The 2017 Fairways Awards & Other Assorted Highlights
The golf year is over and whether you follow the calendar or the wrap-around season, it’s time to recognize some of the achievements and unforgettable moments from 2017.
Best Canadian Golf Story
This category really boils down to the performance of two players in 2017. Adam Hadwin secured his first PGA Tour win at the Valspar Championship, qualified for the Presidents Cup International squad and became the only Canadian to ever shoot 59 on the PGA Tour. Our other story is, of course, the continued brilliant play of Brooke Henderson, who notched two more LPGA victories and finished 6th on the Tour’s Official Money List. Outstanding achievements by both. We’re going to declare it a tie!
Best Major Clash
Congratulations to Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas who both captured their first major this year but in the end, they were both pretty ho hum affairs. From a ratings point of view, they could have added a bit more drama to the finish. On the other hand, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose battled the entire last round of the Masters and ultimately went to a playoff where Sergio prevailed. It was a real nail-biter but it pales in comparison to the fantastic finish at the Open Championship. Jordan Spieth started off with what looked like a solid lead but squandered it to fall behind Matt Kuchar after taking forever to make bogey on the 13th hole. Apparently that was all the Texan needed to jump start the rest of his round as he went birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie over the next four holes to dust Kuchar by two shots and secure his first Claret Jug.
2017 Second Banana Award
This award goes to the player on the PGA Tour that had the most second place finishes without a win. Our 2017 winner is Justin Rose, who notched three runner-up finishes at the Sony Open, the Masters and the BMW Championship respectively. Don’t feel too bad for Justin though. He won twice on the European Tour this fall at the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Turkish Airlines Open and between the two Tours, the Englishman banked over US$6 million.
Sad Sack of the Year Award
There’s nothing that comes remotely close to the picture of Tiger Woods after his arrest in Florida and subsequent DUI charge. Which makes the next award all the more compelling.
Comeback of the Year Award
After his fourth back surgery, DUI arrest and countless articles and analyses that had him retired from golf, Tiger Woods appeared at the Hero World Challenge in fighting form and apparently healthy enough to play four rounds. Not only did Tiger go the distance, at one point on Friday he held the lead, and his drives and iron shots were Tour quality. While Tiger didn’t win, his T9 finish in the limited field event was a good omen for continued strong play in 2018. More than anything, having Tiger back is good for golf. He still moves the needle like no-one else.
Colin Montgomerie Award (aka Best Player without a Major Award)
This category should probably be called the Jay Haas Award, since Bill’s dad had 87 major starts without a win. But we like calling it The Monty, given that the temperamental Scotsman was far and away one of the best players in the world during his entire career. Now that Sergio Garcia is out of the running after winning a major in his 75th start, Lee Westwood is our 2017 Monty Award winner. Westwood has actually surpassed Montgomerie in terms of the number of major starts without a victory, 79-75 but the Englishman is still confidant he may yet bail himself out of contention for any more of these dubious awards. Steve Stricker (71 starts) and Thomas Bjorn (58) at one time contended. Among active players Matt Kuchar (48) and Rickie Fowler (32) are the highest ranked players without a major.
Consistency has its virtues and on the PGA Tour, that means cashing lots of big cheques. The ATM Award is given annually to the player who makes the most money on Tour without a victory. In 2017, that player is Matt Kuchar, who managed to deposit $4,282,489 in 26 starts. That placed him 14th on the PGA Tour Money list. It’s also Matt’s second win in this category (2011). Other notable winners include the only 3-time winner, Jim Furyk (2014, 2012, 2009), Kevin Chappell (2016), Henrik Stenson (2015), Steve Stricker (2013) and Luke Donald (2010).
Shot of the Year
Anybody who follows professional golf knows that there are great shots, incredible shots and “I can’t believe what I just saw” shots every week on the Tours. 2017 was no exception. Our contenders for Shot of the Year are:
- Justin Thomas’ 299 yard 3-wood to the 18th green at the U.S. Open.
- Jordan Spieth’s 3-iron from Royal Birkdale’s driving range at the Open Championship.
- Jon Rahm’s 60 foot eagle putt to win the Farmers Insurance Open.
- Sergio Garcia’s second shot on the 15th at Augusta in the final round to set up an eagle.
- Jordan Spieth’s hole-out bunker shot to win a playoff at the Travelers Championship.
And the winner is: Jon Rahm’s 60 foot eagle putt.
Jon Rahm sinks 60 foot eagle putt to win Farmers Insurance Open
Feel Good Story of the Year
Most players go their entire career without ever winning a major and it sure looked like Sergio Garcia was in strong contention to win another Monty Award. But it’s not like he never had chances. As a teenager, Sergio had Tiger Woods in his sights at the 1999 PGA Championship. That was the one where he hit a shot from behind a tree, then ran into the fairway and did a scissor kick jump to watch his ball. Then there was that heartbreaking loss to Padraig Harrington at the 2007 Open Championship where the two opponents silently crossed a bridge in opposite directions.
For the better part of fifteen years, Sergio has been a heavy betting favourite at every major. And a fan favourite. But the results were always the same. Nada. Zip. Nothing to see here. In total, Sergio has had four runner-up finishes in Majors and 12 Top 5’s. He stated a few years ago that even he didn’t think he was good enough to win a major.
All of which is why he came to Augusta this year as the sentimental favourite but not someone that was really expected to win. At least until World #1 Dustin Johnson fell down the stairs, perennial Masters contender Jordan Spieth lost his Superman cape and first round leader Charley Hoffman couldn’t handle the rarefied air on top of the leaderboard.
The last nine holes of the tournament boiled down to a two man race between Sergio and good friend Justin Rose. Both are tough competitors but they’re also great ambassadors for the game and they showed it over those finishing holes as first one, then another made a birdie or eagle and was roundly congratulated by the other. Any loss is a tough loss, especially a playoff in a Major, yet Rose showed grace and charm as he congratulated Garcia. The Spaniard finally had the monkey off his back and it seemed like the right ending.