As the year ends, we’re taking a look at the winners and losers of 2010. First, we reviewed the best shots. Then, we cringed through the greatest meltdowns, a category where the options certainly weren’t lacking this year. We also checked out some players who were considered overachievers, and of course, the underachievers. Now, let’s take a gander at the best feel-good moments of 2010. If I missed one of your faves, email me. Or just drop it in the comments below.
*Tom Watson’s farewell at the US Open and British Open. First of all, thank you, Tom, for all the magical memories you’ve given to the game. I still have goosebumps from following him for the final two holes at Pebble Beach with his son Michael looping for him on Father’s Day. I can’t sum it up any better than what I wrote at the time, but it was one of those moments that define the love of sport. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more sentimental, Watson said farewell to St. Andrews.
I rushed out to the 18th hole just in time to see him doff his cap at the crowd as he approached the 18th green. It was probably even more spine-tingling than it was at Pebble Beach. As a five-time Open champion, the crowd gave him the reception of a lifetime. Even though he never won at St. Andrews, the fans still worship and respect Watson and vice versa.
Then, he nearly chipped in for eagle. It couldn’t have been a more fitting way for him to end his final round playing in the Open at St. Andrews. I watched as he held on to teen phenom Ryo Ishikawa’s hand and bestowed some words of wisdom — it was like the old guard passing along the torch to golf’s future. As poignant as his last two holes were at Pebble Beach, this was something even more special. I still have goosebumps. And I just feel lucky that I was able to witness his last competitive shots playing at the US Open at Pebble and the British Open at St. Andrews — two memories I’ll always cherish. Thanks, Tom.
*Arnold Palmer’s 50-Year Anniversary Press Conference at the Open. The King stopped by the media center to speak about the 1960 British Open at St. Andrews, the year when his support for the championship invigorated American interest traveling overseas to compete in it. Absolutely legendary.
*Bubba Watson winning the Travelers Championship. The long-hitting left-hander won in a three-way playoff against Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank. In the awards ceremony and post-win press conference, Bubba shed tears as he spoke about winning for his dad and living the dream.
*Rickie Fowler’s phenomenal comeback in Ryder Cup singles against Edoardo Molinari. Down three with four to play, the 21-year-old American carded four consecutive birdies to win a half point for the US team. Fowler drained a clutch 25-footer on the 18th hole to halve the match. It was a career defining moment and incredibly inspiring.
*The US post-loss press conference. The Americans nearly staged one of the greatest comeback in history. They showed tremendous heart in their play and team unity in their support at the press conference. It was truly touching to see Phil Mickelson bail out an emotional Hunter Mahan and to hear Stewart Cink speak passionately in defense of Mahan. The Americans lost the Ryder Cup, but they were graceful in defeat and gained our respect for their passion and spirit.
*Captain Colin Montgomerie winning the Ryder Cup. “This is one of the finest moments…no, hang on,” Montgomerie said for effect. “This is the greatest moment of my golfing career.”
*Graeme McDowell’s dream year. His victory at the US Open. His clutch putt in singles against Mahan to clinch the Ryder Cup for Europe. His clutch putts against Tiger Woods at the Chevron World Challenge for the win. Legendary.
*Brian Davis calling a penalty on himself. It was honorable in this game of integrity. Jim Nantz waxed all sorts of moral and Davis essentially became the second coming of Bobby Jones.
*Troy Merritt keeping his PGA Tour card and winning the Kodak Challenge all in one day. With his job and a million bucks both on the line, Merritt took home both at the Children’s Miracle Classic. Sometimes dreams really do come true in Disney World.
*In-Kyung Kim donating all her winnings to charity. After winning the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, IK Kim made an altruistic and generous gesture, announcing she was giving her first-place purse to the Lorena Ochoa Foundation and an American charity. It was one of the best stories in golf this year.
*Rocco Mediate winning the Frys.com Open. When it looked like he had fallen apart, he holed out for eagle on No. 17 to edge out Alex Prugh and Bo Van Pelt for the win. Rocco holed out four times in four rounds that week, making him the hole-out king. Oh, and with the victory, he also got his job back.
*PGA Tour Q-School. Andres Gonzales showed amazing heart and hit some clutch shots coming down the stretch in the sixth and final round of Q-school to earn his card. Joseph Bramlett became the second golfer of black heritage currently on Tour. Billy Mayfair, a five-time PGA Tour winner and long-time veteran, claimed medalist honors to earn his job back. Nate Smith achieved his ultimate goal. Michael Putnam, who already earned his card through finishing in the top-25 on the Nationwide Tour money list, placed T6 to improve his status by a ton. Will Strickler bogeyed the last hole to move the cut to 9-under, which allowed his college teammate Billy Horschel to collect his card, along with Scott Gordon who missed a two-footer on the 18th.
*Brett Waldman, the now-former caddie of Camilo Villegas, pursuing his dream. Between globetrotting to loop for Camilo, Waldman managed to make it through three stages of qualifying to the final stage. He earned his Nationwide Tour card and decided to quit his financially-secure job with Villegas to try his hand playing professionally.
On a personal note, 2010 was filled with almost non-stop hug-me-now moments for WUP. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for the support, generosity, kindness and mentorship that people have shown me. I’ve been fortunate to meet many amazing individuals and wonderful friends along the way. I will always be infinitely thankful to you all. HUGS!