2016 Turkey Awards: Subpar Performances, Decisions and Moments of Sheer Stupidity

November 21, 2016

Like that crazy in-law who just keeps showing up, Thanksgiving is here again. It’s a time for gratitude and gorging. It’s also time to hand out our annual GOLF.com Turkey Awards for dubious distinctions in the world of golf. Picking over the carcass of the past year, we’ve scavenged for examples of subpar performances, shoddy decisions, unseemly behavior, shallow statements, sheer stupidity and other less-than-proud achievements, and arrived at a worthy collection of winners. The gravy-stained envelope, please.

The Andy Kaufman Keep These Guys Out of the Ring Award

Winner: Two anonymous dudes

Not the Thrilla in Manila. More like the Ridiculous Duke-Out Near Denver. It happened this past summer, at Fossil Trace Golf Club outside the Mile High City, when an on-course argument between two golfers devolved into a tragicomic sparring match in which only a single punch landed, sort of, and both men’s dignity took a hit. As with everything else these days, the pathetic pugilism was caught on video, and now lives on in the archives of humiliating moments. Rope-a-dope? Nope. Just a couple of dopes.

The Oh Brother Where Art Thou and Will You Please Shut Up? Award

Winner: Pete Willett

In an essay mocking American golf fans, Danny Willett’s brother gained some notoriety for his nimble turns of phrase (“pudgy, basement-dwelling irritants, stuffed on cookie dough and pissy beer” wasn’t bad) but even more attention for his exquisitely poor timing. Published just before the Ryder Cup, Willett’s tongue-in-cheek treatise made fine bulletin board fodder (as if the U.S. side needed any more incentive); stirred the ire of spectators; and created a huge headache for brother Danny, who publicly apologized for his sibling’s prose and then put up a sorry performance, going 0-and-3 in the big event.

The Danny Willett Award for Back-Tracking Award

Winner: Danny Willett

First, he was sorry for what his brother wrote. Then, in the wake of his own scruffy play, stung by abuse from American fans, he announced that his brother’s assessment was “in fact correct.”

The Lance Ito Can We Get Another Ruling Award

Winner: The USGA

A bad piece of legislation to begin with, Rule 18-2 was made even more a bummer by the governing body’s bungling of its enforcement at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Never mind that penalizing Dustin Johnson for his ball rolling back a micro-revolution on the 5th green was an insult to justice and common sense. Tournament officials compounded the problem by lallygagging in their final decision, leaving Johnson, the field and golf fans everywhere to play and watch the final round under a cloud of uncertainty. To its credit, the USGA later issued an apology, calling its handling of the matter “a big bogey.” For that self-reflection, we offer the organization a separate and sincere award.

The Last of the Troglodytes Award for Primitive Thinking

Winner: The membership of Muirfield

Never regarded as a model of modernity, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers came off as the Company of Out-of-Touch Old Men when a membership vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for Muirfield to start admitting women. In a sign that even dinosaurs can have second thoughts, the club announced soon after that it wants to hold another referendum on the matter (which was recently pushed back to 2017). Meantime, though, it lost not only a spot on the British Open rota but also significant respect in the sporting world.

The Cover Your Eyes and Hide the Video from the Kids Award for Most Cringe-Worthy Tour Moment

Winner: Ernie Els

We wouldn’t wish the yips on our worst enemy, much less on a beloved figure like Ernie Els. Which made the Big Easy’s six-putt on the first hole at Augusta all the more difficult to watch.

The Steve Harvey Award for Bungling an Award Presentation

Winner: Diane Murphy

And the winner is, Miss Colombia! No. Wait. The winner of the U.S. Women’s Open was Brittany Lang. The only problem being that USGA president Diane Murphy repeatedly referred to her as “Bethany” during the awards presentation.

The Three Stooges Award for Most Hapless-Sounding Threesome

Winner: Hack, Schenk and Yip

Three of the most dreaded words in golf convened in the final round of the Web.com tour’s News Sentinel Open, when Jhared Hack, Adam Schenk and Ryan Yip played in the same group.

The Henry Kissinger Award for Poor International Diplomacy

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Having already caused a ruffle by pulling out of the Summer Games in Rio, McIlroy rubbed it in by dismissing golf’s relevance to the Olympics and saying that he’d likely forgo watching the stroke-play events in favor of, you know, the Olympic “stuff that matters.” (Amazingly, that wasn’t even the most jarring thing McIlroy said in that press conference. He also described his responsibility to the game thusly: “I didn’t get into golf to try and grow the game. I got into golf to try to win championships and win major championships.”)

The Frank Sinatra Regrets We’ve Had a Few Award 

Winners: Tour pros who skipped the Olympics

Once the Games were over, Jordan Spieth alluded to pangs of regret. McIlroy acknowledged he’d been “somewhat proven wrong.” Is it unfair to assign similar feelings to Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Vijay Singh, Hideki Matsuyama and any of the other big dogs who skipped out on golf’s return to the Olympics? We don’t believe it is.

These Guys Play a Game With Which We’re Familiar Award

Winner: Steven Bowditch

A low-point in the Aussie’s frustrating season came at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, where he carded four consecutive rounds in the 80s (a no-cut event), becoming the first Tour pro to do so in more than 30 years.

The Justin Bieber-Lindsay Lohan Award for Questionable Decisions Behind the Wheel

Winner: Kevin Kisner

Footgolf is growing in popularity, and frisbee golf has its share of fans. But NASCAR golf has yet to gain much traction, despite the best efforts of Kevin Kisner, who was briefly suspended by his home club, Palmetto Dunes, after appearing in a Vice Sports video that showed him and his buddies drinking beer and racing golf carts on the grounds.

The Worst Approach to a Frightening 15-Footer Award

Winner: Man and Gator at a Florida course

Some golf course hazards are scarier than others, like, for instance, this Jurassic Park-size gator, which was caught on video as it ambled across a fairway in Palmetto, Fla. And some golf tips are worse than others, like the suggestion heard off-camera in the same clip: “Dave, get next to it for perspective!”

All the Wheels Popping Off at Once Award

Winner: Jordan Spieth

The leader through the first three rounds at the Masters, Spieth appeared to be cruising toward his second straight green jacket. Then came Amen Corner, and you know what came next. Spieth’s “stock 9”-iron found Rae’s Creek on the par-3 12th, as did his next attempt, a chunked wedge from the drop area. A few minutes and a dizzying quadruple-bogey 7 later, the young star’s title hopes were sunk, along with his reputation as an unflinching closer. “Big picture? This will hurt,” Spieth said after.

The Demonstration We Wish We Could Un-See Award

Winner: Tiger Woods

Talk about adding insult to injury. Still mending from surgery, with no timetable to return, Tiger delivered what must rank as the most deflating Tour pro demo of all time. On the 10th hole at Congressional Golf Club, the game’s former alpha plunked not one, not two but three consecutive wedge shots in water, an agonizing showing made all the more woeful by the fact that a veteran tried the same shot moments earlier and hit the green. During his practice swings, Woods grunted a few times in apparent discomfort. Trust us, Tiger: This hurt us as much as it hurt you.

The Fiorello LaGuardia Award for Shoddy Baggage Handling

Winner: Ha Na Jang’s father

Forget Deflate-Gate. Let’s talk Luggage-Gate: the bizarre incident just prior to the HSBC Champions in which a 15-pound travel bag tumbled down an airport escalator and smacked into Korean golf star In Gee Chun, injuring her back and forcing her to withdraw from the event. A freak accident, right? Not according to some conspiracy theorists, who pointed out how the luggage had tumbled in the first place: it had slipped from the hand of the father of Chun’s fellow Korean star, Ha Na Jang.

The at Least He Didn’t Claim that He’d Been Kidnapped Award

Winner: Robert Allenby

Roughly 18 months after making headlines for his claim of being kidnapped, drugged and robbed outside a Honolulu bar (an account that Hawaiian police refuted), Allenby was back on the police blotter. This time, the action took place outside a casino in Illinois, where the Aussie was arrested for criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct after missing the cut at the John Deere Classic. Asked about the incident, Allenby was quoted as saying: “There’s nothing to be said or done about. Nothing happened.” If he says so.

The Samuel Beckett Waiting for Godot Award for Not Showing Up

Winner: Tiger Woods

Woods calls it “a process.” We call it a tease. Consider the elation-cum-deflation Tiger caused when he announced his planned return to competition at the Safeway Open, only to decide, four days before the event started, that his game was too “vulnerable” to put on display. The golf world issued a collective sigh, while in Napa Valley, the sparkling wine was left to sit on ice.

The Dewey Wins Award for False Electoral Reporting

Winner: Donald Trump

Touching down in Scotland to attend the reopening of his golf course at Turnberry, Trump acknowledged the results of the Brexit vote by tweeting: “Just arrived Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back . . .” Um, except that the Scots had voted overwhelmingly the other way.