Best Golf Moments of 2012

Mike DudurichContributor IDecember 14, 2012

Best Golf Moments of 2012

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    End of the year lookbacks are always fun, remembering the great things that happened as well as those things that came up just a little short of great.

    Looking back at the 2012 PGA Tour season, how much better could it get than Bubba Watson hooking a wedge out of the trees to a Masters green jacket?

    Or how about the Next Great One proving to be the Great One of today, like Rory McIlroy did?

    By all accounts, it was a great season for the Tour and for the stars of that show, the players themselves.

    Check out this list of the Best Golf Moments in 2012.

    And don't miss the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Golf Channel, Jan. 3 to Jan. 7, live in primetime from Hawaii.

Bubba Watson’s Escape from the Trees at the Masters

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    It was an unlikely shot from an unlikely champion to be on one of golf’s major stages. Watson’s pipe dream could have ended when his drive on the 10th hole at Augusta National Golf Club sailed far to the right on the first hole of a playoff with Louis Oosthuizen.

    Among the mature trees and on the pine straw, Watson displayed “Bubba Golf” at its finest. He hooked a pitching wedge 40 yards onto the green to 10 feet of the hole, setting up the winning two-putt and a green jacket.  

Tiger Woods’ Chip-in at the Memorial

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    Muirfield Village Golf Club has been the site of some of Woods’ most spectacular moments, i.e., the pair of chip-ins from just off the green at the 14th hole. This time, it was on the difficult par-3 16th.

    Woods had hung near the lead all day, but faced a treacherous pitch shot from long and right of the green. If not struck perfectly, the shot could have easily gone through the green and into the water.

    But Woods flipped the ball onto the green on a perfect line, and it rolled efficiently into the cup. Not surprisingly, Woods went on to win the Memorial Tournament for the fifth time.

Rickie Fowler’s Pitching Wedge in the Playoff at the Wells Fargo

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    The pressure was beginning to build on Fowler, the highly-touted player from Oklahoma State. He made a flashy debut on the PGA Tour with his distinctive taste in clothing, but hadn’t produced much on the course.

    In the Wells Fargo Championship, Fowler, Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points finished regulation play at 14-under par. After hitting a 304-yard 3-wood off the tee on the first playoff hole, Fowler took dead aim at the hole and stuffed a 132-yard pitching wedge just a few feet from the hole. His birdie gave him his first win as a professional.

Louis Oosthuizen’s Albatross at the Second Hole at Augusta National on Sunday

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    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, gave early notice on Sunday afternoon at the Masters that he was going to be part of the mix.

    With a four-iron from 253 yards, Oosthuizen and the patrons around the par five second green watched in awe as the shot landed in the middle of the green, took the slope and started rolling right. It didn’t stop rolling until it covered the 80 feet and dove in the cup.

    The double eagle, or albatross, was only the fourth in the history of the Masters and the first to be televised.

    The shot gave Oosthuizen the lead, and he held it until Watson caught him on the 16th. He lost in a playoff to Watson.

Justin Rose’s Putt on 17 on Sunday at the Ryder Cup

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    As the Europeans put together perhaps the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history in the Sunday singles at Medinah, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson were in a thrilling match, with Mickelson up by one going to 17.

    Out of nowhere, Rose made a miraculous 35-foot birdie putt so good even Mickelson applauded.

    Rose went on to win the match on 18, keying what turned out to be a stunning European triumph.

Snedeker’s Chip-in on 17 in the Tour Championship to Set Up Big Payday

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    Prior to the Tour Championship, Brandt Snedeker had won approximately $15 million in his career.

    After he won the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup playoffs, he had earned another $11.4 million. His performance at East Lake Golf Club was the capper to a really good year.

    The biggest shot of that weekend came on the 17th hole, where he chipped in for a birdie.

    That allowed him to take a three-shot lead to the 18th hole, and even though his approach shot on the final hole landed in the stands behind the green, Snedeker made bogey and instantly became a very wealthy young man.

Ernie Els Sinking 20-Foot Putt on 18th Hole on Sunday to Win Open Championship

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    Ernie Els has won four major championships, each with its own unique circumstances and conditions. The 2012 Open Championship was one of the most unique, with Els seemingly being a sidebar to the main story of Adam Scott winning his first major title.

    Els didn’t know it at the time, but the 15-foot birdie putt he made on the 18th hole at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, would be the game-winner when Scott bogeyed the final four holes.

    Els’ game has been on the rebound after a few years of subpar play for a player of his caliber.

    It had been 10 years and 37 majors between major victories for Els. Els’ win reversed an ugly start to the season for him, as he didn’t qualify for the Masters and, despite having made 18 consecutive appearances, did not get an invitation.

Rory McIlroy Takes the Throne in Golf Kingdom

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    The newest superstar in golf grabbed the attention of the world with his stunning U.S. Open victory at Congressional Country Club in 2011.

    Trying to deal with the changes that come with winning the nation’s most important championship was not easy, and his play reflected the struggles he was having in that regard.

    And even though he won the Honda Classic in March, he officially put his stamp on the game by running away with the PGA Championship on the Ocean Course at Kiawah in August,winning by eight shots.

    He then went on to win two of the four FedEx Cup playoff events and had a great Ryder Cup for the winning European side.

    McIlroy’s breakout end to the 2012 season was a highlight of golf’s best moments this year.

Webb Simpson Showed Nerves of Steel to Win U.S. Open

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    Winning the U.S. Open isn’t supposed to be easy, and it certainly wasn’t for Webb Simpson in June at Olympic Club in San Francisco.

    He started the final round in the fourth-to-last group and got off to a very quick start, posting birdies at the sixth, seventh, eighth and 10th.

    Perhaps even more impressively, he parred the tough last eight holes for a round of 68 and one-over par 281. He needed to get up and down from a terrible lie at the edge of the 18th green to make par, and did so brilliantly, snuggling the ball to three feet of the cup.

    He hung around and waited for the field to finish and when the final putt dropped, his score was still the best.

Martin Kaymer Provided the Ultimate Justification for Being Picked

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    Regardless of your patriotic preferences, one of the best stories of the 2012 Ryder Cup had to be Germany’s Martin Kaymer.

    He was a captain’s pick by Jose Maria Olazabal, and that pick was roundly criticized. He didn’t make a birdie in a Friday, losing a four balls match teamed with Justin Rose, and wasn’t used in either session Saturday.

    He was placed in the 11th slot in the singles order by Olazabal, a sign of a lack of confidence because the captain had loaded his lineup in a top-heavy fashion with his best players going out early.

    Kaymer won the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, but had struggled since. He ground out a tough match against Steve Stricker on Sunday, dropping a six-foot putt for par to clinch the Cup for Europe.

Keegan Bradley and the Stink Eye

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    It’s unusual, to be sure, and Keegan Bradley has given it a very unusual name.

    Bradley’s practice of taking advantage of his left-eye dominant condition to line up putts by staring down putts with his head tilted to allow for an evil-looking stare.

    He calls it “the stink eye,” and it certainly worked for the 2011 PGA champion who had a very good year in 2012.

    He was a star in the Ryder Cup for the United States. He also found himself in the middle of the anchored putting controversy because he became the first player to win a major with an anchored belly putter.

    He actually was heckled at Tiger Woods’ World Challenge by fans over the belly putter.

Augusta National Admits Women

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    Augusta National Golf Club has been in existence for 80 years, and until Aug. 20, had never invited a woman to be a member at the club that annually hosts the Masters.

    When pressed on the subject, the response always was that the club did not discuss membership issues.

    The club announced that former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and financier Darla Moore would be the first woman members of the club.

    Rice is a member of Shoal Creek Country Club, and Moore is a longtime friend of former Augusta National chairman and fellow South Carolinian Hootie Johnson.

    While the invitations were lauded in some circles, they were also criticized in others because of how long it took Augusta National to issue them.

A Really Good Ryder Cup

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    It looked as though the United States Ryder Cup team was going to put together a two-game winning streak in the Ryder Cup at Medinah when the Americans took a 10-6 advantage into Sunday’s singles matches.

    But like a lightning bolt, the Europeans won the first five singles matches to take the lead.

    The battle continued through the rest of the 12 matches, but Europe finally prevailed by the results of three amazing matches: Justin Rose making birdies on the last two holes to beat Phil Mickelson; Jim Furyk making bogey on the last two holes to hand his match to Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer, a controversial captain’s pick, drained a six-foot par putt on 18 to defeat Steve Stricker and clinch the Cup.

Charlie Beljan Winning the Last Tournament at Disney

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    In one of the most phenomenal displays of courage ever on the PGA Tour, Charlie Beljan overcame shortness of breathing, tightness in his chest and numbness in his arms to win the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic for his initial PGA Tour victory.

    The symptoms were believed to be a result of a panic attack, and while he was advised to not play further, he did so because he needed to secure his PGA Tour card for 2012.

    He won by two strokes over Robert Garrigus and Matt Every, gaining a two-year exemption that goes with a victory.

    Don't miss the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Golf Channel, Jan. 3 to Jan. 7, live in primetime from Hawaii.