NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) – The value of a shot was one place in history, another was worth $ 15 million in the bank. A drive brought a young Scotsman onto the world stage, a fairway metal helped make a young American major champion.
All of them were strokes that marked the golf year.
What follows is a rating based on each club in the bag. And in honor of Arnold Palmer and his beloved Bay Hill shootout, this bag isn’t limited to 14 thugs:
Bryson DeChambeau attracts attention because he cut off most of the lake on the sixth par-5 hole at Bay Hill and holds both arms up in the air like a strong man. The best shot with a driver was three weeks later at the WGC-Dell Match Play.
Robert MacIntrye of Scotland came to the 371 yards 18th hole at the Austin Country Club and had to win the hole to get out of group play. He hit a bullet on the green 3 feet from the cup, right next to the feet of Dustin Johnson’s caddy.
Daniel Berger was in the lead on the Par-5 18th of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am when he laced a 3-wood on the green at 30 feet. He pocketed the eagle putt for a two-shot win and was on his way. At the end of his year, Berger was a Ryder Cup player.
Nelly Korda won her first major and advanced to No. 1 in the world with a strong performance in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. And that power has never been more evident than on the third par-5 hole at the Atlanta Athletic Club. It hit 7-wood, which stopped a foot away for Eagle, which finally gave Korda the lead.
Harris English was one shot back on the downhill, par 5 final hole in Kapalua at the season opener Sentry Tournament of Champions. From a downhill lie, he hit 3-irons from 268 yards to 10 feet. This enabled his birdie to tie Joaquin Niemann, and English hit him with a birdie on the first additional hole.
English is perhaps the best reminder that winning is best known. 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 equal in a foursome against Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger at the Ryder Cup on Saturday. On the 569-yard 16th hole, Thomas hit 4-irons at 8 feet, which Spieth converted to the Eagle, and they proceeded to a 2-up victory.
The Masters was wide open on Saturday afternoon when Hideki Matsuyama hit the 5-iron, which never left the flag’s path on the 15th par-5, landed gently and rolled out to 5 feet for Eagle. That gave him the lead for the first time, and an eagle birdie birdie run began that took him to a four-shot lead and eventually a green jacket.
Patrick Cantlay had a one-shot lead over Jon Rahm, who played the par-5 18th hole at East Lake with no less than $ 15 million on the result. From the fairway, he smoked a 6-iron from 218 yards to 12 feet – the tightest of them all at the Tour Championship all day – that made the birdie the FedEx Cup champion.
Sam Burns failed twice to convert the 54-hole lead in his quest for his first PGA Tour victory. His last challenge in the Valspar Championship was the 16th hole. He had a 6-iron from 186 yards until Caddy Travis Perkins felt the wind ease and called him off. Burns instead pounded 7-irons at 18 feet for birdie, sending him off to his first title.
Collin Morikawa made two birdies and was leading the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai when he found a bunker in front of the tee. With an 8 iron, he struck a high fade to shape it to 12 feet around the water. That made a par that kept his swing and he ended with a win that made him the first American to become number 1 on the European Tour.
Sergio Garcia had already beaten Lee Westwood in the opening session of the match play and faced him in a playoff two days later to try to win the group. On the 161-yard fourth hole, Garcia hit the 9-iron just past the pin and it trickled back into the cup for an ace. That prompted Westwood to say, “Well, 28 years on the road and I thought I had seen it all. I did not have!”
DeChambeau swings faster and hits farther, and that’s not just the driver. On the eighth hole par 3 at Torrey Pines in the final round of the US Open, he hit the pitching wedge from 175 yards, slightly uphill to sea level, which was just inches from the fall for a hole-in-one. The tap-in birdie gave him the lead for the first time. In the end he couldn’t hold out.
Max Homa’s hopes of a win at Riviera looked lost when his tenth tee shot landed at the foot of a tree in a playoff while Tony Finau was 2 yards away for birdie. Homa took a gap wedge to get some spin, somehow pushed it up the hill to the front edge of the green and escaped par to stay in the playoff. He won by par on the next hole. Along with the incredible shot, that was one of the feel-good victories of the year – an LA kid who won on Riviera and took the Tiger Woods trophy. “I don’t know if I can do anything cooler than that in golf,” he said.
52 DEGREE WEDGE
Spieth’s return that year also brought back his short-game magic, which was no more memorable than the opening four-four session with Thomas at the Ryder Cup. The ball was buried in deep grass on the side of a steep slope to the left of the par-3 17th. Spieth opened the face of a 52-degree wedge and swung so hard the ball shot straight into the air, and his swing sent him hurtling down the hill to the edge of Lake Michigan. The ball hit the ground 6 meters away. Thomas missed the parputt. Does not matter. It was the shot everyone wanted to see that day.
Xander Schauffele had the Olympic Games in Tokyo in mind all summer and got to the last hole of the Kasumigaseki Country Club with one stroke ahead. He hit the trees right with no choice but to chip back onto the fairway. From 98 yards he hit Sand Wedge about four feet past the hole and watched it twist back to four feet. He managed the par for the gold medal.
Phil Mickelson had a one-shot lead in the final round of the PGA Championship when he tee-off in the front bunker of the par-3 fifth hole on Kiawah Island. Always skilful with a praise wedge, he shot perfectly and it trickled into the cup for a birdie surprise, extended his lead and sent the 50-year-old into the record book as the oldest major champion in golf.
The crucial birdie putt for Jon Rahm at the US Open was the 18-foot Torrey Pines final hole. The winner putt? Maybe that was the hole before. Rahm was one shot behind Louis Oosthuizen as he rolled a sharp, 25-foot birdie putt to take the lead. Behind him, Oosthuizen bogeyed the 17th and Rahm was on the way.
(This version corrects Thomas’ 4 irons leading to the eagle.)
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