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Top 10 golf newsmakers of 2018

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2018 has been a whirlwind of a year for golf. From famous victories to major controversy, there have been no shortage of gripping moments dished out throughout the past 12 months. With the final days of 2018 upon us, here is a look at 10 of the biggest newsmakers of the year.

10. Bubba Watson

Beginning the year ranked 89th in the world, it looked as if Bubba Watson’s best days were behind him. The quirky left-hander didn’t manage a top-five finish in 2017, which makes his 2018 even more impressive.

Watson won three times on the PGA Tour in 2018. His victories at Riviera and TPC River Highlands were impressive, but it is perhaps his dominant display at the WGC-Dell Technologies Matchplay in an elite field that proved to himself and the rest of the golfing world that the 40-year-old is still a significant force in the game.

9. The Year The Drought Ended

It was a year which saw a multitude of players come out of the wilderness and re-enter the winner’s circle. Ian Poulter won for the first time in six years with a dramatic win at the Houston Open, Kevin Na buried his demons with a first win in seven years at the Greenbrier, and Webb Simpson, Charles Howell III and Matt Kuchar also claimed impressive victories after suffering long winless streaks.

There was also emotional wins on the European Tour for two men that badly needed a jumpstart to their career. Lee Westwood and Danny Willett both secured big wins in the latter half of the year which will no doubt leave both eager to get going again in 2019.

8. Francesco Molinari

At the beginning of the year, nobody would have thought Francesco Molinari would achieve what he did in 2018. Before this year, the Italian had never won on the PGA Tour and had won just once in the last five years in Europe. But Molinari showed a transformation that shocked the majority of golf fans.

Molinari began by winning the European Tour flagship event at Wentworth, before claiming his first ever title on the PGA Tour at the Quicken Loans National. But it was his performance at Carnoustie a few weeks later that cemented his legacy in the game of golf. The 36-year-old showed poise and ruthlessness when staring down Woods and others on the final day of the Open Championship to take the Claret Jug. The Italian then dominated at the Ryder Cup, going five for five and showing the world that Molinari 2.0 is a very different animal.

7. Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson’s 2018 was, to put it mildly, eventful. The 48-year-old began 2018 by rolling back the years and claiming victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship, but it wasn’t all plain sailing, with the American making the headlines for plenty of wrong reasons over the rest of the year.

Mickelson faced severe criticism for exploiting the rules at the U.S. Open by intentionally hitting a moving ball, as well as claiming that it’s a waste of his time playing courses like Le Golf National. The five-time major champ ended his year in style though, taking down Woods in the first PPV head to head event in the sport’s history, and pocketing a cool $9 million in the process.

6. 2018 Ryder Cup

Golf’s biennial event continues to excite, and 2018 was a thrill a minute ride. From the European perspective, the birth of MoliWood grabbed all the headlines, with Molinari being the first European player ever to win five points, while Fleetwood grabbed four for himself.

As joyous and smooth the event was for the European’s, the week in Paris proved disastrous for the American’s. In-house fighting, a golf course they couldn’t manage, and their star players failing to get going, all contributed to them leaving Le Golf National with their tails firmly between their legs.

5. Bryson DeChambeau

What a year it was for Bryson DeChambeau. Written off by some for being too scientific in his process to succeed at the highest level, DeChambeau proved all the doubters wrong, winning four titles on the PGA Tour within five months. To put that success into perspective, in a period of five months on the PGA Tour, DeChambeau won as many titles as Rickie Fowler has in his career.

There is also his use of a geometric compass on the course, bizarre dramatic malfunctions on the driving range, and his statement that he intends to leave the flagstick in when putting on the green next year (coefficient of restitution, baby) — all incidents which have kept DeChambeau in the spotlight in 2018.

4. Patrick Reed

Like Mickelson, Patrick Reed spent the majority of the year in the news for the wrong reasons. But the only thing the divisive American will care to remember from this year is his career-defining moment at Augusta National. Reed held his nerve down the stretch on Sunday at Augusta to prove that though he may like to talk the talk, he can also walk the walk.

Later in the year, Reed’s conflict with Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk and teammate Jordan Spieth at Le Golf National caused shockwaves across the golfing world. Reed’s lack of remorse for his criticism of the two men that week rubbed many the wrong way, but for Reed, it’s doubtful he will lose a wink of sleep over it. As for Jordan, employing a food taster for next year’s Champions Dinner may not be the worst idea in the world.

3. Brooks Koepka

Brooks Koepka made it three major championship wins in his last six attempts, as the big-hitting American took the spoils at both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in 2018. As if his year couldn’t get any better, Koepka also claimed the CJ Cup and is officially the year-end World Number One.

Despite his unparalleled success in 2018, Koepka has also made the headlines for claiming that he doesn’t get the respect he deserves from the golfing world. The 28-year-olds emotionless performances make it difficult for golf fans to fall in love with the current best player in the game, but three major championships from his last six appearances speaks for itself, and the chip on Koepka’s shoulder continues to drive him towards golfs biggest prizes.

2. The USGA’s Shenanigans at Shinnecock

The consensus after the third round of this year’s U.S. Open was that the USGA lost the run of themselves. Conditions which were tough but fair on the opening two days were transformed into a brutal, almost unplayable set-up by the USGA on Saturday, which saw carnage take place for the entire day. Zach Johnson and Ian Poulter were two players that were very outspoken about the conditions, with the former stating that the USGA had “lost the course”.

One man that didn’t speak out about the conditions on Saturday was the 36-hole leader who perhaps was the one player who would have been justified in venting his grievance. Dustin Johnson was four-under par after 36 holes at Shinnecock Hills, holding a four-shot lead over the chasing pack and looking in total control of both his game and the event. Had the USGA not tricked up the course to the extreme on Saturday it’s highly likely that the 34-year-old would have picked up his second U.S. Open title. Instead, Johnson got caught up in the bloodbath and saw another opportunity to become a multiple major champion slip away.

1. Tiger Woods

There was only one man who was ever going to take the top spot. Barely able to walk just over 12 months ago, the best and brightest minds of golf’s talking heads all with hardly any exception declared Woods as finished, with some urging the 42-year-old to call it a day. Woods didn’t listen, and instead, produced a comeback year for the ages.

Woods knocked on the door of win number 80 on the PGA Tour early, when finishing runner-up at the Valspar. He then held the lead at the Open Championship for a period on Sunday, before being pipped, and at the PGA Championship, the 14-time major champ produced his best Sunday round at a major, firing a sensational 64 to finish runner-up.

But it was at the Tour Championship that Woods finally got back into the winner’s circle, after a five-year exile. Woods put on a clinic in Atlanta, and his walk through the hoards of adoring fans on 18 on Sunday will be remembered by anyone who was watching for a very long time.

From spinal fusion surgery, to win number 80 on the PGA Tour, and a rise from 656th in the Official World Golf Rankings at the end of 2017 to his current ranking of 13th. Tiger Woods’ 2018 was as close to a sporting miracle as you are going to find.

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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Christopher James

    Dec 26, 2018 at 11:54 am

    Can’t argue with your top ten at all… especially Tiger. Simply by winning the Tour Championship, he became the story of the year. Will be interesting to see if he can win in 2019!

  2. EdJ

    Dec 26, 2018 at 10:36 am

    The US Open at Shinnecock Was the MOST entertaining tourney of 2018. Every player struggled with the ruff and the greens. Four rounds of shits n giggles!

  3. ed chapman

    Dec 26, 2018 at 5:43 am

    Surgeries required because of going beyond the limits the human body can endure with a golf swing far too violent are one thing (Middlecoff was one of many who warned Tiger he’d better cut back to ease the stress) but you obviously have no clue what Ben Hogan went through after surviving a head-on with a Greyhound bud 70 years ago. Expanding your knowledge would enable you to appreciate someone who had the classic example of a near-death experience. Well, you look like a young dude so I guess it would be a stretch for you to understand that there were golfers better than Tiger, because in the old days, 60% fairways hit spelled a-l-s-o r-a-n.

  4. smz

    Dec 24, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    Tiger received a minimally invasive Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF), a procedure that removes a large portion of a degenerated disk that is causing back pain and replaces it with a bone graft.
    I predict his back will re-injure and progress from the L5-S1 fusion to the S1 and S2 vertebrae. He’s a walking time bomb. Good luck Tiger and don’t straighten that left knee so fast otherwise you will be in a wheelchair.

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