PGA Tour season awards: Tiger Woods, incredible tournaments and more from 2018
From beginning to end, this season has been one to remember -- and it's not over yet
The PGA Tour has its first weekend off since the start of 2018, so we all need to catch our breath and look back at what has taken place over the last nine months. There have been some truly unbelievable tournaments, innumerable great shots and so many "wait, Tiger Woods is in contention?!" moments that Bryson DeChambeau might need to dust off his abacus to count them all.
Let's take a look back at the year that was while heading into next week's Tour Championship as 30 golfers contend at East Lake for a $10 million first prize (and $3 million second prize!).
Best Tournament -- The Open Championship: Even though Carnoustie did not produce the greatest winner, it was still the best event; it almost always is. Think about what transpired that weekend. Jordan Spieth went into the final round in the final pairing looking for his fourth major. Tiger Woods led alone on the back nine. Justin Rose nearly won after barely making the cut. Rory McIlroy hit an eagle putt late in the day to sniff out the lead. And ultimately, a brilliant final day from Francesco Molinari won the week. I'm leaving off about 28 different things, including Rickie Fowler going out of bounds, the course playing like four different courses over the week and Sandy Lyle bringing down the merchandise tent early. The Open free money every year for those looking for the most golf drama packed into a single tournament. It always delivers.
Best Non-Major Tournament -- Arnold Palmer Invitational: There was a pretty electrifying six-week stretch from February through March that's tough to choose from. Bubba Watson's win at the Genesis Open was great. So was Phil Mickelson in Mexico. Justin Thomas at the Honda Classic was memorable. As was Paul Casey besting Tiger Woods at the Valspar Championship. The one that tops them all for me, though, is the Arnold Palmer Invitational. There was a lot going on. Tiger making a run, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson in the mix, the rise of DeChambeau and, ultimately, Rory doing what Rory does and laying down the hammer with a 64 for the win. I often judge these things by how much fun Twitter was while the event was happening, and this one was one of the more memorable Sunday rides of the non-majors this year.
Best Performance -- Webb Simpson, The Players Championship: It needs context because the final margin does not come close to painting a picture of just how dominant Webb Simpson was throughout the week at TPC Sawgrass. He dominated from beginning to end and decimated maybe the toughest field in golf. Simpson ended up only gaining about 3.8 strokes on the field over the course of four days, but that included a Sunday in which he fired at the middle of greens and a double at the last after the tournament had long been decided. Winning is hard. Winning wire to wire is harder. Winning wire to wire in that field is a preposterous endeavor.
Best Player -- Dustin Johnson: He won't win PGA Tour Player of the Year because Brooks Koepka won two majors, but D.J. has been better overall. He ranks third in money earned, finished in the top 10 in two majors, won three times and ranks first in the following categories.
- Strokes gained driving
- Strokes gained tee to green
- Strokes gained overall
- Scoring average
- Birdie average
- Top 10s
We might not remember this as the season of D.J. the same way we will with Koepka, and that's fair. But Johnson, over the course of the entire year, has been undeniably better at golf than his Ryder Cup brethren, despite the two-major difference. This gets at a bigger argument -- how we value major wins -- but you can't really prove statistically or viscerally that anyone has been better at golf than Dustin Johnson in 2018.
Best Shot -- Justin Thomas, WGC-Mexico Championship: Justin Thomas didn't go on to win the Mexico Championship, but this hole-out for eagle on the 72nd hole to shoot 64 and eventually get into a playoff with Phil Mickelson was astonishingly good. It was this year's version of Jordan Spieth's holed-out bunker shot at last year's Travelers Championship to win but with a much higher degree of difficulty.
Longest Shot -- Dustin Johnson, Sentry Tournament of Champions: This could have doubled as the best shot -- remember, Brandel Chamblee called it the greatest shot of all time -- but D.J. nearly aced a par 4 after driving a ball 430 yards at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January. Hudson Swafford also hit one 430 yards at the same even, but it didn't look quite like this one did.
Best Moment -- Tiger's birdie at Bellerive: Tiger's birdie at the 72nd hole in the PGA Championship stole the show. It wasn't for the win, and he knew it. It was for more than a win. It was the culmination of so many months of wondering and wandering for Woods. So many hours of wondering whether he would ever be pain-free again and so many days of just wanting to swing a club, much less play again on the professional level. If it special, that's because it was. The golfer whose career has generated so many of the other superstars in the sport today held up against their best stuff at the highest level and emptied himself in the process. The entire arc of this season led to that moment, and Tiger delivered.
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