Friday, December 31, 2021

Golf’s Highs and Lows 2021

Some thoughts on those 2021 moments that highlight what's great about golf... and what's not. 


Co. Cavan’s Leona Maguire received a wild card pick for the European Solheim Cup team. She was the first Irishwoman to be selected and she played imperious golf to deliver 4.5 points from a possible five. A record scoring rookie debut and she had some superb performances during the year, which bodes extremely well for 2022.

Leona Maguire tees off at Rathfarnham Golf Club, in
December. She is a Kastus Global Brand Ambassador. 

At Augusta, after Matsuyama had sunk his final (winning) putt his caddie, Shota Hayafuji, replaced the flag and then bowed to the course. Respect. 


Phil Mickelson became the oldest Major winner at 50, claiming the PGA Championship in May. Improbable, remarkable and a victory that emphasises the longevity of golfers everywhere. The only disappointment was that it wasn’t the US Open, giving Phil the career slam.


Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell shot a closing eight-under-par 64 to earn an impressive first European Tour victory, winning the Scandinavian Mixed tournament by a single shot. His final approach shot, out of rough, was a thing of beauty, leaving him with a three foot birdie putt.

After the ‘low’ of Tiger Woods almost killing himself in a February car crash, the greatest golfer of all time (IMO) made an astounding comeback in December, alongside his 12 year old son (also, see ‘lows’ below). Fans dare to dream of 2022 and Tiger’s pursuit of Jack’s major tally.


The ISPS World Invitational was played at Galgorm Castle and Massereene. It was the second time the event had been played at these venues but July’s tournament was co-sanctioned by the European Tour, Ladies European Tour and LPGA as a top-tier event with equal prize money ($3 million pot) for both men and women. The event returns in 2022.

Rory in tears after the Ryder Cup singles. Who didn’t feel for the guy!

Back home, the July opening of Tom Doak’s St Patrick’s Links, at Rosapenna, set the world aflutter. It has already broken into’s top 100 courses in the world (My review is here) and it will bring tens of thousands of golfing tourists to the glorious golfing outpost that is Donegal.

The 8th hole at St Patrick's



At the other end of the scale to Matsuyama’s caddie’s sign of respect at the Masters, Wayne Player proved himself to be an entitled plank when he was caught blatantly promoting a brand during the starters’ ceremony at Augusta. On the day when we should have been talking about the honour for Lee Elder (far too late, IMO) of hitting the opening drive, we instead found ourselves discussing an insignificant prat who has now been banned from the Masters.


Patrick Reid continues to push the boundaries of acceptable behaviour with his interpretation of the rules. And the Tour continues to let him get away with it. 


Saudi Arabia continues its attempts to ‘buy’ golf, thereby sportswashing its disgraceful human rights record. The Super Golf League reared its head again and while that particular project still flounders, Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf Investments appointed Greg Norman as CEO and proceeded to agree investment of $200 million in the Asian Tour, over the next ten years. That’s how the country continued to host the Saudi International event, which attracts the world’s best golfers, after both the European Tour (now DP Tour) and PGA declined to sanction the event. The world’s best mutter feeble excuses that human rights are for politicians to deal with, not sports people, while happily taking the millions on offer. We know you don’t care… at least be honest about it. 


The Player Impact Program (PIP) is designed to reward the top 10 golfers who ‘move the dial’ in the world of golf social media. $40 million will be shared between those golfers. WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY. Support lower tours, invest in junior programmes… do anything other than pour more millions into the pockets of multi-millionaires. Phil Mickelson claimed in late December that he had ‘won’ this particular category, thus receiving an $8 million award.


Tiger Woods and the February car crash. Initial reports suggested he might have to lose a leg.


The media obsession over 12-year old Charlie Woods’ appearance with his father in December, at the PNC Championship Pro-Am, was – in a word – unhealthy.   


Brooks vs Bryson. Really? Did this really have to become a thing that the PGA Tour then exploited with a 12-hole matchplay event that no one gave a damn about? Whether the animosity was real or made up it was all rather sad in the end.


Harrington’s decisions at the Ryder Cup. This may be a more controversial view (i.e. it’s mine) but mistakes were made across the entire event. Padraig claims he wouldn’t have changed anything in hindsight and, to be blunt, Europe would have lost whatever Padraig decided, but there were some bizarre decisions that cost Europe points. Rory and Poulter remains, in my mind, one of the oddest combinations I have ever seen, and leaving Fleetwood out of the foursomes was bizarre… especially when you saw how badly Rory was performing.


McIlroy’s brilliance continues to be undone by Rory himself. That said, he was extremely unlucky during the final round at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, when it looked like he would win, when a perfect wedge shot to the 15th deflected off the flag into a bunker. McIlroy imploded thereafter and ripped his shirt in the scorer's hut at the end of the round. Perhaps that sums up his year… several years in fact.