Which was your favorite major of 2012?

By Jason SobelAugust 14, 2012, 5:17 pm

This year's majors are history, which leaves us only one thing to decide: Which one was your favorite? Was it Bubba Watson hitting his improbably hooked wedge to set up an overtime Masters win? Or Webb Simpson taking advantage of Jim Furyk’s late stumble in the U.S. Open? Or Ernie Els returning to major-championship relevance with his British Open victory (at Adam Scott’s expense)? Or Rory McIlroy putting on another dominating performance in the PGA Championship?

We asked our writers to pick their favorites. They were only too happy to oblige.


We witnessed some pretty dramatic moments at the four major championships this year. Steady, solid Jim Furyk yanking one off the tee and eventually losing the U.S. Open. Adam Scott finishing with four consecutive bogeys to relinquish the. Open Championship to Ernie Els. Rory McIlroy once again blowing away a major field at the PGA Championship.

For my money, though, I'll always remember the 2012 majors for one thing more than any other.

It was the year some dude named Bubba won himself a green jacket.

This year's Masters Tournament was a fun-filled roller-coaster of thrills and despair. Phil Mickelson hit one of the all-time flop shots on Saturday, then flubbed one righty on Sunday. Louis Oosthuizen carded an albatross, but later lost in a playoff.

Then there's the aforementioned Bubba Watson, a big-hitting country boy who in many ways is the antithesis of the austere Augusta National membership. His hooked wedge from the trees to win on the second playoff hole was one for the ages.

And it helped the Masters lay claim to being the best major of 2012.


Americans chanting Rory McIlroy’s name along the dunes on the shores of Kiawah Island will stay with us a long time. The Northern Irishman may have taken all the drama out of the PGA Championship on Sunday, but he left us a masterpiece doing so.

The victory is not quite there with Tiger Woods’ 15-shot triumph at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, or his 12-shot runaway at the '97 Masters. It’s not there with the unforgettable effort Jack Nicklaus gave us winning his last major at the Masters in '86, but it’s in the same wing of the museum with those works of art.

McIlroy gave us one of golf’s Rembrandts with his final-round bogey-free performance in blowing away the field by a PGA Championship-record eight shots.

Bubba Watson’s Masters victory was thrilling, Webb Simpson’s win at Olympic was classic U.S. Open survival golf, and Ernie Els’ British Open triumph after the epic collapse of Adam Scott was emotionally gripping, but McIlroy’s masterpiece will be remembered for the ruthless beauty that sets it apart as one of the game’s great major championship victories.


Picking the year’s best major is akin to naming your favorite Beatles tune. 2012 has been an embarrassment of Grand Slam riches from Bubba Watson’s Masters magic act to Rory McIlroy’s PGA walk-off. Only one, however, delivered equal parts triumph and tragedy – the Open Championship.

Although Jim Furyk’s collapse and Webb Simpson’s performance at the U.S. Open certainly qualify as a complete drama, the last hour at Lytham was major pressure at its most extreme.

With the engraver’s hand poised over the claret jug and cruising along with a four-stroke advantage with four holes to play, Adam Scott closed with four consecutive bogeys. It may have lacked the theatrics of Jean Van de Velde’s Carnoustie collapse, but given the Australian’s pedigree and performance through 67 holes it was no less shocking.

It is Ernie Els’ epic charge that stands the British Open above all others, however. The South African’s final-nine 32 was epic, capped by a winding 15-footer for birdie at the last.

Just four months earlier the South African, a decade removed from his last major victory and driven to extremes (the long putter) in an attempt to rediscover his game, was scrambling just to play in the majors.

It was, with apologies to Scott, the perfect finish. The perfect major.


The best major of 2012? Certainly, it has to be the one with the best finish. (Sorry, Ernie.) Deep in the pine straw, on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff, at the most iconic course in the U.S., Bubba Watson played a seemingly unfathomable, wickedly curving wedge from the trees on the 10th hole, a shot that nestled to within 15 feet of the cup and set up the win at the Masters.

Spine-tingling stuff.

Average golfers either whiff attempting that shot or, worse, hit themselves in the shin. Few Tour players even have the capacity to imagine that shot, let alone the audacity to pull it off at that critical juncture. And, come on, how good a story was that? A guy with awesome power and a homemade swing . . . and a newly adopted baby back home in Florida . . . and his mom waiting by the edge of the green . . . and his alma mater, the University of Georgia, only two hours away, so the delirious Bulldogs fans barked and cheered his name . . . and all of this less than two years after Bubba’s father passed away, the emotions from which were still quite raw.

The 2013 Masters, and beyond, will have a hard time topping that.

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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”

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Rory almost channels Tiger with 72nd-hole celebration

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:11 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy’s final putt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational felt awfully familiar.

He rolled in the 25-footer for birdie and wildly pumped his fist, immediately calling to mind Woods’ heroics on Bay Hill’s 18th green.

Three times Woods holed a putt on the final green to win this event by a stroke.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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McIlroy was just happy to provide a little extra cushion as the final group played the finishing hole.

“I’ve seen Tiger do that enough times to know what it does,” McIlroy said. “So I just wanted to try and emulate that. I didn’t quite give it the hat toss – I was thinking about doing that. But to be able to create my own little bit of history on the 18th green here is pretty special.”

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A performance fit for a King

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:08 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five hundred and 40 days had passed since Rory McIlroy last won, and since golf lost one of its most iconic players.

So much has transpired in McIlroy’s life since then – marriage, injury, adversity – but even now he vividly recalls the awkward end to the 2016 Tour Championship. He had just captured the FedExCup and $11 million bonus, but afterward, in the scrum, he was asked instead to reflect on the passing earlier that day of Arnold Palmer, at age 87.

“Obviously I had a great win and it was a great day for me, but in the big scheme of things, that didn’t matter,” he said. “The game of golf had lost an icon, a legend, an inspiration to so many of us. I probably wasn’t as ecstatic as maybe I would have been if Arnie hadn’t passed away.”

But there was McIlroy on Sunday at Bay Hill, at Arnie’s Florida home, summoning the kind of charge that would have made the King proud. With five birdies in his last six holes, he broke away from a stacked leaderboard to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first victory on Tour in 18 months, since that bittersweet evening at East Lake.

“Kind of ironic,” he said Sunday.

But the connection between McIlroy and Palmer runs deeper than that.

Palmer and McIlroy’s wife, Erica, shared a birthday – Sept. 10.

Palmer wrote letters to McIlroy after each of his many victories.

Palmer had lobbied for years to get McIlroy to play this event, even threatening him. “If he doesn’t come and play Bay Hill,” Palmer said in 2012, “he might have a broken arm and he won’t have to worry about where he’s going to play next.”

McIlroy kept all of his limbs intact but didn’t add the event until 2015, when Palmer’s health was beginning to deteriorate. That week he sat for a two-hour dinner with Palmer in the Bay Hill clubhouse, and the memories still bring a smile to his face.

“I was mesmerized,” McIlroy said.

And entertained, of course.

Palmer ordered fish for dinner. “And I remember him asking the server, ‘Can I get some A.1. Sauce?’” McIlroy said.

“And the server said, ‘For your fish, Mr. Palmer?’ And he said, ‘No, for me!’"

McIlroy chuckled at the exchange, then added somberly: “I was very fortunate to spend that time with him.”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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McIlroy has been telling anyone who will listen that he’s close to playing his best golf, but even he was surprised by the drastic turn of events over the past 10 days.

During that 18-month winless drought, he endured an onslaught of questions about his wedge play, his putting, his health and his motivation. Burnt out by the intense spotlight, and needing to rehab a nagging rib injury, he shut it down for four months last fall, a mental and physical reset.

But after an encouraging start to his 2018 campaign in the Middle East, McIlroy was a non-factor in each of his first four Tour starts. That included a missed cut last week in Tampa, where he was admittedly searching.

“The best missed cut I’ve ever had,” he said.

McIlroy grinded all last weekend, stumbling upon a swing thought, a feeling, like he was making a three-quarter swing. Then he met for a few hours Monday in South Florida with former PGA Tour winner and putting savant Brad Faxon. They focused on being more instinctive and reactionary over the ball.

“He just freed me up,” McIlroy said.

Freed up his stroke, which had gotten too rigid.

And freed up his mind, which was bogged down with technical thoughts and self-doubt.

“The objective is to get the ball in the hole,” he said, “and I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

All McIlroy did at Bay Hill was produce the best putting week of his career.  

Starting the final round two shots back of Henrik Stenson, McIlroy made the turn in 33 and then grabbed a share of the lead on the 11th hole.

Tiger Woods was making a run, moving within a shot of the lead, but McIlroy answered with a charge of his own, rattling off four consecutive birdies – a 16-footer on 13, a 21-footer on 14, a chip-in on 15 and a two-putt birdie after a 373-yard drive on 16 – that left Woods and everyone else in the dust.

Then McIlroy finished it off in style, rolling in a 25-footer on the last that was eerily similar to the putt that Woods has holed so many times at his personal playground.

“I know what the putt does,” McIlroy said, “so it was nice to make my own little bit of history.”

Justin Rose has played plenty of meaningful golf with McIlroy over the years, but he’d never seen him roll it like he did Sunday.

“He turned on the burners on the back nine,” he said. “He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

It’s little wonder McIlroy pulled ahead of a star-studded leaderboard, closing with a bogey-free 64 and winning by three shots at 18-under 270 – he led the field in driving distance, proximity to the hole, scrambling and strokes gained-putting.

“It’s so nice that everything finally came together,” he said.

Over the next two weeks, there figures to be plenty of conversation about whether McIlroy can channel that fearlessness into the major he covets most. The Masters is the only piece missing from a career Grand Slam, and now, thanks to Faxon’s tips, he’s never been in a better position.

But after a turbulent 18 months, McIlroy needed no reminder to savor a victory that felt like a long time coming.

There was a hug for his parents, Gerry and Rosie.

A kiss for his wife, Erica.

A handshake for Palmer’s grandson, Sam Saunders, and then a fitting into the champion’s alpaca cardigan.

The only thing missing was the King himself, waiting atop the hill behind 18 with his huge smile and vice-grip handshake.

“Hopefully he’s up there smiling,” McIlroy said, “and hopefully he’s proud of me with the way I played that back nine.”

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McIlroy remembers Arnie dinner: He liked A-1 sauce on fish

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 1:06 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Fresh off a stirring victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy offered a pair of culinary factoids about two of the game’s biggest names.

McIlroy regretted not being able to shake Palmer’s hand behind the 18th green after capping a three-shot win with a Sunday 64, but with the trophy in hand he reflected back on a meal he shared with Palmer at Bay Hill back in 2015, the year before Palmer passed away.

“I knew that he liked A-1 sauce on his fish, which was quite strange,” McIlroy said. “I remember him asking the server, ‘Can I get some A-1 sauce?’ And the server said, ‘For your fish, Mr. Palmer?’ He said, ‘No, for me.’”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

A few minutes later, McIlroy revealed that he is also a frequent diner at The Woods Jupiter, the South Florida restaurant launched by Tiger Woods. In fact, McIlroy explained that he goes to the restaurant every Wednesday with his parents – that is, when he’s not spanning the globe winning golf tournaments.

Having surveyed the menu a few times, he considers himself a fan.

“It’s good. He seems pretty hands-on with it,” McIlroy said. “Tuna wontons are good, the lamb lollipops are good. I recommend it.”