2018 Year In Review: 60-41
Previous posts: 100-81 – 80-61
Over the last few years, the notion of star pairings has really taken hold. A lot of this, I think, has to do with the ability to sell services like PGA Tour Live, and I get the appeal. If you’re the PGA Tour, and you’re trying to convince people to buy your product, it’s a whole hell of a lot easier to promote featured groups of Tiger, Rory, and Jordan than it is Phil, Chez, and Brandt. What we ended up with in 2018 was a whole lot of tournaments that paired the biggest possible names together, and it all started at Riviera.
Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Justin Thomas is about as star studded a threesome as you’re going to get on the PGA Tour, and that’s what they rolled out for the first two rounds of the Genesis Open. Naturally, it got raucous, as it always does when Tiger is involved, and the other players didn’t seem too impressed.
Rory: “It might have always been like this, the whole Tiger mania, but I swear, playing in front of all that, he gives up half a shot a day on the field. It’s two shots a tournament he has to give up because of all that goes on around him. Whether that calms down the more he plays and it doesn’t become such a novelty that he’s back out playing again, I don’t know, but it’s tiring. I need a couple Advil just to… I’ve got a headache after all that. You’ve got a six-foot putt and they’ll shout: ‘It doesn’t break as much as you think.’ Just stuff like that, stuff they don’t have to say. Whoever is teeing off at 8:30 in the morning doesn’t get that and can just go about his business and do his thing. That’s tough. Tiger has to deal with that every single time he goes out to play.”
JT: “Yeah, it was pretty wild this first couple days. It was all right for a little bit today, but there at the end it got a little out of hand. I guess it’s a part of it now, unfortunately. I wish it wasn’t. I wish people didn’t think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots and play.”
The same three were rolled out at Bellerive for the PGA, and the PGA Tour made sure to have massive groups for the Players Championship as well. Tiger played with Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, while Rory and JT were paired with Jordan Spieth. So far, the Open Championship and the Masters have abstained from the trend, but for the most part, I think this is here to stay, even if the players aren’t overly fond of it. The idea of the best players only meeting on the final day at the top of the leaderboard is dead, and probably a little less special than what it was previously.
I’m going to pose a question that is going to sound odd given that he won three times in 2018, but here goes: should I have been impressed by watching Jon Rahm over the past twelve months?
It’s so weird, and stupid to say, but Rahm shot out of a cannon so quickly in 2017 with wins in big events, that I think I expected more from him in 2018, and that feels wholly unfair. Rahm wasn’t really involved in the biggest events in 2018, missing the cut at the Open Championship and U.S. Open, and while he put up good finishes at the Masters and PGA Championship, it never felt like he was on the verge of winning those tournaments. It’s strange for me because I’m usually one of the people that espouses the value of the other events on the schedule, but I can honestly say that I don’t remember a bunch of Rahm in 2018, aside from him beating Tiger at the Ryder Cup.
- CareerBuilder: Beat Andrew Landry in a playoff.
- Open de Espana: Rahm wins his national open at 20-under par, becoming the sixth Spaniard to win the title since it became an official European Tour event in 1972.
- Hero World Challenge: Makes seven birdies en route to a four shot win over Tony Finau.
Like I said, this is more of a me problem than a Rahm problem, but I ended up walking away from Rahm’s 2018 wanting more. I’m sure that he’s going to give us just that over the next twelve months.
The man you see in the photo above is Jerry Foltz, Golf Channel commentator. Foltz is one of my favourite analysts out there because he combines information and fun with a smooth delivery, but as I’m sure you can tell, he was behind the camera here. That’s because on the Sunday of the Sony Open, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) walked off site, as the union were in negotiations with Golf Channel, and they clearly weren’t happy with where they were at. In addition to the Sony Open, this also left the Web.com Tour’s Bahamas Great Exuma Classic without proper coverage, and most importantly, the Diamond Resorts Invitational was also affected.
So, what did this look like? Aside from people like Foltz working the cameras, the play by play and colour commentary was handled from the Golf Channel studio by George Savaricas, Billy Kratzert and Jim Gallagher Jr., and due to the fact that there were significantly fewer cameras on hand, the coverage was essentially limited to the final few holes and groups. From DJ Piehowski’s story at No Laying Up:
“While it’s impressive and admirable that Golf Channel was able to get any kind of broadcast on the air with a skeleton crew, there has been a noticeable in difference in Sunday’s coverage. The audio commentary is being pulled from the analysts in the Orlando studio rather than the normal on-site crew. Fewer cameras have led to long, lingering shots instead of the typical quick cuts moving all around the course. That, combined with large chunks of the broadcast that were presented without natural sound made things feel extra flat. There was also a noticeable lack of graphics and tower shots seem to be limited to the final three holes.”
Golf Channel did address the issue on air, explaining why there was going to be a different look and feel to the broadcast. All in all, the strike lasted eleven days, and Golf Channel had to hire replacement staff to handle the CareerBuilder and the start of the Champions Tour season in Hawaii, but things were back in full swing after that.
Adding insult to injury: the tournament went to a Patton Kizzire/James Hahn playoff. Kizzire picked up his second PGA Tour win with a par on the SIXTH hole. Yikes.
For as long as I could remember prior to this year, the PGA Tour slogan was “These Guys Are Good”, and while there might be some better things to come up with, that’s not a bad tagline. They used to do some pretty fun commercials, too. Not the “DJ can dunk a basketball ones”, but the ones from the late 90’s and early 2000’s that were meant to just be fun.
In 2018 though, the PGA Tour moved away from “These Guys Are Good” to #LiveUnderPar, which was meant to be something that you were supposed to do both on and off the golf course. It’s straight out of the marketing agency playbook, and no one tackled it better in 2018 than Geoff Shackelford, especially in his FJM-style takedown of the press release, which is a delectable piece of work that you should read. Moreover, the term “living under par” means something completely different in the non-golf sense, which wouldn’t normally be something that mattered, but this was supposed to be a mantra to live by away from the course as well. Lee Westwood wasn’t a fan.
Also, unlike the prior slogan, #LiveUnderPar was pretty much everywhere on PGA Tour social channels, even if it didn’t really make sense. How, exactly, is this living under par?
It’s on this list pretty much because it was unavoidable throughout the year, and used to an excessive amount if you follow the game. This was the 2018 version of the Omega “standing in the hall of fame” commercial, and unlike that, this one isn’t going anywhere.
A pair of pretty high profile lawsuits were resolved in 2018, both of which involved the PGA Tour getting sued.
The first one came back in October when a group of PGA Tour caddies decided to drop their case against the tour over not getting a cut of the money for wearing sponsored bibs. Also, even though this was separate from the lawsuit, the caddies also wanted to get better healthcare and retirement options out of the PGA Tour. The caddies had lost the original lawsuit, and were appealing, but decided to drop it. While no official numbers were released, Scott Sajtinac of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies said that they did get an increase from the PGA Tour towards their healthcare.
Last month, the long five plus year battle between the PGA Tour and Vijay Singh came to an end. If you were around covering golf back in 2013, Singh’s use of deer antler spray was a huge thing, and I’m honestly shocked that Singh decided to agree to a settlement. Singh was suspended after he admitted to using deer antler spray, which had a hormone in it that was on the list of banned substances for the PGA Tour. The suspension was later reduced when WADA changed their stance on the spray, but Singh thought he was humiliated by the tour, and for that, he was taking them to court, but it too has now been settled, and everyone can move on with their lives.
2018 was a huge year of change for the PGA of America. Along with formally agreeing to the schedule changes for the PGA Championship’s move to May starting in 2019, the personnel at the top of the organization completely changed as well.
Pete Bevacqua, who had been running the operation as the PGA of America’s CEO since November of 2012, abruptly announced in July that he would be leaving the organization to become the newest president of NBC Sports Group. This was in spite of the fact that he was rumoured to have signed a contract extension in 2017 that was to take him through 2024. Bevacqua was quite often the public face of the PGA, appearing on television and in various magazine stories promoting the organizaion, its members, and the game as a whole. Though, I disagree with his assertion that by moving the PGA, that they were disturbing the universe. Bevacqua was replaced by Seth Waugh, a former CEO at Deutsche Bank, because, of course he was.
The more impactful move may have come in November, when Suzy Whaley was elected as the newest PGA of America president. Whaley is the first woman to hold the post, and considering that women weren’t even allowed to be members of the PGA of America until 1979, it’s a pretty significant moment to see Whaley at the top of the organization. Whaley’s big on growing the game, and while it’s easy to roll your eyes at the notion of the #GrowTheGame movement and how everything in golf these days seems to be with that in mind, a move like electing Whaley is a great step in making things feel at least a little more inclusive.
The organization also announced in December that they’d be moving their headquarters from Florida to Texas, where they will have a 600-acre plot of land to develop “two championship golf courses, a short course, and practice areas totaling 45 holes; a clubhouse; Class AA office space; a 500-room Omni resort and 127,000-square-foot conference center; a technologically advanced retail village; parks and open space plus several miles of trails”.
The hope is that this facility will be able to host events like the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup in the future, which is fine with me as long as it means that I never have to watch Valhalla or Bellerive again.
I know that Jim Furyk shot 58 on the PGA Tour a couple of years ago, but, and you guys can tell me I’m wrong, 59 is still a pretty good day and something we don’t see very often. What’s weird is that we saw three of them in 2018, and that they all came within about a month of each other.
- Brandt Snedeker fired an opening round 59 at the Wyndham, leading to a wire-to-wire victory. It was his first win in two and a half years.
- Oliver Fisher shot 59 in the second round of the Portugal Masters, finishing tied for 7th. It was the first ever 59 on the European Tour.
- Drew Nesbitt’s 59 came in the second round of the Aberto do Brasil on PGA Tour Latinoamerica. No highlights, but Nesbitt spoke about it after the round.
Joaquin Niemann was always supposed to be good. You don’t reach the number one spot in the amateur golf rankings without being insanely gifted, but even with the knowledge that the game has gotten so much younger over the past few years, there’s a large part of me that is still shocked when we see young players succeed so early in their careers on the biggest stage. Nothing exemplified that thought in 2018 more than watching Niemann, at just 19 years of age, earn his full PGA Tour status.
Niemann played eighteen events in 2018, and posted five top-10 finishes. His T5 at the Greenbrier back in July, where he went 63-69-72-64, gave him enough FedEx Cup points to secure his status for 2019.
The best part of the story, as noted by Golf Digest’s Joel Beall, is that Niemann wasn’t even supposed to be on the PGA Tour in 2018. He was supposed to be playing at USF, but there was an issue with the English test that Niemann had to take to get in, and so, he just decided to turn pro after the Masters and take his shot. Good call.
Niemann’s bold decision to turn pro is great news for us because not only is he good, he’s also super fun to watch. Look at the picture above, and you can see how unique his swing is. How that swing will hold up at, say, age 35 is absolutely a question, but for now, he’s just a joy to watch.
I’m not sure there’s a player I’m more excited to watch in 2019 than Niemann.
Coming into the 2018 U.S. Senior Women’s Open, the unquestioned star of the event was Chicago Golf Club. As far as golf courses go, Chicago is one of those places that ends up on any respectable ranking for best in the world, and given that it is pretty much never seen by anyone unless they’re a member, the thought that it would be on television was incredibly exciting. Throw in the fact that the kind of things that would render the brilliance of the course obsolete, namely distance from the best players in the world, would be muted by it being a senior women’s event, and you had the makings of a great event.
And don’t get me wrong: Chicago was still the star, for the brief time that it was on the air, anyway. But, it had a couple of co-stars alongside. Laura Davies went out and destroyed the field, beating her next closest competitor (Juli Inkster) by ten shots, with a -16 total in an event where only four players broke par. Davies was the story at the end of the week, but at the beginning, it was all about JoAnne “Big Mama” Carner.
Carner, unafraid to light cigarettes while on the course, missed the cut by three shots after rounds of 79 and 83, which doesn’t sound that great until you realize that Carner shot her age in that opening round. She needed birdie at the last to do it, too. Oh, and it was her first time walking any golf course since 2004, and her wedges were ruled non-conforming prior to the round because it’d been so long since she played any sanctioned events. Her goal for the week was to play on the weekend, and even though she didn’t do it, it was still an amazing story, and I hope we see her again on the course in 2019.
Golf Channel also did a great job with this video below explaining her story, and why everyone thinks the world of her.
Let’s be honest about the WGC’s: they kinda stink. No cut events where the rich get richer and feast off of the free world ranking points on offer isn’t the most compelling pitch for a tournament, especially when you throw in the fact that the courses that they are usually played range from pretty good (Austin) to downright awful (literally the rest of them). The whole WGC format needs a re-think, but I’ll give them credit for having the potential to introduce the world to new players, which is a pretty important thing, and that was really felt back in March at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
India’s Shubankar Sharma, 21, got into the event via his current standing in the Race to Dubai. Sharma had won the Maybank Championship a few weeks prior, vaulting him up the list and seeing his world rank go from 193rd to 72nd, but unless you are one of those sickos watching those events (guilty), it would have been very difficult for you to have any idea who Sharma was. Well, after three rounds of 65-66-69, Sharma had the lead by two at Chapultepec, and earned himself a date with Phil Mickelson in Sunday’s final pairing. The two had a chance to meet prior to the third round getting underway, with Mickelson mistaking him for a member of the media, so, you know, off to a good start.
Sharma didn’t have a great Sunday paired with Mickelson, firing a 3-over par 74 and falling into a tie for 9th, while Mickelson earned his first win in nearly five years when he beat Justin Thomas in a playoff. Even with the poor Sunday showing, Sharma made it clear though that he belonged in the field, and amongst the much bigger names, had shown that he can compete. The possibilities for growth with Sharma in his native India are massive, as Kyle Robbins pointed out in this great piece for SB Nation, and Sharma has the ambition to keep improving. He wants to reach the number one spot in the world, and when you watch this video, it’s pretty clear that he thinks he can get there.
After Mexico, Sharma didn’t have the best run in the “bigger” tournaments, but his form did get better towards the end of the year, and given his insane travel schedule through the meaty part of the summer, it makes sense that he would have struggled a little bit. I can’t say for sure that he’s going to be a star, but we should all be rooting for him to be just that. Much like Niemann, looking forward to seeing what he can do in 2019.
I won’t spend too much time on the changes to the Rules of Golf because most people have been aware of them for quite some time, and Joel Beall did a really good job recapping the changes for Golf Digest already. It needs to be mentioned though for the obvious reasons: any changes to the Rules of Golf not only impact the pros, but theoretically, they impact the rest of us as well, even if I can’t remember a single moment where I ever thought too deeply about a specific rule when on the course.
I will quickly touch on a few items that will be changing though, given the news stories in recent years about them:
- The DJ rule: No longer a penalty if you accidentally move a ball on the green.
- I don’t care what Mike Davis, Thomas Pagel, or anyone else at the USGA says, Dustin Johnson didn’t make that ball move at Oakmont.
- Flagstick can remain in while putting
- We don’t deserve Bryson.
- Ball search time reduced from five to three minutes
- This sounds great in theory, but much like any other pace of play rule, it doesn’t mean a damn thing if it isn’t enforced. I’ve long given up hope on the PGA Tour actually enforcing pace of play (shoutout J.B. Holmes), so until they start doing that, I just don’t see how this matters at the professional level.
The other thing that happened from a rules standpoint in 2018 was that the USGA decided to remove the 18-hole playoff at the U.S. Open, replacing it with a two-hole aggregate. I totally understand why they’d want to do this from a purely logistical standpoint, as it sucks for broadcasters, fans at the course, technicians, and everyone else around the tournament to have another full day of action to cover, especially for the next event on the schedule. However, it definitely was unique to the U.S. Open, and it fits the whole “toughest test in golf” idea to have to run it back again for another round. This is one of those things where I definitely get it, but I’m going to miss having it around going forward.
When the Official World Golf Rankings put out their end of year version, Xander Schauffele will jump into the top-10, knocking Rickie Fowler out for the first time since July of 2017. Fowler will drop to 11th, with Schauffele and Tony Finau rounding out the top-10.
Of those inside that top 11, Fowler and Finau are the only ones to have not won a single tournament in 2018. For Fowler, it was the first year since 2014 that he went winless, while Finau has now gone two consecutive years without finding the winner’s circle. I’ve lumped these two together because, to me, it’s interesting how we view the careers of both players.
Finau had an incredible 2018, finishing inside the top ten in 12 of his 28 starts, and being the runner-up four times. It was the breakout season that many had been predicting he would have, and he deservedly ended up on his first Ryder Cup team as a result. He didn’t come away with any wins, but when you keep getting yourself in contention, the wins typically follow and no one should be concerned about him heading into 2019.
Fowler’s 2019 was also really good, despite what I’m sure many would have you believe given the sky high expectations that are on him. Much like Finau, Fowler only missed three cuts, and had eight top-10 finishes. He was only outside of the top-20 once after the Players, and nearly chased down Patrick Reed at Augusta, proving to be the challenger that Rory couldn’t be on the final day.
Fowler would be the first to tell you that he would have liked to have won a few tournaments in 2018, and I’m pretty sure that he’s aware that he doesn’t have a major championship on his resume yet, either. He also recently just turned 30, which simultaneously makes sense given how long we’ve been watching him, but also doesn’t given that it just doesn’t feel like he should be 30. Finau, for what it’s worth, is only a year younger than Fowler, even if it also doesn’t feel that way.
People are rightly excited about Finau, but they aren’t really about Fowler, and I get it on some level. We’ve been watching him do this for a while now, and given the level of coverage he gets, you can absolutely argue that he hasn’t had the kind of success that warrants it, but I think my overall point is that he’s still insanely good at this. If a few things go his way in 2019, there’s no reason why he can’t win a few times, major included, and have it serve as a reminder that he’s not going away anytime soon.
We all understand that winning is hard, and there’s no better proof of that in the game today than Fowler, who, much like Finau, is going to be just fine in 2019.
Since he took over as the head of the European Tour, Keith Pelley hasn’t made too many missteps, blue-rimmed glasses aside. However, the next few weeks could provide some trouble given what’s on the schedule at the end of January.
The European Tour’s long discussed event in Saudi Arabia was confirmed back in October, though as Malachy Clerkin of the Irish Times points out, Pelley and the European Tour tried their best to not publicize the event. It wasn’t even mentioned in the press release! From Clerkin:
“Everything got a mention, from the Rolex Series to Golf Sixes to the Trophy Hassan in Morocco and the Vic Open in Australia, both of which will feature men and women playing together. The just about stopped short of listing the date for the captain’s prize at Portmarnock. Except for one thing. The press release made no mention anywhere of the Saudi International, being played for the first time as a European Tour event next January. They made sure to give a big welcome to the Kenya Open, the other new event on the schedule, penned in for next March. You would imagine that if a low-grade event like the Kenya Open (total purse, €1.1m) merits a full paragraph, surely a higher-profile newcomer like the Saudi International (total purse $3.5m) would as well.”
Pelley taking the “maybe the bridge just collapsed on its own” route isn’t a good look, and I don’t think I need to tell you why if you’ve been paying attention to the news. Clerkin outlines it well in the piece above, on how the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi presence in Yemen should be setting sirens off at European Tour headquarters, but clearly for now, Pelley isn’t budging and the event is going on as scheduled. The WWE ran through a similar problem earlier this year, and they’ve already scheduled more events for 2019, so clearly they felt that they could deal with associating their company and brand with the Saudis, and I assume that the European Tour, as it stands right now, is feeling similarly.
I don’t know how this is going to play out, but we haven’t heard the last of it, that’s for sure, and it feels like the cons far outweigh the pros here as well. Good luck, Keith.
I’m certain of very few things in professional golf, but one thing I am 100% positive of is that this is the lowest on this list that Cam Champ is going to be for a very long time. Champ was one of those college players that even I knew of before I started paying more attention to the college scene. The stories of his otherworldly distance were that common, and getting to watch him on TV for the first time at the Walker Cup in 2017 was mind blowing.
The distance is what immediately jumps off the page, which Luke Kerr-Dineen highlighted for GOLF.com back in October with some terrifying Trackman numbers. And yes, you’re going to be inundated on social media with all kinds of “Cam Champ just hit the ball 378 yards. Is that good?” tweets this season, and you’re just going to have to put up with it. Given that his win in the wraparound season came at the Sanderson Farms, and he hasn’t even played in the majority of the marquee events on the PGA Tour, there’s going to be a whole new audience of people introduced to his play in the coming months.
By all accounts, Champ also isn’t just a bomber. He can play with the other clubs in the bag, and when he gets a little more consistent with the irons and wedges, the amount of success he could have is essentially limitless. On the days where he’s hitting putts, like he was during Sanderson week, it’s very easy to say that the rest of the field has almost no chance.
The prediction here? At least one win in 2019, and an outside shot at joining Tiger’s squad at the Presidents Cup. Don’t be surprised if it happens.
It had been a long time coming for Angela Stanford. The 40-year old Texas native had five wins under her belt on the LPGA Tour, but none since February of 2012. She had played in every major championship since 2003, and represented her country on six Solheim Cup teams, but the major championship had eluded her, and after an opening round 72 in France at the Evian Championship, it looked like she would have to wait another year to get her chance, as she sat seven shots back of the leaders.
Even rounds of 64 and 68 on Friday and Saturday didn’t lend much hope, as Stanford still sat five shots back of Amy Olson. As we’ve seen countless times though, weird things happen down the stretch of a major championship, and rather than explain it, you should really just watch the highlights.
Certainly not the way Stanford envisioned her first major win, but she’ll definitely take it. The LPGA will definitely take it as well, given the way this tournament always manages to have something other than the golf, namely the weather, be the story. With the win, Stanford became the second oldest woman to win her first major championship, getting her title two months younger than Fay Crocker when she won the 1955 U.S. Women’s Open at the Wichita Country Club.
This item is something that had no impact in 2018, but it’s possible that nothing on this list (non-Tiger division), will have a greater impact on the game in 2019 than this. Back in June, the PGA Tour announced a deal with Discovery for tournament distribution outside of the United States. The 12-year deal is worth $2 billion, and the OTT service will start in 2019. Initially, details were limited, but things started to trickle out, and then the big release happened in October, with the unveiling of GOLFTV, which will be launching on January 1st.
Essentially, for users outside of the United States, this is how you’ll be able to access a significant amount of your tournament coverage going forward. There will also be content offered exclusively via GOLFTV, including all kinds of stuff with Tiger Woods, announced back in November, and by the looks of things, old tournaments offered via on-demand. It’s also not just the PGA Tour that is getting involved.
Yes, all of the tours under their umbrella will be offered on GOLFTV, but the European Tour and Ladies European Tour have joined up as well, making this essentially a one-stop shop for all professional tour golf. This has the potential to be, essentially, a golf specific version of Netflix, and given that they already have the biggest tours behind it, they’ve already taken care of a large part of the concern over setups like this: quality of content.
Now, you might be thinking a few things: first, that we already have Golf Channel, which pretty much covers these things and more already. That’s pretty true, but those broadcast deals are not going to be around forever, and having a place where events can be placed if those deals are not renewed is a great safety net. It could also be part of their larger strategy to move away from those deals, in truth.
The other thing that you may be thinking is that this is very narrow in scope given that it’s only available outside the U.S. The easy pushback on that is that this is their testing ground, and once they are ready to roll into the States, having worked out the kinks elsewhere is a great way to be ready for arguably their most important market.
I’m very, very intrigued to see where this goes in 2019, and will be reporting back on it in the coming months.
2018 really was the year of Patrick Reed. He won the Masters (more on that later), he played on another Ryder Cup team (more on that later, too), and he definitely made things extremely awkward for every American team captain for the next ten years with his post-Ryder Cup remarks (yeah, I’ll have more on that later, as well). Believe it or not, there was WAY more that happened involving Patrick Reed in 2018, which is an amazing thing to type.
It started in March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. In Sunday’s final round, Reed was going along pretty well at 1-under par through his first ten holes, and while he wasn’t going to catch the leaders, a good finish was definitely in the cards. On the 11th, he ended up behind the green, and he wanted to get a free drop because, in his opinion, there were TV cables impeding his stance. He asked for a rules official, and this was the conversation that happened:
Disagreeing with rules officials is something that happens every week on the PGA Tour, so that’s not the story here. Everyone keyed in on the “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys” quote, but I’m more in love with the “Yeah, I do want a third opinion. From an unbiased source” line, which as Brendan Porath mentioned, is peak Reed. Was the Spieth quote a foreboding one? Did we have insight all along that there was a simmering tension, at least on Reed’s side, with America’s most beloved pair? Was it just a joke? Who knows!
Next, we have Reed playing, randomly, in the Porsche European Open on the European Tour at the end of July. And, well, just watch the video.
Porath is the czar of all things 2018 Reed, so anything I say here would really just be a shell of the quality that he posted here, so please just read it. It’s well worth your time, trust me.
Lastly, you should really again read Porath on Reed’s angry tweet about free Red Sox tickets. Maybe it wasn’t so much the year of Reed, but the year of Porath. Roll Porath.
And much, much more on Reed will be coming later in this list
Being Canadian, I’ve grown up with a lot of “look at how tough these hockey players are” content, and it goes without saying that there really isn’t a lot of that floating around from a golf standpoint. Back in April though, we got a very real version of that when Tony Finau was playing in the par-3 contest at the Masters. Finau made an ace, and took off down the hill on the way to the green, jubilant as hell at the moment he created in his first ever Masters appearance. Then, this happened:
In one quick movement, Finau dislocated his ankle. Then, somehow, he popped it back into place like nothing happened. Remember that whole thing Tiger said at the Masters back in 2015 about him popping his wrist bone back in, and how basically, no one believed that he did it? This is exactly that, but with video proof! Maybe Tiger did do it.
You can tell that right after he did it though that Finau knows he’s in trouble. He gets up, and is walking very gingerly as he awaits his family to come and meet him. On top of that, he has to be incredibly embarrassed at what just happened, and I’m sure that the thoughts were racing through his head about maybe not being able to play in the tournament the next day. How on earth are you supposed to walk Augusta National, one of the hilliest courses on the schedule, for four days on an ankle that, as friend of the blog Kevin Van Valkenburg suggested, “looked like a crumpled soda can”?
Well, Finau got up the next morning and went for his MRI. After popping the ankle back in, Finau had somehow only suffered a high ankle sprain, and with no way of causing further damage, there was no way Finau was going to miss his first Masters. So, he went out and played, and remarkably, shot 68 in his opening round. He would finish with rounds of 74-73-66 to finish in a tie for 10th place, guaranteeing his return invitation in 2019.
Remarkably, he didn’t really miss much time afterwards, and ended up having an incredible season. I’d also highly recommend reading that piece linked above from KVV. He does a great job of explaining Finau’s past, and how people around him weren’t surprised that he toughed it out and played. Looking forward to seeing what he can do in a few months on two good legs instead of just one.
Tadd Fujikawa has been a cult hero in the deepest sectors of Golf Twitter for a really long time, and if you were around back in the mid-2000’s, you know exactly why. Fujikawa qualified for the 2006 U.S. Open at 15 years old when he won the Hawaii sectional qualifier, and followed that up the next year by making the cut at the Sony Open as a 16-year old. His eagle putt on the 18th to guarantee his spot is one of my most vivid memories as a golf fan.
He actually played really well on the weekend, too. Fujikawa finished in a tie for 20th place, and while he hasn’t had the kind of success as a professional that many would have hoped to see, he may have a larger purpose with his news from back in September. Fujikawa came out as gay in a post on Instagram, making him as far as I can tell, the only openly gay male in professional golf.
Fujikawa spoke with Outsports about coming out, and said that he has been overwhelmed with the support he has received since, which is great news given that you never know how this sort of thing is going to be taken. Mel Reid, who plays on the LPGA Tour, also came out in December, and was the subject of a really good story by Katie Barnes for ESPNW that is worth your time.
Fujikawa and Reid coming out is great news, as everyone should feel comfortable enough in their own skin to truly be who they are at all times. It’s definitely tough to make this decision to go public, and I applaud both of them for making that call.
Any accusation of cheating in golf is going to make headlines, mostly because it just doesn’t happen that often, and when it does, the person accused tends to have it live with them forever. Don’t think that’s the case? People still talk about Vijay Singh’s cheating incident in Jakarta in 1985, so yeah, it’s not likely to go away anytime soon.
That brings us to July, and the Quicken Loans National, where Joel Dahmen and Sung Kang were paired together in the final round at TPC Potomac. Dahmen claimed that Kang had taken a bad drop on the 10th hole, but a rules official deemed that the drop was good. It might have ended right there, but Dahmen took to Twitter after the round and flat out said that Kang cheated with the drop.
In the aftermath, people who were watching the group play, including a friend of Dahmen’s and the ShotLink tower operator were all of the opinion that Kang had taken a bad drop. They hesitated to call him a cheater, but the general thought was that Kang did not play the shot he should have played into the green which led to a par. A few days later, Dylan Dethier of GOLF.com did a tremendous job talking to all parties, and analyzing the situation for as many angles as possible. There’s no better recap to this story than his.
“If you can sleep at night then take your drop” is what Dahmen is said to have told Kang, and that’s ultimately where it ended. Kang took his drop, and was clearly okay with it, even if others weren’t. The two moved on throughout the round, and at the end of it all, Kang finished in solo third, which was enough to get him into the Open Championship.
Right now, if you go to Google and search for “Sung Kang golf”, every mention of him aside from the usual Wikipedia and PGATour listings are of this incident. Even if he was in the right, which is kinda hard to believe given the piece that Dethier penned, this is going to follow him for the rest of his career.