Bernard Gallacher’s Golfing Highlights of 2017

Neil Robertson, 4th January 2018

1. Sergio Garcia winning the Masters

This was my main personal highlight, especially given that it was Sergio’s 19th appearance at Augusta. Up to that point, he’d been labelled the ‘best player never to win a major’, so it was great to see him get that monkey off his back.

I feel for Sergio because one of the reasons he’s not won a major until now is that he’s lived in the Tiger Woods era and Tiger has been his main nemesis. You can look back to the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah, when it looked like Sergio was on course to win but Tiger emerged victorious. Then there was the last round at Hoylake in 2006, when Tiger prevailed again.

But to Sergio’s credit, he’s kept at it and remained focused. He’s always been a great tee to green striker and, although his putting has let him down in the past, his new putting grip made the difference at Augusta. Don’t forget, Augusta is a tough course and the weather was treacherous – the winning score was less than double figures under par.

I think this played into Sergio’s hands because of his ball striking. Changing his putting grip to a claw grip seems to have made him a much more confident golfer. His second shot into the the par 5 15th green with a short ironwhich finished just a few feet from the hole, giving him the chance of an eagle (which he took), was my favourite shot of 2017.

 

 

2. Jordan Speith winning the Open at Royal Birkdale

It was a real toss-up between this and Sergio’s victory, but Jordan Speith’s performance at Royal Birkdale was a very close runner-up for me. To win by 3 strokes and claim his third major before his 24th birthday is a fantastic achievement.

2017’s Open Championship was great TV, because it was so dramatic. Jordan led the Open Championship basically from the first round and at one point, it looked like he might just let it go. He then fell behind Matt Kuchar but came back with probably the best five holes in major history, when he went birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-par to win.

I think what made those holes so impressive is that he’d just taken a disastrous tee shot on the 13th. The way he recomposed himself between the 13th green and the 14th tee was incredible – not many players could have put it behind them like he did. The 48-foot eagle putt that he holed on the par-5 15th also dispels the myth that he’s a short hitter.

 

 

3. Justin Thomas’ breakthrough

It was an amazing year for Justin Thomas, who’s a close friend of Jordan Speith. They’ve played against each other since they were 13 and you always got a sense that Justin was anxious to replicate Jordan’s success and win a major.

Justin can go low – he showed that when he shot 11-under 59 at the Sony Open in Hawaii and nine-under 63 to break the record for lowest score relative to par in U.S. Open history – so it was only a matter of time before he won the USPGA Championship. He did so in style, because Quail Hollow is a tough course.

Winning five times on the PGATOUR and being voted Player of the Year topped off a memorable year for Justin.

 

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