Somewhat amazingly, we’re up to the 12th year of the Tee to Green Bungs, which apart from my marriage is maybe the longest I’ve stuck at anything.
Equally amazingly, the categories for the trophies depicting a journalist’s hand greedily reaching out for a freebie have remained exactly the same in all 12 editions down the years.
I’m never this consistent at anything, as regular readers know only too well.
This year I toyed with the idea of resurrecting the only Bung I’ve ever retired, the “Don’t Get Him Angry, You Won’tLike Him When He’s Angry” award for the person who most offended the easily offended Tiger Woods during the season. It was discontinued when people stopped caring about offending Tiger because he was, you know, finished.
Now he’s not finished (see below) there was a case for resurrection but the new cuddly Tiger doesn’t bear grudges anymore, apparently. Shame.
Anyway, the Bings for 2018 are:
Player of the Year: We dealt with this in detail last week. I’m sticking with Francesco Molinari.
Tournament of the year: Even after more than 25 years doing this job, I found out something this year. Well, last couple of years in fact; I enjoy watching matchplay golf hole-by-hole much more than any other form of the game.
My most pleasant experiences were those glorious days of a beautiful hot summer watching the Scottish Womens’ final at Elie, and the Scottish Mens’ at Blairgowrie. Elie edges it because, well, it was Elie, burnt beautifully brown in late May.
Round of the Year: Ollie Fisher’s first-ever European Tour 59 in Portugal will be a popular choice, but I’m going for the final round of the Open, Carnoustie in perfect, fast-running order with a strong wind blowing, to me the best of circumstances in golf. And amid all the disasters and chaos, one stalwart man shooting 16 pars and two birdies to win the Jug.
Shot of the Year: Lots of candidates, but for me Jon Rahm’s drive at the 17th during his Ryder Cup singles against Tiger Woods. There was some wobbling going on around Golf National, but Rahm, who had pretty much got in his own way with over-emotion during the week, absolutely nailed his driver, hit his second in to eight feet and then holed it to close out his point. From that moment on, Europe felt safe.
Depression of the Year: The entirety of the year’s events concerning Phil Mickelson. With the exception of his win in the WGC in Mexico, which may well be the final positive act of an exemplar career. Almost everything he did after that was attention-seeking idiocy.
Reassurance of the Year: When you see a decent lad come up through the ranks, and you think he’s got a chance of being a pretty good player, it’s disheartening even to cynical, uncaring hacks when he struggles. The win I took most pleasure in this year was David Law’s victory at the Scottish Hydro Challenge, in his 100th event on that tour. He’s now on the main tour, and hopefully this good guy will continue to win.
Non-event of the Year: No contest here. The Match, the rather embarrassingly flat challenge game between Tiger and Phil, failed to match the hype more than any other sporting event I can recall.
Trophy of the Year: Regular readers will know this is my favourite and most research-intensive Bung, given each year to the worst trophy presented in golf.
Plenty of contenders again this year, including the cutesy golden cat for the CyberAgent Ladies event on the JLPGA Tour, the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic, which looks like a female version of Han Solo frozen in carbonite from the Star Wars movies, or the large wooden propeller – minus plane obviously – for the Web.com tour’s Wichita Open.
But winner this year is the frankly scary Ras Al Kamaimah Grand Final trophy on the Challenge Tour, which features a burnished gold metallic hand about the size of a large horse’s head inserting a ball and tee into the ground.
Stat of the Year: One that hopefully we’ll all enjoy nurturing into its fourth decade…not since 1991 has the USA won the Ryder Cup on European soil. Four more years…
Shank of the Year: You could have your pick of many shots from the “Greatest team Ever Assembled” at Golf National during that week in late September; Patrick Reed had many, Tiger and Phil plenty, even guys who played half-decent like Tony Finau had one or two. It’s a common affliction, it seems.
Comeback of the year: Seriously, no contest here. From not being able to really walk, to (eventually) winner of the Tour Championship. Another remarkable addendum to Tiger Wood’s extraordinary career.
The Torch (for emerging players):
One from each tour; Bryson DeChambeau in the US of course, proving he was much more than The Nutty Professor image with some serious victories. And England’s Matt Wallace, who by laughing derisively in the face of burnout, played 32 tournaments in the calendar year (in only his second season), won three, finished 10th in the Race to Dubai, and got into the top 50 in the world.