Tensions were high in professional golf this year.
No matter what side of this polarizing debate you are on, it’s likely that the ongoing rift between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf caused a few headaches – or, as Brooks Koepka said during the U.S. Open, threw a black cloud over sizable portions of this year.
But through it all, this sport stilled provided us with great moments, whether in victory or in defeat.
• Scottie Scheffler's torrid run that ended with an emotional Masters victory.
• Rory McIlroy's heartbreaking defeat at St. Andrews.
• The arrival of the lovable Tom Kim on the big stage.
But in between all that, and all the more serious LIV-related drama, were the little, lighthearted and sometimes silly bits that likely made us smile, laugh (even if incredulously) or, in severe cases, howl so hard a few tears came out.
Here are some of those amusing favorites:
Honorable mention: Tiger Woods' daughter, Sam, reveals during her dad's Hall of Fame induction that he's a nerd just like all of us; Tiger has attended Comic-Con dressed up as Batman. ... The biggest non-Phil, pre-tournament story of PGA Championship week: "$18(!!!!!!) for a beer… uhhhh what." ... TaylorMade's British players, including Tommy Fleetwood, had to use American Revolution-inspired staff bags at Brookline. ... Jason Kokrak's walk-off DQ at Travelers that was capped on ShotLink by "87 yards into the unknown." I don't know why I found that so funny actually. ... PGA Tour Canada player Harrison Ott Monday qualifies for an event with rental clubs and a borrowed Coors Light polo. ... Tiger's Eddie Bauer look – and specifically, Brendan Porath's tweet about it – before players-only meeting at BMW. ... Tired: James Hahn's Gangnam Style dance. Wired: Sungjae Im's Gangnam Style dance after Presidents Cup. ... Harrison Crowe won the Asia-Pacific Amateur, and the tournament ultimately came down to the par-3 17th hole, where competitors literally needed a boat to reach the island green. Crowe's countryman Jason Scrivener would be proud.
12. Bryson vs. rope. This just makes the cut, but only because DeChambeau ended up being fine and later poked fun at himself. OK, so even if Bryson hadn’t done the latter, the utter ridiculousness of the whole series of events was humorous: 1. Bryson walks into rope; 2. Bryson blames gallery. “Oh my God, what the f--- guys?!”; 3. LIV broadcaster says, “Off with his head!” Interesting choice of words; 4. Josh Allen trolls Bryson by covering both eyes and smirking as he goes underneath at rope at a Bills game. This, however, may have been one of the only funny parodies until Bryson’s Rocky-style rendition.
11. The Stovepipe Kid. There’s a reason why on most days I prefer amateur golf over the pros. Sure, the Masters is special. But so, too, are events like the U.S. Amateur, which this year introduced us to Andrew Von Lossow, the 34-year-old graphic designer and lead-tape enthusiast who upset Stanford stud Michael Thorbjornsen in the first round of match play. Von Lossow, or AVL, cut his teeth at college-golf non-power Southwestern Oregon, near Bandon, and had spent much of the past decade and a half bouncing around as a caddie. Yet there he was knocking off a past U.S. Junior Amateur champion and promising future pro who had recently tied for fourth at a PGA Tour event. “It’s like the NCAA Tournament,” said Von Lossow during an all-timer of an interview, one filled with laughs and a few sips of beer. Known around the Pacific Northwest as “The Stovepipe Kid,” AVL stood out at Ridgewood with his Miura blades and colorful polos. He didn’t last beyond the Round of 32 – at least inside the ropes. He remained on property, mostly making new friends at the clubhouse bar as everyone toasted the week’s unlikely hero. How many other competitors would proclaim, “I’ll do it for Gold Boy!” while walking to the first tee? (More on the shiny, mixed-reality star later.) Sam Bennett ended the event with the Havemeyer Trophy, but only one man – AVL – capped it with the title of “People’s Golfer.”
10. “Surely you jest!” Of all things LIV that were said this year, Greg Norman’s classic line in his letter to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan takes the cake – or pie. Place: “These three poor kids.” Could be a great title for you next children’s book, Shane Bacon. Show: This Alan Shipnuck tweet...
9. Crazy comps. This summer, Talor Gooch likened the atmosphere at the LIV Portland event to the Ryder Cup despite never having played a Ryder Cup. The statement was so bizarre, Gooch's 4 Aces teammates couldn't resist cracking smiles.
And later, after LIV's lawyer compared the Tour Championship to the Super Bowl, Rory McIlroy generated some laughs after winning at East Lake by raising two fists in the air and proclaiming himself, "Super Bowl champ!"
8. WMPO madness. Charley Hoffman got Rickie Fowler'd at the WM Phoenix Open and then took to Instagram to unleash a lengthy tirade. The bizarre rant included plenty of USGA criticism, some tuft-tuff confusion, a "Sorry Jay!" and the tagging of the Saudi International account.
Of course, Hoffman wasn't the only one with trash to clean up. The 16th hole was littered with beer cans and other debris after Sam Ryder's hole-in-one on Saturday, and again after Carlos Ortiz's ace on Sunday. But Joel Dahmen and Harry Higgs stole the show on golf's most raucous hole by taking their shirts off. A week later: One of the exchanges of the year, courtesy of this tweet by Dylan Dethier:
7. "That's pretty not that good." Cam Smith might've just won one of the biggest events in golf history – the 150th Open at the Home Golf – and beaten the media centre's beloved son, Rory McIlroy, in the process, but Smith still couldn't dodge the LIV rumor mill in his winner's press conference. Smith's response did little to quell the notion that the newly minted Champion Golfer of the Year was soon headed to the Saudi-backed tour. “I just won the British Open, and you're asking about that. I think that's pretty not that good,” Smith said. “I don't know, mate. My team around me worries about all that stuff. I'm here to win golf tournaments.”
A few weeks later, at the first FedExCup playoff event, Smith offered another no comment, though again he wasn't very convincing. Here's the full exchange with Golf Digest's Shane Ryan:
Q. Cam, I have an obvious question for you. There are reports in The Telegraph that you are imminently signing with LIV Golf or have signed with LIV Golf. Cameron Percy today said you're going and yet here you are intending to play the Playoffs. Do you care to comment?
SMITH: My goal here is to win the FedExCup Playoffs. That's all I'm here for. If there's something I need to say regarding the PGA TOUR or LIV, it will come from Cameron Smith, not Cameron Percy. I'm a man of my word and whenever you guys need to know anything, it'll be said by me.
Q. And just following up on that, you being a man of your word, The Telegraph is reporting that you've signed and are going. Would you like to say yes or no to that?
SMITH: I have no comment to that. Like I said, I'm here to play the FedExCup Playoffs. That's been my focus the last week and a half, that's what I'm here to do, I'm here to win the FedExCup Playoffs. And like I said, it will come from me, it won't come from Cameron Percy.
Q. Do you intend to play the Presidents Cup?
SMITH: Absolutely, yeah. That's something that we've been looking forward to for the last three years. We missed a year because of COVID and that's something that I look forward to being a part of.
Q. One of the things being reported is that you were going to be playing in the LIV Boston event in early September. Can you comment on that?
SMITH: Like I said, I'm here to play the FedExCup Playoffs, mate. I don't – that's what I'm here to do. I'm here to win the FedExCup Playoffs, that's my priority.
Q. I asked you about the Presidents Cup and you said you were looking forward to it. That's actually later, so I thought maybe something earlier you could say you were intending to play.
SMITH: No, no.
And with that, another awkward presser was over. After East Lake, Smith signed with LIV. He debuted in Boston. He won his next LIV start in Chicago. He did not play the Presidents Cup.
Looking back at the tea leaves, particularly these interviews, one can't help but find most of it amusing.
6. Masters memories. This was Scottie Scheffler's Masters. The down-to-earth Texan put on a clinic, cried before his final-round tee time and managed to still win by three shots despite four-putting his 72nd hole. He also wrestled with his Nike vest on Saturday. Why that sticks out over any particular shot he hit, I don't know, but then again, these are some other "highlights" from that week that have stuck with me:
• Tiger Woods calling Stewart Cink, "Kitchen." (Also, this screenshot of "Kitchen" and "Big Kitchen" at the following week's RBC Heritage.)
• Billy Horschel putting his arm around Tyrrell Hatton while walking off the 16th tee. The fact that we got these two in a Sunday-morning pairing at Augusta National was incredible. And they did not disappoint – all the way down to Hatton's post-round course review. "Maybe I'll be better off if I come back being a caddie here rather than trying to hit golf shots," an exasperated Hatton said.
• And maybe the most obscure: A pair of 20-something patrons mistaking Sandy Lyle for anyone other than a player on Friday morning. From my story:
“Is this a tee box?” one of the guys asked his buddy.
“Yeah, I think so,” the other responded. “There are some golfers coming over here soon.”
He was partially right. While 6-foot-5 Stewart Hagestad, outfitted impeccably with gear from the pro shop, was quickly striding into view, Hagestad’s playing competitor was already standing on the tee, just a few feet away from the patrons. They didn’t notice, of course, but dressed head to toe in all black – save for the large Scottish flags printed on his shoes – and donning a barely zipped rain jacket and left rain glove was 64-year-old Sandy Lyle.
5. Phil potpourri. What an, um, interesting year for Phil Mickelson. He lost the PIP despite having proclaimed himself the winner. He called the Saudi "scary mother f---ers." He then went dark. He missed defending his title at the PGA Championship, where the player gift at the past champions dinner was none other than a firepit. He wore a Masters vest at the first LIV event, and then donned a T-shirt under his quarter-zip at St. Andrews. And somehow those looks didn't even come close to this:
He hung out with gorillas. He sued the PGA Tour, and then withdrew himself from the lawsuit. Surely, I'm missing a ton of other stuff.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't include arguably the Tweet of the Year, via Kyle Porter in reaction to Mickelson and other players being denied waivers to compete in the LIV London tournament:
4. As worn by Adam Scott. The Aussie went on a questionable beige streak this year with Scott claiming, "I want to look as much like a 40-year-old dad as humanly possible." He succeeded. But my favorite Scotty look this year came at the Presidents Cup, when me noting that Scott looked like a McDonald's employee turned into the Photoshop of the Year:
And speaking of ice cream...
3. Spieth vs. ice cream cone. The 150th Open Championship will be remembered for so much. Cam Smith. Rory McIlroy. Tiger Woods and the Swilcan Bridge. Cam from the Bronx. Jordan Spieth eating ice cream very strangely. The again, when it comes to Spieth, nothing shocks me. He is truly one-of-a-kind.
2. Question of the year. As in worst question of the year. Sure, there were some strange ones asked at The Open this year, including a back-and-forth with Jordan Spieth about ice baths and the specifics of his lodging, but nothing beats this head-scratcher tossed to Cameron Young, who grew up attending an elite private school and living on one of the top clubs in New York, which, by the way, his dad is the head pro at:
1. Mixed reality. Bonafide hit. There's no doubt that 2022 will do down as a momentous year in golf. So, is it bad if the singular thing I will remember most doesn't even really exist? Of course, I'm talking about Gold Boy, the mixed-reality trophy turned sweet-swinging man that took The Players by storm and captured the hearts (I think) of golf fans around the globe. Gold Boy recreated some of the championship's biggest moments, and Tiger Woods provided "proof of concept" by giggling at Gold Boy's better-than-most putt. Brandel Chamblee broke down Gold Boy's action. And Golf Twitter had itself a fun few days. I even bought a T-shirt.
There were dozens of other great tweets that, unfortunately, I was unable to find. But none compared to this dramatic reading of my Gold Boy feature by Will Bardwell:
The more I think about it, Gold Boy was exactly what we all needed heading into the meat of what ended up being a tumultuous golf season.
And now to close with something we definitely didn't need...