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Golf's 10 most controversial stories of 2016

It was a great year in golf in 2016, but it didn’t come without some foibles.

In fact, there was plenty of controversy to go around this year. Here’s a recap of the 10 stories that caused the most contention among golf fans in 2016.

Feel free to offer your thoughts on controversial stories that didn’t make the list that should have in the comments section.

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Rory McIlroy

Golfers dropping out of Rio Olympics

So golf’s return to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years was initially … not so smooth.

On the men’s side, several top names withdrew ahead of the action for reasons ranging from schedule to family to fears over the Zika virus. These dropouts drew much criticism from and debate amongst golf fans.

That was only fueled when Rory McIlroy, one of the dropouts, made bold, critical comments about golf in the Olympics. The stellar action to come would mute this controversy to a degree, but at the time, there was definitely some heat behind this issue.

Dustin Johnson talks with a rules official on Oakmont's fifth green during the final round of the U.S. Open.

Dustin Johnson U.S. Open penalty fiasco

Don’t think we have to rehash this one too much.

Ridiculous penalty. Ridiculous handling of the situation from the USGA. Everybody righteously furious.

An avalanche of criticism on this one and it was well-deserved. Somehow Dustin Johnson was unfazed and won his first major.

PETER WILLETT: While he claims he meant no harm, Peter Willett, brother to Masters winner Danny Willett, torched a bridge with U.S. fans when he penned a scathing column about them ahead of the Ryder Cup, referring to Americans as "pudgy, basement-dwelling, irritants." It led to Danny immediately apologizing for his brother's anti-American comments and then getting massively heckled by U.S. fans at Hazeltine (which led him to backtrack and support his brother after the event). To think, Peter was celebrated for his humor and Danny was toasted by American fans five months previous. Such a simple life turned upside by some pointed words.

Danny Willett’s brother makes stunning anti-American comments

We guess Peter Willett, brother of 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett, was going for humor in a column ahead of the Ryder Cup where he mocked American fans.

Well, it didn’t hit for a lot of people, especially Americans. May not have helped that he referred to the U.S. contingent as “pudgy, basement-dwelling, irritants.” This produced unbelievable vitriol from U.S. fans ahead of the matches, only adding to the heated atmosphere and putting brother Danny in the crosshairs from the beginning of the week.


U.S. Ryder Cup fan behavior

This one’s related. Danny Willett was unfairly heckled hard by American fans at Hazeltine for his brother’s comments despite apologizing.

If this didn’t strike you as over the top, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia complained about the crowds being unruly. McIlroy even had a vulgar fan ejected.

There was plenty of argument over whether American fans were being too crude and ruthless, but it definitely brought even more conversation to the already-heated Ryder Cup.

Diana Murphy

Another fiasco at the U.S. Women’s Open

Hoo boy, the USGA couldn’t even get through the summer without more rules controversy.

This one involved a difficult two-shot penalty against Anna Nordqvist in a U.S. Women’s Open playoff, as the Swede would lose the title to Brittany Lang. But once again, how the USGA mishandled the penalty situation was the story.

Oh, and that was nothing compared to what would happen in the trophy ceremony when USGA President Diana Murphy incorrectly introduced the champion as “Bethany” Lang. MULTIPLE TIMES!

Yeah, not the organization’s finest moment here.

Beau Hossler of Texas grabs his shoulder in pain after hitting a shot on No. 17 during semifinals of the NCAA Championship at Eugene Country Club.

College golf substitution rule

This was an interesting one. When Beau Hossler had to withdraw from the men’s NCAA Championship final due to injury and was forced to forfeit his match to put Texas down 1-0, it reignited an interesting debate: Why weren’t the Longhorns allowed to sub a player in here?

It’s been a hot topic ever since, and while it remains contentious, a substitution rule was not approved in the fall. But this debate is far from over.

Augusta National's 13th hole

Augusta National’s reported search to lengthen iconic 13th

Yeah, people were upset about Augusta National’s reported land grab to set up a potential 50-yard lengthening of the iconic par-5 13th.

While there were some who saw the merit to the idea, many did not. And that created some fierce debate and frustration over the altering of what many consider a sacred hole as is. This has kind of flown under the radar since, but trust us, this issue will heat up again if this process moves along.


Wilson Triton driver

A bizarre controversy if there ever was one. A Wilson driver called “The Triton” wins a Golf Channel reality series, netting the creator a $500,000 first prize, only for the club to later be deemed nonconforming by the USGA. Whoops!

This caused its fair share of customer and retailer backlash. To Wilson’s credit, the company has been scrambling as much as it can to fix the situation. But this was quite a sizable mess to produce in the first place.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

There were no juicy stories about Tiger’s happenings in 2016, just speculation about his return to golf and the state of his game.

But that’s the point, fans and media are so polarized on the state of Woods’s future in golf that the dude can only play one tournament all year and still create so much debate.

As long as Woods is around and his potential for greatness hasn’t completely disappeared, he will remain one of the most controversial figures and stories in golf.

Donald Trump GettyImages-542979448k_edited

A lot of Donald Trump

Oh man, where do we start with the president-elect? He stirred controversy in 2016 by embarking on strange feuds with celebrities about golf with figures like Samuel L. Jackson.

A World Golf Championships event was moved from his Trump Doral layout, possibly due to controversial comments he made during his successful run for the presidency.

Certainly because of his comments, there were calls to remove the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open from one of his courses. Several LPGA players disagreed with the movement, though.

Trump couldn’t even avoid controversy on the final day of 2016, ditching his press pool to go play golf on Dec. 31!

Not many people are neutral on Trump, and his actions and their reach led to much debate in 2016. But whatever you think here, give the man credit, in a game some claim is too boring, Trump adds a pretty nice boost of entertainment.


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