How Bout This Year in Golf
Tigers victory at The Masters this spring recalled an achievement untouched in some 70 years. He evoked Bobby Jones, the only other man to have consecutively won his eras four most important championships. Woods emanates a radiance that Jones possessed, one that captivated an entire country, the world even. While Tigers slam tied two seasons together, Jones won his slam - the amateur and open titles each in the U.S. and Great Britain - in the same year, 1930. He retired soon after, and then embarked on building Augusta National. That Tigers ultimate ascension would occur at the house that Jones built, a special place that embodies a bit of the past and future of America, is quite significant. It was nearly 25 years ago that Lee Elder became the first black man to play in the Masters.
The U.S. Open was as bizarre as The Masters was historic. This was a golf tournament as Carnoustian folly. And while no one wishes on anyone the kind of calamity that visited Van de Velde, he did give the golfing literati a little toy with which to play. It was a standard bearer in tragic-comedy. Thus you can use Carnoustian, as well as Van de Veldian, as you would Shakespearean. This particular U.S. Open at Southern Hills in Oklahoma starred Retief Goosen, the very unassuming South African with the pretty rhythm, so efficient and placid you hardly notice, the kind every era seems to have. A Julius Boros, say, or an Al Geiberger or even Ernie Els, another South African whod already won a U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1994. That type.
It also featured Mark Brooks, a wiry Texan whos from the school where you shape your ball rather than overpower it. Also, there was Stewart Cink, perhaps a taller, American version of Goosen ' unassuming, underrated even, but not in-your-face with greatness.
The feeling Saturday night was that the final picture figured to include the more splashy names of Duval, Mickelson and Garcia. Mickelson, you would think, is destined to win a U.S. Open someday, for this is the guy whom Payne Stewart touched shortly before he passed on. Payne had made that snaking putt on a misty day to win at Pinehurst, and then put his arms on Phils shoulders, as if to bless him. But Phil just didnt have it at Southern Hills. And naturally there was then a more fevered pitch to the debate, Will Phil ever win a major?
Meanwhile, Sergio had already proven his mettle at classic courses that placed a premium on accuracy and shot-making, layouts like Colonial and later Westchester. Southern Hills fit his driving skills quite well. But Sergio it turns out was most remembered that weekend for his incessant fidgeting, the count-em- till-he-stops grip and re-grip habit which proved difficult to watch. Like Phil, Sergio didnt perform well on Sunday. David Duval, too, simply couldnt eliminate his mistakes, but he would later put it all brilliantly together at the British Open.
So, as is often the case at a national championship, this one was lost rather than won daringly, and contested to the finish by everymen and not the super-duper stars. Think Lou Graham. Steve Jones. At Southern Hills, Goosen strode up the 18th green a sure winner, handsome and even refined. He would be a pleasant, though not overly charismatic, champion from a country that had given us many a great golfing hero - Gary Player, Bobby Locke, Ernie Els.
We admired his 6-iron, majestic and pure to some 12 feet or so. Cink needed to hole a long one to tie Goosen, who it was assumed would two-putt. Brooks had already three-putted, and he, too, was resigned to his fate, knowing Goosen couldnt possibly blow it as close as he was. Cink rolled a beauty, nearly holing it, producing a full-throated groan from the gallery. Good try, but not to be. The come-backer really meant so little, not with Goosen in so close. Cink stroked his bogey putt from only a couple of feet, and it missed. There was the customary gasp from the audience simply because it was rather short, not because hed blown something sacred.
Goosen then putted, but rather than cozy it up, he threw it by the hole some two to three feet. And then came the oh-my-gosh golfing moment of the year. Goosen missed. Hed made five. Three-putted from short range. Brooks would go to a playoff on Monday with Goosen. Cink would go home and explain that he didnt feel badly, that hed hit a good first putt and had had no idea that his bogey putt would mean anything.
Goosen met the failure straight up, answering questions before retiring to his room. He gathered himself well, and won going away the next day. In the end he had not suffered a Van de Veldian fate. He was instead a U.S. Open champion. And we as writers and fans hadnt had that much disbelieving fervor beneath a golf discussion since perhaps Tiger at Pebble and certainly Van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999.
Other highlights this season in no particular order of importance, but simply for their impact, are as follows:
Tigers putt at 17 at The Players, suggesting there was no limit to his magic;
David Toms hole-in-one Saturday at the PGA Championship, second in my shot-of-the-year category behind Tigers more historically important last putt at Augusta to clinch four in a row;
Toms ice-cold, no-doubt-about-it lay-up par to beat Mickelson at that PGA Championship;
The flowering of Charles Howell, for while we knew he was good, who couldve imagined that by seasons end hed be dressed like Jesper and also among the most quotable players on Tour;
Another gratifying rags-to-riches tale in Jose Coceres, who rose from poverty in Argentina to become a winner on The PGA Tour at 38, taking Hilton Head and Disney, where he wore an American pin on his lapel, saying in his halting English later that after September 11 we are all Americans;
Mickelsons par at Bay Hills 72nd, only to be trumped by Tigers birdie;
Annikas 59, demonstrating that men dont have an exclusive on the unbelievable in golf;
Karries U.S. Womens Open runaway, proving that while Annika had had the better overall year, Karrie may still be the best player in the world;
Karries tears for her grandfather while winning The McDonalds, reminding people Karrie is not emotionless;
Jacks run at Salem, and hasnt he always given us a run somewhere, even now into his early 60s, for crying out loud; and isnt it always electrifying even if he doesnt win?!;
Ty Tryons teenage smile at the Honda, and here comes a whole new generation of kids who dont necessarily place limits on themselves.
Some personal moments and people Ill remember:
The firemen of Engine 22, Ladder 13 in Manhattan, who shared their stories and their meat loaf with us one month after the attacks as we prepared a Golf Central special for Thanksgiving Eve; all the brave families, too, for whom in many cases golf was some of the good in the good times remembered;
And finally, Cliff Kresge, a struggling pro who toiled on the PGA Tour and will have to return to Q-School. While covering the late October Buick Challenge in Pine Mountain, Georgia, I bumped into Cliff Wednesday evening before the tournament in the hotel lobby. He seemed happy, strolling his little boy, Mason, alongside his wife, Tina. We chatted. He was playful with his son. I asked him if he was excited for the tournament to start, for the chance to make a late-season run. He told me with no trace of bitterness that he wasnt in the tournament; that theyd come down as an alternate, on their own dime, on the hope that someone would drop out.
It didnt happen. But what struck me was how optimistic he and his wife were. It seemed as if with their baby they understood that they were lucky, even if this year hadnt worked out as theyd planned. I said goodbye to them, in a strange way equally as optimistic that this game will continue on in good stead as much because of people like Cliff Kresge as Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam and Jose Coceres.
Like you and me, they all love golf, and the country that lets them play it freely.
Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief
A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.
The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.
The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.
Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.
Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.
"This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."
LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse
The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.
While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.
The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).
The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.
An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.
The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.
The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.
“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”
While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.
For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.
Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:
Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million
Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million
Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million
March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million
March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million
March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million
March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million
April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million
April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million
April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million
May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million
May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million
May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million
May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million
June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million
June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million
June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million
June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million
July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million
July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million
July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million
Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million
Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million
Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million
Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million
Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million
Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million
Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million
Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million
Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million
Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million
Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million
Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million
Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth
Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.
And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.
Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.
Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent.
Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.
Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.
Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.
In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.
Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)
U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)
The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)
PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)
TWO REGULAR TOUR WINS
AT&T Pebble Beach
FUN OUTSIDE OF TOUR LIFE
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18