John Huggan: The great and grim - 2014 golf awards

Rory McIlroy hoists the Wanamaker trophy at Valhalla. Picture: Getty

Rory McIlroy hoists the Wanamaker trophy at Valhalla. Picture: Getty

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IN this, the season of merriment and overindulgence, it is time once again to dish out golf’s most coveted and anticipated awards, those in which Rory McIlroy is not likely to be beaten into second place by a glorified chauffeur. Yes, folks, it’s Huggy time. The envelopes please…

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

The vastly knowledgeable Huggy committee members required little time to conclude on this, our most sought-after bauble. A few seconds were wasted lamenting the (runner-up) fate of Players and US Open champion, Germany’s Martin Kaymer – a notable season in anyone’s language – but the winner was easily identifiable. Two major championship victories, a World Golf Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event, a leading role in yet another Ryder Cup walkover and a clear lead at the top of the world rankings led quickly to the only possible conclusion. Step forward Rory McIlroy.

BEST ROUND

Scotland’s own Stephen Gallacher was for long enough the likely winner in this category. Out in 35 in the third round of his defence of the Dubai Desert Classic, the soon-to-be Ryder Cup debutant played the last nine holes in 28 shots, or nine under par if you like.

That’s tough to beat, but Jordan Spieth’s closing 63 at the Australian Club in Sydney last month did just that. In tough, breezy conditions on what is surely Australia’s most demanding championship layout – a combination that prompted the world’s best golfer to admit he couldn’t have matched such a score if you gave him “99 tries” – the 21-year old Texan romped to victory in the Australian Open. It was a fitting end to any season.

PLONKER OF THE YEAR

There was only one winner here: Ted Bishop, the now ex-president of the PGA of America. This is the middle-aged guy who had his hair cut like Rickie Fowler on the eve of the Ryder Cup, above. This is the guy who “elected” the disastrous Tom Watson to skipper the US side in the biennial contest with the Europeans at Gleneagles. And – here comes the clincher – this is the guy who called Ian Poulter a “little girl” on Twitter when the Englishman dared to criticise the much-criticised Nick Faldo for the six-time major champion’s criticism of Sergio Garcia’s performance at the 2008 Ryder Cup.

That’s a whole lot of criticism. But no one deserves it more than the hapless Bishop. What a plonker.

BIGGEST POINT-MISSER

While attending the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Royal Melbourne, Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National, had this to say about the best course in the southern hemisphere:

“I’ve been talking to my fellow members about the experience we’re having and what we have seen here. And I think it would be appropriate to say that what we have discovered in Royal Melbourne wildly exceeds our expectations. I know I speak for every gentleman here in a green jacket; we have found a place we would like to call a second home.”

Really? You’ve never before heard of how good Royal Melbourne – a course, like Augusta National, designed by Alister Mackenzie – is? It is the unanimous opinion of the Huggy committee that Mister Payne needs to get out more.

BEST QUOTES

The first contender for this coveted award was Jason Dufner. Immediately after his play-off loss to Adam Scott in the Colonial Invitational, the former USPGA champion admitted it was “hard to concentrate. He’s so good looking.”

But even Dufner’s dry wit had to bend the knee to Jessica Korda. During the Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale, the young American was heard to complain: “The wind was blowing so hard the ball was ovulating on the greens.”

But the winner, by a distance, is former Scottish Girls champion Connie Jaffrey. Talking with the press after her runner-up finish in the Helen Holm Trophy – played in her hometown of Troon – the youngster was asked if her local knowledge of the (all-male) Royal Troon links had been to her advantage.

“They’re quite tight on the rules, so I only get to play a couple of times a year,” she replied. “I don’t even get to use the practice putting green, which is unfortunate.”

What made this quote so delicious – as well as indicative of why all-male clubs need a good shake – is that it came in the wake of the following from Royal Troon secretary David Brown: “We are a single-gender club but we feel it is unfair to be compared to some other clubs. The Troon Ladies Golf Club was founded in 1882. They have 370 members. They pay us rent to use all our facilities. But they are an autonomous club.”

Oh really? “All,” the facilities? Well, other than the practice green apparently.

SHOT OF THE YEAR

Coming to the final hole of The Championship at Laguna National, Felipe Aguilar needed an eagle two to pip Denmark’s Anders Hansen and David Lipsky of America by a shot. No problem. From 142 yards out, the Chilean duly holed out with a wedge to complete a back nine of 28, a round of 62 and claim his second European Tour win.

PUTT OF THE YEAR

There will be those who will say the 75ft eagle putt Paula Creamer holed to win the HSBC Women’s Champions has to be putt of the year. But they would be wrong.

When Brendan Todd stood over a 15-foot par putt on the final green at the Barclays Championship – the first round of the Fed-Ex Cup playoffs – he had no idea of its significance. As a result of Todd successfully converting, Geoff Ogilvy scraped into the Deutsche Bank Championship as the 100th and last qualifier.

Taking full advantage, Ogilvy finished second at the DBC, then played well enough the following week to make it into the climactic Tour Championship. He finished last there, but no matter; the Australian will now play in all four majors next year. All thanks to Brendan Todd.

DAFTEST RULE

At the Masters, an unnamed BBC producer ventured into the media centre for a sandwich. No good. The free food therein is for written press only. No problem. Our intrepid hero nipped outside to the nearby concession area. He then popped back into the media centre for a bottle of water. Then he tried to leave.

But he couldn’t. No one is allowed to take food/water from the media centre, lest the sun fall from the sky presumably.

“You can’t take those sandwiches with you, sir,” said the officious official.

“But I brought them with me.”

“Sorry sir. You’ll have to leave them here and go buy more.”

After much toing and froing, the head of security appeared to escort the by-now totally bemused producer to a back door where no one can see him leave with the sandwiches.

Welcome to Augusta National everyone.

MOST HEART-WARMING GESTURE

Play was suspended during the first round of the KLM Open when Paraguayan Fabrizio Zanotti was hit on the head by a shot stuck by Frenchman Alexandre Kaleka. As it turned out, Zanotti was OK after a night in hospital. But his pals, Felipe Aguilar and Ricardo Gonzalez, didn’t know that. In a wonderful gesture of friendship, the pair immediately withdrew from the event and accompanied their mate to the infirmary. Bravo gentlemen.

WORST DISPLAY OF BAD TASTE (1)

Long-time caddie Iain MacGregor collapsed and died on the 18th fairway during the final round of the Madeira Islands Open. Astonishingly, the European Tour decided to play on. Shameful.

WORST DISPLAY OF BAD TASTE (2)

In the wake of MacGregor’s death, Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper ran a cartoon in which a body is shown lying prone on a green as two golfers putt. One is saying to the other: “Remember, you have to play it as it lies.”

BIGGEST “COINCIDENCE”

In January this year, Giles Morgan, global head of sponsorship and events for HSBC (one of the most prominent financial backers of the Open Championship), had this to say about the then all-male membership of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews: “The R&A are clear that it’s a very uneasy position for the bank.”

Fast forward a few months and, hey presto, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson, left – citing the disconnect between a discriminatory membership policy and rule making for both men and women – is announcing a ballot is to be held on the question of women members.

Remarkably, what Dawson did not mention is that the R&A’s aforementioned position was equally untenable ten years ago, 50 years ago and 100 years ago. But something changed. Could it be that the voice of money was speaking loud and clear? The Huggy committee can only speculate.

BEST COMEBACK

Six up after 11 holes against Glenbervie’s Callum Bauchop, fourth seed Murray Naismith appeared to be cruising into the last-32 of the Scottish Boys Championship at West Kilbride. Not so fast, though. In an astonishing turnaround, Bauchop won the last seven holes to triumph on the final green.

“I’m baffled really,” said the winner afterwards. No word yet from the loser.

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