2013 full of great play from great players

By Doug FergusonDecember 10, 2013, 8:59 pm

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Wanting to return among the elite in golf, Graeme McDowell mapped out a plan last fall. He figured out how many ranking points he would need to get back into the top five in the world.

And he went about it the right way. It started with his win at the World Challenge a year ago. He won at Hilton Head on the PGA Tour. He won the World Match Play Championship and the French Open on the European Tour. He was third at World Golf Championships in Doral and Shanghai.

''I've got to say, I got pretty close to that target that I set myself,'' McDowell said.

Little did he know how much the target would be moving in an extraordinary year for golf.

McDowell ended last year at No. 15 in the world. Now he is all the way up to No. 12.

''I wasn't really factoring on how many great players around me were going to have incredible seasons,'' McDowell said. ''So making an impact in that top 10 in the world has been very difficult to do this year because you just get so many guys playing incredibly well.''

Call it bad timing for McDowell, and happy days for golf.

Rarely has the golf season – men and women – felt so rewarding for so many players. Perhaps that explains why Tiger Woods could win five times – more than any other player in the world – capture the PGA Tour money title and the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average, and then listen to people discuss the definition of Player of the Year and whether he is worthy without having won a major.

Woods won the vote as the best player on the PGA Tour.

He is used to playing under a different set of standards, a victim of his own success. Anyone else with five trophies from the courses where he won – Torrey Pines, Doral, Bay Hill, TPC Sawgrass and Firestone – and there would be a debate.

But this wasn't just any other year.

Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters, and along the way earned redemption from blowing the British Open nearly nine months earlier. He had the outright lead on the back nine at the British Open this year before faltering. A month later, he won The Barclays during the FedEx Cup playoffs, arguably one of the strongest fields of the year with the tour's top 125 players who are all on form.

When he finally went home to show off his green jacket, Scott won the Australian PGA Championship and the Australian Masters, and then teamed with Jason Day to give Australia its first World Cup title in 24 years. He was poised to capture Australia's Triple Crown until Rory McIlroy beat him on the last hole in the Australian Open.

A better year than Woods? Probably not, though it depends how much weight is given a major.

Perhaps a better question: Did he have a better year than Phil Mickelson?

Lefty came within a cruel lip-out of shooting a 59 in the Phoenix Open, which he wound up winning. Showing off a short game like no other, his chip on the 18th hole at Castle Stuart gave him a victory in the Scottish Open. And his Sunday at Muirfield gets little debate over the best round of the year. Mickelson made four birdies on the last six holes for a 66 to capture the one major that not even he thought he could win.

Who won the most meaningful major this year? Mickelson or Scott? Best to save that argument for the bar.

Not to be forgotten is Henrik Stenson, who in April wasn't even eligible for the Masters. He finished one shot behind in the Shell Houston Open, which got him to Augusta National. But it was the summer when the Swede began to shine.

A tie for third in the Scottish Open. Runner-up at the British Open. Runner-up at Firestone (by seven shots to Woods), third at the PGA Championship. He won two FedEx Cup Playoff events to win the $10 million FedEx Cup. And for good measure, he won the final event in Europe to become the first player to win the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai in the same season.

Missing from the equation this year was the guy who started the year at No. 1 – McIlroy. He still had a good view.

''You've got Tiger with five wins this year. Adam breaks through for his first major. Phil wins the major he thinks he's never going to win. Henrik comes back,'' McIlroy said. ''Yeah, it's deep. You've got to play really well to win. ... But I think golf is in great shape.''

On the LPGA, the points-based Player of the Year came down to the next to last week, even though Inbee Park had won three straight majors among her six titles. Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis won the other majors. Lewis won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average. Pettersen had a chance to win the money title until she faltered in the Titleholders.

That's what inspired LPGA commissioner Mike Whan to say, ''Sports are at their absolute best ... when the best athletes in that sport are having the best years of their lives.''

It's hard to say with certainty that Woods was at his absolute best, and not just because he didn't win a major. It used to be that when Woods was at his best, there was not enough wealth to go around. Now there is.

What a year.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.