12/08 08:59 CST Column: Reviewing the year based on every club in the bag
Column: Reviewing the year based on every club in the bag
By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) --- The value of one shot was a place in history, another
was worth $15 million in the bank. One drive introduced a young Scotsman on the
world stage, one fairway metal helped to make a young American a major champion.
All were shots that shaped the year in golf.
What follows is a review based on every club in the bag. And in perpetual honor
of Arnold Palmer and his beloved shootout at Bay Hill, this bag isn't limited
to 14 clubs:
Bryson DeChambeau gets attention for cutting off most of the lake on the par-5
sixth hole at Bay Hill, and thrusting both arms in the air like a strongman.
The best shot hit with a driver was three weeks later at the WGC-Dell Match
Robert MacIntrye of Scotland came to the 371-yard 18th hole at Austin Country
Club needing to win the hole to advance out of group play. He hit a bullet onto
the green 3 feet from the cup, right next to the feet of Dustin Johnson's
Daniel Berger was tied for the lead on the par-5 18th of the AT&T Pebble Beach
Pro-Am when he laced a 3-wood onto the green to 30 feet. He holed the eagle
putt for a two-shot victory and was on his way. By the end of his year, Berger
was a Ryder Cup player.
Nelly Korda won her first major and moved to No. 1 in the world with a powerful
performance in the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. And that power was never more
evident than on the par-5 fifth hole at Atlanta Athletic Club. She hit 7-wood
that stopped a foot away for eagle that gave Korda the lead for good.
Harris English was one shot behind on the downhill, par-5 closing hole at
Kapalua in the season-opening Sentry Tournament of Champions. From a downhill
lie, he hit 3-iron from 268 yards to 10 feet. That set up his birdie to tie
Joaquin Niemann, and English beat him with a birdie on the first extra hole.
English might be the best reminder that the best way to raise one's profile is
by winning. He won twice this year and was part of his first Ryder Cup team.
Justin Thomas has a short history of big shots on par 5s, and this was a big
stage. Thomas and Jordan Spieth were all square against Viktor Hovland and
Bernd Wiesberger in Saturday foursomes at the Ryder Cup. On the 569-yard 16th
hole, Thomas hit 4-iron to 8 feet that Spieth converted for eagle, and they
went on to a 2-up victory.
The Masters was wide open on Saturday afternoon when Hideki Matsuyama hit
5-iron that never left the path of the flag on the par-5 15th, landed softly
and rolled out to 5 feet for eagle. That gave him the lead for the first time,
and it started an eagle-birdie-birdie run that sent him to a four-shot lead and
ultimately a green jacket.
Patrick Cantlay had a one-shot lead over Jon Rahm playing the par-5 18th hole
at East Lake with no less than $15 million riding on the outcome. From the
fairway, he smoked a 6-iron from 218 yards to 12 feet --- the closest of anyone
all day at the Tour Championship --- that set up birdie to become the FedEx Cup
Sam Burns twice failed to convert 54-hole leads in his pursuit of his first PGA
Tour victory. His last challenge at the Valspar Championship was the 16th hole.
From 186 yards, he had a 6-iron until caddie Travis Perkins felt the wind die
and called him off. Burns instead hammered 7-iron to 18 feet for birdie,
sending him to his first title.
Collin Morikawa was coming off two birdies and was in the lead at the DP World
Tour Championship in Dubai when he found a bunker off the tee. With an 8-iron,
he hit a high fade to shape it around the water to 12 feet. That set up a par
that kept up his momentum, and he finished off a victory that made him the
first American to become the European Tour's No. 1 player.
Sergio Garcia already had beaten Lee Westwood in the opening session of the
Match Play and then faced him in a playoff two days later to try to win the
group. On the 161-yard fourth hole, Garcia hit 9-iron just beyond the pin and
it trickled back into the cup for an ace. That prompted Westwood to say: "Well,
28 years on tour and I thought I had seen everything. I hadn't!"
DeChambeau is swinging faster and hitting it farther, and it's not just the
driver. On the par-3 eighth hole at Torrey Pines in the final round of the U.S.
Open, he hit pitching wedge from 175 yards, slightly uphill at sea level, that
came within inches of falling for a hole-in-one. The tap-in birdie gave him the
lead for the first time. Ultimately, he couldn't hold on.
Max Homa's hopes of winning at Riviera looked lost when his tee shot on No. 10
in a playoff settled at the base of a tree, while Tony Finau was 7 feet away
for birdie. Homa hooded a gap wedge to get some spin, somehow bumped it up the
hill to the front of the green and escaped with par to stay in the playoff. He
won with a par on the next hole. Along with the incredible shot, this was among
the feel-good wins of the year --- an LA kid, winning at Riviera, getting the
trophy from Tiger Woods. "I don't know if I can do anything cooler in golf than
this," he said.
The return of Spieth this year also brought back his short-game magic, none
more memorable than the opening foursomes session with Thomas at the Ryder Cup.
The ball was buried in deep grass on the side of a steep slope left of the
par-3 17th. Spieth opened the face of a 52-degree wedge and swung so hard that
the ball shot straight up in the air, and his momentum sent him racing down the
hill to the edge of Lake Michigan. The ball came down 6 feet away. Thomas
missed the par putt. No matter. It was the shot everyone wanted to see that day.
Xander Schauffele had the Tokyo Olympics in mind all summer, and he came to the
final hole of Kasumigaseki Country Club with a one-shot lead. He hit into the
trees on the right and had no choice but to chip back to the fairway. From 98
yards, he hit sand wedge about 15 feet behind the hole and watched it spin back
to 4 feet. He made the par for the gold medal.
Phil Mickelson had a one-shot lead in the final round of the PGA Championship
when he put his tee shot in the front bunker on the par-3 fifth hole at Kiawah
Island. Always skilled with a lob wedge, he blasted out perfectly and it
trickled into the cup for a birdie surprise, widening his lead and sending the
50-year-old into the record book as golf's oldest major champion.
The clinching birdie putt for Jon Rahm in the U.S. Open was the 18-footer on
the final hole at Torrey Pines. The winning putt? That might have been on the
hole before. Rahm was one shot behind Louis Oosthuizen when he rolled in a
sharp-breaking 25-foot birdie putt to tie for the lead. Behind him, Oosthuizen
bogeyed the 17th and Rahm was on his way.
The story has been corrected to show that Korda made eagle on the fifth hole,
not third, and Thomas' 4-iron led to eagle, not birdie, for Spieth.
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