2017 PGA Season in Review

10 December 2017, Posted by , , , 0

The 2016-2017 PGA Tour season began on October 16, 2016 and lasted until September 24, 2017.

American Justin Thomas was the big dog on tour, winning the PGA Tour Player of the Year trophy, the PGA Player of the Year, the FedEx Cup title and leading the tour in money, earning a cool $9.921 million to edge out longtime friend Jordan Spieth ($9.433 million).

Thomas won four titles on the year, including his first major, the PGA Championship in mid-August. Eleven players won for the first time on the PGA Tour, including Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, who won the Greenbrier Classic in mid-July, then soared to the Tour Championship title at season’s end.

Thomas got attention early when he won the CIMB Classic in Malaysia  on the second week of the season to earn $1.26 million. Two weeks later, Cody Gribble, who won the Sanderson Farms Championship with a 20-under 268, winning by four strokes.

Canadian McKenzie Hughes won his first career title at the RSM Classic in Georgia in late November. It was just his fifth start on the tour and made him the first Canadian to win a PGA event since Nick Taylor in 2014.

Thomas then won back-to-back tournaments in Hawaii to vault into the world top 10. The second victory saw him defend his title at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Back-to-back first-time winners followed in California. Thirty-year-old Hudson Swafford won the CareerBuilder Challenge with a 20-under 268 and Spaniard Jon Rahm won the Farmers Insurance Open with a 13-under 275, one of three titles he would win (the other two on the European Tour).

Two weeks later, Jordan Spieth won for the first of three times on the season.  World No. 1 Dustin Johnson won two of the next three tournaments, including the WGC-Mexico City Championship by one stroke over Tommy Fleetwood.  It was Johnson’s first week as world No. 1.

Adam Hadwin became Canada’s second first-time winner of the year when he took the Valspar Championship in March. Johnson became the all-time leader in WGC titles when he won the Match Play tournament in Austin two weeks later

By April, all eyes were on Johnson and Spieth as the co-favorites at Augusta National.

The Masters

Johnson had to pull out of the tournament after slipping on the stairs in his rented cabin the day before. That opened the door for American Charley Hoffman to storm the course with a 65 on the first day to take a 4-stroke lead.

Hoffman faded with a 75 the next day into a four-way tie for the lead with Thomas Pieters and arguably the two best golfers without a Major – Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia. At the end of Saturday, it was Garcia and Justin Rose tied for the lead at 6-under with Fowler a stroke back and Spieth lurking two strokes behind the lead.

On Sunday, the two Americans fell apart as Fowler shot a 76 and Spieth a 75. Garcia led Rose by three strokes over four holes, and was still up a shot after 14 before double-bogeying No. 15. Rose birdied 15 and 16 to take a 1-stroke lead, but gave the  shot back on 17 to forge a tie at -9 through 72 holes.

The sudden-death playoff was less dramatic than the final round had been. Rose landed 14 feet from the hole for a par, but missed, giving Garcia two putts to make it from 12 feet. He only needed one to finally claim his first Major in his 74th Major start, the most of any player before his first win.

Following the Mastesr, Wesley Bryan and Kevin Chappell won their first PGA titles on back to back weeks, as did Cameron Smith alongside partner Jonas Blixt in the new-look Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

US Open

Some thought the new host of Erin Hills would overwhelm the field. Err, not so much.  Fowler tied a US Open record for the lowest opening-round score when he shot a 7-under 65 and the entire top 10 after one round was at least 4 strokes under par.

At the halfway point, there were four players tied for first at 7-under: Brits Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood and Americans Brian Harman and Brooks Koepka.  Four more were 6-under. Despite the flurry of low scores, ti was the first time since the introduction of the Official World Golf Rankings that the top 3 players in the world (Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day) all missed the cut at a Major.

On a Saturday full of low rounds, Harman took a 1-stroke lead over Fleetwood, Koepka and a white-hot Thomas, who fired a 63.

On Sunday, it was all Kopeka, who shot a 67 to win by four strokes over Harman and Hideki Matsuyama. The American birdied his first two holes and was at least tied for the lead from No. 2 on. Tied at 13-under with Harman through 11 holes, he watched his competition smack two bogeys in a row. Koepka then birdied 14, a5 and 16. When the dust had cleared, he was up three strokes and grabbed his first Major.

Two of the best (and weirdest) young names in golf showed up in the summer to win their first PGA titles. For Schauffele, 24, it was the Greenbrier, where he shot a 14-under 266. For Bryson DeChambeau, also 24, it was the John Deere Classic with an 18-under 266. The title came two years and one month after he won the NCAA title for SMU.

Spieth returned to form with a win at the Open Championship, his third Major in four years. The same weekend, Grayson Murray won his first PGA title in Alabama and CHris Stroud did a week later at the Barracuda Championship.

PGA Championship

The focus was on Spieth to complete his career Grand Slam, but he was never in contention. American Kevin Kisner and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen led after one day with a matching pair of 67s.

Weather and darkness greatly affected Round 2 with Kisner shooting a second straight 67 to share the lead with Hideki Matsuyama, who fired a 64.

Kisner made it three straight days in the lead with a 72 on Saturday that kept him at 7-under, one stroke ahead of Stroud and Matsuyama. The field was starting to catch up to Kisner as Thomas fired a 69 after his second-round 66 to move within two strokes.

Sunday was a wild finish as Kisner, Stroud, Thomas and Matsuyama all held a share of the lead at one point.  Kisner was 1-over at the turn at -6, putting him two behind Matsuyama, one behind Stroud  and tied with Thomas. Thomas moved into a tie for the lead at 7-under with Matsuyama on No. 11, then watched Matsuyama bogey three straight holes.

When the FedEx Cup post-season began, it was a battle between Johnson, Spieth and Thomas. Johnson struck first blood at the Northern Trust with the 16th victory of his PGA career, defeating Spieth in a playoff.

The second round went to Thomas, who took his Tour-leading fifth title of the season, firing a 17-under 71-67-63-66 = 267 to win b y three strokes over Spieth.

The third leg of the FedEx Cup went to Australia’s Marc Leishman, his second victory of the season. Leishman blew out the competition with a 5-stroke victory, shooting 62 and 64 on the first two days.

The Tour Championship was on by US rookie Xander Schauffele, his second title in 2-1/2 months.  He held off Thomas by one stroke, but the points were more than enough for Thomas to win the FedEx Cup title and the $10 million price that goes along with it.

 

 

 

 

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