(Editor's note: For Golf Channel's 25th anniversary, Brandel Chamblee reveals his top 25 impactful moments over the last 25 years. Click here to listen to Chamblee's podcast with Jaime Diaz, revealing Golf Channel's official top 25 moments.)
16. Women Members at Historic Clubs
In 2017, Muirfield Golf Club of Edinburgh, Scotland voted to allow women members – 275 years after their first competition. In 2014, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland voted to allow women members – after 260 years. And 78 years after Augusta National Golf Club was established, chairman Billy Payne, in 2012, ushered in a new era, by inviting two women, Condoleeza Rice and Darla Moore, to be members.
Golf’s far too common all-male membership policies – with a push from controversy stirred up Martha Burke in 2002, and persistent questions from USA Today columnist Christine Brennan and other members of the media – toppled like dominoes.
17. Rory McIlroy Wins the 2011 U.S. Open by Eight
It was the 111th U.S. Open and in the previous 110, no one had ever shot lower than 272, over the four rounds. Not Ben Hogan, not Jack Nicklaus and not even in his 15-shot win, Tiger Woods. Critics will say that rain softened the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club and made it defenseless, overlooking the role that rain had played in previous editions. It was a soft golf course in 1968, when Lee Trevino, for the first time in U.S. Open history, broke 70 all four rounds en route to victory. It poured the night before Johnny Miller shot 63 in the 1973 U.S. Open.
Countless times, rain had tempered the USGA’s ultimate test, but on only four occasions had any player managed to shoot 272: Jack Nicklaus, in 1967 at Baltusrol; Lee Janzen, in 1993 again at Baltusrol; Tiger Woods, when he won by 15 at Pebble Beach in 2000; and Jim Furyk, on rain-softened Olympia Fields in 2003. McIlroy had led the 2011 Masters by four shots and shot 80 on Sunday. In his next major he opened with 65 and led by three. After a second-round 66 he led by six. On Saturday, he shot 68 to lead by eight, which is the margin he won by after a closing 69. Along the way he was the first person to get to 13, 14, 15 and 16 under in a US Open and just the fourth person to ever win by eight shots or more.
18. Golf in The Olympics
On October 9, 2009, it was announced that golf would again be part of the Olympic Games, beginning in 2016. This decision was in large part because one of, if not the most famous athlete in the world, Tiger Woods, happened to be a golfer. There was also, in contrast to 1996, when golf was considered but failed to gain inclusion into the Olympics, more support from golf’s organizations, such as the International Golf Foundation, which counted among its members golf’s governing bodies.
Additionally, there was more support from the players this go around, too. Golf’s No. 1 female player, Lorena Ochoa, was from Mexico and recently retired, but was still hugely influential. Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam leant her support. As did South African Ernie Els, Fijian Vijay Singh, and Jack Nicklaus. Golf had always been subject to the pejorative slight of not really being a sport, but now thanks to the support of the golf world and the global popularity Woods, golf was not only a sport, it was an Olympic sport.
19. First Tee Program
What began as an initiative in November 1997, to offer affordable access, thereby hoping to grow the game, evolved into a program to foster youth development. Using golf as a platform to promote character and to teach the life-enhancing values of respect, individual responsibility, integrity and sportsmanship, First Tee has reached over 15 million children from all backgrounds.
I’ve yet to meet one of the young men and women who have been a part of this program who didn’t impress me with their composure and maturity.
20. David Duval Shoots Sunday 59 to Win
Al Geiberger was the first to break 60 on the PGA Tour, when he shot 59 during the second round of the 1977 Danny Thomas Memphis Classic. On that day, on that 7,282-yard golf course, Geiberger was low by six shots, with Raymond Floyd shooting the next best score of 65. Geiberger went on to win. In 1991, Chip Beck shot 59 during the third round of the Las Vegas Invitational, eventually losing by two shots to Andrew Magee.
At the start of the final day of the 1999 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, David Duval was in 13th place, seven shots behind leader Fred Funk, who was 20 under par through the first four rounds of the 90-hole event. Steve Pate was in second place, one back. Funk struggled on Sunday, but Pate played near-flawless golf, missing only one fairway and three greens. He shot a bogey-free, 6-under 66 … and lost. What’s harder to believe is that he didn’t lose to one of his closest pursuers; he lost to someone who was six shots behind him starting the day.
Duval had won his first tournament on the PGA Tour near the end of 1997 and promptly won the next two events he played. He won four times in 1998 and began the 1999 season with a nine-shot romp at the Tournament of Champions. When he arrived in the desert for his second event of the season, he was the third-ranked player in the world. On that Sunday, he might have played the greatest golf ever been authored in one round. On the four par 3s – which measured 180 yards, 233 yards, 207 yards and 156 yards – Duval’s longest putt was 5 feet, prompting his playing competitor, Jeff Maggert, to remark, “I didn’t know we were playing par 2s out here.”
When Duval came to the last hole, a 543-yard par 5 with water off the tee and protecting the green, the tournament was still very much in doubt. His drive found the fairway and his 5-iron finished 8 feet from the hole. He hit the putt with an almost flippant quickness and it went in dead center. Pate failed to birdie the last and lost. Duval would go on to be one of the few people to topple Tiger Woods, while he was in his prime, from the No. 1 spot in the world.