Tiger! Amy! Brooks! The 16 most viral golf moments of 2019
In 2019, social media is a necessary evil. Just as easily as an uplifting display of sportsmanship or kindness can spread joy to the internet, so too can a video of an adult having a temper tantrum in a bunker burn down a person’s reputation.
But hey, that’s social media for you — and golf’s biggest and brightest stars are not exempt from the praise and perils of going viral. Before we turn the calendar and look to 2020, let us remember the best viral golf moments from the year that was 2019.
1. Matt Kuchar’s caddie-gate
While this technically happened in 2018, our Michael Bamberger didn’t break the story until 2019. And once he broke it open, there was no putting caddie-gate back in the box. In the now-infamous incident, Kuchar used a local caddie at the 2018 Mayakoba Classic and agreed to pay $5,000. However, when local caddie David “El Tucan” Ortiz helped Kuchar to a victory and a $1.3 million paycheck, El Tucan kept waiting for some more money to roll in. For weeks, rumors swirled on social media until details emerged and the story took off.
2. ‘I got this!’
We dare you to find a more inspirational, feel good, and viral moment in 2019 than when Special Olympics golfer Amy Bockerstette played the par-3 16th with Gary Woodland at the Waste Management Pheonix Open. Bockerstette’s positive attitude and “I got this!” mantra was infectious. Despite finding a bunker with her tee shot, Amy went on to par the hole and embark on an endearing friendship with Woodland that continues to bring the golf community joy. Bockerstette seized on her viral fame, starting the I GOT THIS Foundation to promote golf instruction and playing opportunities for people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.
3. Sergio’s bunker breakdown
While Amy Bockerstette was busy winning the hearts and minds of golfers everywhere, Sergio Garcia was tearing up the course at the inaugural Saudi International, and not with his game. Garcia did not have his best game and was already frustrated. Combine that with what he and some others pros saw as poor course conditions at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, and Garcia was ready to blow. The European Tour actually DQ’d him for dragging his spikes across the greens, but that’s not what went viral. The golf rumor mill began churning out reports of Garcia’s tomahawk style temper tantrum in a bunker, and sure enough, once the video of this incident surfaced, Garcia became 2019’s persona non grata.
In 2018, Phil Mickelson blessed us all with his social media presence when he joined Twitter and Instagram. But Phil’s accounts really went viral around time the Tour announced it would allow players to wear shorts during practice rounds. A photo of Lefty in shorts began making the rounds on Twitter and quickly attained viral status. Being the social media genius he is, Phil recognized the opportunity the social media gods had given him and thus Phil-Kwon-Do calves was born. Mickelson added to his social media franchise throughout the year with his Phireside chats, Tribute Tuesdays, the time he roasted Kuchar on his way up Magnolia Lane and more classic Mickelson hijinks.
Here’s an epilogue to my #PhiresideWithPhil with Larry David where he roughs me up for missing the US Open. Please don’t take it seriously. I’m guessing neither of Larry’s daughters (Emmy or Emmy) were school Prez or the grad speaker. #ProudDad 🤗 pic.twitter.com/eaLpSFo7td— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) October 2, 2019
5. The most perfect swing in golf
The golf swing is complicated, which makes it hard to perfect. Unless your name is Ann van Dam that is. Her swing first went viral on social media in March, with its silky smooth tempo and perfect fundamentals. Once we’d seen what perfection looked like, we couldn’t get enough. Every time van Dam would post a swing video, she cast a spell. She rode her perfect swing to a single 2019 victory on the Ladies European Tour and earned herself a spot on the champion Solheim Cup European team to boot.
6. Augusta National Women’s Amateur back-nine duel
The Augusta National Women’s Amateur‘s debut would have been deemed a success no matter what. But it was the fantastic back-nine duel between soon-to-be LPGA Tour rookies Maria Fassi and Jennifer Kupcho that made this event a smash hit. Forget about the fact that these women were making history. They put on a SHOW while doing it. Kupcho’s eagle on 13 was as good as it gets and the competitive spirit these two women demonstrated under pressure gave the world a glimpse of golf in its purest form. It was all anyone could talk about until a certain golfer won the Masters the following week.
7. Tiger Woods breaks the internet
Where were you when Tiger completed one of the most amazing comebacks in all of sports? Golf fans, sports fans, regular people and everyone in between has an answer to this question. This wasn’t just a viral moment in golf, it was an event that transcended sport. Woods’ win capped one of the greatest comebacks in any sport and became one of the most viral moments of the year, period.
8. Brandel Chamblee beefs with Brooks Koepka
Just when you think Brandel Chamblee’s beef with Brooks Koepka is finally over, it pops back up like the gopher from Caddyshack. It all started when Chamblee questioned Koepka’s decision to cut weight for the ESPN Body Issue ahead of the Masters. Never one to shy away from criticism, Brooks responded to Chamblee by posting a photo of Chamblee with a big red clown nose on his face to Twitter. That didn’t deter Chamblee from going after Koepka, though. Chamblee and Koepka’s multi-chapter saga is the Twitter beef that keeps on giving, and we’re still not sure it’s over yet.
9. Give her a kiss!
Ah, young love. Brooks Koepka and girlfriend Jena Sims are no strangers to the cameras, or PDA. Except at the PGA Championship where Koepka was about to go for a wire-to-wire win at yet another major. As the young couple made their way to the clubhouse and right before Koepka started warming up for his round, Sims tried to plant a good luck kiss on her beau. Brooks wasn’t having it. And Twitter couldn’t handle the fallout.
10. Rahm dresses up for Wimbledon
Ahead of the British Open at Royal Portrush, another major was taking place on the grass courts at Wimbledon. The tennis tournament has become a who’s who of celebrities, athletes, and even the royal family. Center Court saw the likes of Gary Player, Francesco Molinari, Jack Nicklaus, Bryson DeChambeau and others from the golf world. However, it was Jon Rahm’s appearance that took the cake at Wimbledon when he showed up at Center Court in a suit, star-printed button-down, bright blue tie and aviators. Rahm’s ensemble was enough to send Twitter into a frenzy and stir up some beef between him and fellow pro Thomas Pieters ahead of the Open.
11. Pick up the pace (of play)!
Bryson DeChambeau and Koepka couldn’t be more different. Where Bryson is cerebral, Brooks is all about brute force. Where Bryson is deliberate, Brooks is on auto-pilot. It’s this last difference that bubbled over at the Northern Trust at Liberty National this year. On two separate occasions during the tournament, video of DeChambeau surfaced in which he took an inordinate amount of time to line up a 10-foot putt and to hit a wedge shot. These incidents only stoked the flames surrounding Koepka’s beef with DeChambeau and his pace of play. Luckily things were resolved on the course and not in the parking lot.
Just look at Tommy and Justin, both looking completely bored. Slow players do this to their playing partners making the game less enjoyable. Problem is, the unaffected single minded twit in this instance, doesn’t care much for others.— Eddie Pepperell (@PepperellEddie) August 10, 2019
12. ‘Take souls’ and ‘make people cry’
In an exclusive interview that aired on GOLF’s Drop Zone podcast, Danielle Kang made some bold comments regarding the Solheim Cup. In a team competition in which the U.S. was favored, Kang told Sean Zak and Dylan Dethier that she wanted to “take souls” and “make people cry.” Kang’s comments quickly found their way to social media and spread like wildfire. Needless to say, her comments set the table for a dramatic contested Solheim Cup, which the U.S. wound up losing.
13. If looks could kill…
Lexi Thompson is one of the best female golfers on the planet, and she’s known for being a fierce competitor. One time though, that competitive fire got directed toward a well-meaning caddie, as was the case when she gave this withering look after he shouted “FORE!” after a tee shot. Thompson’s facial expression alone was enough to send the internet into a frenzy, but when she uttered “Jesus, it wasn’t that bad,” in response, it was just too much.
14. Patrick Reed’s sandy situation
Patrick Reed made waves during the third round of the Hero World Challenge when a wayward tee shot missed left and landed in a waste bunker on the par-5 11th. When Reed took two practice swings in the bunker, he moved some sand from behind his ball, resulting in a two-stroke penalty and the ire of golf Twitter.
15. Kessler Karain’s broil at Royal
Reed’s difficult week in the Bahamas followed him down under to Royal Melbourne during the Presidents Cup. Fans heckled him all week, and his caddie and brother-in-law Kessler Karain finally had enough when one fan got in Reed’s face and said some not-so-nice things. Karain got into an altercation with the fan, and was banned from the final day of play. Despite the distraction, Reed played impeccable golf in his singles match versus C.T. Pan and helped lift the U.S. past the Internationals in a come-from-behind victory.
16. ‘Six feet out — the match was over.’
This year’s Presidents Cup certainly didn’t lack for viral moments. And Tiger’s final putt to put away Abe Ancer in singles tops them all. Tiger had a six-footer for birdie that would win the hole and the match, and as soon as the face of his Scotty Cameron made contact with the ball, he knew it was over. In fact, Tiger reached for his hat before the ball had even made it to the bottom of the cup. “When it was about probably like six feet out — the match was over,” Woods said. “I might have taken the hat off a little bit early, but it was over.” So add another viral moment to Woods’ 2019 highlight reel.
Given how incredible the year in golf was in 2019, we can’t wait to see what happens in 2020.
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