Best Picture. Top honors go to the remake of the “Duel in The Sun,” which starred Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson at Royal Troon. Last year’s Open Championship proved there can be great golf between two excellent players without all the manmade fanfare and course doctoring that marks the other majors. When the forecast called for wind, the R&A didn’t even mow the greens on Saturday, choosing to keep green speed from affecting the play. I’m willing to bet the untricked-up nature of the course was one reason this classic didn’t turn into another version of “Law and Order,” with the spotlight stolen by golf’s most undesirable co-stars: Rules officials.
Best Actor.Dustin Johnson, in a landslide. DJ never broke character throughout the epic disaster pic called “The U.S. Open That Ate Oakmont.” Despite indecisive and over-officious Rules impacts and heckling, Dustin stuck to the script and stole the show. He also was a breakout action star, playing three of the greatest golf shots you’ve ever seen while under the extreme pressure that is the 72nd hole of our national championship. DJ also wins the Starbucks-sponsored “Extra-Grind” award for perseverance, and he gave an assist to “The Great One,” his father-in-law, Wayne Gretzky.
Best Supporting Actor. Oakmont came close to being the most memorable Open in history, but for all the wrong reasons. Saving it was John Zimmers and his agronomy staff, who prepared the course in true U.S. Open fashion and provided unparalleled turf and playing conditions, allowing the players to play without worry. Despite a week’s worth of drama on Sunday—the course provided the perfect scenery and John deserves the credit.
Best Production Design. After earning nothing but raspberries last year, FOX Sports made an incredible comeback, notably by minimizing the special effects and giving too many ill-prepared cast members speaking parts, and focusing on golf. And while some people dismiss Hollywood — and the golf world for not giving enough notable speaking roles to women, the absence of Holly Sonders from the screen this year was a good thing. Now if they could just find the right vehicle — preferably one not about golf — for Joe Buck.
Special Achievement Award. Each fall, Ralph Kepple and East Lake Golf Club go unrecognized (think of it as “Best Short-Changed Subject”) for course preparation, losing out to the “blockbusters” (the majors) and what has to be the most overhyped epic of each year, the FedEx Cup. (That’s me snoring again, sorry.) But Kepple and East Lake get it right, avoiding controversy, sticking to the script and doing their jobs like the professionals they are. And credit to whichever director made the smart call to reverse the nines this year so as to NOT finish on the deflating par-three 18th.
Best Direction, Comedy. We may have to retire this award since the USGA Rules officials have an almost permanent hold on it. Just when you think a USGA event will be a serious classic A+ drama, it turns into comedy, then tragedy, when golf’s version of the Keystone Kops try to enforce the law. Rules are rules and should be followed, and without them there’d be chaos. The penalties were correct, but in flubbing their lines and chewing the scenery, the USGA turned not one but two national championships into make-believe.
Best Cinematography. To the FOX cameraperson — make that “ass-istant cameraperson” — who followed Paulina Gretzky Johnson and her “tightie whitie” skirt into the scorer’s room after DJ’s U.S. Open win. For this year, I’m changing the name of the award to “Sin-ematography.”
Those were the best of the year. Now for the worst...
The “Ishtar” Award. Golf in the Olympics. Sorry, hype it all you want, it was just another golf tournament, hardly Olympic material. I’ll take track and field, swimming, gymnastics, and all the events where underappreciated athletes (and I stress “athletes”) have trained and sacrificed for years for a momentary shot at glory. And how many shot-putters flew to Rio on private jets? If golf gets cast again in the Olympics, I strongly suggest changing the format to team match play. And can someone explain to me how this event will help grow the game? Especially now that we’re hearing Gil Hanse’s design may be plowed under because no one plays?
The Shameless Over-Production Award. The PGA and the Ryder Cup. Yes, I’m glad the United States won because it will help promote golf in the USA, but from the “walk-of-fame” parade to the red-carpet treatment of the players to the massive press conference, it turned me off. Contrast that over-production to the perfect production from “Super-Tweeter” superintendent Chris Tritabaugh, who did himself, his club and the Minnesota turf crowd proud.
Other Ryder Cup-related awards:
“Do we really need third, fourth and fifth assistant directors?” To the assistant captains, all 37 of them. (Did I miss any?)
Over-acting. Spare me the player antics and fist-pumping like it’s the NBA or NFL.
Worst Costume Design. Why do fans wear some of those get-ups? Is it to support their teams or get 15 seconds of televised fame?
Reality TV. Phil and Sergio saved it for me with their Sunday singles: 17 birdies and no animals were harmed in the making of that match.
Worst Costume Design II. The Ryder Cup wives and their ponchos. Red, White, and I almost Blue lunch.
Worst Acts of Agronomy. The green speed during Saturday’s third round of The Players. Sorry, but wind and a sudden drop in humidity can’t make greens get that fast that quickly. No one likes to see five-putting. (And we’d better get these clowns off the stage before Monday because we have a renovation to do!) The PGA Tour does not like surprises as was evident by the facial expression on the PGA Tour’s VP of Rules and Competitions Mark Russell reacting to the golf media’s probing questions about sudden and unexpected course setup changes was classic Clint Eastwood. “Go ahead; don’t make my greens too fast for play!”
Sequels That Need To Go Away. Golf’s water issue. I get it, we don’t have enough water, too much is wasted, and the industry isn’t doing what it could to preserve the little we’ve got. So, stop the scary movie and continue to produce documentaries that tell us what we can do. Oh, by the way, climate change is real.
In Memoriam. Peggy Kirk Bell was one of the game’s true pioneers, as a teacher and a crusader for women. No one better represented our game or gave more time to her students without asking for any applause in return.
Lifetime Achievement Award. Arnold Palmer. Because for all he did, it was never an act. It was pure Arnie, the everyman, the coolest, the King. Fade out…