EDITORS' NOTE: This story first appeared in the December 2003 issue of Golf Digest
It’s hard to keep up these days.
Just when you think you’re right on top of things, they come up with drivers that allow asthmatic high-school kids to hit 350-yard tee shots. And then there are the revolutionary golf balls that won’t hook or slice even if they’re caught in a tropical storm. And now there are these new Barbie-doll wives of touring pros who can actually make noises like human beings talking. Amazing stuff.
All of which suggests that it’s time to select the best things in, of and around the game of golf again. Seems like only yesterday that we did this, but the fact is, it was 17 years ago. Back then the “best black golfer with a crooked arm” was Calvin Peete, and the “best white golfer with a crooked head” was Tom Weiskopf.
That’s how time flies today. It flies just like that putter you bought the other day, the one with the handlebars and the eight golf balls on the back of the blade, the one that can also be used as a motor scooter to take you to the discount golf shop to buy the new sand wedge that’s guaranteed to get you up and out of Egypt.
But let’s get right to it. Up close and personal. Live, right here at Studio Golf Digest. Some things haven’t changed at all, but here now, after careful study, in no particular order, and splattered all over the place, owing to the whims of the illustrator, are The Best Things in Golf.
Best bet to win more majors than Tiger Woods:
Best comeback after being struck by lightning:
Lee Trevino, by five majors over Retief Goosen.
Best fan-appreciation moment:
Caddie Steve Williams tossing a camera into the water after a click during Tiger's swing at the Skins Game.
Best player who never hit a bad shot that wasn’t the fault of someone or something else:
Seve Ballesteros. It was the wind, the sand, the trees, the water, the lie, the club, the ball, the wife, the baby, the …
Best TV commercial:
Tiger Woods bouncing that ball 4,567 times on his wedge.
Best golf puzzle:
Ty Votaw is:
(a) A village destroyed by the eruption of Krakatau.
(b) The Sherpa who led Sir Edmund Hillary to the summit of Everest.
(c) An actual person.
(d) A polite Albanian expression that means “no thank you” when another drink is offered.
Best player who has never won a major but is willing to lecture you on a subject of your choice:
Best two courses in a town named for a rich guy:
Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis.
Best modern-era course that’s impossible to find or get to without joining the Donner Party and eating your belt for supper:
Sand Hills, somewhere in Nebraska
Best back-to-back holes in golf:
The 12th and 13th at Augusta National
Best consecutive three holes in golf:
The 11th, 12th and 13th at Augusta National. Hard to go up against Amen Corner, except Abalone Corner—the eighth, ninth and 10th at Pebble Beach—comes close.
Best five holes in a row:
The 13th through the 17th at Black Diamond Ranch in Florida. Best of the old or new quarry holes. In other words, better than Merion’s or the 4,318 designer creations of the last 30 minutes.
Best seven holes in a row:
The 10th through the 16th at Augusta National. But the 17th is a blight on the rest of the artwork. Suggestion: Plow it up and start over.
Best 18 holes in a row:
Pine Valley. No contest. No arguments. There’s not even a second place.
Best first tee:
Still Merion, where Bobby Jones saddled up to complete the Slam.
The wicker baskets of Merion.
Winged Foot. Close runner-up: Oak Hill.
Magnolia in Augusta. Which has best shade.
River Oaks in Houston. Which also has most mansions leading up to the clubhouse.
The corner of Links and Granny Clark’s Wynd in St. Andrews.
Best golf commentator on TV:
Johnny Miller, by a long par 5 over the others.
Best thing to drop from the vernacular and out of the mind of anyone announcing golf on TV:
“He made a good play there.” Play? No. You make a play in football. You don’t make a play in golf. You hit a shot in golf. Or you try to.
Best meltdown (18-hole division):
Greg Norman’s 78 in the final round of the 1996 Masters
Best meltdown (French division):
Jean Van de Velde’s 7 at Carnoustie in ’99
Best meltdown (Dane division):
Thomas Bjorn at Sandwich in 2003. Which was also Best Attempt to Re-enact Construction of the Suez Canal.
Best meltdown (the lifetime-achievement award):
Best comedy act with putters:
Retief Goosen and Stewart Cink on the 72nd hole of the 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills.
Best Captain Queeg moment by a Ryder Cup captain:
Ben Crenshaw’s rambling, finger-wagging “I’m a big believer in fate” speech on Saturday night before his team’s comeback in the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline.
It used to be that burrowing-animal thing, but now it’s that deal where you get to take your ball out of play and give yourself a better lie in the rough, otherwise known as lift, clean and cheat.
Hogan. But not on the highway, necessarily. (Repeat winner from 1986.)
Best overbearing caddie/dad:
Peter Kuchar, by a fist pump over B.J. Wie.
Best moment to empty a press center and draw the entire gallery to one hole:
Annika’s opening tee shot at Colonial.
Best protest slogan:
“Discrimination is not a game.”
Best title for a new sitcom:
“Martha and Hootie’s Grand Adventure.”
Best protest sign:
“The Burk Stops Here.”
Best protest shout:
“Iron my shirt!”
Best golf cart:
Best parking space at a U.S. Open:
The one I had for 40 years until the USGA took it away from me and gave it to some jerk eating smoked salmon in a corporate-hospitality tent.
Best fashion statement by a player who stole Annika Sorenstam’s wardrobe:
Aaron Baddeley at the PGA, in those pink pants and a white blouse.
Best dressed in earlier days:
Best dressed today:
Tiger. As opposed to worst dressed today: Any Swede or Charles Howell III. Best Payne Stewart memory:
Paul Azinger at the memorial service in Orlando.
Best quipster (old days):
Best quipster (modern days):
Dave Marr, who 17 years ago also won “best (or only) tour pro who ever picked up dinner checks.”
Best quipster (current):
Best tournament that’s never going to be a major, not even in the lifetime of somebody who hasn’t even been born yet:
The Players Championship.
Best course in the East that has never had a major:
National Golf Links, in a photo finish with Somerset Hills.
Best course in the West that has never had a major:
San Francisco Golf, by a nose over L.A. North and Cypress Point.
Best course in the middle that has never held a major:
Brook Hollow, Dallas
Best friend of golf writers:
Julius Mason, director of public/media relations for the PGA of America. He towers above his competition at the other majors, having knocked ’em off like dead limbs.
That’s it. See you in 2020, when maybe by then the USGA will have rediscovered how to run a tournament.