2019 Year In Review: 100-81

2019 was a lot of things. It was fun, weird, and emotional, but more than anything, it was enthralling. I know I probably say this every year, but the game really delivered over the last twelve months, and the result is this list.

As always, hit me up on Twitter with your thoughts, and we’ll see you in 2020!

Other 2019 Year In Review Posts: 80-61 – 60-4140-2120-1

100 DALY

The story that kicks us off this year is actually a continuation of an item from the 2018 list. Last year, John Daly went to war with the USGA over them denying his use of a cart for the Senior Open at Broadmoor. Daly’s contention was that his right knee was in such rough shape that he required a cart to get around, which the USGA didn’t dispute, but they argued that Daly didn’t follow the proper protocols by not submitting a waiver. Daly, of course, denied that this was the case, saying that it was never requested in the first place. As he usually does, Eamon Lynch did a good job recapping the whole thing for Golfweek.

This year, Daly was at it again. He applied for permission to use a cart at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, a request that was granted by the PGA of America. Lynch, again, documented the saga for Golfweek, rightly pointing out that even though it was obvious that Daly was legitimately hurt, that there was also a big difference between Daly’s need for a cart, and the last player to use one during a major championship. We don’t need to go over the Casey Martin saga again for the purposes of this entry, but the two situations couldn’t be any more different.

Daly drove around for two days, likely leaving tire marks all over the course and chewing up the rough, firing rounds of 75 and 76 and missing the cut by seven shots. There was never any chance that he was going to win this tournament, cart or otherwise, and this probably wouldn’t even have come close to making this list if it didn’t end up becoming a talking point during the week for the other players. Namely, Tiger Woods was asked about it before the tournament began, and well, it was pretty obvious that Tiger wasn’t a fan of the whole ordeal:

The story actually didn’t end there, though. Daly is still exempt for another decade at the Open Championship thanks to his win at the Old Course in 1995, and he applied for cart usage at Portrush to the R&A. The R&A denied him, with a statement that should make sense to any sane thinking golf fan:

“The R&A believe that walking the course is an integral part of the Championship and is central to the tradition of links golf which is synonymous with the Open. We must also ensure that, as far as possible, the challenge is the same for all players in the field. The terrain at Royal Portrush is not suited to buggies and indeed the club itself does not permit their use. We have a serious concern that some parts of the course, where there are severe slopes and swales, would be inaccessible.”

Daly initially said that he would try to walk Portrush, but eventually dropped out, allowing Kevin Streelman to take his place. Instead, Daly would go on to play the opposite field event that week on the PGA Tour, teeing it up in the Barbasol Championship where he was granted a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 71 and 72.

I have no doubt that we’ll see you back in this spot again next year, John.

99 LUCY

Back in January, an Apple Watch ad surfaced featuring Lucy Li, who most of you will probably remember as the girl who qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open as an 11-year old back in 2014.

It’s a cool ad, but the problem is that as an amateur, Li was in direct violation of amateur status rules, which prohibit players from using their likeness to promote products. After investigating the situation, Li was given a warning and not something worse because apparently, Li was not compensated for the ad, nor did she sign a contract with Apple to do more work for them in the future. Li asked Apple to take the ad down, which they did, and she apologized for the whole thing on Twitter after the USGA announced their ruling in February.

The whole thing is ludicrous, of course. The idea of amateurism still existing in this form is incredibly outdated, and should be looked at by all bodies, but I’m guessing that we’re not close to having that be an actual outcome, and that’s a larger conversation for another day altogether. Moving on!

98 CHIARELLA

Generally, golfers are superstitious as hell, and one of the things that you often hear about is how often they rotate their golf balls. Some will switch out after a birdie or bogey, some will do it on a set rotation of holes, and I’m sure there are others that we’re not aware of. Without question though, most if not all players will switch between rounds for a fresh ball. Back in June though, Alex Chiarella decided to not do that. In fact, he decided to not switch out his ball at any point while playing at the Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open on the Mackenzie Tour, and it paid off: he won the damn tournament.

He explained it to Adam Stanley of PGATour.com:

“It’s the first time I’ve ever played four rounds with the same ball and it might be the first time anyone has ever done that since the olden days. I teed up a Titleist “1” with a blue line and two blue dots on it on the first tee of the tournament, played seven holes (we had that long rain delay so only seven holes on Thursday) and woke up on Friday, finished my round with that (same) ball. I had only an hour until my next tee time for the second round, so I teed up the same ball for that round. I was 11-under through two rounds. I looked at my buddy who I was staying with that night and said, ‘Man I have some good mojo with this ball. Would that be weird to keep this going on the weekend?’ and he said, ‘No dude, tee it up tomorrow.’ There were a few scuffs on it, so I did it. I played with it on Saturday and I asked him the same question on Saturday night, and he’s like, ‘Dude, there is no way you’re putting the ball out the bag. Tee that thing up in the morning.’ And so that’s what I did.”

 

97 TIN

We transition from a player winning a tournament with one ball to a player running out of them. Eddie Pepperell’s rise from Golf Twitter darling to multiple time European Tour winner is one of the best stories to come out of golf over the past few years, and while 2019 wasn’t as good for Pepperell on the course as 2018, he managed to make news a few weeks back for something that you pretty much never see in a professional setting: he ran out of golf balls.

Making it even more interesting was the way it played out. It wasn’t like there was a mistake made by the caddie where not enough balls were in the bag. No, Pepperell went full Tin Cup, emptying the chamber on the fourth hole in Saturday’s third round at the Turkish Airlines Open. From the Associated Press:

“Eddie hit his shots to the green, then came over to tell us he had run out of balls,” Kaymer told reporters in Turkey. “Then he walked off. I thought he lost four or five. We are about 80 percent sure it was five, 20 percent four. He was quick, so it was hard to keep track. He did not ask if he could borrow one from me or George. It did not look like he wanted to play. He did not putt with his putter on the third hole; he putted with a wedge. So there was a lot happening.

“I have never seen anything like that before. I only watched it on television, in ‘Tin Cup.’ This is the first time I have seen it live.”

As far as I can tell, there’s no video of the sequence, which is really unfortunate given that I’d love to see the reactions of Kaymer and Coetzee who had to be flabbergasted at what they just witnessed. I can only imagine Kaymer, arms crossed and lathered up, with a look of pure bewilderment as Pepperell explains that he ran out of Titleist’s and would be walking away.

For his part, Pepperell hasn’t really given an explanation for why he did this, not that he really owes us that. He did joke about it a few weeks later on Twitter though:

96 XANDER

Xander Schauffele’s arrival in 2017 came out of nowhere, at least for me. He wasn’t a huge star in college, or a name that you were told to really watch on the amateur circuit, but then all of a sudden, he showed up and started winning tournaments. His story is a great reminder of how deep the game is at every level, but I’ll be honest: I kinda expected him to fade away, and man, I could not have been any more wrong.

Schauffele made news later in the year for a failed driver test that became a much bigger story as the weeks unfolded, but early in 2019, he had one of the best wins on the PGA Tour, taking the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. It wasn’t just the victory though, it was the way that he went about it. Schauffele fired an 11-under 62 in the final round, clipping Gary Woodland by one thanks to a pair of holeouts at 9 and 13.

At the end of it, Schauffele tied the course record at 23-under par, and proceeded to have an incredibly consistent season after that, with a bunch of good finishes in the biggest events of the year. That included a runner-up to Tiger at the Masters, two other second place finishes to Rory, and a T3 at the U.S. Open. All of this led to his automatic selection at the Presidents Cup where he made his first appearance representing Team USA.

95 ROSE

I think we all know and agree on the fact that Justin Rose is a really good player, but I don’t know that we have all come to terms with just how good he has been, and will likely continue to be. This year, Rose won in his second start of 2019 at the Farmers Insurance Open, beating Adam Scott by two shots. 

There was nothing that really stood out about the win in truth, at least not anything that would make it rise higher on this list, but it’s worth noting for a few reasons. First, Rose made a huge bet in the 2018 offseason, switching away from the TaylorMade clubs he’d been using for his entire professional career to be the flagship player under Honma’s label as they were wanting to push into North America. It made sense for Rose given that he’s set to turn 40 in 2020, and he probably saw this as his last opportunity for a big payday with an equipment company, but you’ll recall that Rose’s 2018 was wildly successful, including winning the FedEx Cup. It could have backfired horribly like we’ve seen so often with other players over the years (shout out to the troops), but clearly that wasn’t going to be the case for Rose.

Rose has only fallen outside of the top-30 in the end of year OWGR ranking once since 2007, and that’s because to the best of my research abilities, the win by Rose at Torrey Pines made him the only player to win at least one PGA or European Tour sanctioned event every year this decade, which is WILD to think about. Not Rory, not DJ, not Tiger, Sergio, Phil, or anyone else was able to do that, but Rose did. So many things can happen in golf, from injuries to swing issues, and Rose has been through most of those problems himself, but he’s been able to steer clear of them enough to remain incredibly successful. He’s going to the Hall of Fame, and there’s no reason to believe that he’s close to being done right now. 

94 BODENHAMER

It’s no secret that the USGA has a fractured relationship with the pros, and the face of that discontent from the USGA side has always been Mike Davis. As CEO of the organization, and the man in charge of course setup, Davis has been on the receiving end of all kinds of criticism from the players about how the USGA conducts business and runs the U.S. Open. Back in January though, Davis announced that while he was staying on as CEO, he was stepping away from the course setup job that he had held since 2005. John Bodenhamer was announced as his replacement.

The good news for Bodenhamer? For the first time in years, both the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open went off without much controversy as he took over for Davis, but here’s the thing: it’s pretty hard to screw up the setup at Pebble Beach and Country Club of Charleston. Now, Winged Foot in six months for the men? That has some real potential for a back and forth depending on how Bodenhamer and his team go about setting things up. You don’t even have to squint to see all of the aggregated #content from the big publishers. Augusta National likes to think that the Masters is the tradition unlike any other, but it’s really a 1a – 1b thing with a video of a player who has no chance of winning the tournament dropping a ball in the rough and flailing away at a disappearing Titleist.

While Davis is still the man in charge, Bodenhamer is going to play a key role in trying to mend the relationship with players who feel like the USGA is out to embarrass them every year. Realistically, players are going to complain no matter what the situation is because this is how they make their money, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t help the USGA to be constantly at odds with them. Prior to the players starting at Pebble, Brendan Porath talked with Bodenhamer about a number of issues, and he gave some thoughtful answers about how he views things, but his work is really just about to begin. This one is worth keeping an eye on.

93 HENDERSON

Yes, yes, I realize my Canadian is showing and that as Americans, most of you reading this are a little confused as to why this matters, but believe me, it matters a whole lot up here.

Back in June, Brooke Henderson won the Meijer LPGA Classic for a second time. At just 21 years old, that gave Henderson nine LPGA Tour wins, which is crazy enough to think about as it is given her age, but that win also made Canadian history. Those nine wins are now the new record for most wins by a Canadian on any major tour, surpassing the eight LPGA Tour wins by Sandra Post, and the eight on the PGA Tour by Mike Weir and George Knudson.

As Canadians, we have gotten used to seeing success for our athletes south of the border in the NHL, and more recently, the NBA. Everywhere else though, it’s still fairly new and Henderson’s success at such a young age is always a big story.

92 BACKBOARDING

Not to be confused with backstopping, backboarding has become a thing to look out for in some of the darker corners of Golf Twitter. So, what is it? Backboarding is when a player uses the grandstands as a way to bail them out of a tough situation, be it a bad lie, being stuck behind a tree, having to go over water etc. Basically, you hit the ball long or wayward, banging the ball off of the grandstand to get one of two outcomes: you either end up in a better position for your next shot, or if the grandstand is in the way, you get a free drop. Is it legal? Technically, yes, but is it within the spirit of the game that so many people like to uphold as the reason why golf is special? Not even close!

Now, backboarding can take multiple forms: unintentional and intentional. Here’s an unintentional example from years ago, as Graeme McDowell is clearly embarrassed that such a shot ended up working out for him.

However, in 2019, it seemed like we had an uptick in backboarding, intentional or unintentional. Want some examples? Tom Pernice Jr. at the Regions Tradition, though I disagree with the idea that it’s an awful break considering the ball was going 20 yards over the green:

John Daly:

Brian Harman:

And the most obvious culprit: Scott Hend at the Maybank back in March, where that was 100% the intention.

Now, you might be thinking: what the hell are you talking about? This isn’t a big deal, and ultimately, the players aren’t breaking any rules. You also can’t just remove the grandstands because obviously the fans need a place to sit and watch the action. Those are both true statements, and I actually can’t blame someone like Hend for taking advantage of it, but doesn’t it feel wrong? Why is it that the pros, the best players in the world, get to take advantage of something that regular players like us would never get to use?

Also, someone clearly thought long and hard about this at the R&A. As pointed out by Luke Kerr-Dineen, attempting to backboard on the 18th at Royal Portrush this year was going to result in punishment, which was a very subtle way to handle something that I’m sure just fries the protectors of the game at the R&A.

Here’s the thing: does this really matter? Maybe it does, and maybe it doesn’t, but it’s also one of my favourite stories of the year because it’s so absurd.

91 STENSON

In recent golf history, has there been a single club that’s been more synonymous with their owner than the 3-wood of Henrik Stenson? The blue shafted, black headed Callaway Diablo Octane has been used by Stenson to great effect over the years, and was a big reason why he was able to return from the golfing wilderness on the past decade.

Well, the marriage ended a couple of months ago, as Stenson had to retire his second Octane after realizing that the face had caved in at the BMW PGA Championship. Andrew Tursky of PGATour.com has a story on the whole thing, but I wonder if this is actually going to end up being a net positive for Stenson. He admitted that the new clubs are hotter and more forgiving, so he should be able to do just fine with whatever Callaway gives him, plus as Jake Nichols touched on years ago, Stenson was probably using his 3-wood too much. If the safety net is gone, it should encourage the big Swede to use the driver a little more, which should give him a good bump in distance, and given that the penalty for hitting the ball wayward on tour these days is so minimal, Stenson should be able to get scoring clubs in his hands more often.

All good things come to an end.

(Did I put this in the list just to surface that Big Randy tweet again? Hard to say.)

90 RYDER

There was nothing more predictable in the world of golf than the news early in 2019 that Steve Stricker would be leading the American team into battle at the 2020 Ryder Cup. With Whistling Straits hosting, the Wisconsin native had been pegged for this from the very beginning, even though the state you were born in, last I checked, did not make you eminently more qualified than anyone else, but I digress.

The European captaincy was a little more up in the air, but Padraig Harrington was a name that had been thrown around for some time, so no one was surprised when the lovable Irishman was given the job. The two men are now going to be on a whirlwind tour until the morning after the tournament ends, where Harrington will certainly be asked to provide the bulk of the entertainment. Stricker, as lovely of a man as he is, can’t compete with Harrington when there’s a microphone involved, and short of Phil Mickelson, I’m not sure any other middle-aged American would be up for that challenge either.

Harrington already made a little bit of news as well, suggesting that at some point, we’ll see a neutral course setup for the event, reducing the home field advantage that has become so prevalent in recent years. Six of the last seven competitions have seen the home team come away victorious, with the lone exception being Medinah in 2012, when the Americans really should have won, but were railroaded late on Saturday and Sunday.

poulter 2012 rc reax 5

Nine. More. Months.

89 202

Assuming you were being completely honest and correctly counting each stroke, what’s the worst number you could post in an actual round? I feel like it’s safe to say that for the vast majority of people reading this right now, the answer to that question ranges from the mid-80’s to the mid-120’s. Now, it goes without saying that the mid-120’s is not a good score, but it is so much better than firing a 131-over par 202, which is a real number that got posted back in July for U.S. Amateur qualifying. 

Trey Bilardello, a registered 2.2 handicap, has caddied for a variety of players in pro golf, namely Matt Every and Jim Herman, but it was his turn to swing the sticks at Mayacoo Lakes Country Club in Florida. He started the round with a pair of pars, but then it went off the rails with his scorecard suggesting that eleven of the remaining holes featured a double digit score.

Again, I must point out: at official qualifying for the U.S. Amateur.

Bilardello, for some reason, finished with a par after ten consecutive double digit holes and signed his card. Something was obviously up, and the USGA decided to DQ Bilardello after the round (shout out process), and playing partner Kristian Fortis would later tell Golf Channel a number of things, including that Bilardello said he wanted to “shoot the highest recorded score in USGA history” and that he would “chip shots and scoot his ball around on the tee box just to add strokes, and then he would just pipe a 2-iron down the middle of the fairway, hit it on the green and then just scoot his ball around again with his putter. He’d be right next to the hole and then I guess he’d think to himself that he didn’t have enough strokes and he’d hit his ball in the opposite direction of the hole.”

Bilardello denied that he was intentionally trying to shoot a high score, suggesting that Fortis was misquoted, he was injured, and he found out that he had too many clubs in his bag, leading to a higher score than intended. I mean, sure, some of that is definitely possible, but what reason did Fortis have to lie to Golf Channel about the situation? Even if you have too many clubs in the bag, that doesn’t excuse the “scoot(ing)” of the ball around the course, and if you’re that hurt that all you can do is that, why are you playing in the first place?!?!?!

It’s impossible for this one to pass the smell test.

88 AUGUSTA

When it comes to famous holes at Augusta National, the par-4 5th doesn’t immediately spring to mind, but it’s always one of my own favourites to watch. The uphill, dogleg left with deep fairway bunkers guarding the left side put a premium on hitting the fairway, with most players bailing out to the right for a more difficult approach, and the green is uniquely contoured, providing a stiff challenge once on the surface. Of course the problem now is that players hit the ball so far, that for years, a 3-wood and wedge was almost all that was needed to play the hole effectively. Since the governing bodies don’t seem interested in fixing that problem, Augusta National felt the need to lengthen the hole, taking it from 455 to 495 yards ahead of the 2019 Masters.

The interesting thing is that the 5th has never played easy. As Sean Martin pointed out before the tournament started, the field has never averaged under par on the hole, with a scoring average of 4.26 coming into the week. The added length definitely increased the difficulty of the hole, both in terms of the numbers and in the minds of the players. The best chance for a birdie is to take the bunkers on, but if you don’t fly them, it’s basically a death sentence with how deep the bunkers are. Tiger won the tournament, but ended up making bogey on the fifth every single day he played it, firing it into the traps in the first three rounds. He would find the fairway and the green on Sunday, but would three putt from nearly 40 feet on the notoriously tricky green.

The end result? The 5th was the hardest hole relative to par for the week, playing at a 4.3355 average, and producing a scant thirteen birdies over four days. On one hand, you can argue that the 5th was redone and now plays more like Alister Mackenzie intended, as the bunkers are now a factor again, but on the other hand, the ball just goes too damn far and 99.9% of clubs are not going to be able to extend their courses to accommodate that new reality. There are going to be more changes coming as well, namely to the par-5 13th that at 510 yards isn’t providing enough of a challenge to the pros anymore. Chairman Fred Ridley is not planning any changes to it right now, hoping that the distance issue is eventually addressed, but it’s hard to envision a scenario where it isn’t changed in the near future:

“Although we now have options to increase the length of this hole, we intend to wait to see how distance may be addressed by the governing bodies before we take any action,” Ridley said during his State of the Masters news conference. “In doing so, we fully recognize that the issue of distance presents difficult questions with no easy answers. But please know this: The USGA and The R&A do have the best interests of the game at heart. They recognize the importance of their future actions.”

We’ll see, but at this point, I wouldn’t be holding your breath, Mr. Ridley.

87 ERNIE

Ernie Els last played the Masters in 2017, finishing in 53rd place. Given where he’s at right now, it’s unlikely that he’s ever going to get back to Augusta National. On one hand, it sucks because Alister MacKenzie’s Georgian gem is often looked at as the one place where the game’s greats, of which Els is definitely one, can play one final round and ride off into the sunset. On the other hand, very few players have the scar tissue that Els has at Augusta National, coming so close to victory on a number of occasions, and more recently, having one of the worst things possible happen to a player of his calibre.

Els, for his part, seems to be totally fine with the idea of never driving down Magnolia Lane again. Els spoke with Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post back in March, and he didn’t hold back about his experiences and feelings on the hallowed grounds. Just take a look at some of these quotes:

“To be honest with you, I won’t miss the place”

“When a thing stings you it keeps stinging you’’

“I’ve got a love-hate relationship with the place. It was always almost like a curse to me. It was not a romantic deal to me. It was a f–king nightmare for the most part.”

“It’s like, ‘Sh-t, it’s not giving me anything. How many times do you want to run into a wall?’ That how I felt my last couple of years. I didn’t want to say it before, and I don’t have any bad feelings about it. It’s just the way it is. I had enough of it. Move on. It’s a unique place, but I’m done with it. It’s done with me.’’

Those right there are the words of an entirely broken man, and it’s the kind of candor that you really don’t see very often from anyone, let alone Els. 

For what it’s worth, he makes a good point in the article as well, suggesting that for some reason, this course more than any other seems to reward some and not others. Aside from Tiger and Phil, you can absolutely argue that Augusta National was built for players like Els and Greg Norman more than anyone else over the last forty years, and yet, neither of them have a green jacket on their resume.

It seems unfair, doesn’t it?

86 BIO

We’ve all been there: frustration gets the better of us on the golf course, and all of a sudden, a club gets thrown, a chunk of the ground gets taken out, or in my case, a big ol ‘motherfucker’ gets dropped. If you’ve played golf for any length of time, the game will get the better of you, and that doesn’t matter if you’re chopping the ball around like me, or if you’re the leading money earner on the Korean PGA Tour. That’s where we get to number 86 on this list.

Bio Kim has been a professional for the last decade, playing in Asia and the United States, including the PGA Tour in 2011, but has primarily stayed on the Korean Tour since 2014. He was having a strong year in 2019, leading the Korean Tour’s money list heading into the DGB Financial Group Volvik Daegu Gyeongbuk Open in September, and in the final round, he was leading the tournament on the 16th tee when he lost it. A fan’s cell phone went off in his backswing, and then he did this:

The funny thing about all of this, aside from the obvious, is that Kim actually goes on to make birdie on the hole after a pretty spectacular approach into the green. Kim would go on to hang on for a one shot win, but that was far from the end of the story.

Kim clearly knew he was in trouble, and apologized in the immediate aftermath of the tournament, but he was fined the equivalent of just over $8,000 USD, ordered to perform community service, and suspended from the tour for THREE years. In releasing their decision, the Korean Tour suggested that Kim “damaged the dignity of a golfer with etiquette violation and inappropriate behavior.” It was a wild scene as well when Kim met with the press, getting down on his knees and apologizing.

It certainly felt like a long punishment, and Kim received support from Kevin Na, who got to know Kim years ago. Na’s caddie Kenny Harms also showed support:

Na apparently placed some calls in an attempt to get the suspension reduced, and eventually, it did, dropping from three years down to one. Definitely not the most impactful story of 2019, but a wild one, and one that will always make you remember Bio Kim.

85 STANLEY

We transition from one player running afoul of the etiquette of the game to another. Back in July, the best players in the world were teeing it up at Royal Portrush for the 148th Open Championship, and 22-year old Scotsman Robert MacIntyre was one of a few players making their major championship debut. MacIntyre would go on to finish in a tie for 6th, but that’s not what he initially made headlines for. In the first two rounds, MacIntyre was paired with Andrew Johnston, but the real beef he had was with American Kyle Stanley.

On Friday, Stanley fired a four-under par 67, but on the way to one of the best scores of the day, Stanley was a little wayward, hitting a marshal in the leg on the 14th before hitting the mother of MacIntyre’s caddie on the 17th. The issue that MacIntyre took was that Stanley didn’t shout ‘Fore!’ into the gallery after the ball had left his club. So, as John Huggan reported in Golf Digest, he made sure Stanley heard about his displeasure.

“Coming down the last, I wasn’t happy with what had happened on the 17th,” MacIntyre said on Friday. “He was just standing, watching his ball. And people didn’t have enough time to react when we shouted. So I said I wasn’t happy—and he didn’t really like my response. There were harsh words. It wasn’t too pleasant. But you’ve got to tell him it’s not right. He didn’t take it well at all.”

Golf fight? Golf fight.

For his part, Stanley suggested that he didn’t see why it was such a big deal because everyone else yelled on the tee box, along with the marshals signaling that the ball was flying into the gallery. I mean, sure, it’s not a huge thing if everyone else starts shouting, but at the end of the day, it takes so little to yell and make sure that everyone is aware that they could be in danger. It’s your ball, so it’s your responsibility, and for MacIntyre, he’s not only sticking up for the etiquette of the game, but also for the mother of his caddie.

This one’s pretty simple: just yell when you hit a bad shot, okay?

84 MOLINARI

No matter what he did, it was going to be nearly impossible for Francesco Molinari to top his 2018 over the last twelve months. His three wins at Wentworth, Quicken Loans and the Open Championship were all special to watch, and in truth, he could have fairly easily won a few other events as well. He then capped off his year with a perfect record in the Ryder Cup, putting on a ball striking fiesta beside Tommy Fleetwood, and putting better than I think any of us have ever thought possible of the diminutive Italian. 

All of that led to him finishing 2018 as the 7th ranked player in the world, and it didn’t take long for him to pick up where he left off. Molinari won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, starting the day five shots back of the lead, and topping an eclectic leaderboard after a stunning final round 64 that was the best score of the day by two shots. He capped it off by draining a bomb on the 18th.

The good play would continue with a third place finish in the WGC-Match Play, and a T5 at the Masters that I’m sure he would like to have another shot at. Molinari led after the second and third rounds of the tournament, and continued to lead until he got to Golden Bell, the short par-3 12th. Molinari was one of many to find Rae’s Creek on 12, and he would dunk another one at the 15th, posting two double bogeys in four holes to fall out of contention, eventually losing to Tiger by two shots.

If Molinari had kept even one of those balls out of the water on Sunday, we could be looking at him being a two-time major champion, with wins at Augusta National and Carnoustie. Cruel game, isn’t it?

83 HALEY

One of the biggest blind spots I have as a golf fan is that I don’t pay a ton of attention to the college / amateur golf scene, and when I do, in truth, it’s mostly to the men. However, Haley Moore’s story was one that you really couldn’t avoid in 2018 or 2019. Moore is a tremendous talent, and someone who is remarkably easy to root for. 

As Beth Ann Nichols documented so well for Golfweek in May of last year, Moore was bullied a lot as a kid because of her weight, but she became a college star in 2018, putting her Arizona teammates on her back on the way to an NCAA title as an eight seed.

As all of you know though, there’s a big difference between playing at the college level and succeeding in the pros. Moore turned pro in June, and won twice on the Cactus Tour before attempting to get on the LPGA Tour through Q School. There was one big problem though: it’s really expensive to try and make it as a pro golfer. Nichols, again for Golfweek detailed this in a piece back in September where it was mentioned that Moore started a GoFundMe page for donations as she tried to make her dream come true. The piece from Nichols was just what Moore needed, as after it was posted, Moore’s goal of $30,000 was raised, giving her the necessary funds to make a run of it at Q School.

In early November, after all eight rounds were complete, Moore finished in a tie for 11th place, enough to earn her card for the 2020 season.

It’s a great story for a lot of reasons: overcoming bullying, the generosity of strangers to help someone achieve their goals, and for golf fans, Moore is the kind of player that is very easy to get behind. She’s one to watch in 2020.

82 KORN FERRY

I feel fairly confident in saying that coming into 2019, the vast majority of you reading this right now had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of Korn Ferry.

  • Was it the name of some faceless corporation?
  • Was it the name of a player who could hit a 3-iron 322 yards?
  • Was it a party boat where Jonathan Davis screamed at you every night?

Who knows! Apparently the PGA Tour did, as in the middle of the 2019 season, they announced that the Web.com Tour would be rebranded as the Korn Ferry Tour, as the consulting firm agreed to a 10-year contract through 2028. Korn Ferry is the sixth title sponsor of the PGA Tour’s number one developmental circuit since launching back in 1990 as the Ben Hogan Tour. That lasted three years before sponsorships from Nike, Buy.com, Nationwide and Web.com took over, all for varying lengths of time.

Everyone got their jokes off about the name, but in reality, this was a very big deal for the PGA Tour. I’m sure that they could keep the tour afloat for as long as they wish (non-profit status ftw), but obviously it’s a whole hell of a lot easier when a company steps up to help do some of the heavy lifting that is shared between the tour and the tournament sponsors. This was great news, and shows that there’s a level of commitment from the PGA Tour to keep the secondary circuit alive and well.

Now, if they can figure out a way to correctly distribute points and allow for proper promotion to the PGA Tour that involves removing no longer relevant players from getting starts, we’ll be cooking with gas.

81 OLESEN

Five-time European Tour winner Thorbjorn Olesen was arrested back in July after being accused of sexual assault while on an airplane. Olesen was flying to London from Memphis after playing in the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational when he allegedly assaulted a woman who was sleeping in first class. Olesen is then said to have berated the British Airways crew, and allegedly urinated in the aisle after having been intoxicated.

Olesen has entered a plea of not guilty for the charges, and will be in court in December. For their part, the European Tour has suspended Olesen, and will not be allowing him to play in any tournaments until the case is resolved, which may not be until the middle of next year.

Let’s move on.

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