A Season to Remember on the PGA Tour
THE European Tour season still has some way to run, with all to play for in the weeks ahead, but the PGA Tour season is done and dusted for another year and, after a two-week break, they will be ready to go again.
And what a season it has been. We saw Hideki Matsuyama win The Masters from nowhere, Phil Mickelson become the oldest ever winner of a major at the PGA Championship on a course that should not have suited his game at Kiawah Island, Jon Rahm win his first major at the US Open and Collin Morikawa produce a stunning display of iron play to win The Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
We saw the remarkable comeback of Jordan Spieth, back in the winners’ circle after a break of four years. Patrick Cantlay, long touted as the next big thing, won four times as he picked up the FedEx Cup after holding off the challenge of Rahm. Rory McIlroy had another bitterly disappointing year, especially at the majors. Stewart Cink, who hadn’t won since denying Tom Watson a historic Open at Turnberry way back in 2009, won twice - how did that happen?
Dustin Johnson looked unbeatable 12 months ago. He won The Masters in 2020 and seemed to contend every time he teed up the ball but it all became something of a struggle for him in 2021.
Justin Thomas found himself in hot water at the start of the year when he missed a short putt and was caught on camera uttering a homophobic slur. As a result he lost one of his main sponsors and was put on notice by several others. Thomas was mortified and it came as no surprise that his form suffered. And things went from bad to worse for the American when his beloved grandfather passed away. But Thomas is a class act and he dug deep and won the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
There were a host of first-time winners, achieved by golfers of all ages.
Abraham Ancer finally made the breakthrough and proved that you don’t have to hit the ball 320 yards in order to succeed.
There are several young men who seem to have the world at their feet, and one of those is Sam Burns, a prodigious ball striker with a wonderful temperament. Ditto Will Zalatoris, who nearly won The Masters.
Fans gradually began to reappear, meaning that golfers who had become accustomed to playing in silence, suddenly had to once again get used to cries of ‘Mashed potatoes”, “Get in the hole” and “You’re the man.” McIlroy had said that his form suffered because of having to play without fans but their return seemed to make little difference to his overall play.
And we had the ridiculous ongoing feud between Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka. When fans were ejected from the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village for taunting DeChambeau with shouts of “Brooksy”, Koepka offered to buy each and every one of them a case of beer.
It all resulted in the PGA Tour introducing a code of conduct for fans, making it clear that they would be ejected if there was any repetition of the “Brooksy” chants.
Of course, the two men at the centre of it all could bring it all to an end by ending their feud. US Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker must be pulling out what’s left of his hair at the prospect of having these two golfers together as members of his team at Whistling Straits.
It wasn’t a great year for Europeans on American soil. McIlroy won the Wells Fargo, Viktor Hovland continues to prove himself to be a world-class performer, Sergio Garcia found a way to win and Seamus Power claimed the Barbasol Championship. Paul Casey also produced a series of fine performances but with managing a victory and Lee Westwood finished second twice.
But Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Westwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter all failed to get anywhere near the 30-man field at the Tour Championship. The only Europeans to make it to East Lake were Rahm, McIlroy, Hovland and Garcia.
Tiger Woods nearly lost his life in a horrendous car crash that left him unable to walk. He suffered dreadful leg injuries and has spent the rest of the year in physical rehab. Whether we will ever again see him compete at the highest level is open to debate.
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