13 things you might not remember actually happened in golf in 2017
Justin Thomas’ breakthrough year. Lexi Thompson’s ANA ruling. Jordan Spieth’s adventures at Royal Birkdale. Tiger Woods’ comebacks. Presidents Cup blowouts. And we’re just getting warmed up. Indeed, with so many memorable moments in 2017, we don’t blame you if you had trouble keeping things straight as to what happened during the year. And so here are a few storylines that you might not remember actually took place.
The PGA Tour handed out its first slow-play penalty in 22 years.
At the revamped Zurich Classic of New Orleans, teammates Brian Campbell and Miguel Angel Carballo were assessed a one-stroke penalty during the first round. Their group was put on the clock on the back nine, then Carballo received a bad time on the 11th hole at TPC Louisiana. When Campbell then got a bad time on the 14th, the pair became the first golfers since Glen Day at the 1995 Honda Classic to be docked a stroke by PGA Tour officials. (More recently, 14-year-old Tianlang Guan was penalized for taking too long at the 2013 Masters, but that event is run by Augusta National Golf Club and not the PGA Tour.)
Steph Curry held his own in a Web.com Tour event.
The NBA MVP proved he’s got some game in golf, too, after accepting an invitation to compete in the Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic. The Golden State Warriors missed the cut, but his back-to-back 74s left him ahead of three other pro golfers through 36 holes. The play has inspired another celebrity to give it a go in a Web.com Tour event; country singer Jake Owen will play in the Nashville Golf Open next May.
Branden Grace broke the major-championship 18-hole scoring mark.
Since Johnny Miller shot his famous 63 in the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont, 27 players have matched the number in major-championship play, but no one had gone lower … until the 29-year-old South African accomplished the feat on Saturday at the Open Championship. Playing in near perfect conditions at Royal Birkdale, Grace shot a magnificent eight-under 62.
In a 23-week span, five different LPGA players held the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings.
Lydia Ko’s 85-week run as the top player on the Rolex Rankings ended in May and was followed by plenty of volatility in the No. 1 spot. Ko’s replacement, Ariya Jutanugarn, held the spot for just two weeks before being bumped by So Yeon Ryu. The ANA Inspiration champ stayed on top for 19 weeks before being displaced by another 2017 major winner, U.S. Women’s Open champ Sung Hyun Park. But the LPGA Tour rookie’s place at No. 1 lasted only one week before Shanshan Feng claimed the throne and held on to it through year’s end, becoming the first Chinese player, male or female, to be golf’s the No. 1-ranked professional.
Two 59s were shot on the PGA Tour within eight days.
Justin Thomas became the tour’s seventh player to break 60 in an official round, opening the Sony Open in Hawaii in style after winning in Kapalua the previous Sunday. In the next event, Adam Hadwin shot a 59 during the third round of the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hadwin, however, failed to close out the tournament on Sunday.
There were three 59s shot in men’s professional golf.
Sam Saunders joined Thomas and Hadwin in the 59 club, albeit while playing on the Web.com Tour as he shot he number in the first round of the Web.com Tour Championship.
Photo by Chris McPherson
Phil Mickelson skipped the U.S. Open.
OK, so maybe you remember this, but it’s unusual nature is worth a revisit. The U.S. Open is the one major win Lefty still needs to cap the career Grand Slam, but when the high school graduation of his daughter Amanda conflicted with his first-round tee time at Erin Hills, Mickelson stayed in California, missing the national championship for the first time since 1993. “I mean obviously it’s the tournament I want to win the most,” he said. “But this is one of those moments where you look back on life and you just don’t want to miss it.”
Bernhard Langer set the all-time PGA Tour Champions senior major mark.
The 60-year-old German’s dominance on the senior circuit continued when he won the Regions Tradition and the KitchenAid Senior PGA in back-to-back weeks in May to tie and then pass Jack Nicklaus for career senior major titles with nine. Langer then added the Senior Open Championship in July for good measure, part of a seven-win season that gives him 36 PGA Tour Champions victories for his career, just nine behind Hale Irwin’s all-time mark.
John Daly won a PGA Tour Champions event.
It’s the storyline golf fans had been waiting since Long John had joined the 50-and-older tour the previous May. After taking a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Insperity Invitational at The Woodlands, he hung on to claim his first win anywhere since 2014 and his first PGA Tour Champions victory in 22 starts. And by hang on, we do me hang on as he bogeyed his final three holes by still beat Tommy Armour III and Kenny Perry.
It was an eventful year on other fronts for Daly, who made his first cut in a PGA Tour event since 2015 (at the Safeway Open), and collapsed on the course due to an injured knee while in contention at the PGA Tour Champions’ PowerShares QQQ Championship.
The U.S. Amateur was capped by one of the most dramatic finishes ever.
Doc Redman, a 19-year-old sophomore at Clemson, was 2 down to Texas senior-to-be Doug Ghim with two holes to play at Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles before putting together one of the best rallies in the Amateur’s 122-year history. Redman made a 60-foot eagle putt to win the 17th hole (see below), then made a 10-foot birdie on the 18th to send the match to extra holes. Playing the drivable par-4 10th at Riviera as the first hole of the sudden-death playoff, Redman won with a conceded birdie after Ghim made a mess of the hole.
A U.S. Women’s Amateur match kept going, and going, and going.
When 13-year-old Chia Yen Wu of China beat American Lauren Stephenson in the quarterfinals at San Diego Country Club, she went down in history as the winner of the longest 18-hole scheduled match in USGA history, breaking the mark of 28 holes set at the 1930 U.S. Amateur and 1960 U.S. Junior Amateur. Making the match all the more amazing was its various “vagaries of match play” moments, such as when Stephenson hit her approach on the 26th hole to three feet then watched Wu make a 70-foot birdie putt to halve the hole.
Wu made another impressive putt from 20 feet on the 30th hole to finally close out the match. She would, however, fall the next day in the semifinals.
An amateur golfer was hit with a bizarre PED violation.
In February, Switzerland’s Mathias Eggenberger was disqualified retroactively from the 2016 World Amateur Team Championship after the International Golf Federation stated it found low levels of the banned substance clenbuterol in his system while he played in the event in Mexico. However, the IGF said after an investigation that Eggenberger was found to be at “no fault or negligence” as it was determined the drug got into his system after he ate contaminated meat while in Mexico.
A controversial ruling brought an abrupt end to another match in a USGA event.
In the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior, Elizabeth Moon had a three-foot birdie putt to win over Erica Shepherd on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff. Moon missed it low, leaving herself less than a foot for her comebacker, and retrieved the ball, but did so before Shepherd had conceded the putt. Shepherd said she was going to give it to her, but the Rules of Golf don’t allow for a retroactive concession. Moon received a one-stroke penalty and lost the match, while Shepherd went on to claim the title the next day in the championship match.