2019 Year In Review: 60-41
Eddie Pepperell’s two wins in 2018 were a cool story for Golf Twitter. Pepperell, for all of the obvious reasons, is a huge favourite of everyone there, and might only be surpassed by one person: Max Homa. Here’s a small sample of some of Homa’s work:
So, Homa’s pretty great, and because of how open he usually is on Twitter, a lot of people have been able to follow his story over the years and pull for him. Homa has bounced between the PGA Tour and the Web since turning pro in 2013, missing the cut in roughly half of his starts in OWGR counting events. A few years ago, the PGA Tour posted a short feature with Homa, chatting about his path to the PGA Tour. The video is filled with players who have made an impact on tour in recent years.
After a slow start to his 2018-19 campaign, Homa started to turn things around at the Waste Management, posting four consecutive made cuts, with his worst finish being a T37 at Riviera. That may not seem like much, but it allowed Homa to jump over 400 spots in the OWGR.
But then, it happened. Homa entered the Wells Fargo Championship in May as the 417th ranked player in the world, but he went out and won the damn thing at Quail Hollow, beating Joel Dahmen by three, thanks in large part to a stunning second round 63.
The only shitty thing about it was it seemed like CBS rushed Homa off the green, only allowing Peter Kostis to get one question in before throwing it back up to the tower.
Homa’s story is the one that I love most about professional golf. For every player like Justin Thomas, there’s ten more like Homa, who are obviously super talented and just need one week to go their way to make their dreams come true. After the win, Homa was on the cover of Golf Digest, and in April, he’ll play in the Masters for the first time. Of course, a few hours after that win, there was a tweet that summed everything up just perfectly.
Doesn’t get much better than that, right?
One of the things that we’ve heard a lot about over the most recent Tiger Woods comeback is that he’s a much friendlier, approachable Cat, and to be honest, I’m not sure that I actually believed that until March. Tiger was paired with Kevin Na at the Players when this happened:
Would Tiger have laughed at Na doing that years ago? I think he probably would have, but as NBC’s Dan Hicks pointed out on the call, I think it’s an absolute lock that Tiger never would have imitated Na in the middle of a tournament, no matter what the situation was. Of course, anything that Tiger does tends to get attention, but this one went nuts, and there’s no chance that you didn’t see it. Neither player was close to winning the tournament (Tiger finished T30, while Na ended up in solo 78th), but it was all anyone was talking about on Saturday at the Players.
We have more than enough evidence that Tiger is still very much the old Tiger in certain instances, and when the time comes to lock in and win a golf tournament, he’s still going to be as ruthless as ever, but it’s moments like this that make you think that it is kinda different now. Travel back in time and tell people that this sort of thing, and the below image, were real and no one would have believed you.
In the long history of the PGA Tour, only men have been able to rise to the top of any of sanctioned tours, but that changed in January when Alex Baldwin was named president of the Web.com Tour. Baldwin replaced Dan Glod, who stayed on with the tour in another capacity.
There isn’t much to say about this, aside from the obvious: the best organizations in the world usually have a diverse group of people making decisions at the highest levels. That covers everything from sex, race, and just general viewpoints on how thigs should operate. This is a long overdue move, and a step in the right direction for a game that, frankly, has only ever really been overseen by older, white men.
For more on Baldwin, check out the story on her appointment posted on PGATour.com.
The 2014 Byron Nelson Championship is not one of those tournaments that immediately springs to mind as being a memorable one for many of you, I’m sure. It is for me though, and again, this is where my Canadian is showing, but that tournament is one of only two instances in the last decade where Mike Weir finished inside the top-10. Weir would finish as the runner-up to Brendon Todd, who won his first career PGA Tour event that day.
Todd played pretty well the rest of the year, and was legitimately in the conversation for a spot on the American Ryder Cup team, especially after Tiger and Jason Dufner pulled out with injuries, and Dustin Johnson announced that he was taking his leave of absence. Todd didn’t end up making that team, of course, despite finishing twelfth in the standings, as Tom Watson opted to go with Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson. Yes, believe it or not, that was only five years ago, yet it feels like fifty, doesn’t it?
If I’m being honest, that’s pretty much the last time that I had given much thought about Todd, and the results back that up. Todd hasn’t been in the mix at all since then, and as 2019 came around, there was no reason to believe that was going to change. Todd started the year, funny enough, down with Mike Weir deep in the bowels of the professional golf scene, sitting in the 2000s in the OWGR. A few decent finishes got him into the top 1000 before a runner-up finish on the KFT to Scottie Scheffler, and Todd was back on the PGA Tour when the wraparound season began. He missed the first four cuts before finishing T28 at the Houston Open. What did he do next? He won the next two events, the Bermuda Championship, and the Mayakoba Golf Classic, before nearly taking the RSM the next week, because of course he did.
Todd’s resurgence may be the ultimate story of how this game never makes any sense. This is a player who had done nothing of note for years, and considered quitting the game to open a pizza franchise because he had the yips. Less than a year after that, he has his status back and the security of knowing that he doesn’t have to play in a bunch of Monday qualifiers for the next little while.
It may not make sense, but much like Homa, the Brendon Todd story is one that should put a smile on your face.
Even with all of the complaints that many of us have about TV coverage in 2019, I think we can all agree that broadcasting a golf tournament presents challenges that just don’t exist in other sports. The biggest one is that, historically, there’s just no way to see all of the action. Eighteen different locations to shoot, and more than one hundred players makes it harder to keep track of everything like you would at a football or basketball game.
This is why it was so cool back in April when every shot was posted on Masters.com, and why it’s even cooler that the PGA Tour has promised to show every shot from the 2020 Players Championship, assuming that you have signed up for their streaming services. I’m really intrigued to see how this plays out because if it works, you can definitely see this becoming a thing at the rest of their events if they deem it to be cost feasible.
In my mind, how they make that potentially cost feasible is by creating custom player packages. Think about it: aside from tournaments like the Masters, golf is always going to be more about the players playing in the event than the events themselves. There’s a reason why more people tune in to watch when Tiger is playing, or when they’re at Riviera versus Mayakoba, and that’s because of the players in the field. So, imagine a setup where you could pay a monthly fee to get every shot of Tiger, or anyone else, live? Big Spencer Levin fan? No problem, we have all of those shots, and you can get them as they happen. There are creative packages you could come up with, like charging less per player if you want a certain amount, or if you already subscribe to PGA Tour Live. You could even do it on a tournament by tournament basis for people who just want to try it out.
The trouble with this, of course, is that unless a deal of some kind is worked out with those who stage the major championships, this would be for PGA Tour events only, which is not going to be good enough to convince a lot of people to buy in. In any event, we’re still a little ways off from any of that being a thing, I think, but I’m guessing that it’s been discussed at the highest levels in Ponte Vedra. This is a good first step to giving people what they want, and it’s something to keep an eye on for the future of the game and how it’s presented to fans.
When Phil Mickelson joined Twitter in 2018, his account was full of pretty normal stuff, along with the occasional bad pun or joke at someone else’s expense. In 2019 though, the account transitioned from that to Phil doing, well, this sort of stuff:
I don’t really have a witty comment, or anything to add to all of this. It’s just…a lot.
Last year, Scott Harrington’s story became pretty well known inside golf circles. The 37-year old was playing on the Web.com Tour when he announced that he was taking a leave of absence to help his wife Jenn deal with battling cancer. When the tour set up a GoFundMe account for the pair, it became news outside of golf circles when NBA star Stephen Curry found out and donated $25,000 to the cause.
Harrington came back to the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019, playing a full schedule of events. He played well enough that he was able to earn his PGA Tour card for the first time back in August, where Jenn was able to celebrate with him on the 18th green.
Just a fantastic moment.
Harrington was also able to meet Curry in person back in September at the Safeway Open, where the two chatted for a few minutes and got a couple of photos together.
Harrington’s first run on the PGA Tour is actually going well, too. He has made the cut in six of his seven starts, and nearly came away with his first win, falling one shot short of Lanto Griffin in Houston.
For more on the story, I suggest reading Kevin Prise’s article on PGATour.com from 2018, outlining how Curry got involved with Harrington.
So, primarily, this list is meant for the professional game, but when certain things happen on the amateur side, I feel the need to surface them. The Walker Cup is one of those things, and by all accounts, the 2019 Walker Cup was a tremendous event.
Royal Liverpool played host for the first time since 1983, and some of the biggest amateur names in the world were present: Cole Hammer, Akshay Bhatia, Stewart Hagestad, Conor Gough, and Brandon Wu were just a few of the players playing at one of the best courses in all of England. Great Britain and Ireland were up 8.5-7.5 going into the final day, but the Americans came back with a vengeance, trouncing them on the final day by an 8-2 score to win 15.5-10.5.
Now, I said that it was a tremendous event “by all accounts”, because for some reason, none of it was shown live on television. Golf Channel had highlight shows, but unlike the 2017 version at LACC, where a ton of coverage was rightly devoted to it, we got absolutely nothing. Team golf is the best thing to watch in the game, without question, especially when a place like Royal Liverpool is involved. This was a big whiff on the part of someone, though I’m not sure who, and all I’ll say is, the next three events better be televised. Take a look at where the Walker Cup is headed in the coming years:
- 2021: Seminole Golf Club
- 2023: Old Course at St. Andrews
- 2025: Cypress Point Club
Man, there’s going to be rioting in the streets if we don’t get some live coverage of those places. Congrats to the U.S. team on taking the victory. I wish I could have seen it.
So, I talked earlier about how it’s a sign of how good of a player Justin Thomas is that I thought his year was a little bit of a letdown, and we’ve got the exact same situation here as well with Dustin Johnson. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he was basically invisible in the second half of the season, but he did hit a major milestone back in February.
Johnson won twice in 2019, taking the Saudi International (much, much more on that later) and the WGC-Mexico Championship. That win in Mexico gave Johnson his 20th career PGA Tour win, tying Hale Irwin, Bill Mehlhorn, Greg Norman and Doug Sanders for 34th on the all-time wins list, and also guaranteeing him his status for the rest of his career, assuming he doesn’t fall into some massive state of disrepair.
It goes without saying that twenty wins is an awful lot, and to be honest, I’m not sure how many more players are ever going to get to that number. Growing up, twenty was always that benchmark because of the lifetime membership status, and when it came to major championships, once you won two, that was considered the big deal. Anyone can get hot one week, right? Rory McIlroy is at eighteen right now, so he’s going to get to twenty, but look at the guys after Rory on the list who are considered active:
- Jim Furyk: 17
- Adam Scott: 13
- Jason Day, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson: 12
- Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas: 11
- Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia: 10
- Stuart Appleby, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker: 9
- K.J. Choi, Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Weir: 8
- Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed: 7
Who on that list would you consider a lock to get to 20? I’d be betting on Thomas to get there, and I’d like to think Spieth will as well, though…yikes. You can’t trust Day, and Koepka and Reed have time on their sides, but thirteen more wins is a lot, especially when you think that Koepka really only cares about four tournaments a year. Everyone else is either too far back, too far gone, or probably just doesn’t have enough high end golf left in their careers to make it to 20.
The main point is that I don’t know that we’ve fully appreciated Johnson’s career to date, and a lot of that has to do with that one major championship win. I feel like once you get to a certain number of wins, they just don’t matter as much, and that’s where Johnson is at right now, unless he does it in a major championship. At age 35, and with his distance, he has plenty of time to win more of them without question, and I think that’s what he’s going to have to do to get more attention than what he got in 2019.
From one Johnson to another, we have the story of Zach, who for the first time in 2019, missed the FedEx Cup Playoffs. As of this writing, Johnson sits 187th in the world, and has gone winless in the last four years, dating back to his second major championship at the 2015 Open. That Open, it should be noted, is the only thing keeping Johnson exempt on the PGA Tour, and unless he plays better in 2020, he’s going to have to go back to the KFT for the first time since 2003.
Johnson missed seven cuts in 2019, the most since he missed nine back in 2005, and of his counting events in the OWGR, only two of them (the 2018 RSM and 2018 Valero) are finishes inside the top-10. So, what’s causing this? Well, Johnson denied to Will Gray of Golf Channel that it has anything to do with his switch to PXG in 2016, the year after his Open Championship win, pointing instead to his putting, which has fallen in recent years.
Statistically, that holds up fairly well, as in his prime, Johnson’s putter would save him when the other areas would tend to bring him down. In 2019, Johnson finished 117th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting, and for the first time in the history of the statistic, he was a negative, coming in at -.087. When you combine that with the fact that he’s not a long hitter, and he was just an average player everywhere else last season, it’s not going to produce a ton of great results.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen something like this in recent years, as the PGA Tour continues to get younger and younger, the style of play has shifted hard to the big hitters. Players like Johnson, Luke Donald and Jim Furyk are going to be harder and harder to find, unless the ball striking is absolutely elite, as it has been in recent years with someone like Francesco Molinari.
So, what is the best course of action for Johnson? Given that this is the last year of his eligibility, his tournament selection is going to be more important than ever. He needs to start looking at only playing the courses that give him the best chance of winning, which typically means the shorter ones, so: Sony, Valspar, Harbour Town, etc. Of course, he’s going to play in the Masters every year, and given his stature, I’m sure he’ll get sponsor’s exemptions to play in a lot of tournaments, but unfortunately for him, it’s possible that he fades away from the PGA Tour as the game trends in a different direction.
Before we go on to the next story, Johnson did give us one of the absolute best moments of the year in 2019, and while I thought about giving it its own place, I felt it was best represented right here:
“Oooh, shit. What happens here?”
Zach Johnson has done a lot of great things in this game, but this moment is going to be very high on the list of things I remember about his career when it’s all said and done. That’s incredibly unfair to him, but hey, I can’t help that.
“I mean, y’all can laugh, that’s embarrassing.”
Thank you, Zach Johnson.
One of the things that we always talk about is how golf can be stale at the pro level, right? That’s why more match play would be great, and why the Zurich Classic works, and that I’m in favour of essentially everything that the European Tour does because, why the hell not? The one thing that we haven’t really seen a lot of is the mixing of the men and women, and while the European Tour has done a little of it so far, it’s been very experimental.
This year, the Vic Open in Australia ran a combined tournament where the men and women played on the same course, albeit with different tees, to two different leaderboards. David Law and Celine Boutier would win the respective tournaments, but the tournament that really pulled off something special was a smaller one that didn’t get a ton of attention: the Jordan Mixed Open.
Forty players each from the European Challenge Tour, the Ladies European Tour, and the European Senior Tour, along with three amateurs, battled it out on the same course for the same prize money, on the same leaderboard. Now, the players did play to varying lengths, with the Challenge Tour players playing a 7,100 yard course, the seniors at 6,600 and the ladies at 6100, but that was the only difference between them.
The end result? All three tours were represented inside the top-4, with Daan Huizing from the Challenge Tour winning at 16-under par, followed by the LET’s Meghan MacLaren at 14-under par, while Jose Coceres from the Senior Tour finished in a tie for 4th. It’s a cool event, and the European Tour has decided to get involved in 2020, announcing that Annika Sorenstam and Henrik Stenson will host the new Scandanavian Mixed event, featuring 78 men and 78 women playing on the same course in June.
These kinds of events are great for golf, and a welcome change from the usual weekly stroke play events that happen on all of the tours. Looking forward to seeing more of them in the coming years!
The Players Championship is supposed to be the PGA Tour’s marquee event, and even at 49, Phil Mickelson is still one of the PGA Tour’s marquee stars, so it makes sense that the tour would love to see Mickelson play in the event every year, and that’s typically what he has done. However, back in February, Mickelson made news by telling Golf Channel that he might not play in the event at all, largely because at his age, he needed to pick and choose his spots, and not play courses that are too penal with high, thick rough.
“It’s not one I feel like I have to play,” Mickelson said. “It’s not a must-play for me because I’m 48 and I’ve played it 25 times and I’ve already won it. If I were young and early in my career, I would say yes because I think it’s as close to a major as it can get. But it’s not the best course for me.”
Mickelson has always said that despite that win in 2007, that he feels like he doesn’t play well at the course, and the numbers do back that up, at least in comparison to how well he has fared at other venues. Mickelson eventually did decide to play in the event, I’m sure with some coercion from the powers that be, but not without playing some head games first: Mickelson made sure to enter the event before the deadline the week prior, but made sure to mention that just because he did that, didn’t mean that he was actually going to play.
“I’ll play nine and take a look and, I mean, I want to play it, so I would most likely,” Mickelson said. “But if I hit it like this, it’s pointless, so I’ve got to figure something out.”
Maybe he should have stuck to his guns. Mickelson fired back to back rounds of 74 to miss the cut for the sixth time in the last seven years.
I have no proof of this whatsoever, but it feels like there were less incidents of backstopping in 2019 than 2018, at least ones that we heard about. Last year, it seemed like there were tweets and news stories flying around every other week about players not protecting the field, but while there may not have been as many over the last twelve months, there was one that got a lot of attention back in February.
During Friday’s second round at the Honda LPGA Thailand, Amy Olson was in the rough off to the right of the 18th green, while playing partner Ariya Jutanugarn was on the surface. Jutanugarn appears ready to go mark the ball, but backs off when she notices that Olson is ready to play.
When this happened, the immediate reaction, especially to the fist bump portion of the video, was that the two players had intentionally committed a backstopping offence, which would be a rules violation. After speaking with both players, the LPGA determined that no foul play had taken place, and that the intention was to pick up the pace of play after a previous ruling.
I actually don’t doubt that this was the case, and I appreciate the fact that they were trying to speed up play, but at the same time, the video does look bad. Olson’s ball is clearly going to run fairly far past the hole if it doesn’t get stopped by Jutanugarn’s ball, and as Olson is taking practice swings, there was more than enough time for Jutanugarn to go up and mark the ball. The same statement as usual applies here: if this were match play, I’m positive that Olson would have asked for that ball to be marked, and that Jutanugarn would have wanted it that way as well. The fact that it’s a stroke play event shouldn’t change that.
Intent or not, this is the definition of players not protecting the field, and while it’s heartening to know that both players vowed to learn from it and mark their balls, it never should have happened in the first place.
Stephen Curry’s love of golf has been a pretty big story in the game over the last few years, but it’s really only been a surface level thing. He’ll play in a few events, go on a few shows and podcasts to talk about the game, etc., but in 2019, Curry made a significant contribution to the game, by partnering with Howard University to sponsor both men’s and women’s golf teams. They didn’t have any teams prior to this partnership.
Michael A. Fletcher did a really good job documenting this for The Undefeated, and it’s a great story of how one student, Otis Ferguson IV, got in Curry’s ear about his interest in starting a team, and how Curry made it his business to help get it off the ground. Curry has donated an untold sum of money, but it is expected to be significant, especially given that it’s for the next six years. The school is expected to get the team off the ground for the 2020-21 season.
When we hear the #GrowTheGame talk from a lot of people in power, it can sometimes feel hollow, but this is the kind of thing that hopefully, gets more people interested in what I think we can all agree, is a pretty great thing. Ferguson also posted a long video explaining the whole thing.
Just a great story.
The above image shows the world rank of Jin Young Ko in gold, the current world number one, versus former world number one Lydia Ko in green. It’s a staggering graph, and even though Lydia Ko hasn’t completely fallen off the map in women’s golf (ranked 39th as of this writing), it’s very clearly a sign that something is not right.
Ko has been notorious over the years for changing up her team and setup, switching everything from caddies to coaches to clubs, and what has become clear is that Ko has not lived up to her enormous promise as she enters her eighth year as a pro.
Her last win? The 2018 Mediheal. Her last major? The 2016 ANA Inspiration, and coming up in February, it’ll be the two year anniversary since her last appearance in the top-10 in the world. Ko changed coaches again in 2019, having David Whelan come on board to take a look at her swing, while also having Sean Foley take a look as well after deciding to part ways with Ted Oh back in April. Oh followed Gary Gilchrist, David Leadbetter and Guy Wilson, all of whom have been dismissed by Ko since the 2013 season.
This, of course, is Ko’s prerogative. She isn’t the first star to make sweeping changes, and certainly won’t be the last, not to mention that Ko has always been a person who doesn’t define herself entirely by her golf, but her fall has been staggering. Back in August, Leadbetter, to no one’s surprise, had a take on why Ko was struggling. Leadbetter believes that Ko needs to take time away from the game, and that she has made too many changes. He also threw some blame towards her parents:
“As many changes as she’s made, not only coaching, caddies and equipment, and sports psychologists and trainers, she’s also changed her body type now. Who knows what’s going on inside her head right now and obviously her team needs (to get) things together there because the longer it goes on, the tougher it is for her to get out of it.”
“Her parents have a lot to answer for – a case of unbelievable ignorance,” Leadbetter said. “They tell her when to go to bed, what to eat, what to wear, when to practice and what to practice. And they expect her to win every tournament. They need to let her go, let her fly, let her leave the nest so to speak and find her own way. If she can do that, we could see Lydia back.”
The criticism of Ko’s parents isn’t a new one. In Kevin Van Valkenburg’s tremendous piece on Ko from March of 2018, Leadbetter made sure to mention that he thought they were a major part of Ko’s slide, which Ko herself has denied. Ko’s response to Leadbetter’s latest criticism was to ‘thank the haters’.
What does all of it mean? Who is to blame? I don’t think any of us, Leadbetter and Ko included, can answer those questions definitively, but what I do know is that from a pure results standpoint, 2019 was another lost year for a player that was supposed to take over the women’s golf world. It’s anyone’s guess if she’ll be able to get it back in 2020, and beyond.
Over the last few years, there’s been so much talk about how the top of the game is getting younger and younger, and one of the reasons for that talk is that young players, seemingly, are not struggling at the highest levels like they used to. There’s any number of reasons for that, a lot of which are tied to the fact that the ball and clubs are hotter than they ought to be, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re seeing big name college players make the transition to the pro game easier than ever before. To wit:
Matthew Wolff, going 62-65 on the weekend at the 3M Open, clipping Bryson and Collin Morikawa, to win his first PGA Tour event in only his fourth start:
Morikawa following that finish up with a T4 at the John Deere, and then winning his eighth career PGA Tour start at the Barracuda:
Viktor Hovland, 2020 Ryder Cupper, kept his amateur status to play in the U.S. Open, and then managed to earn his PGA Tour card in very limited starts with a strong finish in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
It’s always fun to see new, young players come up through the ranks, and 2019 was a pretty special year in that regard.
Is there a more likeable player in all of golf than Graeme McDowell? It hasn’t been the easiest of times for McDowell over the last few years, as coming into 2019, his last win came at the 2015 Mayakoba, and he had fallen out of the top-200 in the world. At 40 years old, the former Ryder Cup mainstay and U.S. Open champion is fighting a losing battle with distance, as many of his contemporaries are, but he had one major goal for 2019: to return to the Open Championship after missing out the last two years.
The 2019 Open had more meaning to McDowell than most. Royal Portrush was hosting the event for the first time since 1951, and as a Portrush native, McDowell wanted nothing more than to be playing instead of just being there in a pseudo ambassador role. So, how was he going to get there? His U.S. Open exemption expired a little while ago, and with his struggles in the past few years, he certainly wasn’t qualified at the start of 2019, so he really just had to start playing better.
After starting 2019 with a solid T18 at Pebble, McDowell posted some middling finishes heading into the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, the opposite field event to the WGC-Match Play, an event where he used to be a mainstay. McDowell opened with a 73, but took over in the final three rounds posting scores of 64-64-69 to clip Chris Stroud and Mackenzie Hughes by one for his first twin in nearly four years.
The solid play continued, with good finishes at the Valero and the PGA, as McDowell came to one of the final events to qualify for the Open, the RBC Canadian Open. Three spots were available to those who finished inside the top-10 if they weren’t already qualified, and it looked good early on, as McDowell opened with a 65. As his fellow countryman Rory McIlroy was running away with the tournament on the final day, McDowell played the 18th with his hometown tournament on the line.
As he always does, McDowell gave some thoughtful responses to what this meant to him, and how it compared to his win earlier in the year in the immediate aftermath of his qualification:
Once he got to Portrush, McDowell made the cut on the number and finished in a tie for 57th place, but that hardly mattered. Getting there and being able to play in, essentially, a local Open, was what mattered, and McDowell was able to pull it off. There are very few players in the game as thoughtful and measured as McDowell, who spoke with the Telegraph prior to the Open starting about how he got back home:
“My journey has been really about facing the demons of mortality,” he says. “I had that conversation with myself. I said, ‘Hey, if you continue to play the way you’re playing, this game is going to be gone a hell of a lot quicker than you thought. What’s that going to feel like?’ You’d miss it really badly.”
We’d miss him, too. The game is better with Graeme McDowell in it, and seeing him come home was tremendous.
Last year, J.B. Holmes was one of my top stories of the year for icing Alex Noren at the Farmers, leading to Jason Day taking the title at Torrey. It took Holmes over four minutes to pull the trigger on a shot, which somehow was defended by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan despite being a clear rules violation, and Holmes really didn’t seem to be interested in changing his approach, either. That carried over into 2019, as Holmes continued to play incredibly slowly, and that was most apparent at Riviera.
Holmes went on to win the tournament, as Justin Thomas struggled with a final round 74, but so much of the conversation throughout the final round was about how long the whole thing took. As a threesome, Holmes, Thomas and Adam Scott took 5.5 hours to finish the final round, and the CBS broadcast took Holmes to task repeatedly throughout the day on his slow play, which you never hear them do:
Thomas would admit after the round that it was slow out there, but wouldn’t say that was the reason why he played poorly, while Holmes continued to shrug it off:
“Well, you play in 25-mile-an-hour gusty winds and see how fast you play when you’re playing for the kind of money and the points and everything that we’re playing for. You can’t just get up there and whack it when it’s blowing that hard.”
On one hand, I understand that some leniency should be afforded in tough conditions, but on the other and more correct hand, he’s in a clear violation of the rules, and the PGA Tour refuses to do anything about it. On that final Sunday, they were never warned or put on the clock despite always being out of position, over a full hole behind. There’s no reason to expect that this is going to change, and we’ll get into that later on in this list with a full slow play recap.
Holmes didn’t do much else of note in 2019 after Riviera, except for his performance at the Open Championship. Holmes was the first round leader at Portrush, and co-led with eventual winner Shane Lowry after 36 holes. He would fall six shots back after Lowry blitzed the course with a third round 63, but he still had an outside chance to win his first major championship being in the penultimate group. Holmes had a dreadful final day, firing a final round 87, to fall from solo 3rd to a tie for 67th.
No, this isn’t about the Fortnite tents, which is actually a thing that happened in 2019. This is about the PGA Tour’s foray into all things sports betting and DFS related, which were major policy shifts from where they stood previously.
It started in February when the PGA Tour amended their policies, allowing for sponsorships with ‘gambling entities’, done essentially because the legal landscape has changed as it relates to sports betting. With more and more states opening up sports betting seemingly on a daily basis, the PGA Tour has understandably wanted to get a piece of the pie.
In July, the PGA Tour announced that DraftKings would be the ‘Official Daily Fantasy Game’ of the PGA Tour, a partnership that further integrates the two companies with video highlights and official real-time scoring, which other DFS providers do not have access to at this stage. Then in August, it was announced that the PGA Tour’s partnership with IMG was being expanded, allowing official scoring data to be delivered to licensed North American sportsbooks. This allows for, essentially, shot by shot betting with the PGA Tour’s ShotLink data, something which can’t really be offered by sportsbooks unless they have access to the proper data.
These may not seem like the biggest things, but the massive policy changes are significant, and should be very important for the PGA Tour’s bottom line for years to come.
As a society, marijuana has slowly become an accepted thing, but we’ve still got a long way to go, and as I’m sure you’re all aware, golf isn’t exactly on the cutting edge of these things. Despite the fact that it has been legalized in several states, the PGA Tour goes off of the WADA list to determine when players are in violation, and it’s on that list where marijuana is still listed as a banned substance.
This became a thing in 2019 with the suspensions of Robert Garrigus and Matt Every. Garrgius was suspended back in March, and when he spoke about it with Golf Channel in July, Garrigus said that he was using it to help him with the pain he was having in both his back and knee.
“If you have some sort of pain and CBD or THC may help that, and you feel like it can help you and be prescribed by a doctor, then what are we doing?” Garrigus said. “If you are doing marijuana then we should be testing for alcohol, too. If you can buy it in a store, then why are we testing for it? That’s my opinion.”
Garrigus also made a point of noting that, you know, it’s not like smoking weed is actually giving him some kind of competitive advantage over the field. Garrigus is back out there now, but in Every’s case, he’s still suspended, having picked up the ban in October, but he was, as you might expect, a little more combative than Garrigus was with the news:
“I have been prescribed cannabis for a mental health condition by my physician whom has managed my medical care for 30 years,” he said. “It has been determined that I am neither an acceptable candidate to use prescription “Z” class drugs nor benzodiazepines. Additionally, these classes of drugs can be highly addictive and harmful to the human body and mind. For me, cannabis has proven to be, by far, the safest and most effective treatment.”
I’m guessing that the PGA Tour has no interest in removing the WADA list as their barometer for these things, so for players like Every, he might have more luck trying to get marijuana removed there, much like CBD was in 2018. That has led to a bunch of players taking up CBD sponsorships, and all kinds of talk of players using CBD gum or oil during their rounds.
It all feels ridiculous, of course, which Robin Williams explained perfectly many years ago:
Figure it out, guys.