Punch Shot: Most memorable moment of the season

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 1, 2015, 3:00 pm

With the 2014-15 PGA Tour campaign in the rear-view mirror, GolfChannel.com writers offer up their pick for most memorable moment of the season. Click here for their pick for best shot.


It’s not the most pleasant memory, but years from now when we look back on 2015 the singular image will be Dustin Johnson giving away the U.S. Open on the 72nd green.

The emotional roller-coaster that ensued from Johnson’s three-putt at Chambers Bay was certainly tumultuous, as players and viewers alike were left in a state of shock – none more so than Johnson, who took off his cap, adjusted his hair and looked around as if to try to identify a driver in a hit-and-run. For a player already with plenty of major championship scar tissue, Johnson added another layer that could prove even more painful than his bunker episode from Whistling Straits.

Doug Sanders. Scott Hoch. Short misses with a major on the line go down in the annals of the game, and Johnson had the misfortune of joining them in the Pacific Northwest. In a year with plenty of wins worth celebrating, it will be a loss that lingers the most.


There is no more iconic place in golf than the corner of Golf Place and The Links, the two byways that frame the Old Course’s 18th hole, which makes it apropos that the year’s most memorable moment would occur at the famous crossroads.

It was a compelling snapshot in the Monday gloom as Zach Johnson was cementing his legacy with his second major triumph at July’s Open Championship as Jordan Spieth waited quietly behind the Royal & Ancient clubhouse to congratulate him.

More than an hour had passed since Spieth’s historic bid to become the first player in the modern era to collect the first three legs of the single-season Grand Slam had slid past the cup on the same 18th hole, but there he was waiting in line to applaud Johnson.

Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller, stood quietly with him, clearly still stunned by his man’s missed birdie putt at the last that would have secured “Team Jordan” a spot in the playoff, but Spieth simply smiled as he embraced Johnson.

“To have a champion like Jordan take the time on 18 to give me best wishes,” Johnson said. “He's a phenomenal talent, and I'm telling you right now he's a better person than he is golfer.”


Rickie Fowler’s eloquent answer: After knocking his tee shot to 5 feet at the famed 17th island hole in May to set up his playoff victory at The Players Championship, and after kissing his then bikini model girlfriend coming off the green, Fowler was asked about being voted overrated by his peers. He patted his new trophy and smiled.

“If there was any question, this right here answers anything you need to know,” Fowler said.

Fowler couldn’t have been more eloquent with his shot making that remarkable Sunday in May. He didn’t have to say much afterward.


The Open Championship had an odd feel this year. Torrential rain and a 10-hour wind delay led to the first Monday finish since 1988, and over the weekend there was a strangely eclectic leaderboard that included, among others, Dustin Johnson, Paul Lawrie, Adam Scott and Danny Willett.

Jordan Spieth, trying to win his third consecutive major, seemed like he had putted his way out of contention; midway through the final round, he four-putted for double bogey. He was done. Except then he made back-to-back birdies. Except then he played steady as the others faltered. Suddenly, he was only one shot back.

The action was reaching a crescendo, so I made a beeline for the 16th green. I got there just as Spieth was stalking his 40-footer birdie putt. He looked at it from every angle. Caddie Michael Greller nodded in agreement. The Old Course stood still. Spieth stroked the putt, and with a few feet to go he knew it was in. He pumped his fist, and the place exploded, and in that moment it all felt possible – that a 21-year-old was going to with the Open, capture the first three legs of the Grand Slam, and head to Whistling Straits as the biggest story in sports, with a chance to author the greatest golf season ever.

We all know what happened next, of course, but the electricity of that single moment was something I’ll never forget.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.