Tiger Woods resurgence, continued U.S. Open drama and more we learned from golf in 2018
Tiger Woods is not a human, and the U.S. Open can't escape itself
A lot happened in the last 12 months. So much so that it seems like Patrick Reed's Masters win happened about five years ago. This time last year, we didn't know if Tiger Woods would stay healthy, much less be competitive. We didn't know that Brooks Koepka would bail out of the Masters with an injury ... and still win two majors. And we didn't know just how much a European Ryder Cup team could embarrass a U.S. group.
We learned a lot in 2018, though, or at least it seems like we did. These narratives could be upended by any number of events in 2019, but here are 10 things it seems like we learned over the last year.
1. Tiger is not human: It still doesn't seem real. To come from the place he came from to the place he got to -- winning the Tour Chamionship over 29 of the best golfers on the planet -- was remarkable. If I was floored at the PGA Championship when he shot 64 on Sunday to nearly steal the show, I was flabbergasted that Woods was able to win a month later. I know nothing he does should surprise, but if you've been following closely, you know he was completely cooked -- and then he wasn't.
2. Jordan Spieth is human: After averaging over three wins and 12 top 10s a season in the previous three seasons, Spieth came back down to earth in 2018. I'm(and will do so if you want to sell some to me), but prolonged success at the two-or three-win level per year might be an impossibility in this era.
3. Justin Rose is the most consistent top player: He might not have all the wins to back it up, but Rose finished in the top 10 in 15 of 22 events worldwide in 2018, which means he's finished in the top 10 in 20 of 47 events over the past two years. Thirty of 47 events!
4. Players change, even when they're older: A few years ago it was Jimmy Walker. This year, to a much grander extent, it was Webb Simpson. The former U.S. Open champ burned down the Players Championship and tried to carry the U.S. on his back in Paris. He did it all by finishing sixth in putting for the year. Webb Simpson!
5. Brooks Koepka is John Smoltz: Really good in the regular season, but possibly an all-timer when the heat of the biggest events is turned up on everybody else.
6. Rory McIlroy can be great with his wedges: McIlroy ranked in the top 10 on the PGA Tour in proximity to the hole from four different distances between 50-150 yards. Unfortunately for him, he also finished 151st from 150-175 yards. Maybe even more unfortunately, all of this only led to one win on the year.
7. Nobody will dominate: We probably already knew this, but if we didn't, then a year in 2018 where so many all-timers were tossed into the cauldron together and nobody emerged the undisputed champ confirmed it. We will get stretches of greatness. Two majors in a season. Four wins in a year. But nobody in the world is going to go out and win eight or nine times a year like Tiger Woods (and Vijay Singh!) used to do.
8. The U.S. Open will always have silly drama: Another thing we probably already knew. But if you can create fury at Shinnecock in a post-2004 world, there is nowhere you can't create it.
9. The U.S. may never win a Ryder Cup in Europe: You know the saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me half-a-dozen times with some of the best golfers who have ever lived wearing red, white and blue, and I will never pick the U.S. to win a Ryder Cup on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean ever again.
10. Reed can win a major: I have to be honest, I didn't believe in this. I believed he could dominate a Ryder Cup, win some nice WGC events and be a solid PGA Tour player for a long time. I didn't believe he could swipe a monster Masters with McIlroy on his hip down the stretch. I'm not sure I wanted to learn this, but regardless of that, he proved he could do it. And then he did it.
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