We had a lot to celebrate in the golf world this year — and more than a little to laugh at — so welcome again to The Grainys, my highly subjective awards for the best and worst of the golf season just past. I promise that no one was fondled, groped or coerced during the balloting (although I did notice a few courses that could do with a little extra irrigation).
The envelopes, please….
Best (or Worst) Horror Show
The Lexi Thompson ruling at ANA Inspiration, which is an uninspiring name for what used to be the Nabisco Dinah Shore. Even Lexi herself likened the four-shot penalty experience — called in by a television viewer, no less — to a nightmare. Friday the 13th fell on a Sunday this year.
Best Cinematography — But Worst Result
HDTV, 4D, OLED and screens of 60 inches and more were able to pinpoint every flaw in turfgrass, players’ complexions and commentators mis-views. Technology becomes our worst enemy. (See “Horror Show,” above.)
Worst Sound Mixing
When are television announcers going to do their homework and accurately explain how courses are set up and conditioned for tournament golf? Might I suggest that they remove the uncultivated organic matter from between their ears and actually talk to someone on the ground? Instead, their misinformation and glaring mistakes prevent the viewing audience from grasping some basic agronomic facts, which is making life hell for superintendents at thousands of everyday clubs around the country. Thanks for nothing, guys!
Best Director: Keith Wood, Golf Course Superintendent at Quail Hollow
Not only was the PGA Championship exciting to watch — particularly for an “August” major — give Keith and benevolent dictator Johnny Harris credit for needing a mere 95 days to put their golf course through all phases of construction and showcase it under exquisite championship conditions for the PGA of America. The course identified a great champion in Justin Thomas, whose father and grandfather are golf professionals (nice touch!), while Keith showed the world what a superintendent can do under extreme pressure in a very short time frame when given the resources and support.
Best Unadapted Screenplay: The Rules of Golf
Opening up the Rules for review is a ruse to make us think we’re actually part of the game. But as we all know, or should by now, the governing bodies will do exactly what they want to do. Maybe, just maybe they can make The Rules easier for their “Joe-Six Pack’s” among us.
Best Original Musical
Make that “Musical Chairs.” Paul Latshaw Jr. to Merion, Chad Mark to Muirfield Village Golf Club from Inverness, John Zimmers to Inverness from Oakmont, Dave Delsandro moved up at Oakmont. What’s this, “Groundhog Day?”
Worst Supporting Actress
Fox Sports misidentified U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka’s girlfriend. Oops!
Best Production Design
Golf finally got its tournament calendar correct. As of 2019, the year will start with the “fifth major” also known as The Players Championship, followed by the Masters, a May PGA Championship, the U.S. Open and then The Open. Kudos to Pete Bevacqua of the PGA, with an assist from the PGA Tour, for getting it right. At last.
Best Visual Effects [or more accurately, Worst Editing]
What could be prettier than flowing fields of fescue? Tell that to the USGA, which decided to mow them down during practice rounds for the U.S. Open at Erin Hills. Seems the stars didn’t like the set: The players complained early in the week and the USGA folded like an empty box of popcorn. And how did it become an issue on Tuesday when it wasn’t an issue the day before? Also, the fairways were 60 yards wide; why was the fescue even an issue? Giving Erin Hills this unnecessary haircut turned it into a vanilla — at best — U.S. Open venue. But don’t blame the course or the barbers (Ground staff): Blame the stylist ... and the crybabies in the barber’s chair.
Best Cinematography: GCS Greg James and the PGA Tour
For the Presidents Cup, the oft-maligned Liberty National Golf Club was re-routed so it ended on a par 3, a questionable move ... until you saw the gleaming Manhattan skyline and Lady Liberty herself in the distance. It made for great television and almost made us forget the competition itself was a yawn.
Architect Mike Hurzdan designed Erin Hills to be a “Shinnecock with balls.” Hmm, I’ve heard that quote before. Great idea, but without wind and/or wet conditions, course was emasculated and soft. A for Effort, but D- for execution.Best Foreign Film: The Open
It was great drama until it was comedy. Such was the plight of two Americans playing head-to-head in a foreign land — the 146th Open at Royal Birkdale. By using the Rules to his advantage, Jordan Spieth cleverly (but slowly) got relief from a TV tower, swinging the momentum in his favor and edging out Matt Kuchar.
Best New Technology: WEEDit
Call it “Boom Envy.” WEEDit has developed GPS-directed sprayers on an 80-foot boom that can apply chemicals from an individual nozzle and target individual weeds using infrared sensors to nail the suckers as small as the size of a nickel.
Best Short Story: Tiger Woods
He came back, played a “friendly” 72 holes at eight under par, and left us wanting more. It would be great if this teaser turns into a full-length production. Golf could use a mega-hit.
Week after week after week. Does the golf season never end? The wrap-around schedule deserves a rap in the mouth. Please, make it stop already, and stop trying to compete with the NFL. We can’t win. At least our golfers don’t take a knee during the national anthem.
Worst Sequels, Part 2: Sustainability
Yep, okay, we got it. We know, stop telling us. We have to maintain golf courses today without jeopardizing the future. Save water, reduce fertility inputs and improve the environment where our courses exist. We agree. It’s common sense. And sooner or later there’ll be an app for it.
Shameless Over-Production Award
My prediction for the new year: The word you’re going to come to hate is “iconic.” Count the number of times you hear this word in the next six months, specifically to describe Shinnecock Hills, site the 2018 U.S. Open. But let’s make this fun: Every time you hear the word iconic, feel free to take a sip of your favorite iconic adult beverage. You’ll be flat on your ass, iconic or not, by June 17.
Best Picture: The Masters
We may have to retire this award. Once again, the Masters shows that they are the best at what they do and no one else even comes close. Billy Payne ended his chairmanship in perfect fashion and with cinematic flair: the empty chair for Arnie, the emotional first tee ceremony, and a fantastic finish that went to extra holes as Sergio Garcia went mano-a-mano with Justin Rose to break through for his first major win. It didn’t take any special effects to see Seve smiling down from the heavens.