The Best of 2011

by Jeff Skinner

Shot of the Year: Steve Stricker’s shot from the bunker at The John Deere was awesome.  Bill Haas from the water at Disney was too but neither take top honors here.  We all remember Charl Schwartzel’s four closing birdies at The Masters but we overlook the shot that started his charge at Augusta.  It was his amazing eagle on the third hole that got him to two under par, put him in the mix and started his run to victory.  Remember, his margin of victory was two strokes.

Player of the Year: Luke Donald becomes the world number one golfer, wins twice on the PGA Tour, leads the tour in six categories, including the clutch “Final round Scoring Average” has 14 top tens and wins when he needs to.  Player of the Year, no doubt about it.

D-Bag of the Year: John Daly easily wins the D-Bag of the Year.  His boorish behavior is exceeded only by his lousy play.  How he keeps getting sponsor’s exemption amazes me.  Why fans like to follow him confuses me more.

Rookie of the Year: In a slam dunk it’s Keegan Bradley.  The kid wins The PGA Championship and the Bryon Nelson, come on, and I won’t even mention wins at The PGA Grand Slam and The Shootout.  Don’t try and tell me Master’s winner Schwartzel is a rookie.  He has nine wins throughout the world, played in 11 events on the PGA Tour last season and had 37 starts on the PGA Tour going into this season.  Forget it: it’s Bradley.

Round of the Year: Amateur Patrick Cantlay shoots a record 60 at The Travelers Championship.  Fresh off his low amateur finish at The U.S. Open the kid goes ten under at his next event.  That’s one heck of a summer vacation.

Putt of the Year: Keegan Bradley had just made triple bogey on the fifteenth at the PGA Championship but got back on track with a bird on sixteen. With his competition crumbling he knew he needed something special to happen.  He was faced with a monster of a downhill, slider at the par three seventeenth.  When his long putt dropped in for birdie all the momentum was his and he went on to win in a playoff.  It was also the putt that ignited the “long putter” controversy.

Iron Man of the Year: Tommy Gainey was one of two players (Blake Adams) that teed it up 34 times on the PGA Tour.  The Big Break Alum and the pride of South Carolina made the most of his starts.  He made 17 cuts with seven top tens.  More importantly he earned over two million and finished 35th on the money list.  All that means we get to see the “goodest” of the good old boys back out there again next season.

Major of the Year: Many casual fans would be hard pressed to name this year’s major champions.  Schwartzel, Bradley and Clarke don’t get the press that Rory does but each gave us remarkable majors.  Rory’s dusting of the field at Congressional was great.  Bradley’s come from behind PGA was a miracle.  Clark’s emotional, career capping Open Championship was heartwarming.  But as I think back I have to give it to The Masters.  Preciously I thought The PGA was the best finish but the last hour at The Masters was about as exciting as a tournament could get.  There were a dozen golfers that were near the lead as it came down to the finish and Schwartzel’s closing four birdies to take the green jacket was, shall I say masterful.

Party of the Year: See Darren Clarke’s Open Championship.  He showed up at the press conference the next day without any sleep and fairly well lubricated.  It went on for a week as Clarke spent his days partying his way back to Northern Ireland.

Comeback of the Year: After Tiger won his Chevron World Challenge he joked about claiming Comeback Player of the Year.  The Chevron means more than it should because it gets Official World Ranking points and it shouldn’t but Tiger is right.  He was about as low as he has ever been in his career and now his game looks to be coming back.

Story of the Year: It could be the long putter debate.  It could be Tiger, as it usually is.  It could have been many things but for me it’s one man:  Erik Compton.  Compton is living with his third heart and playing golf with all of it.  He finished 13th on The Nationwide Tour’s money list and earned his dream of playing full time on The PGA Tour. No man has been through more in his personal life and while Compton will fulfill his professional dream next season he lives his personal dream every single day of his life.



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