12 things you forgot actually happened in golf in 2023

Here's what you might have forgotten about from 2023.


It feels like you could have fit a whole decade’s worth of golf news into 2023.

Between the news of a golf ball rollback, Michael Block-mania, Lilia Vu’s major double, Rickie Fowler returning to the winner’s circle and — Oh! of course — Jon Rahm signing with LIV Golf and the PGA Tour’s impending merger with the Saudi Arabian PIF, there’s a lot going on.

Of course, that wasn’t all that happened.

Perhaps you forgot the moment Tom Kim fell into Allen’s Creek at the PGA Championship or when Brooks Koepka and caddie Ricky Elliott ignited a firestorm during the first round of the Masters by flashing what many thought was a signal to playing partner Gary Woodland and his caddie. You’d be forgiven for believing tee-gate — which evolved into tree-gate — took place longer ago than this past January.

Let this piece serve as a refresher. Here are the 12 things you might have forgotten happened in golf in 2023.

12 things you might have forgotten happened in golf in 2023


Back in January, LIV Golfers were still allowed to play on the DP World Tour (that ended in April), making for some interesting encounters between PGA Tour loyalists and LIV defectors across the pond.

None of those instances were louder than Patrick Reed’s and Rory McIlroy’s meeting on the range at the Dubai Desert Classic.

Rory McIlroy Patrick Reed
What actually happened with Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy? Here’s a forensic breakdown
By: Dylan Dethier

It started on Tuesday of that week when Reed, a staunch LIV supporter, allegedly went to say hi to McIlroy, a staunch PGA Tour supporter, before the tournament. When Reed, whose lawyer subpoenaed McIlroy on Christmas Eve 2022, was rebuffed by McIlroy, Reed “flicked” a tee in the direction of the four-time major winner.

That’s when things started down the “he said, he said” route and we had a full-blown scandal on our hands. GOLF’s Dylan Dethier comprehensively broke down the whole ordeal here, but a few quotes from McIlroy’s pre-tournament press conference are worth mentioning.

“I was down by my bag and he came up to me, and I was busy working and sort of doing my practice, and I didn’t really feel the need to acknowledge him,” McIlroy explained. “So I didn’t see a tee coming my direction at all, but apparently that’s what happened. And if roles were reversed and I’d have thrown that tee at him, I’d be expecting a lawsuit.”

Then McIlroy was asked if he would consider mending bridges with Reed, to which he responded with what was described by the transcriber as an “incredulous facial expression.”

The story remained a talking point all week, but it evolved when Reed worked his way into contention with none other than McIlroy by Sunday.

On the 17th hole during the third round, Reed’s tee shot lodged in one of three palm trees right of the fairway. Reed and a DP World Tour rules official concluded that one of several balls stuck in the third tree closer to the green matched Reed’s description of his ball’s markings. He took a drop, unblocked by the other trees and made five. He rallied with a 65 in the final round, forcing McIlroy to make a mid-range putt on the 72nd to clip him by one.

But afterward, video replay almost clearly showed Reed’s ball disappearing into the first tree, which would have resulted in a less ideal drop location. The controversy made headlines for the next several days with Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee offering sharp criticism of the eventual ruling.

“You can see the first tree right there. The one he said it was in was the third one, the one farthest to the left,” Chamblee said. “It disappears in this first one … For it to be in that third one, it would have to be much, much higher up over there and it would have to be much further over to the left to get into that third tree.”

Reed ultimately downplayed the ruling on his way to the runner-up finish. He didn’t make another start on the DP World Tour in 2023, other than the majors.

Tiger Woods’ tone-deaf prank

For a T45 finish, Tiger Woods’ first non-major PGA Tour start in more than two years was quite eventful.

Woods turned heads in February by posting a 69 in the opening round of the Genesis Invitational, including blistering several big drives, even past his playing partner, the significantly younger and more able-bodied Justin Thomas.

But it was the pair’s reaction after one of those booming drives that made many headlines for the wrong reasons.

tiger woods and justin thomas at genesis invitational
Woods executing his prank. Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

On the 9th hole, after Woods ripped one 323 yards down the center of the fairway, he cozied up to Thomas and covertly slipped a tampon into Thomas’s right hand. The moment was captured by Getty Images and quickly made rounds on social media.

Some commenters found the prank amusing. “Just guys being dudes.” Others did not, calling it unfunny, sexist and offensive.

GOLF Executive Editor Alan Bastable had this to say of the prank:

You might be saying to yourself, Hey, wait a minute, Woods didn’t intend for this episode to be broadcast all over the globe. It was a playful moment between friends. But here’s the thing: Woods knows every move he makes between the ropes — and often outside them, too — is under police-state-grade surveillance. He should have known better. Again, puzzling...

It’s like a secret fraternity out there. Until it’s not.

The PGA Tour, LIV reunion at the Masters Champions Dinner

The Masters Champions dinner is usually a reunion of golf’s greats from both past and present, but this year it was also a reunion of another sort.

Masters champions at 2023 Masters Champions Dinner
LIV Golf and PGA Tour pros make nice at Masters Champions Dinner
By: Kevin Cunningham

This year’s Masters was the first since the launch of LIV Golf in June 2022 and marked the first time many PGA Tour loyalists and LIV defectors had seen each other since the Open Championship or longer. With seven of the preceding 13 Masters having been won by golfers who joined LIV Golf, many expected fireworks when the annual Tuesday night tradition commenced.

However, expectations of chilly encounters at the dinner were mostly overblown as both sides seemed to put their differences aside for the annual tradition.

Ironically, however, one of the pros who wanted to witness the encounters of the evening was Jon Rahm. Rahm, of course, was not at last year’s celebration but will be hosting the dinner in 2024 after winning the green jacket that week.

Brooks Koepka’s awkward Masters ruling

Brooks Koepka was on top of his game during Round 1 at the Masters, posting a seven-under 65 to tie for the lead. But it wasn’t without controversy as the tournament eventually issued an interesting ruling regarding Koepka’s group on the 15th hole.

Koepka had just busted a 5-iron from 231 yards to 24 feet at the par-5, setting up his sixth birdie of the round, but as he handed his club back to caddie Ricky Elliott, broadcast cameras caught Elliott seemingly telling Gary Woodland’s caddie “five,” as in 5-iron. Koepka also appeared to flash a five with his left hand as he took off his glove. Woodland was just a few yards down the fairway from Koepka.

Brooks Koepka and his caddie on the 15th hole of the Masters on Thursday.
Brooks Koepka @StretchZEllis

If it was true, that would have been a breach of Rule 10-2a. The rule states that during a round a player may not give advice to anyone in the competition who is playing the course, and a player’s caddie is an extension of them when it comes to breaching a rule.

However, all parties involved denied the allegation. The Masters Tournament issued a short bulletin in response, saying, “All involved were adamant that no advice was given or requested. Consequently, the Committee determined there was no breach of the Rules.”

“Yeah, we looked at it when we got back in,” Koepka said. “[Gary Woodland and his caddie] had no idea what we were hitting. They didn’t even know because — I know that fact because GW asked me what we hit walking off, when we were walking down. So that’s all I can give you.”

Koepka went on to finish T2.

Trees topple at Augusta National

While the Masters ended up being a heavyweight duel between Jon Rahm and Koepka, before being semi-crashed by Phil Mickelson’s co-runner-up, the biggest heavyweights to crash were two massive pines that came down on the 17th tee Friday.

augusta national trees down
‘Thud and then a crack’: Patrons react to trees falling at Augusta National
By: Sean Zak

Poor weather plagued the Masters all week, starting with a second round that was twice suspended late in the afternoon.

Winds picked up just before the second suspension and uprooted two enormous pine trees left of the 17th tee.

Players looked on from the nearby 16th green as the two trees came down as patrons scattered to avoid being crushed.

“You hear a thud and then you hear a crack,” said Greg Janes, who was in a grandstand on the nearby 15th. “So it sounds like thunder and lightning.”

Thankfully, no one was hurt.

The second round resumed Saturday amid steady rains that would later suspend the third round, forcing much of the field to play 27 or more holes Sunday. In classic Augusta fashion, any remnants of the uprooted pines were quickly cleaned up and removed by Saturday morning.

Tom Kim gets covered in mud

The 2023 PGA Championship could be remembered for a lot of things. From the tremendous restoration of Oak Hill, to Brooks Koepka’s return, Viktor Hovland’s heartbreak, the rise of Michael Block, there was a lot.

What might have gotten lost in the shuffle was rising young superstar Tom Kim hilariously falling into Allen’s Creek late in the first round.

Tom Kim went on a muddy adventure.
Tom Kim falls in swamp, explains muddy disaster: ‘Oh no… everybody knows?!’
By: Dylan Dethier

Kim pushed his tee shot into the marsh right of the sixth fairway, but he was alerted by spotters to two balls stuck in the mud in the penalty area. It was a long shot, but Kim went in to see if one was his and if so, was it playable?

He probably wishes he didn’t, although we’re sure glad that he did.

“As soon as I went in — it was kinda sketch,” Kim told ESPN.

Soon he was calling caddie Joe Skovron for help.

“I said, ‘Are you sure you can’t move?’” Skovron recounted post-round on his way to the parking lot. “Then would have gotten stuck, too, and we’d have had a disaster. There was no way, I couldn’t go in there. I took a couple steps and that was about as far as I could go. The next step I was going to be down there.

“I was like, uh oh, he’d better be able to get out. And he got out.”

Tom Kim went on a muddy adventure.
“I hope there’s no pictures of that.” ESPN

He emerged from the marsh a muddy mess, so much that he had to ditch his shirt and go back into a different part of the creek to try and rinse himself off. He ended up miraculously making bogey at 6 and played the final three holes with his pant legs rolled up.

When he arrived at the media center after the round, he was hoping the cameras didn’t catch the ordeal.

“I hope there’s no pictures of that,” he said.

Kim pulled out his phone.

“Oh, no,” he said, reacting in real time. “Everybody knows?!”

A deceptive scramble win

J.B. Holmes, the five-time PGA Tour winner, was disqualified from a $30k two-day scramble tournament in Tennessee in May.

J.B. Holmes tees off during the first round of the 2021 Palmetto Championship at Congaree.
5-time Tour winner DQ’d from big-money Calcutta after registering with cryptic name
By: Josh Berhow

Why? For starters, Holmes wasn’t entered as Holmes. He played under the name John Bradley and carried an 8 handicap. Yes, you read that right. A multiple-time Tour-winner, who played Tour events this season, was playing a handicap event as an 8 handicap.

Turns out it was part of a misunderstanding as Holmes entered the event late and provided his first and middle names. The event staff then hastily looked up a handicap for him and found John Bradley at a Three Ridges Golf Course in Knoxville, Tenn, who carried a 9.6 index with a low of 8.8.

When Holmes’ group in The Gangsome, the tournament’s name, was confronted about the mix-up, already leading after the first day, the group admitted they just wanted Holmes to be free of the attention his name would bring.

Nonetheless, they were ruled ineligible from the $30k Calcutta, but still collected the first-place trophy. Holmes, to his credit, had a bit of fun with the story after it begun circulating on social media.

As for the *real* John Bradley, the one with the 9.6 handicap, he was oblivious.

Rose Zhang’s record-breaking arrival

Rose Zhang had maybe the most outstanding amateur career of any player. Ever.

She didn’t skip a beat in her pro debut.

rose zhang smiles
In stunning pro debut, Rose Zhang keeps rolling — right into history books
By: Zephyr Melton

While still having to return to Palo Alto for the final few weeks of her sophomore year at Standford, Zhang took the lead through three rounds at the Mizuho Americas Open and eventually defeated Jenifer Kupcho in a playoff for her first LPGA title.

With the win, Zhang became the first player to win an LPGA title in her professional debut since Beverly Hanson in 1951 and earned immediate LPGA Tour membership just weeks after collecting her second-straight NCAA Individual title.

“I’ve enjoyed the journey,” Zhang said. “I had so many cheers around me. All my friends and family. Just so thankful.”

After 12 collegiate wins in just two seasons, breaking the Stanford record held by, among others, Tiger Woods, Zhang turned pro in June with more hype than any player in recent history.

While she didn’t collect another win throughout the rest of the season, hordes of fans (the Zhang Gang and Rose Buds alike) swarmed her everywhere she went.

Adam Hadwin gets leveled by a security guard

Nick Taylor had just done what no Canadian had accomplished for 69 years.

On the fourth playoff hole with Tommy Fleetwood, Taylor holed a 73-foot eagle putt to become the first Canadian winner of the RBC Canadian Open since 1954, and mayhem ensued as the rest of the Canadian contingent rushed to celebrate with him.

But one security guard mistook noted PGA Tour good guy Adam Hadwin, who was showering Taylor with champagne, for a fan.

What happened next has been replayed thousands of times north of the border.

Hadwin got obliterated by the guard on the 18th green.

Adam Hadwin never saw it coming.
You need to see this security guard aggressively tackle Adam Hadwin on the 18th green
By: Dylan Dethier

The misunderstanding was quickly remedied, especially when Taylor’s caddie broke from an embrace with his boss to come to Hadwin’s defense.

Sunday evening, Hadwin’s wife Jessica was quick to let everyone know Adam was “among the land of the living.

“And in true Canadian form, [he] apologized to the security guard for being tackled,” Jessica tweeted.

Taylor’s heroics and Hadwin’s hilarious moment were a rare moment of levity for the PGA Tour just days after the bombshell June 6th framework agreement with the Saudi PIF was announced.

The Open’s OB

Royal Liverpool made its return to major championship golf, hosting the Open for the first time in nine years, with several significant changes from Rory McIlroy’s 2014 claret-jug triumph.

royal liverpool internal out of bounds
A miss right on Royal Liverpool’s 3rd or 18th was not ideal. Sean Zak

Not only was the par-3 17th a completely new hole, but some of the traditional out-of-bounds lines on the 3rd, 16th and 18th were reintroduced to Open competition.

Those white lines were in some spots mere feet from fairways and greens and the tight confines wreaked havoc on the field.

One of the first victims was none other than Rickie Fowler.

During the first round, Fowler came to the par-5 18th hole at two under and in a tie for 6th. He finished his round in a tie for 48th.

Rickie Fowler
Controversial course feature leads Rickie Fowler to tumble 42 spots — in 1 hole
By: Nick Piastowski

Here’s the play-by-play:

Stroke one: A 305-yard tee shot to the fairway. He had 289 yards to the pin.

Stroke two: A 249-yard shot — to the internal out of bounds. It had skipped over by a few yards. 

Stroke 3: Penalty. And a re-hit from the original spot. 

Stroke four: A 247-yard shot to the internal out of bounds. This one was a few yards farther right than the first. 

Stroke 5: Penalty. And a re-hit from the original spot. In a scene reminiscent of Tin Cup, Fowler asked caddie Ricky Romano for a ball. 

Stroke six: A 307-yard shot to the green. He had 53 feet, 2 inches to the hole.

Stroke 7: A 52-foot, 7-inch putt. He had 1 foot, 7 inches to go.

Stroke 8: Putt made. A triple bogey. 

“That puts you in serious jeopardy and hard work for tomorrow to make the cut now,” analyst Nick Faldo said on the USA network broadcast.

Solheim Cup ends in tie

For the first time in the history of the matches, the Solheim Cup ended in a 14-14 draw.

Both teams played equally well over the three-day competition at Spain’s Finca Cortesin, but Europe was the current holder of the trophy and thus “retained” the cup.

europe celebrating solheim cup win
Solheim Cup’s ‘awkward’ finish could have been avoided. Here’s how
By: Alan Bastable

The matches were no doubt thrilling, with Spaniard Carlota Ciganda firing up the crowd as the heart and soul of her team in her home country. However, the tie was somewhat anticlimactic.

“I get the celebrations from Europe,” Golf Channel broadcaster Tom Abbott said from the booth, “but it doesn’t always sit well for me that the teams celebrate and it’s going to be a tie. I don’t know about you at home.”

The Ryder Cup has twice ended in a tie with the defending champions retaining the cup in those instances as well. The Presidents Cup has used the same tie-breaker since 2005, but prior, would hold a sudden-death playoff to determine the winner.

The playoff would be between two players “in the envelope,” meaning each’s team respective captain had chosen their playoff participants in advance. This happened in 2003, but neither Ernie Els nor Tiger Woods could gain the upper hand in three holes before darkness, leading captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to agree to a tie.

“Obviously would be better TV,” U.S. captain Stacy Lewis said in a press conference. “It would be a better experience for the fans if there was a — whether it was a team playoff or something like that, I think that would be pretty cool. But if you want to stick with the history of the event and history of what the men do as well, you probably stick with retaining the Cup. I don’t know how I feel about that either way, to be honest.”

The rise and fall of the TGL

Announced late in 2022, the TGL, run by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy’s new media company, was supposed to be a game changer.

The league was set to launch in January 2024 with a unique, semi-virtual format. By fall 2023, it was running at a fever pace with team and player announcements. The Boston franchise even held a media event attended by several GOLF staffers.

Tiger Woods looks at camera during Masters tournament
Tiger Woods’ TGL golf league postponed until 2025 after roof collapse
By: Sean Zak

Then it all came crashing down. Literally.

In mid-November, a storm at the Palm Beach construction site of the league’s stadium caused a power outage and led to the collapse of the dome over top of the arena.

After a couple of days of uncertainty, the league, which was six weeks away from launch, announced it was going to postpone its debut season for a full year.

“Although the events of last week will force us to make adjustments to our timelines, I’m fully confident that this concept will be brought to life by our great committed players,” Woods said in a press release. 

“The postponement brings mixed feelings of disappointment and excitement,” said McIlroy. “Above all, we are happy that no one was injured. We are looking forward to the launch of TGL. Given the circumstances, while the delay is disappointing, the postponement will allow us to regroup, refocus and return stronger.”

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.



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