece back in March on Ko, and her ambitions outside of golf, but it was mostly about her struggles, and how all of the changes that she has made have to be having an impact on her game. Just in 2018, there was another new coach and caddie, as there have been in multiple instances over the past few years, and she has remained steadfast in her claim that she isn’t going to be long for the professional game, with a plan to retire by 30. Don’t forget the change from Callaway to PXG, either.

Back in April, Ko won the Mediheal Championship, her first win in nearly two years. It’s incredible to think that someone who was ranked number one in the world for 85 consecutive weeks could go that long without a win, but it also may have been a turning point for her. After the victory, Ko posted eight top-10 finishes in her final 17 starts in 2018.

Do yourself a favour and read the piece by KVV linked above. It’s a great look into everything going on in Ko’s world, and also shows why she’s such a fascinating player, and person. To my own question above, I do feel like she should be better, but I also know that it’s not that simple. I’m always of the opinion though that players of Ko’s quality will figure it all out, and I’m pulling for her to do just that.

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The youth movement in golf took over a few years ago, and where you can see it most clearly is in the winner’s circle. Players are winning a lot earlier on the professional level than they did previously, and in turn, that means that older players are not winning as much as they used to. The main reason for this is the influx of distance, and how hitting the ball far has become the most important tool to have at your disposal when heading to the first tee. While 2018 had a ton of young winners, we also saw several long droughts end on both the PGA and European Tours.

  • Paul Casey, Valspar Championship (Last win: 2014 KLM Open)
    • Casey held off the charges of Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed, while Tiger Woods showed his first real signs of competitive life. Tiger’s 1-under par round ended up one shy of Casey.
  • Ian Poulter, Houston Open (Last win: 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions)
  • Keegan Bradley, BMW Championship (Last win: 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational)
    • Keegan was able to hold off Justin Rose in a playoff at Aronimink, going 66-64-66-64 to see the winner’s circle for the first time in over six years. Still no word on that Medinah suitcase.
  • Matt Kuchar, Mayakoba Golf Classic (Last win: 2014 RBC Heritage)
    • Kuchar won down in Mexico, setting the new tournament record at 22-under par, and winning by one over Danny Lee.
  • Lee Westwood, Nedbank Golf Challenge (Last win: 2015 Indonesian Masters)
  • Charles Howell III, RSM Classic (Last win: 2007 Nissan Open)
    • Howell’s win over Patrick Rodgers in a playoff was a great feel good story. Howell’s been so good for so long that it felt wrong that he didn’t have more than two PGA Tour wins.
  • Danny Willett, DP World Tour Championship (Last win: 2016 Masters)
    • Willett’s struggles since winning the Masters have been well documented, and they’ve kinda made him a one-hit wonder in the eyes of many, but he was a good player before that day in Georgia two years ago, and I think he’s going to keep proving that in 2019.

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For the most part, if you’re looking for the consensus best courses in the world, you’re not likely to find them on the PGA Tour schedule. Aside from your staples like Pebble and Riv, there really aren’t a whole lot of places that the tour goes to on a regular basis that get golf course architecture aficionados overly excited, which is why people were pumped back in May for the Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest.

Trinity Forest was built by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and unlike most of the stops on tour, the course is meant to play firm and fast. It’s supposed to make you think while you stand over the ball, as opposed to the bomb and gouge style that is far too common, and boring, for those who are more architecturally inclined. I could go on and on about Trinity Forest, but really, Andy Johnson at the Fried Egg did a better job than I ever could on it, and I highly suggest reading his preview for a sense of why this place is different and special.

Prior to the tournament starting, there were definitely concerns that the players were not on board with the change in venue, especially to one that is so different than the usual fare they receive. When they got there though, the complaining was down to a minimum, and no one raised any red flags. Aaron Wise took the event with a 23-under par winning score, and all was good. The tour is committed to Trinity Forest through 2021, and we should all be happy to hear that news.

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Yes, yes: my Canadian is showing, but for any American reading this list, it really is big deal when someone from a country wins their national open. It just happens so often with the U.S. Open that I’m not sure the importance registers outside of those walls. Henderson ran away from the field at 21-under par, winning by four shots at Wascana Country Club in Saskatchewan. It was her seventh win on the LPGA Tour, and at just 21, she very clearly has a bright future ahead of her. Listen to the crowd with every shot in the video below. That’s a loud group of people in horrible weather.

Henderson became just the second Canadian to win the event, with Jocelyne Bourassa winning the inaugural tournament back in 1973. Mike Weir, typically thought of as Canada’s most accomplished professional golfer, famously never won the Canadian Open, coming close on multiple occasions. There haven’t been many Canadian men to do it either, with Pat Fletcher in 1954 being the most recent of the eight Canadians to take the trophy in an event that has been held since 1904.

It was especially poignant for Henderson in 2018, as she lost both of her grandfathers and took time off to grieve. She broke down at multiple points during interviews after the round, and when the crowd was singing the national anthem after the win.

After a two win season, Henderson was a finalist for the Lou Marsh Award, which goes to Canada’s top athlete.

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The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is an odd event. From a TV standpoint, it’s usually one of the worst events of the year, as the rounds take forever, and there’s usually far too much emphasis on sudo-celebs than on the actual golf. On the flip side, it should theoretically be hard for people to be too upset that they get to see Pebble Beach. When it comes to the actual competition, this event is really hard to handicap given that it is played across three separate courses, and when you look at the past winners, you really do have a huge mix of big names and journeymen. For every Phil Mickelson, Johnny Miller, or Tiger Woods, there’s a Matt Gogel, D.A. Points, or Vaughn Taylor.

Enter the Wizard.

Ted Potter Jr., mini tour legend, won the Greenbrier back in 2012, and hadn’t really been heard from much since. That was in large part due to a broken ankle in July of 2014, which kept him on the shelf for nearly two years, and when he came back, he wasn’t able to retain his tour card. Potter would regain his card for the 2018 season after a good year of starts on the Web.com Tour, and while he struggled at the very beginning, Potter came out of nowhere at Pebble Beach.

After rounds of 68 and 71 to start the event, Potter fired an opening nine 32 with two bogeys, and followed that up with a back nine 30. The third round 62 vaulted him into the lead, and put him into a final round pairing with world number one Dustin Johnson. Potter was definitely the underdog for all of the obvious reasons, but he wasn’t phased at all. Potter’s nice final round 69 was bested by few players on that day, and Potter cruised to a three shot win over Johnson, Chez Reavie, Jason Day, and Mickelson.

We’re used to seeing stars win, and we’re also used to seeing guys like Potter wilt under the pressure, and that’s why his win is special and on this list.

I totally understand if there are people reading this list who believe that this is way too high, but: I’m sorry, you’re wrong. That whole “Tiger is the needle” conversation that gets had all the time when he comes back and the ratings spike is pretty annoying, but it also happens to be insanely true. There’s probably no better way to look at this than to remember the way people reacted to Tiger arriving at the golf course ahead of final rounds at both Bellerive and East Lake. And it was all because of the way he was dressed.

Tiger entered the final round of the PGA Championship four shots back of Brooks Koepka’s lead. Obviously within range, but given that the leaderboard featured the likes of Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, and others at the same number or better than Tiger, it was always going to be an uphill climb.

That thought was completely erased though when Tiger first appeared on camera: Sunday red. Sunglasses. Backwards hat. It was officially Go Time, and Twitter reacted exactly how you would think it did.

Somehow though, Tiger raised the bar at the Tour Championship. He had a three shot lead going into the final day, and closed out his first win since 2013, something that we all should have known was a formality earlier in the day when he gave everyone free tickets to the gun show.

Tiger told Soly that he wasn’t doing it on purpose, and while that’s probably true on some level, I’m still just going to believe that he was doing it for the show. And I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we appreciate it.

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We all know that winning at the highest level is extremely hard, which is why most players, if they win at all during a season, only win once. Those who win multiple tournaments are also the world’s most elite players; those that are a cut above the other best players in the world. On some level, we kinda expect players like Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy to win multiple times in a year, and when they do, it’s not really that big of a deal.

Enter Matt Wallace.

Wallace, 28, was born in England and played his college golf at Jacksonville State. After college, he went back to Europe to ply his trade, and wound up on the Alps Tour, which, apparently, is a developmental tour prior to the Challenge Tour that is located in France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and Morocco. Well, Wallace won six events on that tour in 2016, earned his Challenge Tour card, and then jumped onto the European Tour in the middle of 2017. This year, he played an absolute ton, teeing it up in 31 events in pretty much every timezone humanly possible.

All of that travel paid off though, as Wallace ended up winning three times, taking the Hero Indian Open (shouout Gary Player), the BMW International Open in Germany, and the Made in Denmark. He also got to play in his second U.S. Open, and made his maiden appearance in both the Open Championship and PGA Championship, where he made an ace and celebrated accordingly.

He was even in the conversation for one of Thomas Bjorn’s wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup, which is incredible to think about given that he was on the Alps Tour less than two years ago. His good play in 2018 has also ensured that he’ll finish inside the top-50 in the world at the end of the year, meaning that Wallace will get to play in the Masters for the first time in 2019. Great looking swing, too.

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For every secure Tour player out there, there’s probably four or five players on other tours who are capable of competing at the highest levels that you may not have ever heard of. If you want proof of this, go out and watch the Web.com Tour, or various other tours around the country, where some insanely gifted players are playing in golf’s “minor leagues”. T.J. Vogel is one of those players. Vogel is currently ranked 1125th in the world, but he played in eight PGA Tour events during the 2017-18 season. How? Vogel Monday qualified for each of those eight events.

Here’s the breakdown for Vogel’s Monday run, courtesy Golf Channel:

  • RSM Classic: 64
  • Honda Classic: 64
  • Valspar Championship: 63
  • Wells Fargo Championship: 65
  • AT&T Byron Nelson: 66
  • FedEx St. Jude Classic: 66
  • Greenbrier: 65
  • Wyndham Championship: 65

Unofficially, the thought is that Vogel’s eight is a record, besting the mark set by Patrick Reed a few years ago when he did it six times. Unfortunately, Vogel didn’t make much of an impact in the events that he played in, missing five cuts. His best finish came at the Valspar, where he ended up tied for 16th. Vogel spoke with Adam Stanley for PGATour.com back in October, where he mentioned that the Valspar cheque was the biggest he’s ever had, but that it would have been double the value had he made a 3-footer on 17. Stop reading this, and think about that for a second. Man.

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