Ranking the PGA Tour's Top 5 Rounds This Year
Despite the absence of one of golf's most decorated stars for a lengthy period, the PGA Tour has offered some remarkable rounds this year. Russell Henley made unexpected headlines at the Honda Classic, and the unorthodox Bubba Watson produced a sumptuous performance in the season's first major.
Victor Dubuisson's spectacular playoff performance at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship also caught the eye, prompting Gary Player to call him "a magician".
With the final major of the year, the US PGA Championship, coming to a close, the following five rounds document some of the highlights of the season. The holes have been ranked on their levels of drama, significance and novelty.
While golf can't guarantee the kind of heart-stopping moments that other sports offer frequently, there is always a chance of final-round drama.
Therefore, all of the chosen 18 holes in this ranked list focus on the excitement of a Sunday on the PGA Tour.
The significance of the round has also been taken into account, meaning its inclusion may be based upon the consequences of the event.
Finally, the novelty of the round has been taken into consideration. This allows moments of humour or disbelief to contribute towards inclusion.
Before the analysis can begin, it is important to offer honourable mentions to those rounds that didn't make the cut.
On the last 18 holes at RBC Heritage, Matt Kuchar edged out Luke Donald with a dramatic chip-in from a bunker.
The American bogeyed the 17th before sinking a pressure shot from the sand to deny Donald his first win on the Tour since 2012.
It would be hard to deny the significance of Martin Kaymer's consecutive rounds of 65 at the U.S. Open.
However, the final round of Kaymer's win at the Players Championship contributed more drama, thus causing his performance at Pinehurst to miss out on inclusion.
Meanwhile, the last round at the Farmers Insurance Open also came close to making the list. Scott Stallings ultimately won the trophy at Torrey Pines, but five players, including Graham DeLaet and Jason Day, finished only one shot behind.
According to The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), "nine players had a share of the lead at one point," thus making that Sunday in San Diego an unlucky exclusion.
5. Wells Fargo Championship (Final Round)
At the Wells Fargo Championship, Jim Furyk could have been forgiven for thinking he had secured his first PGA Tour victory since 2010. The Ryder Cup veteran posted an impressive final-round seven-under 71 to top the leaderboard.
However, J.B. Holmes may have been excused under slightly different circumstances.
In 2011, the 32-year-old successfully underwent brain surgery. While Tiger Woods' comeback from a microdiscectomy was always likely, Holmes' return to the course was remarkable.
An eagle on the 15th might have had Furyk dreaming of a first win since he recorded three in the space of a year in 2010.
Yet, Holmes was well-versed in recovery. Birdies on the eighth, 10th and 11th holes allowed him to finish the round with two bogeys on the 16th and 18th.
As Steve DiMeglio wrote for USA Today, Holmes also had to have surgery on his left elbow after having "hit too many golf balls too fast" following the operation on his brain.
Therefore, the inclusion of this final round owes much to the significance and drama of Holmes' win.
A double bogey on the final hole would have forced a playoff with Furyk and potentially denied Holmes the ultimate comeback.
4. The Players Championship (Final Round)
He may not have reinvented the wheel, but the effect of Martin Kaymer's changed swing cannot be underestimated.
Joe Posnanski wrote for GolfChannel.com that, upon reaching the top spot in the rankings, the German was "an example of a player who was ranked No. 1, but not the greatest."
Kaymer opted for a swing alteration. The results were on full display at TPC Sawgrass.
The German was in stupendous form in the first round, carding 63 after nine birdies. Had it not been for the subplots of the fourth round, Thursday would have been a contender on Kaymer's form alone.
However, Sunday in Florida also witnessed Jordan Spieth letting a joint lead slip and Justin Rose being awarded two shots that had wrongly been taken from him the day before.
Rain delayed proceedings toward the end of the round, but Kaymer earned three consecutive pars to secure victory, despite a double bogey on the 15th.
While Holmes' win at Wells Fargo was significant, the added drama in Florida gave this final round the edge.
With inclement weather occurring at a critical time and a controversial decision from officials rescinded, the final day had all the prerequisite ingredients for inclusion.
3. WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship (Final)
As Victor Dubuisson completed what Tom Watson labelled "two of the greatest up-and/downs [sic]" he had seen, Arizona realised it had a new king of the desert.
Dubuisson's Accenture Match Play final opponent was Jason Day.
Liam FitzGibbon, of The Sydney Morning Herald, called Day a "perennial contender" at the majors. Yet, he seemed set to become a winner against Dubuisson as he approached the 17th hole.
However, with Day being 2-up on the 17th tee, Dubuisson birdied the hole and then made par on the 18th to force a playoff.
It appeared that Dubuisson had sabotaged himself on consecutive playoff holes when he twice found cactus-infested terrain. However, two remarkable up and downs forced a 21st hole.
Day eventually birdied the 23rd hole to secure his first Tour win since 2010.
The significance of the match was rooted in the meeting of two highly regarded competitors who seem destined for decorated futures.
Martin Kaymer may have sealed his fate in dramatic circumstances at the Players, but Dubuisson's stupendous escape plan from off the green makes this playoff a strong contender.
2. The Honda Classic (Final Round/Playoff)
Patrons attending the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens might have expected the tournament to fall short of its presumptuous title. Instead, they witnessed a high-profile withdrawal and a playoff featuring a major winner.
The Telegraph's James Corrigan wrote, "Put Rory McIlroy in the Honda Classic, and the result is an assured headline generator."
McIlroy led by two shots heading into the final 18 holes. However, five bogeys in the last round ensured his playoff fate.
Russell Henley made a double bogey on 15 but was thankful for two consecutive birdies earlier in the round that eventually secured him a playoff against McIlroy, Ryan Palmer and Russell Knox.
Although Victor Dubuisson's playoff performance was extraordinary, there was an edge to this particular decider as McIlroy was chasing his first win on Tour since winning the BMW Championship in 2012.
However, as Henley sank a birdie putt, it became clear that the wait would continue for McIlroy, who could only make par.
McIlroy could take some consolation, though, that he wasn't the only big name to falter. Tiger Woods withdrew prior to teeing off on the 13th hole, leaving the crowd speculating on the seriousness of the 14-time major winner's absence.
1. The Masters (Final Round)
Although Bubba Watson won the Masters for the second time in three years, the final round at Augusta National was anything but routine.
The Honda Classic and Wells Fargo Championship may have produced more unlikely victors, but the season's first major allowed golfers at different points in their careers to flourish.
Jordan Spieth, only 20 years old at the time, pursued Watson fervently throughout.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, 29 years Spieth's senior, played some exquisite golf. The enigmatic Spaniard carded an unmatched 66 in the third round and finished four shots away from his first major.
While incredible shots, such as Victor Dubuisson's in Arizona, provided moments of disbelief, the novelty of the effervescent veteran Jimenez's tournament cannot be overlooked.
The continuing ascension of both Spieth and Rickie Fowler, who signed for a final score of 286, in Augusta also proved that young talent can go a long way to filling the void left by the absent Tiger Woods.
Ultimately, though, the round belonged to Watson.
His length off the tee (ranked first on the PGA Tour's driving distance list) and, as Cameron Morfit wrote for Golf.com, reputation for being "the most audacious and imaginative shot-maker in the game" defined this particular round.
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