2012 In Review: Top Five Performances in Golf
1. Bubba's Pine Straw Miracle
Bubba Watson trumped Louis Oosthuizen's double eagle with a miracle shot of his own, curving a wedge approach out of the trees and onto the green at No. 10 to set up a clinching two-putt par in his playoff with Oosthuizen, earning Bubba an emotional Masters win. Watson was spectacular down the stretch of his final-round 68, draining four birdies in a row from 13-16. His short birdie putt on the par-3 16th drew him even with Oosthuizen, who was unable to match Bubba's par on the second playoff hole. Fittingly for Watson and his famously home-made game, it was his heroic, creative recovery from the pine straw that they'll be talking about at the 2050 Champions Dinner. "I was there earlier today in regulation,” Watson said afterwards. “I hooked it 40 yards. I’m pretty good at hooking it."
2. Rory McIlroy at the PGA Championship
Call it the Snore by the Shore. Twenty-one years after the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island brought the world's greatest players to their knees at the 1991 Ryder Cup in the famed "War by the Shore," Rory McIlroy turned the tables on Pete Dye's seaside creation at the PGA Championship, subduing the Ocean Course and an elite field in winning his second major championship in two years. In posting 13-under and winning by eight strokes, McIlroy reprised his eight-shot win at the 2011 U.S. Open, becoming the first player in golf history to earn his first two major wins in such dominant fashion. Glory's Last Shot was Rory's personal showcase, as he destroyed the recent trend of late collapses with a textbook display of major championship golf — fairways, greens and made putts, with a few successful scrambles thrown in.
3. Ernie Els Shocks Adam Scott at Royal Lytham
The agony and the ecstasy of golf were on full display at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and when it was over, Ernie Els had his second Claret Jug and fourth major, and Adam Scott had first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to be Greg Norman. Or Jason Dufner. Els didn't back into it, though, posting a back-9 4-under 32 in the stiffening breezes of Royal Lytham and rolling in a clutch birdie on the 72nd hole before grabbing a sandwich and watching Scott implode with bogeys on the final four holes. It was an utterly shocking turn of events on a day that seemed like a Scott coronation until the heartbreaking conclusion. Els now has major championships in three different decades and four majors for his career, tying Phil Mickelson for second-most of the Woods era.
4. The European Ryder Cup Team Makes History
Miracle at Medinah? Or Medinah Meltdown? Whatever you call it, this 2012 Ryder Cup is going to sting the U.S. for awhile. When Martin Kaymer's 6-foot par putt found the bottom of the cup at 18 for a 1-up win over Steve Stricker in the weekend's penultimate match, Europe had erased a 10-6 deficit and clinched a 14-14 tie and retention of the Cup, no matter the outcome of the Tiger Woods-Francesco Molinari match still on the course. To rub salt into the wound, Woods conceded a putt 18 to fall into a halve with Molinari, giving the Euros a 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 win. And what had once looked like a likely U.S. rout had morphed into a shocking European triumph on American soil. If you're looking for heroes, there were plenty on the Euro side. Any unofficial MVP award would go to Ian Poulter, who arrived at Medinah on a mission and then went 4-0. His birdie binge in Saturday's final fourball match gave Europe a critical point and a glimmer of hope heading into Sunday, and his 2-up singles win over Webb Simpson was a key catalyst in Europe's early singles charge.
5. Brandt Snedeker Pockets $11.44 Million at East Lake
No one else in golf can claim a payday of $11.44 million. That's what Sneds pocketed on a spectacular September Sunday at East Lake. Snedeker simultaneously earned the two biggest trophies of his career, taking the Tour Championship and $1.44 million and clinching the FedExCup with its accompanying $10 million payout. Snedeker continued his playoff putting clinic, missing exactly zero putts from inside eight feet during his 68-70-64-68 four-day performance at East Lake.