A busy year in golf means that some compelling stories don’t make the cut.
There was history made in Scotland and drama at TPC Sawgrass. Trophies were won, sure – but some big names also let hardware slip through their fingers. Oh, and the clock on one of the game’s biggest rule changes continued to tick.
All gained headlines, but none of them were among the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. The list will be revealed, one by one, day by day, beginning Tuesday with No. 10 Donald Trump. For now, let’s take a look back at the honorable mentions from this past year:
Dustin Johnson: Johnson began the year on the sidelines, with his six-month leave of absence stretching into February. There were highlights both on and off the course, as the birth of his son, Tatum, was followed by a win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March. But there were also lowlights, as Johnson three-putted the final green at Chambers Bay to lose the U.S. Open and then forfeited a 36-hole lead at St. Andrews the following month.
Grand Slam: One of the most elusive feats in golf entered the conversation not once, but twice this year. First it was Spieth, who gave the single-season slam its best run since 1953 when he captured both the Masters and the U.S. Open before coming up one shot short at the Open Championship.
Then there was the Grand Slam that wasn’t, as Inbee Park won her fourth different major at the Women’s British Open. The LPGA deemed it a career Grand Slam, but other outlets, including Golf Channel and the Associated Press, said no because the Evian Championship wasn’t deemed a major until 2013 – one year after Park won the event.
Eras: Has the Tiger Era closed? Has the Spieth Era begun? Is this the newest incarnation of the Big Three? Incredible performances from several of the top golfers in the world led many to paint in broad strokes this past year. Those narratives were aided by the fact that the rise of a new crop of stars coincided with Tiger Woods’ worst season ever. But the summer was dominated by Spieth and Jason Day, who along with Rory McIlroy separated from the pack atop the world rankings and drew comparisons to the halcyon days of Nicklaus, Palmer and Player.
R&A women members: After 260 years, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews became a co-ed institution. Its 2,400 members voted “overwhelmingly” in September to admit female members effective immediately, and the first wave of new additions included the likes of Annika Sorenstam and Laura Davies. Now the focus shifts to the three remaining all-male clubs in the Open rota – Muirfield, Royal Troon and Royal St. George’s.
The Players: It was arguably the most exciting tournament of the year, as storylines abounded on the Stadium Course. Woods, battling injury, made the cut on the number but never contended. Sergio Garcia nearly won the event where he and Woods had been embroiled in controversy two years prior, and Kevin Kisner continued his affinity for overtime.
But in the end, the event belonged to Rickie Fowler, who closed the tournament in historic fashion. Fowler birdied the famed par-3 17th hole three times on Sunday, including twice during a four-hole playoff, and outlasted both Garcia and Kisner to seal the biggest win of his career.
Bryson DeChambeau: When you join a list that includes the likes of Woods, Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson, you’re doing something right. DeChambeau completed an impressive double this summer, first winning the NCAA individual title then following with a U.S. Amateur victory in August. With his SMU team banned from the postseason next year, DeChambeau won’t return to defend his NCAA title, but it won’t be long before he and his evenly-measured clubs are on the PGA Tour.
Phil Mickelson: While Woods’ slide garnered more headlines, Mickelson’s season wasn’t much better. Sure, there was the runner-up at the Masters, but Lefty was largely absent from leaderboards, and at age 45, he hasn’t won since the 2013 Open Championship. He failed to reach the Tour Championship for the second straight season and ended the year by closing a significant chapter in his career, replacing longtime swing coach Butch Harmon with a relative unknown in Andrew Getson.
Anchoring ends: After being debated into the ground for more than a year, the anchoring era finally came to a close. Some anchorers opted to ride it out until the bitter end, as David Hearn and Tim Clark were seen using long putters well into the fall. Others, like Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley, used the year to transition to a shorter model, while Adam Scott couldn’t quite make up his mind.