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Jon Rahm’s season, Phil Mickelson’s PGA win top the ‘20-21 list

Updated September 14, 2021 - 1:46 pm

Whew. Did you enjoy that offseason? Ten days after the PGA Tour wrapped up its 2021 season, the new one begins Thursday in Napa, California, with the Fortinet Championship, the first of 47 events on the calendar.

But before diving into a new year, it’s worth taking a quick walk down memory lane on the season that was.

Player of the Year

Most seasons, it’s pretty obvious. But for 2021, you could make a compelling argument for Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa or Jon Rahm.

Rahm won the U.S. Open and had an eye-popping 15 top-10 finishes. Morikawa won twice, including a dominating win at the British Open and a World Golf Championship event, while Cantlay had the most wins with four. But there are some asterisks in those numbers.

One of Cantlay’s wins was at the Memorial, where Rahm had a dominating six-shot lead through three rounds but was forced to withdraw when he tested positive for COVID. Another win came at the Tour Championship, but the staggered scoring system gave him a lead before the first shot had been struck. The actual low scores for the week belonged to Kevin Na and, yes, Rahm.

In the official record it’s four wins for Cantlay and one for Rahm. In the unofficial record, it’s two wins for Cantlay and three for Rahm. That, and the best closing two holes of the year at the U.S. Open, tips the scales to Rahm.

Best Tournament

No argument here. It was the PGA Championship, hands down. What Phil Mickelson did at Kiawah Island for four days in May was legendary, at 51 becoming the oldest man to win a major championship.

It’s a victory that came out of nowhere. Mickelson has been a shell of his former self for at least five years, so the PGA became an event where you simply wondered when he would falter. It wasn’t until the back nine on Sunday where it became evident this fairy tale was meant to be.

Best Shots

Lots come to mind, but the two shots that mattered most were only 42 feet in length — Rahm’s last two putts to win the U.S. Open. On the 17th, he made a 24-footer with six feet of break to tie for the lead, then on 18 curled in an 18-footer with two feet of break. Neither was easy, especially considering the pressure situation, but both were dead center for the win.

Chip Shots

— The CJ Cup is just four weeks away at the Summit Club, but the PGA Tour still has not announced plans for tickets for the event. With 72 of the top players in the world making up the field, demand will be high. Tournament director Andre da Silva says the PGA Tour is in the process of finalizing the on-sale information.

— Hopefully, Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker was more honest with Kevin Na privately than he was publicly about why Na was left off the team. Stricker opted for a winless Scottie Scheffler for his final captain’s pick instead of Na, a winner in each of the past four seasons and one of the hottest players in golf over the past two months.

Stricker said Na finished strong but wasn’t good enough for the season. That’s laughably false. Hopefully, Stricker told Na the truth: The Ryder Cup is being played at Whistling Straits, which is a bomber’s course. Scheffler hits it a ton, while Na ranks 170th in driving distance on tour.

— Sean Solodovnick beat Tim Peterson 3 and 1 in the championship match to claim the 2021 Southern Nevada Chapter PGA Match Play Championship at Coyote Springs Golf Club. It was quite a comeback for Solodovnick, who was 5-down after five holes. Troy Helseth topped Greg Morris 4 and 2 in the third-place match.

— Las Vegas Golf Club is hosting Hacker’s Paradise, a two-person scramble on Sunday, Sept. 26. Cost is $118 per team and includes golf, lunch and a tee gift. The event begins at 7:45 a.m. with a shotgun start.

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at grobertson@reviewjournal.com .

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