Martin Vousden’s review of 2018

We haven’t had a really dull golf season for quite a while and 2018 has been no exception. So here’s our choice of the best, worst, most memorable and perhaps wisely forgotten moments of the year

Major of the Year
The US PGA Championship. Brooks Koepka continued his recent marvellous run of major championship performances but what thrilled was that Tiger Woods (along with Adam Scott) harried and hassled him all the way, igniting real hope that Woods could land his 15th major. His round of 64 was his best in a grand slam event since Methuselah was a lad and confirmed that his good play in The Open Championship was no one-off.

Biceps of the Year
Brooks Koepka. The only candidate.

Bummer of the Year
Neither the BBC nor Sky was prepared to pony up the money that the US PGA demanded to screen its championship so it was not available on TV in Britain. Trying to follow a major sporting event on the internet just isn’t the same; in fact, it’s bloody annoying.

Major of the Year Runner-up
The Open. A great and tough course in Carnoustie that nevertheless allowed (some of) the best in the world to showcase their talents, and a real scrap coming down to the wire of the toughest finish in championship golf. Even better, it was won by a thoroughly deserving and decent man.

Italian of the Year
Francesco Molinari. See above and below.

Low-key Major of the Year
The Masters. More often than not the season’s first grand slam event provides more drama and excitement than the other three combined, but not in 2018. Partly it was because Patrick Reed was in quiet control throughout but also because, dare we think it, he’s not the easiest man to root for.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait Award
Angela Stanford won the Evian Championship, her first major, at the age of 40, after 18 years as a pro. She previously lost a playoff for the US Open in 2003.

Heartbreak Double-Bogey of the Year
Amy Olson went into the final round of the Evian Championship that Stanford won with a three-stroke lead. Others closed the gap but standing on the 72nd tee she only needed a par four to win. She took six. Following a record-breaking amateur career, this was her best chance of a pro win after five years on tour.

John McEnroe ‘You Cannot Be Serious’ Award
Shared by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for staging a nonsensical $9 million 18-hole match on Thanksgiving weekend. It meant nothing and demeaned both men and the sport they otherwise enhance.

Round of the Year
Georgia Hall. Starting the final round of the Women’s British Open a stroke in arrears she played nerveless, flawless golf except for a dropped shot at the last (only her third of the week) when the outcome was already decided. Overnight leader Pornanong Phatlum pushed her all the way but once Hall took the lead for the first time on the 16th it was done and dusted.

Disappointment of the Year
Rory McIlroy. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational (but that was back in March) and nearly $4.5 million in America, while in Europe he won just over €2.5 million and had three runners-up finishes. But world domination and his last major, the 2014 US PGA, seem a heck of a long time ago.

Tragedy of the Year
Celia Barquin Arozamena, reigning European Ladies Amateur champion and about to be crowned Iowa State Female Athlete of the Year was murdered. Senselessly stabbed to death on the 9th hole of Coldwater Golf Links, it is difficult to imagine a more tragic or heart-breaking end to a young life that held such promise.

Win of the Year
Tiger Woods’ triumph in the Tour season-ending Tour Championship. Do we really have to explain why?

Welcome Back Award of the Year
Tiger Woods – who else?

Mr ‘Buddy can you spare a dime?’ Award
Justin Rose. Two wins and ten top-10s in the States. In the majors he was tied 2nd in The Open, tied 10th in the US Open, tied 12th in the Masters and tied 19th in the US PGA. All of which, deservedly, saw him elevated to number one in the world, scooping the FedEx $10 million bonus in the process.

Longest and Best Award
Phil Mickelson. On the 26th November 2018 he marked 25 years of being continually ranked in the world’s top-50. Astonishing.

Tightwad of the Year
President Donald Trump. When his secret service agents accompany him on a round of golf at one of his courses, which they have to do, he makes them pay for the buggy.

Saddest Passing of the Year
Peter Thomson. Five Open Championships are not easy to win but he will mostly be missed for his quiet charm, grace and dignity, along with a desire to support tours in Australasia that might otherwise have withered and died.

Mystery of the Year
The form of the American Ryder Cup team. Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Bryson DeChambeau and Jordan Spieth all fell miserably short of their talent and reputation. Only Webb Simpson, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau enhanced their stature.

Thank you and Goodbye Award
Johnny Miller, who is retiring from the commentary booth and who has been such a refreshing change to bland, anodyne commentators who never say what they really think.

Nightmare Hole of the Year
Sergio Garcia. In the first round of his Masters defence in April he came to the par five 15th, which these guys are disappointed not to birdie. He walked off and signed for 13 strokes.

Coincidence of the Year Award
Lee Westwood and Matt Kuchar. On November 11, 2018, both men were four years to the day removed from their last win on Tour. Lee triumphed in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, while Matt tasted victory at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. What are the odds?

Finish of the Year
Alex Noren. In the Hero World Challenge – Tiger’s personal event – Noren ended the third round birdie, eagle, triple-bogey, hole-in-one, birdie.

Player of the Year: America
Bruce Koepka. Two majors – the US Open and US PGA, making three in all – have him atop world golf’s tree. His record in grand slam events now has him alongside great names such as Billy Casper, Hale Irwin, Tommy Armour and Henry Cotton but surely there is more to come.

Women’s Player of the Year
Ariya Jutanugarn. On the LPGA Tour she established a single-season record of 470 birdies, played 28 events and made the cut in all of them, had 57 rounds in the 60s, 17 top-10s and won the Race to CME Globe Award (money list). Oh, and she won three times, including a major.

Fightback of the Year
Ariya Jutanugarn. In the final round of the US Women’s Open she led by seven with nine holes to play. By the 72nd hole she was clinging on by the skin of her teeth and fell into a playoff with Hyo-Joo Kim. Ariya won it.

Player of the Year: Europe
Francesco Molinari. Winning The Open, the Race to Dubai and going 5-0 in the Ryder Cup almost matches two majors, but not quite.

Waste of Time Award
JB Holmes. He took four minutes and ten seconds to take a shot at the last hole of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January, and then he laid up. His playing partner Alex Noren, who also had a chance to win the event, had to stand around twiddling his thumbs.

Half-hearted Apology of the Year Winner
JB Holmes. When he’d had 24 hours to consider his tardiness on the last hole he said: ‘I don’t understand what the big hoopla is all about. I was just trying to give myself the best chance to win the tournament. I didn’t want to mess anybody up.’

Half-hearted Apology of the Year Runner-Up
Phil Mickelson. At the US Open he deliberately putted a moving ball, knowing that the penalty would be less than if he took stroke-and-distance. That’s as near to cheating as dammit is to swearing and his immediate apology was mealy-mouthed. After a few days reflection he finally made one that was meaningful.

Inappropriate Apology of the Year
Justin Thomas. Playing in the Honda Classic he was riled by a ‘fan’ who repeatedly shouted for his ball to go in a bunker, or water hazard, so he had the offender escorted from the course. His only mistake was to later tweet an apology because ‘I love all my fans.’ No need for the mawkish, saccharine regret, Justin, the numbnuts deserved it.

Happy Marriage of the Year
Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood. Played four times in the Ryder Cup and won four points. Almost as importantly, they looked to be enjoying it (which is, admittedly, easier when your opponents are Americans who look as if they would rather be at the dentist, without anaesthetic).

Saddest Statistic of the Year
Phil Mickelson. Who has now lost more Ryder Cup matches than any other golfer – 22. Mind you, Tiger’s almost there, with 21 losses and a worse win record (he has tasted victory in 13 matches, while Phil has 18 wins).

What About Us? Award
Webb Simpson and Henrik Stenson. Amid all the hoopla in the Ryder Cup aftermath, it may have been overlooked that Simpson’s record was 2-1-0 in a losing cause and Henrik went 3-0-0. Both deserved to play more than three times.

Rip-off of the Year
The official Ryder Cup team uniform. To dress like Team Europe you would need to fork out £450 for a rainproof jacket (this is not a typing error) and the same for trousers to match. However, you can save £50 on the jacket if you opt for the short-sleeve version. A towel for your bag is £30 and even a scorecard holder is £17. This competition generates revenue like no other, so to gouge extortionate amounts like this and squeeze the fans until they bleed is completely unacceptable.

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