Scotsman Golf Awards 2022: The best, worst and funniest moments according to Martin Dempster
Therefore, it’s time to take a look back over the year by picking out the highlights and delivering pats on the back to those who shone this year at a turbulent time for the game.
Has to be the 150th Open at St Andrews. Sometimes events that get big build ups don’t live up to expectations but not this one. The milestone tournament got the stage it deserved, both in terms of the challenge of the course and also the infrastructure, ensuring that a record 290,000 crowds for the game’s oldest major wasn’t disappointed by how the week unfolded.
Scottie Scheffler was on fire early in the year, capping a brilliant burst of form by winning The Masters, while Cameron Smith triumphed in both The Open and The Players Championship. But Rory McIlroy’s consistency allowed him to become just the second player to win both the FedEx Cup and DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai in the same season. He was also very vocal against LIV Golf at a time when it was important for the game’s leading lights to be heard.
This one has to be shared because it would be unfair not to recognise boh Ewen Ferguson winning twice - it was almost a hat-trick - in his rookie DP World Tour campaign and Gemma Dryburgh becoming just the fourth Scot to taste victory on the LPGA Tour with her stunning four-shot success in Japan. All i n all, it was a great year for Scots in the pro ranks.
Pole Adrian Meronk is going from strength, having just landed a second DP World Tour title in the Australian Open, but Korean Tom Kim has taken the PGA Tour by storm since finishing third in the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in July. He’s got both a big game and big personality, which is making him the most exciting Korean player yet to hit the US circuit.
Shot of Year
No contest, really, because Matt Fitzpatrick’s shot from a bunker at the final hole in the US Oen at The Country Club at Brookline was something special. Yes, he got a slight break in that he wasn’t totally impeded by a grass island in the middle of the trap, but the way he executed it, setting up a title-winning par to clinch a maiden major win, was very impressive indeed.
Ashleigh Buhai’s title triumph in the first AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield was teed up by a stunning seven-under-par 64 in very tricky conditions for the third round on the East Lothian coast. The South African covered the first six holes in four-under before capping a splendid day’s work by chipping in for a birdie at the par-5 17th. The splendid effort meant very few were still in the hunt on the last day.
The second round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship was played in arguably the most miserable weather witnessed at a top event for some time as players battled high winds and heavy rain at Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and St Andrews. The challenge was summed up by Thomas Pieters carding an 83 - a day after he’d shot 65 at Carnoustie then going out in the third round and firing a 64 at St Andrews.
I’m giving this one to a Scot because Hannah Darling, the pride of Broomieknowe, is currently sitting sixth in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking after recording ten top-ten finishes during the year. The majority of those efforts were in University of South Carolina colours on the ultra-competitive US college circuit, though she was representing Scotland when claiming fourth spot in the individual standings in the Women’s Amateur Team Championship in France.
Richie Ramsay’s roar of joy on the 18th hole at Hillside after he’d holed an eight-foot par putt in the final round to win the Cazoo Classic showed exactly what it meant for the Aberdonian to record his first victory since 2015. Coming on the back of a last-hole disappointment in the Betfred British Masters at The Belfry, the celebration was also sparked by the fact it was his first success after daughter Olivia’s birth.
It may have been a year of bickering in the game but golf was united in its joy for Billy Foster when, after 40 years as a caddie during which time he’d worked with Seve Ballesteros, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, the Yorkshireman won a first major on Matt Fitzpatrick’s bag in the US Open. Foster uses the word “respect” a lot but, in this instance, it was all heading his way and rightly so.
I still feel myself laughing inside whenever I think about Colin Montgomerie talking about how his good day in the third round of The Senior Open presented by Rolex had been fuelled by Jelly Babies, having been told by Padraig Harrington earlier in the week they were his sort of secret weapon, and that he was intending to stop off in Auchterarder that night to stock up his supplies for the final day. It was Monty at his best and he knew it!
This has to go to Sergio Garcia after the Spaniard pulled out of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth after the opening round without giving an official reason yet appear at a college football match back in the US. That came in the week one of his compatriots, Alfredo Garcia-Heredia, was squeezed out of the field by Garcia and other LIV Golf players at a time when he was battling to try and save his DP World Tour card.
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