The year that was: NCG reflects on 2017
We posed eight questions to our team of writers about the year on tour and their own games.
Here’s what they had to say…
What was your tour moment of the year?
Alex Perry: There was more than 20 minutes from Jordan Spieth finding his ball in the thick rough to the side of Royal Birkdale’s 13th to dropping his ball on the driving range. Nothing happened. At all. But it was sporting theatre at its most compelling.
Mark Townsend: To win the Open from where he was physically and mentally at the 13th was other worldly.
James Broadhurst: I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
Craig Middleton: I will never get my head round how he recovered from there.
Matt Beedle: I was there and the buzz in the crowd as the momentum switched from Spieth to Matt Kuchar and back to Spieth again was incredible to be a part of.
Joe Urquhart: I’m going for Spieth also, but I’ll go for the holed-out bunker shot to win the Travelers Championship in a play-off with Daniel Berger. If only for the celebration…
James Savage: Dustin Johnson beating Spieth in the first play-off hole at the Northern Trust by hitting a ridiculously good drive – 45 degrees left of where Spieth aimed – which some people almost labelled as cheating. It was just a player making the most of his advantage over an opponent and it was tremendous.
Dan Murphy: I loved seeing Sergio Garcia win a major just when we – and he – had concluded it would never happen. Just a shame it wasn’t the Open, which would have been perfect.
Harriet Shephard: The Solheim Cup always offers something different and the atmosphere was tremendous. There was no gimmegate-type drama and women’s golf was the real winner.
What was the biggest surprise of 2017?
Dan Murphy: See above. Even as Garcia’s biggest fan, I have never been able to bring myself to back him to win the Masters.
Joe Urquhart: From a European golf fan’s perspective you can’t compete with Garcia’s Masters win.
James Broadhurst: I, like many, was convinced Garcia would never get his hands on a major title. I was very happy to be proved wrong.
Craig Middleton: All the way through the climax I was expecting Rose to win it. Credit to Garcia for holding on.
Mark Townsend: Jason Norris winning in Fiji. Not really. Another Jason, Dufner, winning at Muirfield Village. Love his swing, love him.
Harriet Shephard: How about when 14-year-old amateur Atthaya Thitikul won the Ladies European Thailand Championship.
Alex Perry: Or the Ryder Cup venue for 2032 being announced? We don’t even have venues for 2026, ’28 or ’30 yet. Or know if the Ryder Cup will even exist. That and Tiger Woods coming through his comeback unscathed.
James Savage: And hitting 13 out of 14 fairways in the final round of the Hero World Challenge.
Steve Carroll: Graeme Storm taking down McIlroy at the SA Open after fearing, a few weeks earlier, he’d lost his card. It was a great result for a really nice guy.
Matt Beedle: I’ve really enjoyed watching Xander Schauffele this season. To finish 5th in a major in your rookie season is unbelievable.
Who was your golfer of the year?
Dan Murphy: See above and above. I also thought the way Tommy Fleetwood finished the year was especially impressive. It’s one thing having a hot streak, another to hold off Garcia, Justin Rose and Tyrrell Hatton to win the Race to Dubai.
Mark Townsend: For Garcia to go head-to-head with Rose on a course that he has previously disliked, with all his baggage, and not miss a shot coming home was sensational. He also won well away from Augusta.
Steve Carroll: A close one between Garcia and his fellow Spaniards Jon Rahm, but who, apart from Padraig Harrington perhaps, didn’t enjoy seeing the former win the Masters?
Alex Perry: I love Garcia and I’m delighted he broke his major duck, but Justin Thomas has been just that extra bit more special this year.
James Savage: Thomas is exactly the sort of player golf needs – unorthodox, fearless, funny, knows how to celebrate, and generally seems like a good egg.
James Broadhurst: Anyone who is crowned FedEx Cup champion and PGA Tour Player of the Year, and picks up five wins, including a record-breaking first major, in just one season deserves my vote.
Matt Beedle: I don’t think anyone can argue with Thomas can they?
Joe Urquhart: Fleetwood… Rose… Fleetwood… Rose… All right, I’ll go with Fleetwood. To dominate much of the early season and continue that form into the season finale was remarkable. This year will be a hard one to top for him on and off the course.
Craig Middleton: For Fleetwood to come back from his troubles and produce golf like he did this year on almost a weekly basis was sensational. To sustain it over the whole season makes him comfortably my player of the year.
Harriet Shephard: Georgia Hall has had an incredible first year on the LET. Seven top 10 finishes, a Solheim Cup debut, and she’s earned her LPGA Tour card. She is also a lovely person and very down to earth and humble.
Who was your chump of the year?
Harriet Shephard: Whoever came up with the LPGA’s new dress code. Particularly the line about covering your ‘bottom area’. Who wasn’t doing that really?
Alex Perry: Next to ‘chump’ in the golf dictionary, there is a photo of Grayson Murray. The attention seeking on social media is embarrassing.
Steve Carroll: Murray’s dig at the PGA Champions Tour was cheap. He could do with sitting on his hands every now and then.
Mark Townsend: Good ol’ Bubba Watson for this facetious quote at Augusta: “Golf is tough. I don’t know if you’ve ever played it. But writing articles is easy.”
Joe Urquhart: It is difficult to get away from the fact Rory McIlroy’s 2017 failed to live up to expectations. Another year and still his wardrobe is missing a Green Jacket, not to mention no win in the season whatsoever.
James Savage: I’m always quite annoyed when McIlroy doesn’t win majors. I watched him up close on Friday at the Open and genuinely believed he was somewhere near his best. Sadly, the difference between his best and his worst is like night and day. I’d like to see him win ugly, like Spieth, rather than having to put four perfect rounds together.
Matt Beedle: Agree. Though he has been hampered by injury…
Dan Murphy: Matt Kuchar was made to look like one by Jordan Spieth in the Open. He led with five to play and finished with two pars, two birdies and a bogey. You’d expect to win the Claret Jug with that, wouldn’t you?
James Broadhurst: He is by no means a chump, but Danny Willett endured another frustrating season of missed cuts and withdrawals, as well as a split with long-term caddie Jonathan Smart. We all want to see him return to the kind of form that secured him a Green Jacket back in 2016.
Craig Middleton: Brandel Chamblee. Just look at his Twitter feed. I don’t really need to explain do I?
What is your personal highlight of 2017?
Mark Townsend: James Heath getting his card back at Q School and being there to watch part of it.
Jame Savage: Beating Mark in the Sports Publications Summer Match Play. Nothing spectacular about the match but apparently I’m the only person to have achieved this feat. I should probably get out more.
Dan Murphy: Putting together England’s Top 100 courses 2018 and playing 66 courses on our shortlist over the course of the season.
Alex Perry: Eagles don’t come along too often for a golfer like me – particularly on a par 4 – so when they do you treasure them. I drove back of the green on the short par-4 8th at Okehampton and the 30-foot putt back up the hill went in. That was nice.
Harriet Shephard: I made my first par in Sicily. The first time I’ve felt like a “proper golfer”.
Steve Carroll: Playing the redeveloped West course at Wentworth three weeks before the BMW PGA Championship in May. The stands were up and it was in magnificent shape.
Joe Urquhart: This was the year I finally got to play Kingsbarns and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a golf course that has meant a lot to me and to finally tee it up on the links will be an experience that stays with me for a long time.
James Broadhurst: Getting my first official handicap and playing in my first proper club competition. Let’s not talk about my score.
Matt Beedle: I got my handicap down to 5, which is the lowest it has been.
Craig Middleton: Following DJ and McIlroy inside the ropes at the Open. Such a privilege to watch them up close.
What was your favourite course you played for the first time in 2017?
Steve Carroll: I took on Royal Birkdale a month after the Open and it was epic. The approach to the 18th is one of golf’s great shots.
Joe Urquhart: Kingsbarns was everything I wanted it to be and more.
Alex Perry: In the UK I really liked Gog Magog – and not just because I beat Dan 5&4 – and Hillside is beyond words. Overseas I played the New course at Salobre Golf Resort in Gran Canaria. Every tee shot was incredible. A rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish.
Craig Middleton: Hillside for me, too. It’s straight into my top five and the back nine is easily my favourite stretch of holes.
Matt Beedle: Ganton went straight into my top 3.
James Savage: I had fun at Southport & Ainsdale. Another matchplay success, this time in the TaylorMade vs. Media Cup. It was a sensational evening and a great way to kick off Open week.
James Broadhurst: Mont Choisy in Mauritius was magnificent. So many memorable holes and cool little details throughout.
Harriet Shephard: Playing on the slopes of Mount Etna at Il Picciolo in Sicily was a very cool experience. The views were indescribable and lots of short holes to suit my game.
What course do you want to play in 2018?
Alex Perry: I’m a links golfer so there are plenty on my bucket list, including the aforementioned. I’m going to Australia for a couple of weeks in March, so any recommendations in Sydney and Melbourne welcome.
Dan Murphy: The new Machrie. I just need to figure out a way to be passing the Isle of Islay.
James Broadhurst: I want to play more links golf and Old Head in Ireland is top of my wishlist.
Harriet Shephard: I dream of playing midnight golf at the Lofoten Links in Norway under the Northern Lights.
Steve Carroll: A predictable one but my inability to get on the Old Course is starting to become really irritating.
Joe Urquhart: Everyone raves about Birkdale and having attended the Open it only whetted my appetite to tee it up.
Craig Middleton: Put me down for Sunningdale, too. The way you lot go on about it…
James Savage: I’ve still never played at Moortown. Please someone just take me for a round there already.
Matt Beedle: I’ll be at the Open again, so I’ll be looking for somewhere special in Scotland that week.
What was your most enjoyable round this year?
Dan Murphy: Royal North Devon on a gorgeous May afternoon. The sun shone, the breeze did its thing, the gulls squawked, the sheep baaed and my short game sporadically functioned. What more could you ask for?
Alex Perry: I played an unopened and yet to be named 9-hole course in northern Iceland where, after a 3-over-par 39, I hold the course record. Closer to home, nothing beats 18 round my old track Bude on a cold, crisp Boxing Day morn.
James Savage: My first competition round at Hillsborough. I played rubbish – 30 points and went up .1 – but I was finally in the system. I had set myself a target of playing one competition round at the start of the year and managed three so it was a successful year of sorts.
Mark Townsend: It would be pathetic and self-obsessive just to simply list my best round… scoring 42 big ones at Kingsbarns at the Women’s British Open media day.
Steve Carroll: Royal Porthcawl was four magical hours that started with a birdie and got even better. I can’t wait to go back.
Joe Urquhart: The views at Crail are fantastic and it always helps when you shoot 5-under your handicap which is the lowest I’ve ever gone.
Craig Middleton: Saadiyat beach in Abu Dhabi. The views were spectacular and the golf course was incredible. I also managed to card 37 points which was a bonus.
James Broadhurst: Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus is a long, hilly course where buggies are mandatory, but it’s also packed with so much theatre. The 7th is one of the best par 3s I have ever played.
Harriet Shephard: The Monasteri course in Sicily, where I made my first par, tried a weird prickly pear and stray dogs and puppies kept wandering onto the greens. What’s not to like?
Matt Beedle: A friend and I won a 4BBB competition at my home course, Pontefract. Got a phone call at work that afternoon saying we’d won £100. That was nice.