NCG's Alternative Awards 2018

The Scoop

You won't see the usual achievements here. Mark Townsend runs down the more bizarre, uplifting and cripplingly sad moments from the golfing year

Let’s be honest, none of us could have predicted vast chunks of what went on this year which makes it all the more enjoyable to look back on. Here are my alternative awards from 2018…

The New Hero Award

Winner: Ho-Sung Choi
Highly commended: Cameron Champ

Somewhere in the middle of the season, Choi’s swing became the most watched on the internet. Forget the coming of Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari, the Korean’s ‘Fisherman Swing’ was the talk of the town – he nearly qualified for The Open at Carnoustie.

Roll the clock forward to November 24 when he won the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour, a final-round 67 giving him a one-shot win.

If the Men of the Masters really want to grow the game then here’s an invite waiting to happen.

The Cramming a Career’s Worth of Success into One Year Award

Winner: Francesco Molinari
Highly commended: Brooks Koepka

It seems unthinkable to go against a player who missed The Masters but still won two majors.

Molinari’s game was already on the up coming into 2018, including that 2nd place at the PGA Championship, before spending the next 12 months picking up a win at Wentworth, a first PGA Tour success, a major breakthrough, becoming a Ryder Cup history maker, and edging the Race to Dubai title.

Molinari has said Paris was even bigger than Carnoustie but, when he sits back in 20 years’ time, he might see it differently. A Sunday with Tiger, a baked and fairly breathless Carnoustie, no dropped shots, and the likes of Rory, Rose, Woods and Spieth in the rear-view mirror is the stuff of dreams.

He’s neither flashy nor physically intimidating, just a solid, really likeable star. He’s been part of the world’s top 100 for the past 10 years, and this most recent one has been sensational.

The Did He Actually Just Do That? Award

Winner: Phil Mickelson
Highly commended: Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter

No, not the dancing. No, not the Twitter activity. No, not the shirt. No, not the Ryder Cup efforts.

The 13th green at Shinnecock Hills. I wish I could get past this in my head but I can’t. Even stranger than watching Mickelson run was watching him hit the ball back towards the hole as it was about to roll off the front of the green.

Everyone makes mistakes but it was the continued goofy smiles and thumbs ups that really grated.

As did the USGA’s response, as did his explanation to Curtis Strange afterwards saying he was using the rules to his advantage. The original incident was odd enough, it then just got worse and worse.

It took him until the following Wednesday to apologise properly.

The Look Away Now Award

Winner: Tony Finau
Highly commended: John Senden

Finau was playing in his first Masters when he had this hole-in-one during the Par 3 Tournament. What happened next made everyone wince…

Yes, that’s him popping his ankle back into place and the following morning, after a night of sleeping with an elevated foot, Finau was having an MRI scan at 7am which revealed no break but a couple of torn ligaments which would require some heavy strapping.

By the end of the day he was in the media centre after posting a 68.

Things stalled a bit on Friday and Saturday before he collected six straight birdies on the back nine on Sunday for a 66 and share of 10th. Welcome to Augusta.

The Balls of Steel Award

Winner: Ian Poulter
Highly commended: Ted Potter Jr, Matt Wallace

Needless to say there will be longer and better putts but for doing what you do best – hole massive putts when you need to – then Poulter gets the nod.

For a bit of context, old Postie was told at the Match Play the previous week that he had just scraped into The Masters only to be told that he had just come up short. He then needed to beat Kevin Kisner in the quarters and promptly lost 8&6.

He wasn’t going to play Houston, then did and opened up with a 73. But there followed a 64, 65 and then this for a 67 and play-off with Beau Hossler.

If you had a house to bet on then you would have put it on Poulter to win in extra holes. Of course he did.

The Coolest Moment Award

Winner: Tiger Woods
Highly commended: Justin Rose, Matt Wallace

Down went the ropes, in poured the galleries and golf got one of its coolest moments ever, five and a bit years and 1,876 days since his previous win.

Very few thought we would see these sorts of scenes again…

It hardly needs repeating but we will anyway: the four back surgeries, the off-course concerns, the on-course chipping yips, he’s 42, the game had moved on, and so on.

In the end it was as dull as it was thrilling. Just the way he likes it. 

The Take My Advice Award

Winner: Phil Mickelson
Highly commended: Phil Mickelson

Say what you like about Mickelson, and most of us do, but if you could have one lesson on any aspect of the game I suspect a fair few of us would like to spend a bit of time with the short-game maestro.

In just one minute 24 seconds he has succeeded here in simplifying the dark, enormous cloud that is chipping…

The Best Other Half Award

Winner: Keri Paisley
Highly commended: Helen Storey, Tommy Fleetwood

Chris Paisley hadn’t even plan to play in South Africa so he told his caddie Sean that he would see him in Abu Dhabi.

With his regular bagman on holiday in the Alps, wife Keri took on the role which, as a non-golfer and first-time caddie, was to make sure that her husband was committed to everything he was doing as well as making sure he wasn’t getting too fast or too frustrated or too dehydrated.

The result was a three-shot win over Branden Grace on his 118th start on Tour.

golf caddie

“At 18 Branden just stood aside and said ‘just enjoy the walk’ and I’ll never forget that. He understood how good it was for me and he let us have our moment,” Paisley told NCG in a joint interview with Keri.

She added: “I’ve always dreamt he would win obviously but I always thought I would run on the green and give him a kiss and say job well done, but I never dreamt that I would be part of it. It’s still so surreal and I’m not sure it’ll ever sink in that it’s something we’ve done together.”

The couple had a baby girl, Ella, in October.

The Hal Sutton Award For Talking To Your Ball

Winner: Justin Thomas
Highly commended: Xander Schauffele

He might not have won a major in 2018 but he did produce this, the modern-day answer to Sutton’s “Be the right club, today!”

The Best Emotional Victory Speech Award

Winner: Lee Westwood
Highly commended: Danny Willett, Louis Oosthuizen

There is lots to go at here but when you’ve been one of the European Tour’s favourite sons, you’re at the stage of your career where you’re a Ryder Cup vice-captain, you haven’t won since 2014, you’re 45, you’re in Sun City and you’ve got your girlfriend on your bag then it’s going to be a special win.

Westwood shot a 64 to see off Louis Oosthuizen and Sergio Garcia. Over all the years and all the Ryder Cups we rarely see much emotion from Westwood, this, though, was different.

The Most Unfortunate Rules Infringement Award

Winner: Madalitso Muthiya
Highly commended: Gian-Marco PetrozziAkshay Bhatia

Remember the name as the Zambian player, who threatened to win the recent South African Open, will probably go down as the last tour pro to be penalised for hitting the ball twice in the course of one shot.

As from January 1 this would only count as one shot.

The Best Team Award 

Winner: European Ryder Cup team
Highly commended: Moliwood

OK, this isn’t exactly an off-the-wall award, but I need to make a point after the BBC Sports Personality of the Year snub.

In the ensuing fallout that followed the Ryder Cup it’s easy to forget quite how strongly fancied the Americans were. We all talked about similarities to their 1981 team at Walton Heath, Tiger’s return to the competition, Brooks and DJ being the new power couple in golf and how our wildcards resembled Dad’s Army.

How beautifully different everything turned out. We even managed to beat them more convincingly than they beat us at Hazeltine.

And finally… The Best Role Model Award

Winner: Jarrod Lyle

It’s impossible not to have been incredibly moved by Lyle’s death. All of us following his progress on Instagram were hoping for a happy ending but, after a third recurrence of the leukaemia, he died on August 8.

In among the bone marrow transplants, ulcers, vomiting, the hair loss, the self-administered morphine, the excess fluid, the food through IV, the 20 tablets for breakfast, and the loss of vision there were an awful lot of smiles, an amazing wife, two beautiful children and so much love from his friends, family, peers, and fans.

This is how we paid tribute to the late Australian.

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