Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top 10 Moments of the 2016 PGA Tour Season

The 2016 PGA Tour Season was a coronation.  Not of any particular player, but of the sport itself.  We didn't just see amazing golf.  We saw a full blown attack of golf at it's absolute and untranslatable best. 


We lost ourselves in the stunning combination of shots, epic back-and-forth performances, and chilling displays of raw emotion that all make up the "you know it when you see it" aspects of sheer greatness. 

2016 was our moment to experience the pure rush of unpredictable magic.  We saw players chewed up, spit out, and reduced to mere shells of themselves.  We saw others become unimpeachable emperors on the glorious throne of history. 

Golf that took us into a fantasy world of the near impossible.  A season with the power to eternally entertain us.  And that's exactly how it should be. 

These are the Top 10 Moments from the 2016 Season that are forever burned into my retinas. 

Number 10: Run Kevin Run 
Kevin Na can be infuriating.  His suffocating indecision over the ball and superabundant waggles before he swings have made him the poster child for slow play on Tour.  Na's basically that horrible, screeching, dial-up connection sound when he's standing over the ball.

So of course it was Na who set the unofficial record for fastest round ever on Tour, racing through East Lake Golf Club in a supercharged time of 1 hour, 59 minutes at the Tour Championship.  "No one's going to break that record shooting par or better," a smiling Na said afterward. Ahh, the sweet taste of vindication

Number 9: Final Bow at The Masters 
When an eight-time major winner and two-time Masters champion plays his final round at Augusta National, that automatically becomes a "where were you when..." kind of moment.

Tom Watson's final march up No. 18 and eventual putt for par wasn't as spectacular as Derek Jeter's game-winning hit in his final at-bat at Yankee Stadium.  But still, it was an emotional and definitive finish to Watson's legendary career at Augusta, which included two green jackets and and 15 Top-10 finishes. 

Number 8: The Devil's in the Details 
Seriously, how did the putt not drop?  Phil Mickelson was about to become the first player in major history to shoot a 62, the lowest round ever at a major.  But as they say, the devil's in the details. 

Mickelson's ball swerved right at the very last diabolical moment, leaving him with no choice but to let out a wee laugh in disbelief.  Unfortunately for Lefty, that missed putt broke the seal to even more demonic heartbreak, as he would come out on the wrong end of an epic Sunday battle with eventual Open Champion Henrik Stenson

Number 7: Scorched Earth at Hazeltine 
No matter how many times I watch the 2016 Ryder Cup, it still feels like new.  Every.  Single.  Time.  It lived up to all the hype.  And this scorched earth moment between Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy during their singles match on Day 3 sent two continents into a complete frenzy. 

When McIlroy rammed home a 40-foot putt for birdie on No. 8, vociferous and unrestrained bravado ensued.  Reed responded by dropping in a flashy 25-footer of his own, along with a checkmate finger wag that even Dikembe Mutombo would envy.  Reed and McIlroy left everything on the table.  Emptied every arrow in their quiver.  It was truly everything we love about the Ryder Cup. 

Number 6: Meta-Rory 
When you saw it happen you knew.  You just knew.  The Tour Championship and FedExCup were his for the taking.  Rory McIlroy's final round hole-out on No. 16 at East Lake was Rory, well... becoming more Rory.

And I'm telling you, it's going to carry over.  We're not even talking about "don't be surprised if McIlroy wins two majors next year."  That's usually the case anyway.  2017 is going to be more like, "you should be surprised if he doesn't." 

Number 5: Remember the Titans 
The 2016 Open Championship Sunday at Royal Troon wasn't simply a brawl between two prizefighters.  It was an all-out war, with Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson trading a barrage of withering shots.  And it electrified us in a way few events can.

The Ice Man's 50-foot walk-in birdie on No. 15 was one of the greatest putts in championship history.  And for all intents and purposes, slammed the door on Mickelson, giving Stenson his first career major championship. 

Number 4: Breaking Up is Hard to Do 
Golf is hard.  Golf is cruel.  We all know that.  Even the guys on Tour know.  And sometimes their tempers get the better of them.  Some outbursts are mild.

Other outbursts are delayed.

And some are basically the nuclear option.

So the next time your emotions come unglued on the course, just remember, it happens to the best of us.  But that's probably not covered under your clubs warranty. 

Number 3: Lose Yourself 
Jordan Spieth's quest for back-to-back Masters titles ended bitterly with a late Sunday collapse at Augusta.  And during the green jacket ceremony in Butler Cabin, he nearly collapsed again.  It was painful to watch, and I swear you could almost see his soul leave his body. 

But in the long-run this experience will only make Spieth stronger.  He learned that winning at Augusta isn't just about making shots.  It's also about taking shots and continuing to move forward.  And we're going to see Spieth at his most-focused and most-motivated self come April.  Kinda frightening isn't it? 

Number 2: The Shot of His Life 
Sunday at Oakmont, Dustin Johnson was dealing with an ongoing rules violation fiasco.  He was battling ghosts of major championships slipped away.  He was even forced to step away from a crucial approach on No. 18 when a jarring digital noise went off behind him.  And all Johnson did was hit a shot that obliterated every distraction to win The U.S. Open. 

In this world there are two kinds of golfers.  Those with majors.  And those without.  And Johnson's shot at No. 18, with his first major championship on the line, was the shot of his life. 

Number 1: Make Me King 
It was the crowning achievement to his season.  His first Tour Championship victory.  His first FedExCup title.  But the most striking thing about Rory McIlroy's reaction to sinking the winning putt was how it utterly transcended victory. 

This wasn't merely a roar of triumph.  It wasn't even a roar to proclaim he's back.  No, it was much more than that.  It was a roar to put everyone on notice.  "There can only be one King." 

Happy New Year everyone!

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