Punch Shot: Best major of the decade (so far)

Rory McIlroy won a thriller at Valhalla, site of the 96th PGA Championship. It was the most exciting major of the season but was it the best of this decade? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with their favorite majors over the last five years.


There have been more dramatic finales, like the 2011 Masters or the recently completed PGA. There have been better four-round individual performances, like Rory McIlroy's tour de force at the 2011 U.S. Open. But for the best major - the best winner, the most intrigue, the sweetest setting -- the answer is the 2013 Open Championship, when Phil Mickelson surprised everyone, even himself, in capturing the claret jug.

The major had everything. Most importantly, it had all of the bold-faced players in place, with Lee Westwood leading through 54 holes, Tiger Woods two back, Adam Scott lurking, Henrik Stenson in the hunt, too. Five back was Mickelson, who for years had been befuddled by links golf. But on Sunday, he closed with a flawless 66 - including a riveting finishing kick - that ranks among the best major rounds, ever. That all of the drama played out over the links at Muirfield, the best course in the Open rota, only added to the major's majesty. 


Among my personal finalists for this honor were last year's Open Championship and last week's PGA Championship, but the 2011 Masters is my winner.

Ask me again in a few minutes, though, and I reserve the right to change my mind.

That year's Masters featured eight different players holding at least a share of the lead in the final round. It was frenzied action from start to finish, with Charl Schwartzel surviving as the last man standing.

I still maintain that if Schwartzel's closing stretch of birdies on his last four holes came from a more heralded star – oh, say one named Tiger or Phil – it would be hailed as one of the greatest feats in Masters history. It still is, but too often gets overlooked.

Were the other majors I mentioned just as dramatic? Maybe. But neither one of them was played on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National. To me, that was the deciding dynamic.


The best major of this decade may go down as the best-ever for the 20 million or so Australians who tuned in early Monday morning on April 15, 2013, to watch Adam Scott end the country’s Masters drought.

No tournament inspired as much nostalgia or handwringing for an Australian than the Masters, an anxiety fueled by Greg Norman’s assorted near-misses and heartbreaks at Augusta National.

But that collective curse ended last spring when Scott played his last six holes in regulation in 3 under par and calmly rolled in a 12 footer for birdie on the second extra hole to beat Angel Cabrera and end Australia’s 76-year drought in the year’s first major.

But if the subtext of becoming the first player from Down Under to slip his arms into a green jacket wasn’t compelling enough, Augusta National’s closing nine delivered the coup de grâce that separates the ’13 Masters from all other majors this decade.

In order, Jason Day birdied three consecutive holes on the closing loop to make his claim for his first major only to bogey Nos. 16 and 17 and finish two back, while Tiger Woods made arguably his best run at major No. 15 with a closing 70 to finish tied for seventh.

In short, the ’13 Masters had it all.


Adam Scott's victory at the 2013 Masters gave us a few goosebump moments. His birdie at the 72nd hole looked like it would seal this feel-good story. At 32, this former prodigy looked like he was finally going to shake all the disappointments in his mediocre major championship history and become the first Australian to win a green jacket. The story got better when Angel Cabrera stormed in behind Scott with a terrific closing birdie of his own, extending the high drama to a sudden-death playoff that Scott won with a birdie at the second extra hole. 

For those who thought Scott too soft to win a major, he delivered a tough-guy performance. His collapse at Royal Lytham & St. Annes at the British Open the summer before could have spawned a legion of demon doubts. If he had them, he slayed them at Augusta National.


Watching the chaos this past weekend at Valhalla evoked memories of the 2011 Masters, when a number of players had one arm into the green jacket before Charl Schwartzel took the title with an unprecedented run of four birdies to close his final round. A total of eight – eight! – players held at least a share of the lead on Sunday. At one point on the back nine, there was a five-way tie at the top.

The tournament may be better remembered for the collapse of 54-hole leader Rory McIlroy, but Schwartzel’s victory deserves recognition. If a bigger name had won (say, Adam Scott, who tied for second), it would probably rank higher on most lists. For my money, though, nothing beats a group of challengers trading birdies down the stretch at Augusta National, which the 2011 edition delivered in spades. 

Getty Images

Watch: Koepka highlights from the Travelers

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2018, 3:30 pm

U.S. Open hangover? Not for Brooks Koepka. The two-time national champion has carried over his form and confidence from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands.

Koepka began his round with a par at the par-4 10th and then reeled off four consecutive birdies, beginning at No. 11.

And here is the capper at the 14th

Koepka turned in 4-under 31. Here's more action from his opening nine holes.

After a par at the first, Koepka added a fifth birdie of the day at the par-4 second.

A bogey at the par-4 fourth dropped him to 4 under, but just one off the lead.

Getty Images

Lyle going through 'scary' period in cancer recovery

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:58 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – Jarrod Lyle's wife says the Australian golfer is struggling through a ''really scary'' period in his third battle with cancer.

Lyle, 36, underwent a bone marrow transplant last December following a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia.

''It's been 190 days since Jarrod's stem-cell transplant and we are going through a really rough patch at the moment,'' Briony Lyle wrote on jarrodlylegolf.com. ''I'm typing this blog on his behalf because he's not able to do it. Jarrod's not able to drive, struggles to prepare any food for himself, can't read stories to the girls and is not able to offer much help at all around the house.

''He is also starting to look like a very frail, sick person.''

Briony Lyle added: ''We are both very aware of the amount of drugs and medication that has gone into Jarrod's body over the years but things are starting to get really scary at the moment. It looks as if this recovery is going to be the longest and hardest one so far.''

Lyle has twice beaten acute myeloid leukemia, in 1998 and 2012, and was able to return to play professional golf.

He made an emotional comeback to the golf course during the 2013 Australian Masters in Melbourne before using a medical exemption to play on the PGA Tour in 2015. He played four seasons on Tour, where he earned $1.875 million in 121 tournaments.

Lyle has since returned to Australia permanently to be with Briony and daughters Lusi and Jemma.

Getty Images

Vermeer wins PGA Professional; 20 make PGA Championship

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

SEASIDE, Calif. – Ryan Vermeer won the PGA Professional Championship on Wednesday, overcoming front-nine problems to top the 20 qualifiers for the PGA Championship.

The 40-year-old Vermeer, the director of instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska, closed with a 1-over 73 on the Bayonet Course for a two-stroke victory over Sean McCarty and Bob Sowards.

The PGA Championship is in August at Bellerive in St. Louis.

Three strokes ahead entering the day, Vermeer played the front in 4 over with a double bogey on the par-4 second and bogeys on the par-4 seventh and par-4 eighth. He rebounded with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-4 11th and also birdied the par-5 18th.

Full-field scores from the PGA Professional Championship

Vermeer finished at 5-under 283. The former University of Kansas player earned $55,000. He won the 2017 Mizuno Pro/Assistant Championship and finished ninth last year in the PGA Professional to qualify for PGA at Quail Hollow.

McCarty had a 68, and Sowards shot 69. Sowards won the 2004 title.

David Muttitt and Jason Schmuhl tied for fourth at 1 under, and 2012 and 2015 champion Matt Dobyns, Jaysen Hansen, and Johan Kok followed at even par.

Marty Jertson, Brian Smock and Ben Kern were 1 over, and Zach Johnson, Craig Hocknull, Matt Borchert and 2016 winner Rich Berberian Jr. were 2 over. Nine players tied at 3 over, with Shawn Warren, 2017 champion Omar Uresti, 2014 winner Michael Block, Craig Bowden and Danny Balin getting the last five spots at Bellerive in a playoff. Balin got the final spot, beating Brian Norman with a par on the seventh extra hole after Norman lost a ball in a tree.

Getty Images

Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”