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Best of: Here's what made us say 'WTH?!' in 2019

Phil Mickelson
Twitter/@NickMentaGC

There were iconic moments we'll never forget (Tiger at Augusta).

There were controversies that still simmer (looking at you, Kuch).

There were shots, pot shots and renewed calls for shot clocks (you're all to blame)!

But these were some of the moments from 2019 that left us with only one possible response ...

What the hell?


Phil's hotel catches fire

Phil Mickelson nearly missed his final round of the 2018-19 season at the BMW Championship outside Chicago. Roughly 90 minutes before his tee time, Mickelson tweeted that lightning hit the top floor of his hotel, sparking a fire and leaving him unable to return to his room. 

Mickelson estimated that he was locked out for an hour and a half and attributed his eventual re-entry and subsequent arrival at Medinah to the power of social media. He pulled into the club parking lot approximately 40 minutes ahead of his tee time, wearing flip flops, and proceeded to take some practice swings next to his courtesy car.



Scary scenes in Charleston and Atlanta

Lightning stuck twice at a pair of high-profile events this summer, reminding players and tournament-goers alike not to take chances when storms roll in.

First up, a severe thunderstorm halted play for nearly two hours at the U.S. Women's Open at the Country Club of Charleston back in May.

Less than three months later, six fans were injured when lightning struck a pine tree near the 16th tee at East Lake Golf Club during the Tour Championship.


See the lightning strike that halted play at East Lake

See the lightning strike that halted play at East Lake


'He just did not care'

News of one of the highest U.S. Amateur qualifying scores ever recorded made the rounds in July, a shocking 18-hole total of 194 that got both low-handicappers and hackers talking.

A day later, the Florida State Golf Association, which ran the July 15-16 qualifier at Mayacoo Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., confirmed to GolfChannel.com that there was, in fact, a scoring error.

The correct score was actually 131-over 202.

Darin Green, the FSGA’s director of rules and competitions, said via email that the player, 33-year-old Trey Bilardello of Jupiter, Fla., signed for 202, but the person entering scores didn’t know how to input anything higher than 19 on a single hole.

202 in U.S. Am qualifier? 'He just did not care'

The FSGA confirmed that Trey Bilardello signed for 202 in a U.S. Amateur qualifier, and Bilardello's playing competitor called it "quite an experience."


Speaking of high scores ...

Lee Ann Walker was walloped with 58 penalty strokes over two days, including 42 in the first round of the Senior LPGA Championship.


Scorecard for player 57502 during event 18643. Round pinned: 1

The penalties were added to her scores after Tuesday’s second round, when her opening-round score was adjusted to 127 and her second round to 90. Each violation of Rule 10.2b(4), which prohibits a caddie from lining up a player, was a two-shot penalty. They were assessed after Walker realized during the second round that she was violating the new rule, which was implemented at the start of this year.

Player given 58 penalty strokes at Sr. LPGA

Lee Ann Walker was walloped with 58 penalty strokes over two days, including 42 in the first round of the Senior LPGA Championship.



Na's tearful message in Korean

Moments after securing a playoff victory in his home town at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Kevin Na appeared on the brink of tears while delivering an impassioned speech in Korean to fans in his native country.


Emotinal Na: 'I'm a fighter'; shares Korean message

Emotinal Na: 'I'm a fighter'; shares Korean message

According to a Golf Channel translation, Na's comments in Korean amounted to the following: "To my Korean fans, for always supporting and believing in me despite all these false rumors, I want to say thank you. No matter what anyone said about me, I have been very happy. So as I kept my mouth shut, I feel like I showed you my feelings with my clubs today. Even as I bit my tongue, I have gotten to this point. Thank you to my fans again. I will see you soon at the CJ Cup."

Less than a week later, Na revealed that the message was in reference to a past engagement with a South Korean woman that was broken off in 2014. “There have been too many rumors and false statements and it’s been very hurtful. Now I have a family and I feel I need to protect them and my name,” he said. "I hadn't planned to say anything but I couldn't help it. I'm sorry I rambled on so long and confused all the viewers in the U.S."

Na opens up about Korean controversy

Less than one week after sending an emotional message back home to South Korea, Kevin Na is breaking the silence he’s kept through years of personal anguish.


@JustinThomas34 vs. @USGA_PR

There was no shortage of backlash to the new Rules of Golf early in 2019, and relations between PGA Tour players and the USGA appeared as strained as ever — and that's really saying something. But this time, things turned personal, as they tend to do on Twitter.

On Saturday night of Honda Classic week, the @USGA_PR account, turning public relations on its head, offered this response to a Thomas tweetstorm

Hours later came this follow-up:

The next day, Thomas refuted the claims and expressed his disappointment.

Thomas: 'Inaccurate' USGA tweet 'really hurt'

“It was a little upsetting, just because it was inaccurate,” Thomas said. “I haven't canceled anything, especially any meetings."


Brooks loses weight — and his clothes

At first, Brooks Koepka wouldn't say why he had decided to cut 25 pounds, offering only "you'll see" for an explanation. That led to the beginning of a back-and-forth with our own Brandel Chamblee, who during Masters week called called Koepka’s diet the “most reckless self-sabotage I have ever seen.”

Koepka to critics: 'I'm going to make me happy'

Brooks Koepka hit back Thursday at the critics saying he’s lost too much weight. He’s tied for the early lead at the Masters.

But it was an open secret: Koepka had shed some pounds so he could shed his clothes for ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue.

In addition to posing naked, Koepka also won the PGA Championship and picked up two other PGA Tour victories, so he gets the trophies, the photo shoot and the last laugh.



Calf-a-mania is running wild

Speaking of body parts we didn't think we'd ever see — Phil Mickelson's calves!

A secret for too long hidden by the evils of long pants, Mickelson's lower leg muscles were finally out in their full glory during practice rounds in 2019.

Best of: Phil's calves

The best calves on the PGA Tour (and maybe ever?) belong to 48-year-old Phil Mickelson. Click through the best photos of his lower legs.

“Well, when you have calves like these you can't help but have high self-esteem, walk around with incredible confidence,” Mickelson said last month in Vegas. “Whether I'm wearing shorts or not, and they're hidden, I know that they're there, and so I hold my chest out.”

Who knew?

Watch: Mickelson shows key to toned calves

Phil Mickelson went viral last month after the PGA Tour announced shorts were allowed for players during practice rounds and pro-ams, and photos surfaced of his giant calf muscles. But how did he get such toned calves?


Lexi loses passport; chaos ensues

The only thing worse than misplacing your passport is messing up your fellow tour pros' major-championship prep. Unfortunately, Lexi Thompson did both.

With the LPGA playing back-to-back majors at the Evian Championship in France and the Women's British Open in England, Thompson accidentally left her passport in her golf bag, which was on a truck headed to Woburn.

Lexi's caddie managed to retrieve the passport, but the delay caused the truck's driver to miss his scheduled ferry to England, delaying almost 40 sets of clubs for the women readying to play the Women's British.

Lexi's mistake delays WBO practice for many

The clubs of nearly 40 players were delayed getting to Woburn, England, via truck on Monday after a delay that involved Lexi Thompson.

Thompson said no player confronted her about her passport debacle and the grief it caused many fellow pros Monday at the AIG Women’s British Open, but ... 

“I can kind of feel it,” Thompson said Wednesday when she met with the media at Woburn Golf Club. “I do apologize. I would be upset, too, if I was the other players.”

Caddie details crazy quest for Lexi's passport

Lexi Thompson cost several players valuable practice time earlier this week, but if it wasn't for her very determined caddie, Lexi may have been stranded. Her caddie detailed the quest for Lexi's passport at the Women's British Open.


You can dance if you want to — or not

For the second year in a row, Brooke Henderson took the title at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii, but unlike in 2018, when she tried — key word being "tried" — to do the celebratory hula dance, this time she just stood and watched.


Brooke forgoes celebratory hula dance after win

Brooke forgoes celebratory hula dance after win

In fairness to Brooke, had she danced again, she'd probably be getting a shoutout in this column, too. Let's have her go for three in a row and all meet back here next year.


A man, a McDonald's cup, and a cart

John Daly had his request to ride in a cart granted at the PGA Championship, and our Ryan Lavner followed the two-time major winner during his opening round at Bethpage Black. Here's just a little bit of color:

Daly opens the door and gingerly slips out of the backseat. He’s wearing $110 New York Yankees-themed Loudmouth pants and holding a 21-ounce McDonald’s cup filled with Diet Coke. Standing next to his bag, he fiddles in his pocket for a cigarette.

“You have a couple hundred yards to go,” the official instructs him, pointing through the trees toward No. 10. “But we’ve got a cart on the way.”

Daly takes a drag. A few minutes pass.

“The hardest part is getting the cart,” he grumbles.

Read the whole thing right here: 

Major mobility: Inside Daly's 'awkward' ride around Bethpage

John Daly arrived to Bethpage Black just 15 minutes before his 12:54 p.m. tee time. He waited for a cart, and then drove off to the first tee with his cigarettes and Diet Coke.


Driver testing prompts criticism, concern

Last on our list, we go from Daly driving down the fairway to guys like Xander Schauffele and Michael Thompson just trying to drive it in the fairway without the governing bodies taking away their clubs.

Schauffele spoke out both during and after The Open Championship when it was leaked that his driver failed a Characteristic Time (CT) test conducted by the R&A. Suddenly, driver testing morphed from a forgettable pre-tournament note to a major storyline.

Schauffele: R&A 'pissed me off' with failed driver

Xander Schauffele’s frustration with the R&A’s individual driver testing boiled over again Saturday at The Open. He revealed he wasn't the only player to have his club fail the CT (characteristic time) test.

Three months later, once the PGA Tour implemented its own driver-testing program with assistance from the USGA, yet more names were leaked. One of the drivers that failed the test belonged to Michael Thompson, who shared his concerns about the program to GolfChannel.com at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

PGA Tour working out driver-testing kinks to create 'level playing field'

The PGA Tour has put a new driver-testing program into place this season. Some players have concerns, but the Tour says its working to create a 'level playing field.'

Club testing has brought it with a fair amount of questions, including a not-so-subtle "WTH?"