OUR columnist brings the golf season to a thought-provoking close with his annual Huggy awards
EVEN IN this season of goodwill to all men, there needs to be balance. So, amid all the schmaltzy sentimental claptrap, some realism, pettiness and cynicism never goes amiss, albeit set alongside heartfelt tribute. Hence the Huggys. Sometimes ill informed, often harsh and, occasionally, genuine – but still sport’s most prestigious and sought-after annual awards – they traditionally bring the golf season to a thought-provoking close. The envelopes please…
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
It’s Rory McIlroy. At the age of 23, the Ulsterman won a major championship by eight clear shots. He played the best golf in that silly Fed-Ex Cup thingy. And he’s dating a lovely blonde tennis player. End of discussion.
PLONKERS OF THE YEAR
As ever, this category was the most hotly contested of all, 2012 having produced a truly exceptional array of candidates, especially off the course. Some of the stuff pulled by a series of bumbling administrators provoked much head shaking and indignation inside the Huggy committee room. Verily, ’twas a year of almost non-stop incompetence.
First we had the ever-unreliable dowagers of the Ladies Golf Union announcing that the best amateur player in the British Isles, Charley Hull, was ineligible for the eight-strong Curtis Cup squad that would take on the Americans at Nairn. Hull’s “crime” was accepting an invitation to play at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Palm Springs – a major no less – rather than attend a wind-swept and chilly team get together in the Highlands, one held months before the matches would actually take place. To be fair, sanity did eventually prevail, Hull did play and – wouldn’t you know? – the GB&I squad swept to a famous victory.
Next up was the Scottish Golf Union, whose selection committee came up with the notion that our nation’s “Player of the Year” for 2012, Jack McDonald, was somehow not good enough for the three-man side that would eventually finish a shameful 44th – behind the likes of Slovenia, Poland and Slovakia – in the World Amateur Team Championship. McDonald, strangely, wasn’t even first reserve. The world still awaits a plausible explanation.
Still, despite all of the above, there could only ever be one winner. Or, two actually. When the combined wit and wisdom of the St Andrews Links Trust and the R&A decided, in their finite wisdom, to mess around with nine holes on the Old Course at St Andrews, they all but retired this much-valued Huggy. Come to think of it, they also deserve a supplementary award for “most arrogant action”. Classic plonkers – all of them.
CADDIE OF THE YEAR – NOT
To the surprise of no-one, the ever-despicable Steve Williams was a strong contender, courtesy of the self-proclaimed “world’s best caddie” all-but disappearing as his man, Adam Scott, imploded over the closing four holes of the Open Championship at Royal Lytham. Another bag-carrier, one Jennifer Oakley, came into the frame by famously losing her way during the Senior British Open at Turnberry – she walked down the 10th hole when her group was on the 13th – and cost her husband Pete a two-shot penalty for “delay of play”.
And let’s not forget Jose Manuel Lara’s faithful companion at the BMW International, the guy who discovered he had one too many clubs in the bag then all-too-obviously tried to hide the extra one in a thick bush just off the 18th tee. Classic stuff.
Call it a three-way tie.
QUOTE OF THE YEAR (1)
“There isn’t a low point in being a professional golfer. I mean, let’s be realistic.”
BIGGEST LACK OF SELF-AWARENESS
There he was, the major-less Colin Montgomerie, bouncing through the streets of Aberdeen – the home city of Great Britain’s most recent major champion – carrying the Olympic torch. As Huggy consultant and Scotland on Sunday chief sports writer Tom English tweeted: “Paul Lawrie should have run alongside carrying the Claret Jug.” Indeed. That would have been a point worth making. But, to the apparently oblivious Monty, goes the Huggy. Not his first of course and, one suspects, not his last.
BIGGEST DISPLAY OF IGNORANCE AND BAD MANNERS
The world of golf has no idea who Craig Carton is. Which is fair enough, because Craig Carton has no idea about golf. But that didn’t stop the WFAN (New York) radio host from subjecting swing coach Hank Haney to 35-minutes or so of ill-informed and almost non-stop abuse.
Carton, clearly a sensitive wee soul, was apparently mortally offended by the book, The Big Miss, a volume chronicling the five years Haney spent coaching Tiger Woods. But all he really did was expose his own shortcomings as both a broadcaster and an interviewer. Any opportunity for sensible discussion about the matter at hand was lost amidst a tiresome tirade designed solely to promote the interviewer’s self-aggrandising agenda.
Thankfully, the moronic Carton has since descended back into golfing anonymity. Good riddance.
QUOTE OF THE YEAR (2)
“Watching Phil Mickelson play golf is like watching a drunk chasing a balloon near the edge of a cliff.”
David Feherty on Lefty’s typically high-risk strategy
SHOT OF THE YEAR
Yes, he was fortunate to find a spot in the trees from where he could make a full and unfettered swing. And yes, the lie wasn’t too bad either. But what a shot it was by Bubba Watson on the first hole of the sudden death play-off that would decide the destination of the most famous garment in golf.
Hooked round the overhanging branches with nothing more than a wedge, Watson’s stunning approach spun to a halt no more then ten feet from the cup. Two putts from there won the Masters and, now, a Huggy.
STIFFEST SHAFT OF THE YEAR
When Jun Lee, a 71-year old former Korean law enforcement officer, was arrested for attempting to smuggle 40,000 erectile dysfunction pills worth $700,000 in his golf bag, his ascension into the Huggy Hall of Fame was all but assured.
In all, Lee’s bag contained 29,827 counterfeit Viagra tablets, 8,993 dodgy Cialis pills and 793 Levitra products. When asked if they were all for his personal use, the already doomed arrestee admitted that taking them all would kill him because of his heart condition. No kidding. Let’s hope his well-earned Huggy finds a suitable spot in his prison cell. By the (barred) window perhaps.
QUOTE OF THE YEAR (3)
“I’ve heard the winner of the Masters hosts the dinner. If I ever won it, there would be no suits, no ties and McDonald’s.”
ROUND OF THE YEAR
With so many deserving candidates, this was – for a while at least – not the easiest decision for the hard-working Huggy committee.
There was Paul Lawrie’s imperious march to a second Qatar Masters victory, one that surely convinced the former Open champion that a Ryder Cup spot was possible. There was Ernie Els storming to victory over the treacherous back nine at Lytham. And almost any of Rory McIlroy’s four tours of Kiawah Island en route to his second major championship win would qualify.
But, in the end, the choice was both straightforward and obvious. When Ian Poulter, pictured below, transformed the Ryder Cup matches with those five closing birdies on Saturday evening at Medinah, he simultaneously earned a Huggy. It was something to see, unforgettable really. As was the Englishman’s animated reaction to every putt. Is there anything in golf better than match play?
Sorry Adam, four bogeys to finish – to lose by a shot – would have won a Huggy in almost any year. And 2012 is no exception.
Yet again, the Huggy committee found it impossible to separate two very different candidates in this heart-warming category.
First up is Kyle Stanley. Needing only a double-bogey seven on the 72nd hole to clinch the Farmers Insurance Open, the 25-year old American took six shots to get down from less than 100 yards and lost by one. One week later, however, he came from six strokes back with 18 holes to play and won the Waste Management Open (memo to Huggy committee: next year we need an award for worst tournament title). Quite a comeback.
Then there is Keegan Bradley, the man who twitched, wiggled and stared his way through the final round of what used to be called the LA Open at Riviera. That was bad – and slow – enough but what really repulsed all Huggy voters was his incessant spitting. In a case of not-so great expectorations, the now former USPGA champion left what appeared to be gallons of spittle and phlegm strewn across the famous course, provoking widespread condemnation on both sides of the Atlantic.
Bradley listened though. After watching himself in action, he resolved never to spit again on any course. And he has not, a feat that earns him a well-deserved Huggy.
QUOTE OF THE YEAR (4)
“That’s a great shot with that swing.”
Feherty again, as former Open champion Ben Curtis teed off
BEST RESPONSE TO A QUESTION
When PGA Tour player Matt Every sat down for a chat with Golf Channel reporter Kelly Tilghman at the Sony Open in Hawaii, things got interesting in a hurry. After a few typically banal opening gambits, Tilghman (uncharacteristically) got stuck in with the following:
“Describe your state of mind two years ago when you were arrested on drug [possession of marijuana, to be precise] charges and suspended from the PGA Tour. Take us back and tell us what that was like.”
To which Every, after a momentary hesitation, responded with: “I don’t think it’s that big a deal. There’s a lot worse stuff that goes on out here.”
At that, presumably with a terribly PC producer screaming in her ear, Tilghman shut things down. Would have been nice to hear just what Every was referring to though.
QUOTE OF THE YEAR (5)
“We have revised the [team] qualification [criteria] for next time. It’s nine [automatic] spots, two [captain’s] picks and ‘Poults.’ The ‘Poults’ clause.”
Lee Westwood pays tribute to Ryder Cup team-mate Ian Poulter
To the green-jacketed members of Augusta National, a long-overdue Huggy for their far-sighted and revolutionary move into the 20th century. (Yes, the 20th). Women members! Who’d have thunk it?