26 Dec 2022 | Industry news |
Aussie golf's top 22 of 2022
by Australian Golf Media
By Tony Webeck
Only twice before in the history of Australian golf did we have both a male and female major winner in the same year.
In 1981 David Graham won the US Open as Jan Stephenson claimed the first of her three majors at the du Maurier Classic. Twenty-five years later Karrie Webb earned her seventh major win followed a couple of months later by Geoff Ogilvy’s US Open triumph at Winged Foot.
In 2022 Cameron Smith and Minjee Lee produced career-defining seasons but it was a year in which Aussie golfers excelled at every level of the game all around the world.
Here, in chronological order, are the 22 performances we will remember from 2022. Cameron Smith makes history at Sentry Tournament of Champions (January 9) His place in the field was by virtue of his win alongside Marc Leishman at the 2021 Zurich Classic but Smith was soon about to make a name for himself. His 34-under par four-round total set a new low mark in scoring on the PGA TOUR but was just enough to edge out world No.1 Jon Rahm by a single stroke. It moved him inside the top 20 in the world for the first time in his career but was just a taste of what was to come. Jed Morgan’s record-breaking Aus PGA victory (January 16) We couldn’t say that we hadn’t been warned but no one could predict the manner in which rookie Jed Morgan would pulverise the field and his home course of Royal Queensland to win the 2021 Fortinet Australian PGA Championship. The Australian Amateur champion at RQ two years earlier, Morgan harnessed the home club support with uproarious first pumps and Lleyton Hewitt-style come-ons on his way to an 11-stroke victory, smashing the previous record winning margin of eight set by Greg Norman (1984, 1985) and Hale Irwin (1978). His 22-under par total equalled the lowest score in relation to par in championship history, his 262 four-round total is the lowest in championship history and at 22 years, one month, 18 days he became the youngest winner in the history of the Australian PGA stroke play championship. Su Oh wins first Australian WPGA Championship (January 16) Victorian Su Oh held off a spirited showing by rookie Grace Kim to become the first winner of the Karrie Webb Cup at Royal Queensland. Played in conjunction with the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship, the Australian WPGA Championship came down to a duel between Oh and Kim on Sunday, Oh ending a seven-year winless drought with a round of 68 and a four-stroke win. Hannah Green’s world first at TPS Murray River (February 19) A week after her Vic Open victory at 13th Beach, Green created worldwide headlines by winning the mixed-gender TPS Murray River at Cobram-Barooga. In a four-way tie for the lead through 54 holes, Green made eagle at the par-5 10th to separate herself from the field, going on to win by four strokes. In so doing, Green became the first woman to win a four-round mixed gender tournament on any major world tour. Cameron Smith wins The Players (March 14) In a wild final round of THE PLAYERS Championship, two moments would come to define a victory that Paul Azinger would refer to as “legacy building”. Cameron Smith would concede later that his tee shot at the infamous par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass was further right than he had anticipated but his birdie from just inside five feet put him three strokes clear. It would prove to be a handy buffer. Smith’s tee shot at the equally terrifying par-4 18th found the pine straw right of the fairway, his punch out dribbling into the water hazard 57 yards short of the green. With Anibarn Lahiri making birdie at 17 behind him, Smith leant on his sublime short game to get up and down for bogey and clinch a one-stroke win. Amateur Harrison Crowe claims NSW Open (March 20) The 20-year-old emphasised the bright future that awaits him in the professional game with a nerve-wracking one-stroke victory at Concord Golf Club. Just the sixth amateur to claim the Kel Nagle Cup, Crowe had to make par at each of his final two holes to finish at 18-under, one clear of Newcastle’s Blake Windred. The NSW Amateur champion in January, Crowe joined the legendary Jim Ferrier (1937-1938) as the only players to concurrently hold both the NSW Amateur and NSW Open titles. Kirsten Rudgeley plays her way to Augusta National (April 2) West Australian amateur Kirsten Rudgeley created her own slice of history by qualifying to play the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at Augusta National. No Australian had made the cut in the previous two iterations, Rudgeley posting a final round of even-par 72 to finish in a tie for eighth and thus becoming the first Australian woman to play in a competitive event at Augusta. Winner of The Athena in February, Rudgeley turned professional prior to the Australian Open where she made the cut but failed to advance past Saturday’s second cut. Minjee Lee wins US Women’s Open (June 5) If her Evian Championship win less than a year earlier represented a major release of pressure, Lee’s US Women’s Open triumph at Pine Needles was in the fashion we had been anticipating for a decade. Coming just three weeks after her seventh LPGA Tour title at the Cognizant Founders Cup, Lee’s combination of peerless iron play and impenetrable mental application was on display from day one. Through 54 holes the 26-year-old had moved out to a three-stroke lead and never looked like being hauled in. Birdies at her first two holes on Sunday reaffirmed to the field that she would not falter, making bogey at her final two holes for a four-stroke win and $US1.8 million prize money. She joined Jan Stephenson (1983) and Karrie Webb (2000, 2001) as Aussie winners of the US Women’s Open. Connor McKinney wins St Andrews Links Trophy (June 5) Fellow West Australian Adam Brady led through 54 holes but a seven-under 65 at the Home of Golf secured Connor McKinney a two-shot win at the St Andrews Links Trophy. Adding to his Australian Amateur title earlier in the year, McKinney became just the second Australian after Stuart Bouvier (1990) to win one of amateur golf’s most prestigious events. Keeley Marx wins IMG Academy Junior World Championship (July 15) Keeley Marx co-captained the Victorian team to victory at the first Interstate Teams Matches held in the mixed-gender format but her individual highlight was undoubtedly her Junior World Championship triumph in the 15-18-year-old girls’ division at Torrey Pines in San Diego. A third round of seven-under 65 highlighted her performance, a three-under 69 in the final round enough for a one-shot win. Special mention also to Melbourne six-year-old Zac Wolfe who won the boys six-and-under title at the US Kids Golf World Championships in North Carolina. Cameron Smith wins The Open (July 17) It was 2.43am Monday morning in eastern Australia when Cameron Smith took the lead at the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews. He’d begun the final round three strokes adrift of Rory McIlroy but unleashed one of the great back nine performances in major championship history to ultimately win by one from fellow Cam, American Cameron Young. He made five birdies in succession from the 10th hole and birdied the iconic 18th for a back-nine of six-under 30, his 64 the lowest Sunday score of any Open winner at St Andrews. He joined Peter Thomson, Kel Nagle, Greg Norman and Ian Baker-Finch as the only Aussies to get their hands on the Claret Jug, further endearing himself to the broader public by declaring he would find out how many beers it held. Richard Green’s senior double in Europe (July 17) Victorian left-hander Richard Green wasted little time in making his mark on the Legends Tour in Europe, winning twice in the space of five weeks. In his second start Green took out the Jersey Legends and backed it up with victory at the fifth playoff hole of the WINSTONgolf Senior Open in Germany. His success didn’t end there, winning both the NSW Senior Open and Australian Senior PGA Championship before earning medalist honours at Champions Tour Q School. Karrie wins another major (July 24)
Karrie Webb is a part-time pro golfer nowadays but she is eligible for Senior LPGA Tour events at age 47, and she was not about to miss an opportunity. Webb’s win at the Senior LPGA Championship at Salina Country Club in Kansas had more than a ring of déjà vu about it, since she had to fight off none other than Annika Sorenstam, her greatest rival, to win her first Senior major by four shots. It was also her first tournament win in more than eight years.
Harrison Endycott earns emotional promotion to PGA TOUR (August 14) With his father Brian by his side, Endycott wrapped up PGA Tour promotion in the final event of the Korn Ferry Tour regular season. A winner at the Huntsville Championship in May, Endycott’s tie for 55th at the season-ending Pinnacle Bank Championship was enough to secure 21st spot on the Order of Merit and claim one of the 25 PGA TOUR cards on offer. Jeffrey Guan smashes record at Junior Players (September 4) After a successful defence of his Australian Boys Amateur crown, Sydney teenager Jeffrey Guan took his talents to the world in 2022. He won the inaugural Adam Scott Junior Championship by eight in Los Angeles but it was his performance at the Junior Players Championship in September that set tongues wagging in the US. He shot 64 at the famed Stadium Course at Sawgrass in the final round to post 16-under and win by four, shattering the previous tournament record of 10-under by six strokes. Guan returned to Australia shortly thereafter to win the adidas Junior 6s Tour World Final before returning to the US to play in the Junior Presidents Cup. Travis Smyth breaks through for maiden Asian Tour title (September 25) Winner of the NT PGA as an amateur in 2017, Smyth collected his first significant win as a professional with a two-shot win at the Asian Tour’s Yeangder TPC in Taipei. One shot in front ahead of the final round, Smyth birdied four of his first six holes and then three straight after the turn to all but secure his breakthrough win. Grace Kim plays her way onto LPGA Tour (October 9) Talent and opportunity don’t always coordinate their timing but it took Sydney’s Grace Kim just one season on the secondary Epson Tour to earn her promotion to the LPGA Tour in 2023. From the time of her win at the IOA Golf Classic in May Kim seemed destined to advance to the main tour but it took until the Epson Tour Championship for her status inside the top 10 of the Race to the Card standings to be official. Laycock’s selfless act for fellow PGA pros (October 11) It was not the manner of his win but what Scott Laycock did afterward that will make the 2022 PGA Professionals Championship one to remember. A three-stroke winner over 36 holes at Yarra Yarra Golf Club, Laycock watched young PGA Pros TJ King and Jayden Cripps duel it out for the second exemption into the Australian PGA Championship. After both made birdie at the first playoff hole, Laycock stepped forward, conceding his own spot at Royal Queensland so that the pair could tee it up in the summer’s richest event. Harrison Crowe wins Asia-Pacific Amateur (October 30) Lost amid Cameron Smith’s record-breaking year was a season by Sydney’s Harrison Crowe that spawned success in both amateur and professional events. Starting with the Master of the Amateurs in January, Crowe became the first person since Jim Ferrier (1937-1938) to hold the NSW Amateur and NSW Open concurrently and would enjoy a life-changing victory in Thailand in October. The 20-year-old made a brilliant up-and-down at the final hole for a one-stroke win, a win that will see him delay joining professional ranks so that he can take up exemptions into the 2023 Masters and The Open Championship. Minjee’s million dollar pay day (November 14) The old adage says you must bet big to win big and for the second straight year an Aussie claimed the Aon Risk Reward Challenge on the LPGA Tour. Following on from fellow West Australian Hannah Green, Minjee Lee finished atop the season-long points race and won $US1 million for her performances on designated holes throughout the year. Cameron Smith’s triumphant homecoming at Aus PGA (November 27) In a week in which he was crowned the Greg Norman Medal winner and handed the keys to the city by the Brisbane Lord Mayor, few expected Cameron Smith to be last man standing on Sunday at Royal Queensland. Fans flooded into the course all four days for a glimpse of their home-grown Open champion, the 29-year-old repaying their faith by outlasting a quality field and two rain delays on Sunday to win a third Australian PGA Championship title. Andre Stolz defends Legends Tour Order of Merit crown (December 14) Such is Andre Stolz’s stature on the SParms PGA Legends Tour since turning 50 that if he doesn’t win, he is invariably in the mix coming down the stretch. Kicking off his year with a win on the adidas PGA Pro-Am Series at the South Coast Open, Stolz was again the dominant force among the over-50s. He won a total of eight times in 40 starts and his total prize money of $82,488.04 was close to $30,000 more than his nearest competitor. In limited starts, rookies Richard Green and Jason Norris both showed their prowess post 50 so Stolz will be challenged to make it three straight in 2023.
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