Every PGA TOUR season produces its share of memorable moments. Here’s one man's opinion of the best moments from 2013:
SHOT OF THE YEAR: Adam Scott, Masters
Adam Scott’s 12-foot birdie putt on the Masters’ second playoff hole made him the first Australian to win the Green Jacket. It was another putt, almost twice as long, that allowed him to get into that playoff, though. Scott holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation that gave him the lead until Angel Cabrera, playing in the group behind Scott, made a birdie of his own to force a playoff. Scott’s victory wouldn’t have been possible without that last putt in regulation, one he thought gave himself his first major. It was that putt that elicited Scott's cry of "C'mon Aussie." It was an impressive pressure putt that preceded his walk-off win.
BEST TEE SHOT: Justin Rose, U.S. Open
Merion’s difficult finishing hole has been memorialized in one of golf’s most famous photographs. That image caputred Ben Hogan hitting 1-iron onto the green in the 1950 U.S. Open, testament to the hole’s difficulty. The 18th hole was 511 yards long and lined by penal rough for this year’s U.S. Open. Less than half the field (43.8 percent) hit the fairway in the U.S. Open’s final round, but Rose hammered the most important tee shot of his life in the middle of the fairway, some five yards from the plaque commemorating Hogan’s historic approach.
BEST IRON SHOT: Justin Rose, U.S. Open
Justin Rose’s 4-iron to Merion’s 18th hole didn’t end up on the green, but it set up a simple par that allowed the Englishman to claim his first major at the U.S. Open. His ball rolled near the hole before finishing in light rough just behind the green.
“When I walked over the hill and saw my drive sitting perfectly in the middle of the fairway, with the sun coming out, it was kind of almost fitting,” he said. “I felt like I did myself justice and probably put enough of a good swing where Ben Hogan might have thought it was a decent shot too.”
Only 20.5 percent of the field hit the 18th green in the U.S. Open’s final round. Rose was left with a simple chip, which he hit with a fairway wood within inches of the hole. The 18th hole played to a 4.7 stroke average in the final round, but Rose’s spectacular approach shot made par easy to attain.
BEST FAIRWAY-WOOD SHOT: Phil Mickelson, The Open Championship
Phil Mickelson started walking almost immediately after he hit his second shot on the par-5 17th at Muirfield in the final round of this year’s The Open Championship. His ball bounded down the baked-out fairway and stopped 20 feet from the hole. Mickelson two-putted for birdie, then birdied the final hole for a three-shot win.
“I hit two of the best 3-woods I ever hit," said Mickelson, who didn’t carry a driver that week and also hit 3-wood from the 17th tee. "Those two 3-woods were the best shots of the week, and walking up on that green is when I realized that his championship is very much in my control.”
BEST SHORT-GAME SHOT: Jordan Spieth, John Deere Classic
Jordan Spieth’s bunker shot on the final hole of the John Deere Classic bounced once before hitting the flagstick and dropping in the hole. It would’ve ended up several feet past if it had proceeded unobstructed, but it went in, and that’s all that matters. His birdie on that hole allowed him to get in a playoff with Zach Johnson and David Hearn, which Spieth eventually won to become the first teenager to win on the PGA TOUR since 1931.
“It somehow went in,” Spieth said. “I couldn't tell you how or why.”
Honorable mention: Chris Stroud, Travelers Championship
BEST RECOVERY SHOT: Patrick Reed, Wyndham Championship
Jordan Spieth made an incredible par – capped by a 25-foot putt – to unexpectedly force a second playoff hole with Patrick Reed at the Wyndham Championship. Spieth looked like he may win his second title of the year when Reed hit his tee shot into the right trees on the next hole, just a few feet from out-of-bounds stakes. Instead, Reed faded a 7-iron around a tree trunk and under branches to 7 feet from the hole, then made the birdie putt to win his first PGA TOUR title after Spieth barely missed a 10-foot birdie putt.
“The ball was so far above my feet that it almost felt like I was taking a baseball swing,” Reed said. He had to hit a fade with a 7-iron from a lie that encouraged a draw because of a tree that was right of his ball. “The tree that I had to go under, the tree trunk was right there. I really had to hit the ball dead straight and couldn't draw and from a baseball lie.
“"It was the best shot of my life, that's for sure.”
Honorable mention: Jordan Spieth, John Deere Classic playoff. Spieth's punch shot from trees right of TPC Deere Run's 18th fairway found the green and allowed him to make par and win his first PGA TOUR title.
BEST BREAK: Ken Duke, Travelers Championship
There’s such a fine line between winning and losing on the PGA TOUR that a player often needs a couple good bounces to come out victorious. Ken Duke, 44, got one especially fortuitous bounce en route to his victory at the Travelers Championship. His approach shot to TPC River Highlands’ 10th hole landed in the trees left of the green before bouncing within 5 feet of the hole. He made the birdie putt then won his first PGA TOUR title in a playoff.
“I don't know how it kicked back,” Duke said. “You know, I've seen stuff like that happen before, you know, when you don't expect it and ended up making the putt which was great, but I did point at the tree and say thank you. You need breaks like that every once in a while.”
BEST WINLESS SEASON: Steve Stricker
Steve Stricker’s plan to play a limited schedule in 2013 paid off. He finished third in the FedExCup in just 13 starts. He made the cut in every start, finished in the top-25 11 times and had eight top-10s. He was runner-up four times, and finished no worse than T-4 in three FedExCup Playoffs starts.
Honorable mention: Jason Day
BEST DEBUT: Russell Henley, Sony Open in Hawaii
Russell Henley made it look easy in his first PGA TOUR event as a professional, making birdie on his final five holes – and seven of his last 10 holes -- to win the Sony Open in Hawaii. He one-putted 33 of 72 holes that week, including seven of nine holes on his back nine on Sunday.
Honorable mention: Hideki Matsuyama, U.S. Open. Matsuyama finished 10th in the U.S. Open, his first tournament in the United States as a professional.
MOST SURPRISING WIN: Derek Ernst, Wells Fargo Championship
PGA TOUR rookie Derek Ernst was driving from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans to a Web.com Tour event in Athens, Ga., when he received a phone call informing him he got in the Wells Fargo Championship field. Ernst, who was planning to play that week's Web.com event because he was well down the Wells Fargo’s alternate list, had to drop off his rental car in Athens before driving to Charlotte. He arrived at his unexpected destination Monday evening, then went on to win the Wells Fargo in a playoff with 2012 PGA Championship runner-up David Lynn. Phil Mickelson finished one shot back after bogeys on 16 and 17 in the final round. The Wells Fargo was Ernst’s eighth event as a PGA TOUR member. It was the only top-25 of his rookie season; he made just seven of 21 cuts in 2013.
Honorable mention: Woody Austin, Sanderson Farms Championship
BIGGEST TURNAROUND: Zach Johnson
Henrik Stenson undoubtedly was the hottest player of the season’s second half, but it can be argued that Zach Johnson had the largest biggest contrast between his two halves of the season. Johnson contended for the FedExCup despite having just one finish better than 18th before July. How’d he do it? An incredible run of seven top-10s in his final eight starts of the season. He not only won the BMW Championship for his 10th career victory, but posted top-10s in two majors The Open Championship (T-6) and PGA Championship (T-8) and a World Golf Championship (the Bridgestone Invitational, T-4). He also lost a three-way playoff – eventually won by Jordan Spieth – at the John Deere Classic.
Honorable mention: Jason Dufner. He won twice in 2012, but had just one top-10 (T-4, U.S. Open) before August. Then he posted three top-10s in four events, finishing fourth at the Bridgestone Invitational, winning his first major at the PGA Championship and finishing ninth at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
BEST HOT STREAK: Henrik Stenson
Top-three finishes in five of his final seven starts of the year resulted in the FedExCup and half of his four career victories. He won two FedExCup Playoffs events, the Deutcshe Bank Championship and TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, was runner-up at The Open Championship and World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and third at the PGA Championship.
BEST UNDER-THE-RADAR ROUND: David Toms, 62 in final round at Wyndham Championship.
David Toms knew he had to make a move in the season’s final round if he wanted to crack the top 125 on the money list and keep his TOUR card. A 62 on Sunday at Sedgefield Country Club, including two eagles, helped him do just that. Toms, who started the day at 1-over 211, moved up 44 spots on the leaderboard to T-16 after matching the day's low round. He moved from 129th to 123rd on the money list in the season’s final week. His bogey-free 29 on his final nine included an eagle at the par-4 sixth hole, where he holed a 71-yard shot. “It feels good to play well when I needed to,” Toms said.
BEST SUB-70 SCORE BY A TEENAGER: Tianlang Guan, second-round 69 at Zurich Classic of New Orleans
The Zurich Classic was the 14-year-old’s first PGA TOUR start since making the cut and earning low-amateur honors at the Masters (58th). He shot 69 in the second round at TPC Louisiana to make the cut on the number and further showcase his impressive potential.
Honorable mention: Jordan Spieth, final-round 65 at John Deere Classic.
BEST FIRST ROUND: Phil Mickelson, 60 at Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Inches, maybe less, stood between Phil Mickelson and a 59 in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Mickelson faced a 25-foot birdie putt on his final hole (TPC Scottsdale’s ninth) to become the sixth player in PGA Tour history to break 60. He raised his putter in the air as the ball neared its target, but the ball circled around the hole and failed to drop.
"Six feet to go, it was in the center," Mickelson said. "Three feet to go, it was in the center. A foot to go, it was in the center, and even as it's approaching the hole, I couldn't envision which side of the hole it could possibly miss on, and it ended up somehow just dying off at the end, catching the lip. At that speed, to lip out as much as it did is very rare.
"I'm excited to shoot 60, but to see that last putt lip out the way it did and not go in, it's crushing because you don't get that chance very often to shoot 59."
Mickelson went on to shoot 28-under 256 and win the Waste Management Phoenix Open by four shots.
BEST SECOND ROUND: Jim Furyk, 59 at BMW Championship
Jim Furyk was 11 under after 13 holes at the par-71 Conway Farms Golf Club in the second round of the BMW Championship. A sub-60 score seemed inevitable, until Furyk three-putted to bogey the par-4 fifth and parred the next hole. He needed to birdie two of the final three holes to shoot 60, and did just that. Furyk made an 11-foot birdie putt at the seventh hole, then hit a gap wedge to 3 feet on his final hole and made the birdie putt.
Furyk shot 8-under 28 on his first nine holes, including a hole-out from 115 yards on the par-4 15th. The next lowest round that day was 65, and the field average was 71.0.
Honorable mention: Jason Dufner, 63 at PGA Championship
BEST THIRD ROUND: Kevin Chappell, The Barclays
Kevin Chappell’s 62 was the low round of the day by four shots and 10 shots better than the field average. It was one of two bogey-free rounds that day and also broke Liberty National’s course record by a shot. He made three birdies on his first nine, then shot 6-under 30 on his second nine. Chappell’s round had him one shot off the 54-hole lead, but a final-round 76 dropped him to 15th.
“It was a good round of golf. It was probably one of the better ones I’ve played,” said Chappell. “Here, in the wind, if you would have told me someone was going to shoot 62 today, I would probably have laughed at you.”
BEST FINAL ROUND: Phil Mickelson’s 66 at the Open.
Phil Mickelson was five strokes off the lead entering The Open Championship’s final round before playing arguably the best round of his life to win his fifth major championship and golf’s oldest trophy. Mickelson was the only player in the last 11 groups to break 70. He needed just 26 putts and made birdie on four of his final six holes, shooting a back-nine 32.
He two-putted for birdie on the par-5 17th after reaching the green with two fairway-wood shots, then hit his approach on No. 18 to approximately 12 feet and made the putt. His 3-under 281 total was good for a three-shot win.
"I don't care how I got it, this trophy. I got it," Mickelson said. "And it just so happened to be with one of the best rounds of my career, which is really the way I've played my entire career. I've always tried to go out and get it. I don't want anybody to hand it to me. I want to go out and get it. And today I did."