NEWS

The 5 top stories in golf in 2017

By T.J. Auclair
Published on

It was a crazy, inspiring and exciting year in golf.

Weird rulings, first-time major winners and Tiger Woods were among the topics that dominated the news.

Looking back at 2017, here are five of the top stories in golf.

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5. Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration

Here's why: Back in April at the LPGA's first major of the season, it sure looked like Lexi Thompson was well on her way to major victory No. 2 of her career.

But as she walked from the 12th green to the 13th tee with a four-shot lead in the final round, something crazy happened.

An official approached Thompson to inform her that her four-stroke lead was no longer and, instead, she was now tied for the lead.

Is this a joke?

That's the very question Thompson herself asked. It wasn't a joke. You say, a day earlier, while playing the 17th hole, Thompson had a short par putt.

Upon seeing a replay, a viewer noticed that Thompson incorrectly replaced her golf ball after marking it. That infraction -- upon high-def review -- was undeniable, but no one will ever know if it was Thompson's intent.

Thompson, therefore, received a two-stroke penalty for the improper mark and another two-stroke penalty for signing for an incorrect third-round score -- something she could not have been aware of when that third round ended.

In the end, Thompson would ultimately lose the tournament in a playoff, but because of this incident, rules have since changed.

4. Tiger Woods makes his return at the Hero World Challenge

Here's why: Tiger's return at the start of 2017 was short lived. Two starts into what was to be the latest comeback ended after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic in February.

After that, Woods underwent spinal fusion surgery. His return to golf -- if ever -- was unknown. And he wasn't giving any hint as to when he could potentially come back.

Then, as something of an early Christmas gift to golf, Woods announced late in the year that he planned to play the Hero World Challenge.

He fared well in the Bahamas, cracking the top 10 (T9) in the 18-player field.

Even better than that, it looked like Woods was swinging at full speed without any discomfort. Everything about the return looked promising.

Of course, it'll still be touch and go for Woods and his fans. His next start will likely come in January at Torrey Pines. Then we'll all get a better idea as to whether or not he can hold up health-wise on a week-in, week-out basis.

We sure hope he will.

3. Jordan Spieth's late rally to win the Open Championship

Here's why: When Jordan Spieth bogeyed Royal Birkdale's 13th hole in the final round of the Open Championship, he fell behind Matt Kuchar for the first time all day.

As impressive as the bogey was -- crazy ruling and shot from the driving range -- Spieth would need a late rally to win the Claret Jug.

And did he ever rally.

On the very next hole, a par 3, Spieth threw a dart and tapped in for an easy birdie. At the 15th hole, he nailed a long eagle putt and famously instructed caddie Michael Greller to, "Go get that!"

At 16, Spieth holed a 25-footer for birdie and then matched birdies with Kuchar at the par-5 17th.

Following a par on 18, Spieth settled for an incredible three-stroke victory. Poor Kuchar just ran into what can only be described as an all-time buzzsaw.

What a way to end a major.

2. Justin Thomas wins the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow

Here's why: First of all, Thomas was trending toward a major championship. He had three victories on the season going into that week in Charlotte and was routinely near the top of leaderboards even when he wasn't winning.

There were no doubt special moments in the final round -- the putt that dropped in for birdie at the par-5 10th after hanging on the lip for an hour and the huge birdie at the par-3 17th, just to name two.

But what made this win so special was the fact that Thomas is the son, and grandson, of two PGA Professionals.

That's pretty cool and something -- as you can see in the photo above -- Thomas's dad will take great pride in for the rest of his life.

1. Sergio Garcia wins the Masters

Here's why: It took a lot longer than everyone thought, but chalk one up -- a major -- for Sergio Garcia.

When the then 19-year-old Spaniard nearly stole the PGA Championship from Tiger Woods in 1999 at Medinah, it seemed the only question golf pundits had about Garcia wasn't "will he win a major?" but instead, "how many majors will he win?"

As the years went by and Garcia continued to come up empty, even he wondered aloud if maybe he just wasn't meant to win a major.

As it turns out, he did and he does have what it takes.

There were so many times during the final round at Augusta National where Garcia could have crumbled, but he didn't. He kept his head down and kept fighting.

Ultimately, he would win a one-hole playoff over good friend Justin Rose.

And when he slipped into the green jacket, Garcia's face spoke volumes.

Golf owes no one. But with a career like Garcia's, he sure did deserve a major.