Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas headline winter break trip in Cabo

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You’re going to win majors and you’re going to lose majors, but you’ve got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You’ve got to put yourself out there. You’ve got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There’s a lot of pressure out there and if you’re not willing to enjoy it, then you’re not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to … the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

The best shots of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season, by club

Some of the defining shots on the PGA Tour this year were hit from the tee and fairway, from the bunkers and behind trees, and even from the driving range.

Two of them effectively clinched a first major. One of them introduced another young star.

One way to look back on 2017 is through every club in the bag. The shots weren’t necessarily the best, but they helped shape the year.

• • •

DRIVER: Moments after Dustin Johnson made a birdie putt to force a sudden-death playoff at the Northern Trust, he effectively ended it with one swing . CBS analyst Nick Faldo pointed to a bunker beyond the right side of the lake on the 18th hole at Glen Oaks as a target for Johnson’s powerful fade. Instead, he took it over the entire lake, a 341-yard blast. That left him a lob wedge to 4 feet for birdie to beat Jordan Spieth.

3-WOOD: “Oh gosh, Jimmy, be good.” Justin Thomas was speaking to caddie Jimmy Johnson after launching a 3-wood from 310 yards to the elevated green on the par-5 18th at Erin Hills. It was perfect, landing softly and rolling out 8 feet to set up an eagle that tied one U.S. Open record (63) and broke another (9-under par).

HYBRID: Robert Streb was in the rough left of the fairway on the par-5 12th hole at the TPC Old White in the Greenbrier Classic. It looked as though he might lay up, but Streb chose hybrid and slashed it out. The ball tumbled onto the green and came within inches of an albatross.

3-IRON: Jordan Spieth hit the most memorable 3-iron of the year, not for the way he struck the ball, but from where he struck it in the British Open. On the wrong side of a dune, facing an impossible lie, Spieth wisely asked if the practice range at Royal Birkdale was out-of-bounds. Told it was in play, he took a penalty drop on the range, got free relief from the equipment trucks and hit a blind shot with his 3-iron just short of the green. He got up-and-down for bogey. He played his next four holes in 5 under to win the claret jug.

Jordan Spieth-Caddie-Celebrate

Jordan Spieth and his caddie Michael Greller react after Spieth’s birdie during the first playoff hole of the Travelers Championship (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

4-IRON: Patrick Cantlay already made a remarkable recovery from a back injury that plagued him for three years by making it to the Tour Championship in just 11 starts. And then he finished his year in a playoff in Las Vegas. In the rough blocked by trees, Cantlay saw enough of an opening to hit 4-iron that somehow made it through, ran through the green and set up an efficient up-and-down to win the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open for his first PGA Tour victory.

5-IRON: Dustin Johnson was on the verge of losing the last of a six-shot lead in the HSBC Champions when Justin Rose, in the group ahead of him, faced the tough par-3 17th at Sheshan International with a back pin. Rose hit 5-iron just left of the flag and watched it roll to 4 feet of the flag for a birdie that led to a two-shot victory, his first of the year.

6-IRON: The two memorable shots from Jordan Spieth’s victory in the British Open were the shot from the driving range and the 50-foot eagle putt. The most important shot was the 6-iron he nearly holed on the par-3 14th. Tied for the lead after his adventurous bogey on the previous hole at Royal Birkdale, Spieth’s tee shot plopped down in front of the hole and stopped 4 feet away. The birdie restored his lead, and he was on his way.

7-IRON: Justin Thomas took control in the final round of the PGA Championship with a par putt on the 16th. He sealed it with a 7-iron as good as any shot he ever hit. The pin was in the front on the par-3 17th at Quail Hollow, and Thomas had 221 yards over the water to the hole. It was so good that he let the club twirl through his hands as he watched it land on the front of the green to 15 feet. He made birdie for a three-shot lead and a most enjoyable walk to the final hole.

8-IRON: Sergio Garcia’s comeback at the Masters began with a par. He caught up to Justin Rose in the final round with two of the best swings he ever made under the pressure of a major. The first was a drive so powerful that it left him only 171 yards into the par-5 15th. His 8-iron landed inches in front of the hole and nicked the pin before it rolled 14 feet away. He made the eagle, and eventually got the green jacket.

9-IRON: Brooks Koepka put the finishing touches on a brilliant closing stretch to win the U.S. Open on the par-3 16th at Erin Hills. His 9-iron was just right, landing beyond the hole and catching the slope to leave him 10 feet away for a third straight birdie to keep his three-shot lead.

Jon Rahm after sinking a winning eagle putt at the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open (USA TODAY Sports images).

PITCHING WEDGE: Xander Schauffele’s name first surfaced at the U.S. Open when he tied for fifth. Three weeks later, he was part of a logjam down the stretch at the Greenbrier Classic when he reached the par-3 18th hole. He hit pitching wedge to 3 feet for birdie and a one-shot victory.

54-DEGREE WEDGE: Dustin Johnson faced charges by Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood in the Mexico Championship and found himself in trouble on the 18th hole at Chapultepec Golf Club. He was in a fairway bunker, his feet on the edge of the grass. He went with a 54-degree wedge that he hit to 20 feet to set up a two-putt par and a one-shot victory in his debut at No. 1 in the world.

LOB WEDGE: In a playoff against Daniel Berger at the Travelers Championship, Jordan Spieth came up short and in a bunker on the 18th hole at TPC River Highlands. He blasted out and watched it roll in for birdie, setting off a wild celebration. Spieth threw the wedge. Caddie Michael Greller threw the rake. Spieth raced out of the bunker and leapt into his caddie for a body bump usually seen only in football.

PUTTER: Jon Rahm showed a sense of the moment in his first full year as a pro. He was just off the back of the 18th green at Torrey Pines when he sent his 60-foot putt down the slope and watched it turned hard to the left and into the cup for eagle. He wound up winning the Farmers Insurance Open by three shots. He ended the year at No. 4 in the world.

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Rory McIlroy plans busy schedule leading to Masters


AP

Rory McIlroy took off the final three months of the year to heal his body and clear his mind, and he appears eager to get back to work.

With a series of announcements over the last week, McIlroy revealed what likely will be his most ambitious schedule ahead of Augusta National in the 10 years he has been eligible for the Masters.

The most McIlroy has ever played before the Masters was seven tournaments — in 2009, the first year he was eligible for all four majors, and in 2016. Next year he is planning to play eight.

McIlroy, coming off his first winless year since 2008, will start the new season with two tournaments in the Middle East (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) before he embarks on a busy PGA Tour schedule. He is playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am for the first time, followed by the Genesis Open at Riviera and a third straight week at the Honda Classic, not far from where he lives.

Most peculiar about McIlroy’s schedule is that he is skipping the World Golf Championship in Mexico City and instead will play the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook for the first time, and then play the following week at Bay Hill. That’s two tournaments he has never played, and three courses (two at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am) that he will have to learn.

His manager said McIlroy also would play the Dell Match Play in Austin, Texas, where two years ago he reached the semifinals.

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That means McIlroy will play three consecutive weeks (Pebble, Riviera, Honda), take a week off, then another three weeks in a row (Valspar, Bay Hill, Match Play) and then have a week off before the Masters.

Meanwhile, The Guardian is reporting that McIlroy’s best mate, Harry Diamond, will remain as his caddie. McIlroy split with J.P. Fitzgerald after the British Open, and Diamond worked for him the rest of the year.

Last chance

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world to play in the Indonesian Masters. He hopes it can lead to an invitation to that other Masters.

Snedeker is No. 51 in the world, and this is the last tournament available for him to play. The top 50 at the end of the year earn a spot in the field at Augusta National. Snedeker, who missed five months with a sternum injury, will have plenty of competition beyond Justin Rose.

Four other players have hopes to get into the top 50 — Satoshi Kodaira (No. 50), Dylan Frittelli (No. 55), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (No. 56) and Yusaku Miyazato (No. 58).

The Indonesian Masters may not be the last chance for everyone.

Kiradech last week won the Thongchai Jaidee Invitational on the Asian Development Tour, which offers minimal ranking points. That victory, however, makes him eligible for the final ADT event in Thailand called the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship. Depending on how he fares in Jakarta, if Kiradech wins in Thailand, he might get enough points to crack the top 50.

For those who don’t make it, Augusta National also takes the top 50 in the world from the March 25 ranking two weeks before the Masters.

Garcia awards

A green jacket, a bride, a baby on the way and now the awards are starting to cap off a memorable year for Sergio Garcia.

The Masters champion was selected as the European Tour golfer of the year, the first time he was won the award. Garcia won three times this year, including the Dubai Desert Classic and the Andalucia Masters, to go along with his first major championship at Augusta National.

The award was decided by a panel consisting of golf media.

“This is an amazing honor,” Garcia said. “I think both on and off the golf course, it has been a unique and unbelievable year, and one that I will definitely remember my whole life.”

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The British-based Association of Golf Writers also honored Garcia with its Golf Writers Trophy. It’s the second time Garcia won the AGW award. He also won in 1999 when the 19-year-old was runner-up to Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship, won two European Tour events and went 3-1-1 in the Ryder Cup.

“To be voted the award for a second time, it is extremely exciting and hopefully I will be able to win it again,” Garcia said. “We know that both the golfers and the media go hand-in-hand in this business, and we always appreciate when they recognize you for something as big as this.”

Drug suspension

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year under the PGA Tour’s anti-doping policy for failing to provide a sample.

He becomes the fourth PGA Tour member to be suspended since the policy took effect in 2008.

Under the policy, the tour does not release where Hensby was playing when his name was selected for drug testing. Hensby, who has not had full PGA Tour status since 2008, is a past champion. He missed the cut in nine of the 14 events on the Web.com Tour this year. He played twice on the PGA Tour, missing the cut at the Barbasol Championship and getting disqualified at the Sanderson Farms Championship in late October, the last event he played.

The 46-year-old Australian won the John Deere Classic in 2004 and played in the Presidents Cup the following year.

Go low

For the second time this decade, the PGA Tour had two players break 60 in the same year. Paul Goydos (John Deere Classic) and Stuart Appleby (Greenbrier Classic) did it in 2010, while Justin Thomas (Sony Open) and Adam Hadwin (CareerBuilder Challenge) did it this year.

Perhaps a better example of how scoring is getting lower is not an individual round but rather all four of them.

There were 120 players who posted all four rounds in the 60s in 2017 without winning, and 23 players did it more than once.

Eight players had all four rounds in the 60s without winning at three tournaments — Webb Simpson, Sean O’Hair, Ollie Schniederjans, Richy Werenski, Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Brian Gay and Charley Hoffman.

Divots

Justin Rose will be host of the British Masters next year, and he has selected Walton Heath as the venue for the Oct. 11-14 event. … Shubhankar Sharma, Erik van Rooyen and Shaun Norris each earned a spot in the British Open next year as the top finishers in the Joburg Open. … The LPGA Tour stop in Singapore has changed its name next year to HSBC Women’s World Championship. It used to be the HSBC Women’s Champions. Inbee Park is the defending champion for the March 1-4 tournament. … The R&A has created a new amateur championship for junior girls. The inaugural Girls Under-16s Open Championship will be held at Fulford on April 27-29.

Defining shots based on every club in the bag

AP
Published 11:45 a.m. ET Dec. 12, 2017

Some of the defining shots on the PGA Tour this year were hit from the tee and fairway, from the bunkers and behind trees, and even from the driving range.

Two of them effectively clinched a first major. One of them introduced another young star.

One way to look back on 2017 is through every club in the bag. The shots weren’t necessarily the best, but they helped shape the year.

DRIVER: Moments after Dustin Johnson made a birdie putt to force a sudden-death playoff at the Northern Trust, he effectively ended it with one swing . CBS analyst Nick Faldo pointed to a bunker beyond the right side of the lake on the 18th hole at Glen Oaks as a target for Johnson’s powerful fade. Instead, he took it over the entire lake, a 341-yard blast. That left him a lob wedge to 4 feet for birdie to beat Jordan Spieth.

3-WOOD: “Oh gosh, Jimmy, be good.” Justin Thomas was speaking to caddie Jimmy Johnson after launching a 3-wood from 310 yards to the elevated green on the par-5 18th at Erin Hills. It was perfect, landing softly and rolling out 8 feet to set up an eagle that tied one U.S. Open record (63) and broke another (9-under par).

HYBRID: Robert Streb was in the rough left of the fairway on the par-5 12th hole at the TPC Old White in the Greenbrier Classic. It looked as though he might lay up, but Streb chose hybrid and slashed it out. The ball tumbled onto the green and came within inches of an albatross.

3-IRON: Jordan Spieth hit the most memorable 3-iron of the year, not for the way he struck the ball, but from where he struck it in the British Open. On the wrong side of a dune, facing an impossible lie, Spieth wisely asked if the practice range at Royal Birkdale was out-of-bounds. Told it was in play, he took a penalty drop on the range, got free relief from the equipment trucks and hit a blind shot with his 3-iron just short of the green. He got up-and-down for bogey. He played his next four holes in 5 under to win the claret jug.

4-IRON: Patrick Cantlay already made a remarkable recovery from a back injury that plagued him for three years by making it to the Tour Championship in just 11 starts. And then he finished his year in a playoff in Las Vegas. In the rough blocked by trees, Cantlay saw enough of an opening to hit 4-iron that somehow made it through, ran through the green and set up an efficient up-and-down to win the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open for his first PGA Tour victory.

5-IRON: Dustin Johnson was on the verge of losing the last of a six-shot lead in the HSBC Champions when Justin Rose, in the group ahead of him, faced the tough par-3 17th at Sheshan International with a back pin. Rose hit 5-iron just left of the flag and watched it roll to 4 feet of the flag for a birdie that led to a two-shot victory, his first of the year.

6-IRON: The two memorable shots from Jordan Spieth’s victory in the British Open were the shot from the driving range and the 50-foot eagle putt. The most important shot was the 6-iron he nearly holed on the par-3 14th. Tied for the lead after his adventurous bogey on the previous hole at Royal Birkdale, Spieth’s tee shot plopped down in front of the hole and stopped 4 feet away. The birdie restored his lead, and he was on his way.

7-IRON: Justin Thomas took control in the final round of the PGA Championship with a par putt on the 16th. He sealed it with a 7-iron as good as any shot he ever hit. The pin was in the front on the par-3 17th at Quail Hollow, and Thomas had 221 yards over the water to the hole. It was so good that he let the club twirl through his hands as he watched it land on the front of the green to 15 feet. He made birdie for a three-shot lead and a most enjoyable walk to the final hole.

8-IRON: Sergio Garcia’s comeback at the Masters began with a par. He caught up to Justin Rose in the final round with two of the best swings he ever made under the pressure of a major. The first was a drive so powerful that it left him only 171 yards into the par-5 15th. His 8-iron landed inches in front of the hole and nicked the pin before it rolled 14 feet away. He made the eagle, and eventually got the green jacket.

9-IRON: Brooks Koepka put the finishing touches on a brilliant closing stretch to win the U.S. Open on the par-3 16th at Erin Hills. His 9-iron was just right, landing beyond the hole and catching the slope to leave him 10 feet away for a third straight birdie to keep his three-shot lead.

PITCHING WEDGE: Xander Schauffele’s name first surfaced at the U.S. Open when he tied for fifth. Three weeks later, he was part of a logjam down the stretch at the Greenbrier Classic when he reached the par-3 18th hole. He hit pitching wedge to 3 feet for birdie and a one-shot victory.

54-DEGREE WEDGE: Dustin Johnson faced charges by Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood in the Mexico Championship and found himself in trouble on the 18th hole at Chapultepec Golf Club. He was in a fairway bunker, his feet on the edge of the grass. He went with a 54-degree wedge that he hit to 20 feet to set up a two-putt par and a one-shot victory in his debut at No. 1 in the world.

LOB WEDGE: In a playoff against Daniel Berger at the Travelers Championship, Jordan Spieth came up short and in a bunker on the 18th hole at TPC River Highlands. He blasted out and watched it roll in for birdie, setting off a wild celebration. Spieth threw the wedge. Caddie Michael Greller threw the rake. Spieth raced out of the bunker and leapt into his caddie for a body bump usually seen only in football.

PUTTER: Jon Rahm showed a sense of the moment in his first full year as a pro. He was just off the back of the 18th green at Torrey Pines when he sent his 60-foot putt down the slope and watched it turned hard to the left and into the cup for eagle. He wound up winning the Farmers Insurance Open by three shots. He ended the year at No. 4 in the world.

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