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The 5 most authentic golf moments in "Tin Cup" (And 5 others that rang hollow)

August 16, 2016

Happy 20th birthday to Tin Cup, the second-most aired movie on Golf Channel ever! And for my money, it's even better than No. 1, Caddyshack. That's right, you heard me. Tin Cup is better than Caddyshack.

Yes, it's hard to compare anything to a slapstick comedy from 1980, but my rating is based purely on re-watchability. No matter how many times I've seen it, if I'm flipping through the channels and Roy McAvoy is playing the final hole of the U.S. Open, I'm going to stop and watch. Part of me hopes that Roy will lay up this time, but most of me can't wait for him to make the most thrilling 12 in golf history -- real or imagined.

Of course, in addition to the cinderella-story (I still love you, Caddyshack!) element that surrounds Kevin Costner's character, Tin Cup has plenty of other great parts that made it a popular romantic comedy. But for the purpose of this post, let's stick to the action on the course and rank the flick's five most authentic golf moments:

5. A local qualifier contending at the U.S. Open.
Remember Andrew Landry at Oakmont this year? He took the same path as McAvoy, shot one really low round and hung in there until a tough finish on Sunday dropped him to T-15.

4. Players staying in motor homes during tournaments.
This was a big part of McAvoy's rags-to-riches persona, but there are big-name golfers like Jason Day and Jimmy Walker who do the same thing on a regular basis. Of course, they also have professional drivers and they don't share the space with Cheech Marin.


3. Going to Waffle House for a celebratory dinner. Bubba Watson channeled his inner Tin Cup after winning the 2014 Masters.


2. A golfer relying on a sports psychologist.
In the past 20 years, this has become a lot more prevalent on the PGA Tour with guys like Bob Rotella and Gio Valiante becoming household names. And adding one to a player's entourage has proven to be effective. Take Jimmy Walker, who won his first major just six weeks after starting to work with Julie Elion. That gave her seven majors. Eat your heart out, Rene Russo.


1. A player firing his caddie mid-round. (Cough) Robert Allenby. (Cough)

But of course, with any work of fiction there are inevitably going to be some parts that ring hollow. Our list of the movie's five-most unrealistic moments:

5. Peter Jacobsen winning the U.S. Open. Sorry, Peter. But this remains the lone major title on your resume.

4. A player getting through U.S. Open local qualifying using only his 7-iron on the back nine.
Yeah, that's also a bit of a stretch.

3. CBS broadcasting the U.S. Open. While we appreciate the movie using a slew of on-air personalities from Jim Nantz to Ken Venturi to Gary McCord, it's puzzling why the fictional 1996 U.S. Open was broadcast by CBS when the network has never had anything to do with that event's coverage. Of course, NBC was televising the tournament at the time, but maybe it's for the better. Johnny Miller would have been rather harsh on McAvoy's colossal choke.

2. A 62 in the U.S. Open. As we saw again this year with Phil Mickelson's lipout on 18 at Royal Troon, this score just doesn't happen at major championships. But a 63? The likes of Michael Bradley and Hiroshi Iwata have pulled off the feat so that would have been believable. Even from a driving range pro from Texas. Regardless, that scene gets me choked up. Every time.

1. Spinning back a 3-wood. Again, the movie took things a step (or two) too far. It wasn't enough that Tin Cup foolishly went for the closing par 5 in two seven times, knocking six in a pond ("A little gust from the gods") before miraculously holing a seventh attempt for a mythical 12. No, they had to have McAvoy hole the shot by spinning back a 3-wood into the cup. Guys, it's called physics.

But even when history, logic and science are overlooked, Tin Cup never fails in delivering entertainment. Here's to 20 years of being a cult classic. And to many more of Golf Channel re-runs.