Christmas is a time of good cheer? Do me a favour.
There are a few certainties of the festive season that apply to everyone. They are: (1) at least one element of your dinner will be burned (2) with the exception of the great Darlene Love, all artists’ Christmas songs are comfortably the worst of their entire careers (3) your tree and mantle decorations will mysteriously disintegrate all by themselves (4) the whole season won’t be as good as you’d hoped.
A fifth certainty is T2G’s annual Bungs, in their 15th year. How glad am I to have found this way to fill a weekly column when there’s no golf being played anywhere?
Normality beckoned us beguiling in 2021, only to run headlong for cover again. Who knows what next year will bring (we’ll have a stab at that next week), but in the meantime, here’s who gets the baubles for this year.
Player of the Year
Still vacillating between Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa. You can’t even separate them in triumphs off the course – Rahm became a father, Morikawa got engaged.
Tournament of the Year
My favourite to cover in person this year was the almost-back-to-normal BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, just ahead of the Women’s Open at Carnoustie. The Open was weird – strict distancing for us media, not for the galleries – but still so good to be back.
But the best event, quite clearly, was Catriona Matthew’s European Team winning the Solheim Cup at Inverness.
Round of the Year
✅ World Golf Championship win
✅ Open Championship win
✅ Ryder Cup win
✅ Rolex Series win
✅ Race to Dubai champion
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) December 2, 2021
Morikawa on Sunday at Sandwich. Not flashy, not spectacular, just relentless excellence. And with the greatest pressure imaginable on him, not even a sliver of an opening for those who were pursuing him.
Shot of the Year
Phil Mickelson’s hole-out from the “waste area” on the 5th at Kiawah Island in the final round of the PGA Championship.
It had been a somewhat sticky start to Phil’s final round bid to be the oldest winner of a major. He’d thrown a couple of early chances at Brooks Koepka only for Brooks to chuck them right back. After this blow, it was only going to be one man’s day.
Non-event of the Year
So far, the Saudi-bankrolled LIV Investments project piloted by Greg Norman and launched with such fanfare. They’ve announced a good number of executive appointments, which gives at least an impression of dynamic progress.
Reassurance of the Year
Participation numbers have revealed a huge increase in people enjoying golf across the globe, showing promising signs for the future of our game 🏌️♀️🏌️♂️
— The R&A (@RandA) December 14, 2021
Is this still the Covid effect, or have we actually turned the corner on golf participation? The R&A were very cautious about improved figures this time last year as they weren’t sure whether numbers would be sustained.
The new figures released last week, however show an even greater rise. More people are playing the game, it seems everywhere. How great is this?
Trophy of the Year
Sadly, T2G’s ground-breaking championing of weird and (not very) wonderful golf trophies over the 15 years of this award has caught on.
Almost every other golf media outlet runs their own list these days. Last week one gave their award for 2021 to Tiger’s Hero World Challenge (lifetime achievement winner in 2013) and even recalled the Nelson Mandela Championship (winner, 2012). Been there, done them.
The sad result of all this japery is that tournaments now play safe, and we have a deluge of boring crystal vases and straight copies of the timeless classic that is soccer’s European Cup.
This year’s winner, from a small field, is not a classic. It falls within the ever-popular “children’s art class pottery” genre, with the embellishment of some fearsome-looking stalks of fescue grass.
Still, Pauline Roussin Bouchard looks quite happy with her Didriksons Skafto Open trophy from the LET.
Stat of the year
Last two PGA Tour seasons from a PGA Tour player of renown: 33 events, three wins, 18 top tens, five missed cuts, score average 69.27. Two seasons prior to that: 39 events, four wins, 14 top tens, six missed cuts, score average 69.70.
Roughly the same, right? The only thing that has massively changed is the player’s average driving distance (up 20 yards) and his body weight. The player, obviously, is Bryson DeChambeau.
It’s a really small sample size, for sure. But has the transformation been quite as successful as claimed?
Shank of the Year
I could be vindictive and pick a succession of Bryson’s shots on the Sunday back 9 at the US Open. He actually led in defence of his title as he hit the bend, but was (ouch) eight-over the rest of the way. It was the year’s biggest collapse, no question.
But the winner has to be a two-foot missed putt – from maybe the best putter of this generation – on the final green at a major championship.
Jordan Spieth’s miss on Saturday at Sandwich was the one shot that gobsmacked everyone who saw it. He should have at least been tied for the lead going into Sunday and probable favourite to win.
Comeback of the Year
Let’s give this to the same guy for the fourth year in a row, even though it is surely impossible to come back four times in successive years.
But logic is never part of the Bungs. Tiger Woods playing again – even at last week’s hit-and-giggle with the kids – just nine months after the car crash was remarkable in itself. Even if it means nothing about him playing properly competitively again.
Odds on a fifth successive award next year are short, though…