A few years ago, our Golf Digest team envisioned a new category to explore during our annual golf season review. We’ve labeled it the things that helped define the year. And by “things” we meant exactly that: not individuals or tournaments themselves, but stuff that had its own moments over the past 12 months. Granted, this is about as vague a designation as you can imagine, but it can actually be quite fun to find and recall things … and, hopefully, just as fun to read.
So here they are, and if you have a problem with babies or the playoffs being ‘things’, we suggest you write that ‘thing’ next year.
You can safely say that portable rangefinders, especially at the recreational level, are the best development in golf since the drink cart. And several tour pros would probably agree. Younger kids have been using them since their junior golf years, and they’re as ubiquitous in practice rounds as coaches walking the fairways. The PGA of America took this into account when deciding to allow competitors to use them in its three biggest championships in 2021, with the intention of continuing to do so in the future. Webb Simpson was strongly opposed to rangefinders ahead of this year’s PGA at Kiawah, but after just two laps he flipped. Indeed, the overall reaction was quite favorable to the change, even if the jury still does not know if it achieved a main objective: to accelerate the pace of play. Unless the lobby of the caddies becomes much louder quickly, it does. looks like the PGA Tour and LPGA also might not be far from buying.
The image has become familiarly frustrating to golfers: a player and his caddy watch a putt and instinctively pick up their green notebook. Why not? The book is a gold mine of information on the degree of slope and breakage on any roll. But is it so detailed that it takes away the skill of the game? In other words, is it too good? And does that ruin the flow of a ride? The PGA and European circuits believe so, and in late 2021, the USGA and R&A created the model local rule G-11 so that these best circuits can rule over their use. Starting in 2022, Tour players will receive an approved, streamlined version of a distance book each week that will contain very little green detail. Rory McIlroy was among those who were happy, noting in June, “I think playing the greens is a real skill that some people are better at than others, and [the book] It just negates it. The way players and caddies use the ratings they’ve collected over the years seems a bit more murky, and could there be issues on the course over who uses what information? May be. John Woods, a longtime lit caddy-course commentator, wrote for GolfChannel.com, “Books on the greens are a step up in the game, like forgiving drivers and balls that last forever …; like launch monitors, like distance / slope gauges. Why is the line drawn here? Why go upside down here? ”If the books have been a crutch, expect hand movements and more frustrated eyes when a player misses that “perfect” putt.
It’s been a busy year for the creation of high-profile “local rules”, with the USGA and R&A announcing in October that tournament organizers could limit driver length from 2022. It’s a move again being driven by professional circuits and the PGA. Tour and LPGA jumped on board. Players won’t be able to go further than 46 inches with their pilot – ostensibly to get ahead of other experiments with distance gains – but there aren’t many pros who currently go beyond 46 inches. Exceptions include Phil Mickelson, who wielded a 47.9-inch driver in winning the PGA Championship in May, and Brooke Henderson of the LPGA, who is choking on all of her clubs. Mickelson’s criticism of the decision has since wilted, including his October tweet: “‘Stupid is that stupid.’ Mrs. Gump But really, are the amateurs doing their best to rule the professional game over the stupid ones, or the professionals for leaving them?
Take one of the world’s most visible and talkative golfers, with endless opinions on virtually everything, and put him at the center of a TV show. It’s a no-brainer, and so it’s no surprise when Phil Mickelson’s agent Steve Loy confirmed to FrontOfficeSports.com in February that they were in talks with the networks about Lefty eventually ending up. take a seat in the broadcast booth. Ironically, it was at PGA 2020 that Mickelson first caught the attention of media watchers when he seemed very comfortable with Jim Nantz. Then Phil won the PGA 2021. That could drive up Mickelson’s asking price even more, although that, combined with a busy travel schedule, may deter any long-term engagement. Still, Phil’s lively, stage-stealing repartee with Charles Barkley in the November game only fueled speculation.
“We’re trying to change the face of golf, and nothing says it louder than a cotton tie-dye hoodie,” Michelle Wie West said with a laugh in April. Still, golf and sports fans seemed to agree when they opened their wallets en masse for the creation of Wie West. When NBA players Kent Bazemore and Damion Lee unexpectedly donned the LPGA logo sweatshirts on April 14, the first batch sold out instantly, five days before their scheduled launch. Then they sold out again. (Wie West, of course, has ties to the NBA, given that her husband is Golden State COO Jonnie West.) The best part of their popularity? The proceeds from their sale go to good causes: the Renee Powell Grant and the Clearview Legacy Foundation. Get used to golf, hoodies are here to stay.
In many ways, this was a pivotal year for women in sports broadcasting. The Indy 500 on NBC had its first female producer, as did the Triple Crown races of Preakness and Belmont. Golf also contributed to these accolades when Beth Hutter became the first woman to oversee production at the US Women’s Open in June. More golf broadcast history was made in October with the sport’s first all-women team being on the call for the LPGA’s ShopRite Classic in New Jersey. NBC Sports and Golf Channel presenter Cara Banks handled the game-by-game duties in the booth with Paige Mackenzie and the peerless Judy Rankin, while Karen Stupples and Kay Cockerill reported on the course. Hutter, who produced LPGA coverage for over 15 years, was essentially the team captain. The work was predictable first-rate and each woman had reason to be proud of herself, but it really felt like a moment of walking forward, arm in arm. “I feel like,” Stupples said, “we have a nice little bond that will never be broken now because we have this.”
A PGA Tour season wouldn’t be complete without a memorable playoff or two, but 2021 produced masterpieces, both in the circumstances and in the stories of those who won.
• Playing at Riviera in the Genesis Invitational, where he said he fell in love watching Tiger Woods, Max Homa missed a three-foot putt for the victory on the 72nd hole. Relegated to the playoffs with victory-starved Tony Finau, it looked like Homa was toast when he hit a tree on the first extra hole of Riv’s famous 10th. But the LA native made an incredible par save and won with a par on the next hole.
• Finau had to wait until August to end a 142-event victory drought, although Monday’s playoffs (due to weather delays) in The Northern Trust at Liberty National were rather anti-climatic when the Aussie Cam Smith almost hooked his drive in the Hudson River on the first extra hole. Finau forced the playoffs with a birdie-eagle-birdie stretch on the last nine of his last 65.
• True to his nickname, “Patty Ice”, Patrick Cantlay was the king of the playoff victory in ’21. He was all the more impressive for the guys he beat: Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau. At the Memorial in June, best remembered for Jon Rahm’s heartache after testing positive for COVID-19, Cantlay tied Morikawa on Sunday with a 25-foot birdie putt at 17, then won the first hole additional by making a 12 foot for bird. Even better, the wild six-hole playoffs with DeChambeau in the BMW Championship, with Cantlay ultimately securing a victory that would propel him to the FedEx Cup title.
We’ve seen them grow up, so when the “kids” on the PGA Tour start having kids of their own, it’s a bit of a shock. Just four days apart in mid-November, Jordan Spieth and his wife, Annie, welcomed their first child, son Sammy, and then Rickie Fowler’s wife, Allison, gave birth to daughter Maya. Players sometimes talk about a ‘baby boost’, the way he regulates and focuses them, and Rory McIlroy is doing very well as a father, with two wins since his daughter Poppy arrived in August. 2020. Then there is Jon Rahm, who had the ultimate first father. Day, winning the US Open after his wife Kelley gave birth to son Kepa in April, just days before the Masters.
For those who understood the personality dynamic, Jordan Spieth accidentally punching Rory Sabbatini in the third round of the Players’ Championship was instantly hilarious. Spieth is the last person you would expect to break golf etiquette, while Sabbatini can be as prickly as they come. So Sabbatini’s reaction – arms raised in a hellish gesture – and Spieth’s conversation with Collin Morikawa, captured in the PGA Tour’s “Every Shot Live”, were the stuff of web click dreams. Spieth: “Is this Sabbatini? Gawdddd, I couldn’t pick a worse person to hit against. And Spieth after Sabbatini looked at him after a bad approach: “Good, because I’m the reason you hit a bad shot.” In his defense, Spieth couldn’t see Sabbatini in the dogleg fairway and shouted “for right!” After his hit, but he kicked a tree. As viewers, that didn’t bother us at all.