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I’ve been covering golf for over 25 years. You’d think I’d have learned anything is possible in this game.
I forgot that this year. Here are my major surprises of 2017.
I bumped into R&A rules head David Rickman in the hotel I was staying in during the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January. Rickman was making his first trip to Abu Dhabi for what he vaguely called “some meetings.” They were important meetings.
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn revealed Rickman was there to brief European Tour pros on proposed rules changes that would add up to the biggest shake up in the laws since the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers laid down the initial 13 in 1744.
The R&A and USGA aren’t just revising the rule book, but tearing it up and starting again. I never thought I’d see such radicalism from the ruling bodies.
I was among those who’d written off Sergio Garcia’s chances of winning a major. His dodgy putting stroke couldn’t hold up under major pressure, especially on the slick surfaces of Augusta National.
Surprise, surprise: he now owns a gaudy green jacket.
Harry’s Houdini act
The British Amateur Championship every June is one of my favourite events of the year. This year’s tournament was especially memorable.
England’s Harry Ellis stood on the 14th tee four down with five to play against Australian Dylan Perry. I was penning opening leads in my head. Waste of time. Ellis won the championship at the 38th hole. Note to self: anything can happen in match play golf and probably will.
LET let down
I travelled to Kingsbarns for the Ricoh Women’s British Open in early August. What should’ve been a celebration of the best of women’s golf was marred by the shambles that is the Ladies European Tour. The CEO was ousted shortly after the tournament after presiding over a season that saw seven events fall off the schedule. Promising young talent is quitting the game because of a lack of playing opportunities. Let’s hope 2018 surprises us all and the LET starts to rebuild.
The practice ground champion
You can bet practice grounds at every Open Championship henceforth will be out of bounds after Jordan Spieth’s victory at Royal Birkdale. Well done Spieth for having the nous to ask if he could take a drop on the practice ground. Most assumed it wouldn’t be in play. Asking that simple question won him The Open.
Walker Cup walkover
I thought the Walker Cup at Los Angeles Country Club would be close. It wasn’t. Home field advantage proved crucial once again. The home team has won 11 of the last 13 matches. Kudos to the U.S. team, but here’s the truth: British and Irish players can’t adapt to slick American putting surfaces and U.S. players can’t handle links golf in adverse weather conditions.
My year ended with the crowning of Tommy Fleetwood as European number one. I’ve covered Fleetwood since his amateur days. He was an obvious talented destined for a good professional career, but I didn’t see him as European number one. It proves nice guys can win, and hacks like me can still be surprised.
Happy Hogmanay one and all. Hope 2018 brings more time on the golf course.
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