A few years ago, our Golf Digest team came up with a new category to discover during our annual review of the golf season. We called it the things that marked the year. And by “things” we mean exactly that: no lone fighters or tournaments themselves, but the stuff that has had its own moments in the past 12 months. Granted, the name is about as vague as you can imagine, but researching and remembering things can be fun … and hopefully just as fun to read.
So here they are, and if you have a problem with babies or playoffs being “things”, we offer you to write that “thing” next year.
There is good reason to argue that handheld rangefinders, especially in the recreational field, are the best development in golf since the beverage cart. And several tour pros would likely agree. The younger ones have been using them since they were young golfers, and they are just as ubiquitous on practice rounds as coaches strolling on the fairways. The PGA of America took this into account when deciding to allow its competitors to use these three largest championships in 2021, and plans to continue to do so in the future. Webb Simpson was tough against rangefinders ahead of this year’s PGA at Kiawah, but turned around after just two rounds. In fact, the overall response was pretty supportive of the change, although the judges are still unsure if they achieved a primary goal: speeding up the game. Unless the caddy lobby gets much louder quickly, the PGA Tour and LPGA don’t seem far behind in terms of buy-in either.
The picture has become known to golf viewers in a frustrating way: A player and his caddy stand facing a putt and instinctively reach for their green reading notebook. Why not? The book is a gold mine of information about the degree of tilt and break on each reel. But is it so detailed that the ability is removed from the game? In other words, is it too good? And ruin the flow of a lap? The PGA and European Tours agree, and in late 2021 the USGA and R&A created the Model Local Rule G-11 so that these top tours can rule in their usage. Starting in 2022, Tour players will receive an approved, simplified version of a route book that contains only a few green details every week. Rory McIlroy is one of those who are delighted, remarking in June, “I think reading green is a real skill that some people are better at than others, and that [the book] It just kills that. “How players and caddies use the notes they’ve gathered over the years seems a little more opaque, and there might be confusion on the pitch about who is using what information? Maybe. John Woods, a longtime tour caddy, turned on -course commentator, wrote for GolfChannel.com: “Greens books are an evolution of the game, like forgiving drivers and balls that last forever …; such as launch monitors, such as range / inclinometers. Why is the line drawn here? Why go? back here? ”If the books were a crutch, expect more frustrated hand waving and eye rolling when a player misses that“ perfect ”putt.
It has been a busy year creating high profile “local rules” with the USGA and R&A announcing in October that tournament organizers will be able to limit rider lengths from 2022 onwards. It is a movement that is being renewed by the professional circles and the PGA. is powered tour and LPGA jumped on board. Gamers won’t be able to drive their driver past 46 “, ostensibly to be ahead of further experimentation with distance gains – but there aren’t many pros who go beyond 46” right now. The exceptions are Phil Mickelson, who ran a 47.9-inch driver when she won the PGA Championship in May, and Brooke Henderson of the LPGA, who gagged on all of her clubs. Mickelson’s criticism of the decision has since dwindled, including his October tweet: “‘Stupid is how stupid it does.’ Ms. Gump, but are the amateurs really trying their best to rule the professional game, are they the stupid ones? Or the professionals who hire them out? “
Take one of the most visible and talkative golfers in the world, one with endless opinions on just about anything, and put him at the center of a television show. It’s a no-brainer, and so it was no surprise when Phil Mickelson’s agent Steve Loy confirmed for FrontOfficeSports.com in February that they were in early talks with networks about Lefty eventually being in the booth. Ironically, Mickelson first caught media watchers’ attention at the 2020 PGA when he was very comfortable kibitting with Jim Nantz. Then Phil won the PGA 2021. This can push Mickelson’s asking price even higher, although when combined with an extensive itinerary, it could put off long-term engagement. Still, Phil’s lively, scene-consuming exchange of blows with Charles Barkley during The Match in November only fueled speculation.
“We’re trying to change the face of golf, and nothing says that louder than a tie-dye cotton hoodie,” said Michelle Wie West with a laugh in April. However, golf and sports fans seemed to agree as they opened their wallets en masse to 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 immediately – five days before it was scheduled to start. Then they were sold out again. (Like West, of course, has some NBA connections since her husband is Jonnie West, Golden State’s Director of Operations.) Best of all, best about her popularity? The proceeds from the sale will go to good causes: the Renee Powell Grant and the Clearview Legacy Foundation. Get used to golf, hoodies are here to stay.
It was a turning point for women on sports radio in many ways. The Indy 500 on NBC had its first female producer, as did the Preakness and Belmont Triple Crown races. Golf also contributed to these awards when Beth Hutter became the first woman to lead production for the US Women’s Open in June. More golf history was made in October when the sport’s first all-women team competed for the LPGA’s ShopRite Classic in New Jersey. NBC Sports and Golf Channel host Cara Banks took on the play-by-play in the dressing room with Paige Mackenzie and the incomparable Judy Rankin, while Karen Stupples and Kay Cockerill took care of the on-pitch coverage. Hutter, who has been producing LPGA coverage for more than 15 years, was essentially the team captain. The work was predictably top notch, and every woman had every reason to be proud, but it really seemed like a moment of marching forward arm in arm. “I have a feeling,” said Stupples, “that we have a nice little bond that will never be broken now because we have this.”
A PGA Tour season wouldn’t feel complete without a memorable playoff or two, but 2021 has produced some masterpieces, both in the circumstances and in the winners’ stories.
• Max Homa played for Riviera in the Genesis Invitational where he said he fell in love while watching Tiger Woods and missed a three-foot putt on the 72nd hole for the win. Relegated to a playoff against victorious Tony Finau, it looked like Homa hit a tree on the first additional hole on Riv’s famous 10th. But the LA native made an incredible par save and won with par on the next hole.
• Finau had to wait until August to end a 142-win drought, despite Monday playoffs at the Northern Trust in Liberty National (due to weather delays) when the Aussie Cam Smith nearly drove into the Hudson River on first additional hole. Finau forced the playoff with a birdie-eagle-birdie stretch on the second nine of his last 65.
• Patrick Cantlay lived up to his nickname “Patty Ice” and was the playoff winners’ king in ’21. He was all the more impressive to the guys he defeated: Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau. At the June Memorial, which Jon Rahms Herzschmerz WD remembered most after testing positive for COVID-19, Cantlay tied Morikawa on Sunday with a 25-foot birdie putt at 17 and then won the first extra hole, by making a 12-foot for bird. Even better was the wild six-hole playoff with DeChambeau in the BMW Championship, in which Cantlay finally won a victory that would spur him on to the FedEx Cup title.
We saw them grow up. So when the “kids” on the PGA Tour start having their own children, 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 speak of a “baby boost” as he drops and focuses them, and Rory McIlroy has done well as a father, with two wins since daughter Poppy was born in August 2020. Then there’s Jon Rahm who does the Ultimate First Dad Day won the US Open after Ms. Kelley gave birth to son Kepa in April, just days before the Masters.
For those who understood the personality dynamics, it was immediately hilarious that Jordan Spieth accidentally met Rory Sabbatini during the third round of the Players Championship. Spieth is the last person you would expect to break golf etiquette, while Sabbatini can be as irritable as can get. Sabbatini’s reaction – arms raised in a damned gesture – and Spieth’s subsequent conversation with Collin Morikawa, which was recorded on “Every Shot Live” on the PGA Tour, were the stuff of web-click dreams. Spieth: “Is that the Sabbatini? Gawdddd, I couldn’t pick a worse person to hit myself with. ”And Spieth, after Sabbatini stared at him after a bad approach,“ Right, because I’m the reason you hit a bad shot. ” In his defense, Spieth could not see Sabbatini in the dogleg fairway and shouted “Front right!”. after its swing, but it kicked a tree. As a spectator, this jump didn’t bother us a bit.