Column: Tales from the PGA Tour after fractured year in golf

Dec 26, 2022, 4:42 PM | Updated: Dec 27, 2022, 6:44 am
FILE - Xander Schauffele blows smoke toward Jordan Spieth after the USA team defeated the Internati...

FILE - Xander Schauffele blows smoke toward Jordan Spieth after the USA team defeated the International team in a singles match at the Presidents Cup golf tournament at the Quail Hollow Club, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. Schauffele ended three years without winning by winning three times this year. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

              FILE - Sweden's Henrik Stenson plays a shot on the 13th hole at the British Open golf championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, Wednesday July 13, 2022. Stenson decided to join LIV Golf and was stripped of his job as European Ryder Cup captain. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison, File)
              FILE - Tom Kim, of South Korea, left, shakes hands with Patrick Cantlay after Kim won the Shriners Children's Open golf tournament, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Las Vegas. Kim was one of the new personalities on the PGA Tour this year.  (AP Photo/David Becker, File)
              FILE - Xander Schauffele blows smoke toward Jordan Spieth after the USA team defeated the International team in a singles match at the Presidents Cup golf tournament at the Quail Hollow Club, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. Schauffele ended three years without winning by winning three times this year. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

Behind the ropes in the Bahamas were a pair of longtime PGA professionals. One was David Young, getting ready to retire after 20 years at Sleepy Hollow in New York. The other was Mike Thomas, now retired from Harmony Landing in Kentucky.

Both are the only swing coaches Cameron Young and Justin Thomas ever had. On this day, the fathers were watching their sons play golf.

“Well, one of them is playing golf,” said Mike Thomas, always the wisecracker, as his son searched for an errant tee shot in the dunes.

Justin Thomas is never too far off, as he showed in coming from seven behind to win the PGA Championship. Neither is Cameron Young, the PGA Tour rookie of the year who did just about everything but win this year.

They were among big performers in a year that for all the disruptions brought on by a rival league still delivered plenty of fun moments that went beyond birdies and bogeys.


Golf is a family affair for Steve Stricker, and this year was rewarding. He recovered from a health scare that caused inflammation around his heart to win four times on the PGA Tour Champions. His oldest daughter made it through the first stage of LPGA qualifying. His youngest daughter won the state high school championship in Wisconsin.

His wife, Nicki, was caddying for him again, just as she did before the girls were born. She has seen it all, and that raised a question as she watched Stricker stand over a birdie putt in his final event of the year. What exactly is she thinking out there?

“I would love to know that,” oldest daughter Bobbi Maria said.

Stricker was walking up to the 18th green at Timuquana, victory all but secured, when Bobbi Maria looked at her phone and perhaps got her answer.

“Mom just texted me from the fairway,” she said. “Domino’s for dinner.”


The next young star to emerge from Japan might be Taiga Semikawa, a 21-year-old who won twice on the Japan Golf Tour before turning pro.

Worth noting is his first name.

Taiga was not all that common some 20 years ago. It can translate to “big river,” but more intriguing is how it is pronounced — “TY’-guh” — which sounds a lot like Tiger.

Semikawa is 21, born about the time Tiger Woods completed his historic sweep of the majors. Is that a coincidence? Maybe. But try to explain how the Japan Golf Tour lists 18 players who have Taiga for a first name. All are in their 20s, and all but three of them are 25 or younger. This year was the 25-year anniversary of Woods’ first Masters victory.

A Japanese reporter pointed this out in October at the CJ Cup in South Carolina, the same week Semikawa won the Japan Open for his second straight JGTO win. The reporter pulled up a golf site in Japan that listed all of the players named Taiga.

As the reporter walked back to his desk, he turned and smiled when he said, “No Phils.”


Cameron Young managed to find hope amid the frustration of so many close calls in his rookie season. He had five runner-up finishes and twice finished one shot out of the lead in majors. The PGA Championship in May was his third straight time in contention.

“If I keep putting myself in a tie for the lead or one back with nine holes to play, one of those times I’m going to shoot 5 under on the back, and that’s going to be good enough,” he said at Southern Hills. “It wasn’t today. There will be another one.”

And there was. Two months later at the British Open, Young shot 31 on the back nine at St. Andrews.

Cameron Smith shot 30 and beat him by one.


Tiger Woods commands attention whenever he plays, which was only three majors this year. He attracted a big crowd of media on Sunday before the British Open at St. Andrews.

The group behind him was virtually ignored but no less significant.

Henrik Stenson was playing with Phil Mickelson.

This wasn’t about reliving their duel at Royal Troon in 2016. Mickelson is seen as the chief recruiter for Saudi-backed LIV Golf. Within 10 days, Stenson joined LIV Golf and was stripped of his Ryder Cup captaincy.


For all his success, Jordan Spieth has his share of frustration, such as making a bogey on the par-5 ninth at Kapalua in his first round of the year. When it was suggested he picked a fun sport to play for a living, Spieth replied, “I don’t know what else I could do.”

Was he good at math? He nodded. Perhaps he could have been an accountant.

“I’d rather be in sales so I could play lots of golf,” Spieth said.

That led to another question: Did he ever have a job as a kid?

“Nope,” he said. “I kept waiting for my parents to make me get one, but I was getting better at golf and what would have taken away from it. Nothing I’m proud of.”

Someone chimed in that this probably felt like work. Spieth smiled and headed to the 10th tee.


Tom Kim was invited to the 2020 PGA Championship at age 18 before anyone really knew who he was. Now they do. The 20-year-old from South Korea contended in the Scottish Open, won the Wyndham Championship and delivered big moments in the Presidents Cup.

But it’s not just his game that stands out.

Justin Thomas was home in Florida when he got a text message from Kim that said, “How can I get an exemption into your AJGA event?” Thomas couldn’t stop laughing when he shared the text.

“I told him, ‘For one thing you’re too old,'” he said.

This was two weeks after the Presidents Cup. Kim was in Las Vegas when he sent the text. The week ended with him beating Patrick Cantlay in a playoff.


Winning doesn’t come easily, a refrain repeated over the years on the PGA Tour. Xander Schauffele knows this as well as anyone. He was on his third year without winning, though he was playing well enough to never have dropped out of the top 15 in the world.

During the pro-am at the Valspar Championship, he was intrigued by a discussion on players who have yet to win the Masters. How often it has been said, “He’s not going to win one Masters, but multiple Masters.” It didn’t work out that way for Tom Weiskopf or Greg Norman, for David Duval or Ernie Els. And now the subject is Rory McIlroy.

Schauffele finished the third hole and a fan asked him to sign his Valspar Championship flag.

“You’re going to win this,” the man told him.

“Multiple times,” Schauffele said under his breath with a smile.

Schauffele did wind up winning multiple times, at least in 2022 — the Zurich Classic with Patrick Cantlay, the Travelers Championship and the Scottish Open.

It wasn’t easy.


AP golf: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The parents of Novak Djokovic of Serbia, father Srdjan and mother Dijana react during his post matc...
Associated Press

Djokovic’s dad to stay away from Australian Open semifinal

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic’s father decided to stay away from the 21-time Grand Slam champion’s semifinal after getting embroiled in a flap involving spectators who brought banned Russian flags to Melbourne Park, Tennis Australia said Friday. In a release e-mailed to reporters about 2 1/2 hours before Djokovic was scheduled to face Tommy […]
23 hours ago
Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann (14) blocks a shot by San Antonio Spurs guard Tre Jones (33...
Associated Press

Clippers extend win streak to 4 with 138-100 rout of Spurs

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paul George scored 35 points, Kawhi Leonard added 27 and the Los Angeles Clippers extended their winning streak to a season-high four games with a 138-100 rout of the reeling San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night. It was the fifth time this season George has had at least 35 points. He […]
23 hours ago
Dallas Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie (26) celebrates a three pointer against the Phoenix Suns d...
Associated Press

Dinwiddie scores 36, Mavs top Suns 99-95 after Doncic hurt

PHOENIX (AP) — Luka Doncic’s early injury on Thursday night gave the Dallas Mavericks a very valid reason to lose on the road. Instead, Spencer Dinwiddie responded to the adversity with a season-high 36 points, Dorian Finney-Smith added 18 points and 12 rebounds, and the Mavs held on for a 99-95 victory over the Phoenix […]
23 hours ago
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Jack Johnson, right, battles for the puck with Calgary Flames forward...
Associated Press

Stauber wins again, Blackhawks beat Flames 5-1

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Two games into his NHL career, Blackhawks rookie goaltender Jaxson Stauber is playing like a poised veteran. Stauber stopped 34 shots for his second consecutive win and 13 players contributed a point as Chicago beat the Calgary Flames 5-1 Thursday night. “Looks really solid and calm in there,” Blackhawks coach Luke […]
23 hours ago
Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus celebrates after defeating Magda Linette of Poland during their semifina...
Associated Press

Rybakina meets Sabalenka in Australian Open women’s final

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Aryna Sabalenka figures she’ll feel some jitters when she steps out on court to face Elena Rybakina in the Australian Open women’s final. Saturday’s contest is, after all, Sabalenka’s first singles title match at a Grand Slam tournament. Rybakina is more familiar with this stage: She won Wimbledon a little more […]
23 hours ago
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz, left, makes a glove save as Anaheim Ducks center Adam...
Associated Press

Vatrano’s hat trick, big 3rd period help Ducks stun Avs 5-3

DENVER (AP) — Frank Vatrano scored three goals, Adam Henrique and Mason McTavish scored 24 seconds apart in the third period and the Anaheim Ducks rallied from a two-goal deficit to stun Colorado 5-3 on Thursday night and snap the Avalanche’s six-game winning streak. Trailing 3-1, Vatrano scored his second goal with 1:23 left in […]
23 hours ago
Column: Tales from the PGA Tour after fractured year in golf