My everlasting memories of the 2013 golfing year can be summed up in three shots.
Adam Scott’s winning putt at The Masters, Justin Rose’s four-iron on the final hole at the US Open, and the three-wood Phil Mickelson hit into the 17th at Muirfield.
Majors are the biggest test in golf, and it’s what separates the great from the good. These three players hit the best shots of the year at exactly the right time. When the pressure was on, they rose to the challenge.
Scott’s winning putt in the play-off at Augusta was the perfect answer to critics who doubted his ability to play under pressure after he had surrendered a four-shot lead in the final round of The Open at Royal Lytham the year before.
Then, a couple of months later, I was privileged to follow Mickelson in his final round at Muirfield.
Attention was elsewhere at the start of the day, but when Phil looked at the scoreboard on the 13th tee, he was right in the mix.
His play on the final six holes was sensational. Mickelson went on a charge, akin to Arnold Palmer in his pomp. And his second to the par-five 17th, which he struck majestically over 300 yards, effectively sealed his victory.
Becoming Open Champion now marks the American as one of the all-time greats of golf.
We’ve all followed Justin Rose for so long, so there was something special about seeing it all come right at the US Open. His four-iron into Merion’s treacherous final hole was the best of his career, and it was struck from near the exact spot as Ben Hogan had done all those years ago. Hogan has a plaque in his honour there, but I can’t believe his shot was any better than Justin’s!
Rose and Stenson offer inspiration to every golfer for the way they have come back from adversity. No-one could have guessed 12 months ago that Stenson would win the Fed-Ex Cup and the Race to Dubai in the same season.
In the last six months, the Swede has played like a man possessed and he deserves his success. But deep down, I bet he’d swap winning his money list success for Rose’s US Open.
Tiger Woods may have won five times, regained the World No 1 spot and been named PGA Tour Player of the Year, but there was something missing. By most standards, that is an incredible year, and his play at times was fabulous. But Tiger is chasing history and he’s still no nearer to catching Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 Majors.
Finally, the one thing that continues to frustrate me is the speed of play at all levels. Modern life gets faster, but golf gets slower! When I started, it would take three hours for 18 holes. Now five hours is considered acceptable.
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