Superlatives for a Super SeasonRemembering some of the top moments from a memorable 2021
December 07, 2021
By Cameron Morfit , PGATOUR.COM
Justin Thomas comes from behind to win at THE PLAYERS
What a year.
As we prepare to close the book on 2021 still a little wobbly on our feet, a little glassy-eyed as we try to process it all, it seems only appropriate to pause and consider what we’ve seen.
A six-man playoff. An eight-hole playoff. The first PLAYERS Championship in two years. Xander Schauffele striking gold at the Tokyo Olympics. Tony Finau winning again.
We saw Power, as in Seamus, your Barbasol Championship winner, and power, as in driving distance leader Bryson DeChambeau’s crowd-pleasing, 370-yard moon shot on the par-5 sixth hole at Bay Hill as he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
English, as in Harris, was spoken seemingly everywhere, from Kapalua (Sentry Tournament of Champions) to Connecticut (Travelers Championship) to Kohler (Ryder Cup).
We also had a long-awaited Ancer, as in Abraham, capturing his first PGA TOUR trophy in an unlikely playoff at the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
Here’s what else we saw over these unforgettable 12 months.
Underrated Player of the Year: Hideki Matsuyama, as rated by himself
Hideki Matsuyama earns 7th PGA TOUR win by five at ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP
At The Masters in April, Matsuyama became the first Japanese player to wear the green jacket and the first to win a men’s major of any kind. He was brimming with confidence.
Alas, it was gone by the time he went home for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in October.
“Ball striking, putting, chipping, all of these have not reached the level I want,” he said. “If my game scored 10 out of 10 at The Masters, now I would say it scores less than 1. I will be struggling this week, but I am here in Japan, so I am motivated to be in contention.”
Then he won, after which he said, “I would rate my performance as two or three.”
Geez. Tough crowd.
Underrated Player of the Year II: Justin Thomas, as rated by himself
Despite winning THE PLAYERS Championship, Justin Thomas said at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba that he would give his season a C-minus.
Craziest finish: WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
The next closest player was at 16 under.
Alas, after multiple water balls, a long ruling, and being put on the clock, English and DeChambeau shot 40 and 41, respectively, on the back. Abraham Ancer (2-under 68) won after joining a playoff with Hideki Maruyama and Sam Burns, who finished an hour before English and DeChambeau and admitted he almost left the property.
Shocker of the YearPhil Mickelson celebrates after winning the 2021 PGA Championship. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship less than a month shy of his 51st birthday, becoming the oldest player to win a major – by 2 1/2 years. (Julius Boros)
Shocker of the Year IIThe U.S. Ryder Cup team celebrates its victory over Europe. (Keyur Khamar/Getty Images)
After winning just three times in 27 years, the U.S. Ryder Cup Team trounced Europe 19-9, the biggest margin of victory since the event went to 28 matches.
Most Functional Family
Stewart Cink claims eighth PGA TOUR title at 2021 RBC Heritage
Stewart Cink won the RBC Heritage in April with son Reagan as his caddie. It was the second time they’d teamed up for a W in the season’s first eight months.
This, after Cink went into last season without a victory since 2009.
Fittingly, it’s a four-way tie:
“Patty Ice” Cantlay beat Bryson DeChambeau in a six-hole playoff at the BMW Championship (and went on to win the FedExCup). Harris English beat Kramer Hickok in eight extra holes at the Travelers Championship. C.T. Pan won a seven-man playoff to capture the Bronze Medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Finally, Kevin Kisner won a six-man playoff that also included Branden Grace, Si Woo Kim, Kevin Na, Adam Scott and Roger Sloan at the Wyndham Championship.
World No. 1 Jon Rahm and his wife, Kelley, welcomed their first child, son Kepa, just prior to The Masters Tournament in early April.
Best Delivery II
Jon Rahm birdied 17 and 18 to win the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, where he’d captured his first PGA TOUR title in 2017 and not far from where he later proposed to Kelley.
Shot of the Day
Jordan Spieth's winning approach on No. 18 is Shot of the Day
Jordan Spieth won for the first time since 2017 at the Valero Texas Open.
“It’s been a long road,” he said.
A total of 1,351 days, to be exact, but who’s counting?
Best Home Cooking
PGA TOUR – The CUT
Rory McIlroy wins the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship
Breaking a drought going back to the 2019 PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP, Rory McIlroy won his third Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, where he’s a member. It was the first time he’s won a TOUR event three times.
Best Reason to Keep Knocking on the Door
Hideki Matsuyama won the Masters, becoming the first Japanese player to win a men’s major in April. It was his first victory in four years.
Justin Thomas opened with a 38 Thursday and was a shot outside the cut line with nine holes remaining Friday, then shot 64-68 to win THE PLAYERS Championship. “It was a ball-striking clinic,” said his then-caddie, Jimmy Johnson.
After winning for the first time in his career at THE CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK the previous fall, Jason Kokrak, 36, continued his transformation from journeyman to multiple TOUR winner as he captured the Charles Schwab Challenge in late May. And when he captured the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open in November, he had a sleeve of wins in a span of 13 months, making him one of the game’s hottest players.
Supernova of the Year
Less than a year after picking up his first major title at the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park, Collin Morikawa captured The Open Championship for major No. 2. The five-time PGA TOUR winner, who is still just 24, also went 3-0-1 at the Ryder Cup and became the first American to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
Nickname of the Year
Patrick Cantlay rode a red-hot summer all the way to the FedExCup, but he was “Patty Ice” to the fans at the BMW Championship. Rarely has anyone so aptly lived into his new nickname, which was ironed onto the back of an Atlanta Falcons jersey (and apparently into Cantlay’s unflappable game) for the TOUR Championship.
“It could have been a different nickname, but he really appreciated that the fans got behind him,” said Matt Minister, Cantlay’s longtime caddie. “Because up until last week (at the BMW), everybody else was being cheered for, and then they really started cheering for him. That’s what made the difference, that they got behind him.”