10 of the Best from the PGA Tour in 2018
WHAT a year it was on the PGA Tour. We saw the barely credible comeback of Tiger Woods, the emergence of Brooks Koepka as a truly world-class performer, the return to form of several players who had been in the wilderness and, yet again, the emergence of a number of young golfers who look like they could be future major winners. There were also victories for Englishmen Justin Rose, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter. Here we look at 10 players with particular reason to look back on their work in 2018 with particular satisfaction.
He began the year nursing a wrist injury that threatened to ruin his season. He ended it with two majors to his name and the world No 1 ranking. Life really doesn’t get much better than that, does it? Funny thing is that if you were to ask 100 people to name the best golfer in the world, how many do you think would come up with his name? Very few. He is a magnificent physical specimen but he is also an unassuming character who doesn’t seem to be too comfortable in the spotlight. But he hits the ball out of sight and possesses a magnificent temperament. Unsurprisingly, his peers voted him PGA Tour Player of the Year. It may not be the last time he wins that particular accolade.
Love him or hate him - and many people cannot stand him - but you can never ignore Patrick Reed. Just ask Jordan Spieth. The pair had formed a formidable partnership at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, when the USA finally won the cup back. But they were separated at Le Golf National and Reed took it very personally. Hmmm…why would you not want to spend three days in the company of arguably the most self-opinionated golfer on the PGA Tour? But…he won The Masters at Augusta in April and he did it in magnificent style. Like him or loathe him, he IS a player.
It seems like an age since Jason Day confidently bestrode the fairways looking like he would win every time he teed the ball up. Indeed, there was a spell when he very nearly did win every time he teed the ball up. He came within a whisker of winning The Open at St Andrews in 2015 but then won the Canadian Open and the US PGA Championship and found himself at the top of the world rankings. A devoted family man, his world came crashing down around his ears when he discovered that his mother had cancer. Unsurprisingly, tournament golf was the last thing on his mind. He went through the motions but his mind was clearly elsewhere. But 2018 saw him bounce back with a couple of victories. It will surely only be a matter of time before he is winning majors again.
Like Koepka, Thomas not only appears to dislike the limelight but actually admits that he doesn’t enjoy in one little bit. He prefers to let his golf do the talking. After his stellar performance in 2017, when won the US PGA Championship and player of the year honours, he could have been forgiven for having a poor 2018. Not a bit of it. He overtook Dustin Johnson to briefly claim the World No 1 spot and joyfully admitted that it meant everything to him. “This is why we play golf; to measure ourselves against the very best,” he said. “It means everything to me to become World No 1.” He carried on winning tournaments for fun and topped the money list. Of course he did.
What can you say about the year Rose has enjoyed? Well, you could say that he failed to win a second major. And that would be true. But he finished second in The Open at Carnoustie - his best performance in his home major. And he won on the PGA Tour (claiming the FedEx Cup) and European Tour, successfully defending his Turkish Airlines Open title - it gave him a shot at landing the Race to Dubai, but he chose not to play in the Nedbank Challenge or the Dubai World Championship. That may surprise some, but it proved that he is no longer motivated by money. Oh yes, and he became world No 1, something that was achieved thanks to some incredible consistency.
How can you reflect on a season without mentioning Woods? Hands up if you thought his latest comeback was going to be a success….thought so. Most of us closed our eyes and hoped for the best, but Woods defied the odds and rolled back the years. He had us looking on in disbelief when he took the lead during the final round of The Open before eventually coming up short. And then he performed brilliantly at the US PGA Championship, where he ended the week as runner-up. Jim Furyk handed him a Ryder Cup wild card and then he only went and won the Tour Championship at East Lake. He had a Ryder Cup to forget, but so did most of his teammates. Woods is back and looks like he really will add to his tally of 14 majors. The story of the year.
Snedeker is one of the most popular players among his peers, and if you have ever met him you will know why. He is a totally genuine individual who understands that he lives a privileged life. But he was just the latest to be struck down by injury and at one point it looked like it might end his career. Snedeker was remarkably sanguine about it, reasoning that he’d already had a great career, won tournaments, represented his country at the Ryder Cup and contended in majors. He also had plenty of money in the bank and a beautiful wife, family and home. So it was no surprise that his victory in the Wyndham Championship, which included a round of 59, was so warmly received.
Bubba’s world ranking was in freefall when 2018 began and there appeared to be no way back for the man with the most idiosyncratic swing on the PGA Tour (Bryson DeChambeau notwithstanding). But suddenly he found something again. His swing looked as bad as ever it was but the ball started going where he wanted it to and, more important, he started holing putts.
The young American cannot stop winning, but who would have thought it? He has a highly unconventional swing and an even more unconventional approach to the game. All his irons are the same length as a conventional seven iron (apart from his wedges) and he swings the golf club without breaking his wrists. It looks clumsy and it looks like it belongs to a 24-handicapper, but here’s the thing - it works. Just don’t ask him to explain how it works, unless you have about two hours to spare. He's known as The Scientist (as in The Mad Scientist? - Ed) and he leaves nothing to chance. He also has one of the strangest putting techniques you will ever see. But it works too. DeChambeau has also struck up an unlikely friendship with Tiger Woods.
Only Dustin Johnson had more top-10 finishes than Finau - 12 compared with Finau’s 11. The big American capped an incredible year by making the US Ryder Cup team. How he failed to win a tournament is anybody’s guess for he seemed to contend every single week. And he wasn’t afraid to get out there and play. Johnson competed in 20 tournaments, while Finau started 28 times. And he revelled in it. Asked if he was concerned about fatigue becoming a factor, he dismissed the question and revealed that he loved playing, so why would he want to take a week off. He is one of those players who adopts the ‘grip it and rip it’ approach and is a big favourite with fans all over the world.
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