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A legend's son, a tee-box terror, and Rudy Giuliani: Golf's biggest turkeys from 2021

November 24, 2021

Christian Petersen

Golf, like the rest of the world, made big strides to returning to normal in 2021. The crowds came back to the PGA Tour, the usual tournament schedule played out and even Jordan Spieth looked more like, well, Jordan Spieth. But while there were a lot of things to celebrate, there were also plenty of regrettable actions as well, ranging from bad decisions to bad tempers. And as is (a Loop) tradition, in honor(?) of Thanksgiving, we're highlighting the turkeys of the year again. So grab a plate and eat up.

Justin Thomas

We start with one of the best golfers on the planet, who muttered a homophobic slur to himself after missing a putt that was picked up by a microphone. To JT's credit, he owned up to his mistake and apologized profusely—but it didn't keep longtime sponsor Ralph Lauren from dropping him. And it didn't keep us from giving him a big turkey.

Rudy Giuliani

We continue with another regrettable sound bite, although this time, it was something said during an interview. Here's Giuliani telling an off-color story about playing golf with Michelle Wie:

Yikes. Wie would respond by calling Giuliani's comments "unsettling" and "highly inappropriate." Here's a tip we didn't think we'd have to provide to such a public figure: If you're not sure whether to tell a "joke"—especially with the cameras rolling—then you probably shouldn't tell that "joke."

Wayne Player

It's really, really hard to mess up a special moment like the one we saw at this year's Masters with Lee Elder, the first black golfer to tee it up in the tournament back in 1975, getting the nod as an honorary starter with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. But Wayne Player, the nine-time major champ's son who was working as a "caddie" for the ceremony, used the opportunity to do some not-so-subtle guerilla marketing for OnCore golf balls:

Jared C. Tilton

There's tacky and then there's that. “The only thought from that point was that it would be cool for fans to know what ball my dad was teeing off with,” Wayne told Golf Digest. Yeah, Wayne, because that's what everyone cared about in that moment. Amazingly, this wasn't Wayne's first rodeo when it comes to Masters controversies, but it could be his last because he's reportedly been banned from the tournament.


No stranger to being a villian, this governing body really stepped in the stuffing with its decision to cancel one of the four women's D-I golf regionals. There's only so much you can do when seven inches of rain pelts a golf course, but doing nothing and automatically ending 12 of the 18 teams' seasons? Not good.

"Even though the course is playable, it's not playable at a championship level." Yikes. Nice job, NCAA. As usual.

Bryson DeChambeau

DeChambeau did a lot of cool things this year, but he finds himself on our naughty list yet again. There are a number of directions we could take this from some really odd social media posts to that whole, "The driver sucks!" outburst. But we'll focus on the fact that he continued to not shout "FORE!" on errant tee shots—and that he denied not doing it when asked by our John Huggan. Again, when a just about every piece of VIDEO evidence before and since suggests otherwise. Well, listen up, Bryson, because we're yelling, "TURKEY!" at you.

Brooks Koepka

We're as guilty as anyone of getting wrapped up in the whole Brooks-Bryson feud this year, but Brooks crossed the line when he promised beer to fans heckling his rival.

C'mon, man, that's not cool. It's also not a fair fight. You're offering free beer when Bryson doesn't even have a beer sponsor. Come to think of it, how is that possible? He has enough sponsors to make a NASCAR driver blush. Anyway, moving on …

Fans yelling "Brooksy"

These dopes aren't getting off easy, either. "Brooksy"? Really? You're purposely yelling the wrong name at someone during a golf tournament? Most 7-year-olds would even find that childish. Go back to yelling, "GET IN THE HOLE!" or "MASHED POTATOES!" Actually, on second thought, just clap. Please. Although, since it is Thanksgiving, we'll let "MASHED POTATOES" stand. Mmm. Mashed potatoes …

The fan making fart noises

What were we just saying? As if screaming fans weren't annoying enough, someone at the Open Championship snuck a recorder onto Royal St. George's that played fart noises. Even worse, they let one rip right as Collin Morikawa was about to tee off on the final hole. Luckily, Collin laughed it off because he's a total legend, but aren't these supposed to be the most knowledgeable/polite/PROPER fans in the world? Oh, who are we kidding? It was probably one of those "Brooksy" American dopes.

The fan who dressed up like Borat

That's certainly not the case at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Those fans are absolute animals for the most part. And this year, one dressed like Borat stole the show by trying to interact with Jordan Spieth by making a bet during Saturday's third round. He was eventually arrested, which caused fans to start chanting, "Jordan, pay his bail!" We're pretty sure that didn't happen.

Christian Petersen

Look, we have no problem with fans dressing up as Borat or any other character. We also, for the most part, have no problem with rowdy fans, especially at TPC Scottsdale, where they are the local species. And we certainly have no problem with gambling. But when you start blatantly interrupting golfers, that's where we draw the line. It's not about you, Borat. It's about the golf. Oh, and get off our lawn!

The fan who took Rory’s driver

One dude went even farther than Borat by actually walking onto the tee box and taking a club from Rory McIlroy's bag. He then proceeded to go through an entire pre-shot routine before security finally removed him.

Again, you are NOT part of the action so stay off the tee box, you turkey! And we're calling him a turkey based on Jon Rahm claiming he could "smell" the alcohol on him. Although, Rory's caddie, Harry Diamond, might be deserving of a turkey as well for letting this all happen right in front of him. Steve Williams he is not. Speaking of memorable tee-box shenanigans …

Erik Van Rooyen

The South African missed the cut at the PGA Championship, but on the bright side, he avoided manslaughter charges. Following a poor tee shot that found the water on Kiawah's 17th hole, Van Rooyen swatted a tee marker so hard he nearly decapitated Matt Wallace's caddie:

Needless to say, that caddie still wasn't pleased when the round ended:

EVR then waited until Wednesday to apologize for his actions, earning him an even bigger turkey. Or does he get a smaller one? Whichever is worse.

Patton Kizzire

Before Rory McIlroy went all Incredible Hulk on his shirt (we'll get to that later), Patton Kizzire did the same thing at the BMW Championship on … his hat? Not very conventional. Although, snapping his putter over his knee first was very conventional:

Suddenly, the Sea Island Mafia seems a bit more intimidating.

Si Woo Kim

We've seen countless tour pros break their putters in anger during a round, but never one who was in contention at THE MASTERS. That's right, just three shots off the lead during the second round, Kim smashed his putter on the 15th hole. The craziest part is that it came right after a bad chip that nearly rolled into the water. But while the wedge survived, the putter didn't.

Impressively, Kim two-putted the rest of the way with his 3-wood, but that was the closest he'd get to a green jacket. And we're guessing he got a talking to from some of the green jackets that evening.

Monday qualifier fight in Wichita

We're giving out a pair of turkeys to a father-son combo involved in a scrap during a Korn Ferry Tour Monday qualifier in Kansas. After Austen Dailey got upset that his playing partner didn't help him look for his golf ball, Oliver Smith, who was caddying for son Luke, went off on him. And then Luke actually went off on him with his fists. When a third player tried to intervene, Oliver reportedly waved a putter to keep him away. Eventually, both players were DQ'd and transported back, with Dailey saying he would press charges. We're pressing charges on these guys as well. You get a turkey! And you get a turkey! AND YOU GET A TURKEY!

Jimmy Walker

Us weekend hackers all have that friend who is always running late to the first tee, but you don't expect to see that on the PGA Tour. And yet this major champ managed to be tardy for his second-round tee time at the Valspar Championship.

Walker gets a bit of a pardon for overcoming the two-stroke penalty (had he been more than five minutes late he would have been DQ'd) and making the cut. Still, if Jimmy is able to lose track of time like that, we're hoping someone else has an eye on the turkey in the oven.

Brad Faxon

As an eight-time PGA Tour winner, Faxon is certainly qualified to give his golf opinions, and as an analyst, it's part of his job. But silly, Brad, this is Twitter. No matter what you say will be ripped apart. Especially when you make a top-10 list:

It did, Brad. It did. Zoom in a little and you'll see things more clearly:

Yep, that's better. We detailed all the things wrong with Faxon's ranking in a previous post, but just including Rory McIlroy alone is enough to be mocked. Speaking of which …

Rory McIlroy

Although it seems like he deserves a turkey for his putting alone sometimes, McIlroy waited until right before Thanksgiving really to make his mark. First he blew a 54-hole lead in Dubai, and then he took out his frustration by ripping … his shirt.

What a wild scene. And what a wild year. We hope to see you all back here in another 12 months. Well, not the people who made this list. Hopefully, they learned their lessons.