As the year ends, we’ll take a look at the highlights and lowlights of 2010. Let’s start with Best Shots, a category that needs no introduction. But before you dig in, consider the shots that leap to your mind from 2010. If I missed one of your faves, email me. Or just drop it in the comments below. A special thanks to Intern Kevin for his contributions — even though he disagrees with some of my decisions.
BSOTY: Graeme McDowell, Chevron World Challenge, final round, No. 18 — sinking a putt at the Chevron while a bib-less Steve Williams watches. This doesn’t really count as a shot like the others. I mean, it’s a putt, but I think that the scene makes it the “shot” of the year. I wish I had MS Paint and I could draw a circle around Stevie Williams, who took off his caddie bib as an act of gamesmanship, standing in Graeme McDowell’s line of sight waiting for him to putt. Instead, McDowell dropped the big bomb on Tiger Woods on the final hole in regulation at the Chevron World Challenge. Sorry, Stevie, but you forgot that you and your boss don’t have the same intimidation factor anymore. The aura really is gone (at least it’ll never be the same).
To make the situation all the more interesting, McDowell’s dream year was ignited at the same event last year. G-Mac was a last-minute entry to the ’09 field when Tiger withdrew due to his car crash (among other things). With the world ranking points he collected from his runner-up finish, he ended up getting into some tournaments that he may not have, like the US Open. And the rest is history. Nothing says thank you than draining two huge putts in a row on the host.
1. Phil Mickelson, The Masters, final round, No. 13. He’s going for it?! Of course, he’s going for it! Phil doesn’t lay up! — even when he’s in the trees. Phil has a flair for the dramatic, and when he pulls it off, it doesn’t get much better. Besides, he only had a six-iron in his hand. Too bad Phil missed the four-foot eagle putt. Regardless, the shot will probably go down as one of the greatest in Masters history.
2. Jonathan Byrd, Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, fourth playoff hole, No. 17. Byrd’s walk-off ace in the near dark to win a three-way playoff was pretty cool. It was the first time in history that anyone had pulled off such a shot and it may not happen again for a very, very long time. Why isn’t it No. 1? Well, who did he beat again? When did this go down? Answer: Martin Laird and Cameron Percy at a Fall Series event. It took me about five minutes to remember it was Laird and I had to look up who the other was.
3. Tiger Woods, US Open, third round, No. 18. Remember the roars that shook Pebble Beach on Saturday afternoon? Maybe I’m biased because I was lucky enough to witness it. Here’s an excerpt from my write-up that evening:
Tiger’s drive was behind the tree on the right side of the fairway. I did a double-take when I saw he was holding a 3-wood in his hands. Holy crap, is he going for it in two (18 is a par 5)? Does he even have a shot? Apparently so. And of course he’s not going to lay up. Because he’s Tiger Woods.
Right as he was taking the club back, a thud came from the gallery. Tiger stepped away and looked back at the gallery with an icy stare. Then he struck the shot of the day, starting the ball at the seawall and cutting it back toward the pin from 260 yards away. It stopped pin-high, 10-feet from the cup.
Unreal. A year ago, it would have been a fantastic shot, but we wouldn’t have expected anything less. On Saturday it was what we’d been hoping to see again for much too long. The booming cheers were so loud that a writer standing near the 10th hole, the farthest point away (he approximated about two miles), heard them. And another scribe said she could hear it in the media tent.
It was a telling moment that Tiger missed the eagle putt — perhaps it was a sign that even though he evoked the magic of the old Tiger, the mystique really was gone. With all the momentum he’d gained with birdies on 16 and 17, he left an eagle putt short! But it was still thrilling to watch him play that back nine (and twenty years from now, it will probably go down as one of my greatest memories).
4. Rocco Mediate, Frys.com Open, final round, No. 17. Just when it looked like Rocco was going to choke away his lead, he holed out for eagle from the fairway to hold off Alex Prugh and Bo Van Pelt. The hole-out was Rocco’s fourth in four days. You can’t make this stuff up!
5. Rory McIlroy, Quail Hollow, final round, No. 15. Rory’s eagle in the second round may deserve just as much recognition. Thanks to a late-round eagle on No. 7 on Friday, McIlroy made the cut on the number and went on to shoot 66-62 on the weekend for the win. With Mickelson prowling, McIlroy knocked a five-iron to within four feet on the par-5 No. 15. To cap off the incredible shot, he made the eagle putt (which Tiger and Phil will tell us, it’s harder than it looks).
6. Matt Kuchar, The Barclays, playoff, No. 18. Kuchar was leading the PGA Tour in top-tens and quietly having one of the best seasons of anyone on Tour. It looked like Martin Laird was going to cruise to victory, but he three-putted from short-range on the last hole in regulation to find himself in a playoff with Kuchar. After pulling his drive on the 18th, the first playoff hole, Kuchar knocked a beautiful iron shot to the front of the green and watched it roll all the way up the back stop and back down to two-feet from the cup. He tapped in for the win, validating his already-impressive season. (Aside: One of my favorite “awww” moments of the year? Kuchar’s baby son walking up on the green and speeding up as he approached dad until he ran into his arms.)
7. Miguel Angel Jimenez, The Open Championship, final round, No. 17. The Most Interesting Man in the World also pulled off one of the most interesting shots in the world at the British Open. Jimenez’s ball was up against the wall on the infamous “Road Hole” at St. Andrews. He had no other choice, but to try and bank it off the wall and onto the green. With his back facing the hole, Jimenez did just that, hitting the ball at the wall and letting it ricochet up and over his head to about 15 feet. It was a trick shot for the ages.
8. Jim Furyk, Tour Championship, final round, No. 18. In rainy, crappy conditions, Furyk needed a par on the last hole, a tough par-3 to win the tournament, and more significantly, the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus. Furyk’s tee ball found the bunker, but he hit the perfect sand shot to a foot to tap-in for the big money. He finished the week 9 for 9 in sand saves.
9. Michelle Wie, CN Canadian Women’s Open, first round, No. 11. Michelle’s hole-in-one was no doubt the highlight of her nearly flawless 65 in the opening round. She led the tourney wire-to-wire for her second professional LPGA win.
10. Jeff Overton, Ryder Cup, No. 8. Best reaction ever. BOOM, baby.
11. Andres Gonzales, PGA Tour Q-School, sixth round, No. 18. Obviously, I’m biased, but Dres’ approach into the 108th hole at Orange County National’s Crooked Cat may rank above some of the shots listed above. He birdied No. 17 to get to 10-under. The number he had in mind for the day was 67 (11-under total). He had been wavering on the cut line for the top-25, but 10-under would probably get him in. Dres was so nervous on the 18th tee that he couldn’t write down his score. (Hell, I was just watching and I was shaking!) After pushing his drive into the right rough, he had a tough shot over a tree with a four-iron. Truth is, he hit it a few yards left than he intended, but it was straight at the stick and stopped about 10 feet past the hole. From that angle, he had just pulled off an absolutely incredible shot. That’s how you get your PGA Tour card. And that’s what I call a fairytale-like ending — sometimes dreams actually come true in Disney World. Well, he missed the downhill slider for birdie, but minor details! (BTW, anyone got the Golf Channel footage of it? Huge thank you to Randy of thompsontide.com for passing along the clip above.)
Your turn! What were the most memorable shots for you in 2010?