Recapping the best shots of the year

Originally Published: December 10, 2003
By David Lefort | ESPN.com

1. Shaun Micheel at the PGA Championship (No. 18, Oak Hill)

Shaun Micheel
AP PhotoShaun Micheel's 7 iron at Oak Hill was one of the best shots in major championship history.
Leading the PGA Championship by a stroke and standing 177 yards away from his first major championship, Micheel hit what ESPN analyst Andy North later called "maybe the best 7 iron ever struck."

His approach shot bounced twice and settled just two inches from the cup, wrapping up the Wanamaker Trophy and sending the Oak Hill fans in frenzied disbelief and.

"I aimed just to the right of that pin," Micheel said. "I figured anything to the right and to the back would give me a chance to make a par. I was thinking of par."

Instead, he was left with a tap-in birdie after one of the best shots in major championship history.

2. Mike Weir at The Masters (No. 18, Augusta)

The Canadian lefty made six clutch putts over his last seven holes during the final round of The Masters, none bigger than the testy uphill 6-footer he drained on the 18th to force a playoff with Len Mattiace.

"I wouldn't wish that last putt on 18 on anybody," he later said.

''It was probably the biggest shot of my life.''

3. Annika Sorenstam at the Colonial (No. 13, Colonial CC)

Sorenstam made two birdies during her 36-hole foray on the PGA Tour in May, the most dramatic of which coming on the par-3 13th hole (her fourth of the day) in the first round.

Her 6 iron off the tee landed just off the back of the green, and she drained the 15-foot comebacker for birdie, which put her in red numbers for the first time. She pumped her fist, kicked and pointed to her caddie.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson took a bow after his 40-footer fell.
4. Tom Watson at the U.S. Open (No. 7, Olympia Fields)

Watson made many memorable shots in his storybook first-round 65 at the U.S. Open, but none more dramatic than his 40-foot birdie putt on the par-3, 212-yard seventh hole (his 16th hole of the day).

It appeared his 40-foot attempt was going to end up excruciatingly short, the ball hanging on the lip as a disappointed Watson began walking briskly toward the hole. But just as he was approaching it, the ball disappeared into the cup, sending the fans into delirium. After leaping and kicking his leg after it dropped, an elated Watson bowed to the cheering gallery.

''When that ball fell in, that was something special,'' Watson said after the round. ''It stopped short and people were groaning. I'm walking up to it and said, 'That is so close, how could it not be in?' And then, hey, it went in.''

5. Ernie Els at the Sony Open (Second playoff hole, Waialae CC)

Ernie Els capped his sweep of the PGA Tour's season-opening Hawaii swing with one of the best putts of the year.

A week after winning the season-opening Mercedes Championships, Els found himself in a playoff with rookie Aaron Baddeley at Waialae. Els tried to drive the second playoff hole, a 353-yard, par-4, but pulled his tee shot far to the left. He pitched it through the green, about 55 feet from the cup.

He appeared to be a beaten man, as Baddeley was on the green in two as well, and had a 20-footer for birdie. However, Els won his second title in as many weeks by draining the 55-footer. Baddeley's putt finished just short.

''I was just trying to stay alive,'' Els said. ''All of a sudden, I win the tournament.''

6. Davis Love III at the Heritage (No. 18, Harbour Town)

Harbour Town has always been a special place for Love, but he's really got to have a soft spot for the famous 18th hole after what he did there in the final round of the Heritage.

Love trailed leader Woody Austin by a stroke on the final hole of the tournament when he sent his approach shot right of the green. Needing to hole his chip to force a playoff, Love did just that, rolling it in from 66 feet. Before the shot, he had told his brother and caddie, Mark, he would chip it in.

Three playoff holes later, Love was back at the 18th hole, and this time struck a 6 iron that hit the pin and rolled 3 feet away, setting up what would prove to be the winning birdie. It was his fifth career victory at Harbour Town.

''I hear a lot of jokes around the locker room saying, 'You're automatic here,' or whatever,'' Love said after the win. ''But I feel like I'm comfortable here. Maybe when I get in trouble or when I hit a bad shot, I don't lose my patience quite as fast here.''

7. Tiger Woods and Els at the Presidents Cup (playoff putts, Fancourt)

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods pumped his fist after making what he called one of the biggest putts of his life.
Any time Tiger Woods and Ernie Els go head-to-head in a playoff, you know to expect drama. But what transpired at dusk on the final day of the Presidents Cup had both players' knees knocking.

The two were paired in a sudden-death playoff after the Presidents Cup ended in a 17-17 tie in regulation. Both parred the first playoff hole, and then things got interesting:

  • On the second extra hole, Els drained a 12-foot par putt to keep the Internationals alive: ''Probably the first I've ever felt my legs shaking,'' he said.

  • On the third playoff hole, in gathering darkness, Woods made a twisting 15-footer for par: ''That was one of the most nerve-racking moments I've ever had in golf,'' he said.

  • Els followed that with must-make 6-footer to halve the hole, which proved to be the final putt of the competition. The teams decided to call it a draw after Woods and Els matched one another shot for shot in the three-hole playoff.

    8. Ben Curtis at the British Open (No. 18, Royal St. George's)

    The bottom three ...
    Three of the worst shots of 2003:

    Bjorn at the British (No. 16): In perhaps the biggest blunder of the year, Bjorn had one hand on the Claret Jug when he made a major mistake. He was leading the British Open by two strokes with just three holes to play on Sunday, but took three shots to get out of a greenside bunker on the par-3 16th and walked away with a double bogey. He'd finish runner-up to Ben Curtis by a stroke.

    ''I certainly feel like I deserve a little bit more than I got this week,'' Bjorn later said. ''That's the way it is. You go on. But I'm sure it's going to be tough the next few days.''

    Tiger at The Masters (No. 3): Sitting just three strokes out of the lead at the third hole of the final round, Woods made an aggressive decision that would land him out of contention. He chose to hit driver on Augusta's shortest par-4, ending up in an azalea bush and having to hit his second shot left-handed. Woods went on to make double-bogey.

    Jeff Maggert at The Masters (No. 3): Maggert's Masters miscue also came at the third hole in the final round. His shot from a fairway bunker slammed into the lip and caromed back off his chest, a two-stroke penalty. Three strokes had been added to his score, and his ball was still lying in the sand. It was one of two bunker miscues on the day for Maggert, who had led after three rounds but ended up finishing fifth.

    When Curtis drained a testing 8-footer for par on Royal St. George's brute of a finishing hole, he probably had a runner-up finish on his mind. It wasn't until after he walked off the green that he realized that leader Thomas Bjorn had imploded, and that his 8-footer could turn out to be infinitely more significant.

    After making what turned out to be the putt of his life, Curtis watched as no one in the final three groups -- names that included Woods, Singh, Bjorn, Love, Perry and Garcia -- could match his 1-under total.

    9. Woods at Buick Inv. (No. 15, Torrey Pines)

    If there was one shot that signaled Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour after knee surgery, it was his remarkable approach to the 15th hole in the final round of his first tournament of the season.

    With one swing of the club, Woods demonstrated to the golf world that there was nothing wrong with his knee -- or his game. Pinned in ankle-high rough 200 yards from the green and with trees overhead, Woods muscled a 4-iron and somehow kept it low enough to get under the trees, yet accurate enough to stop 15 feet from the hole on a downslope.

    The shot all but wrapped up his victory, prompting a jaw-dropping uproar from the gallery and this memorable line from CBS on-course analyst David Feherty: "I hope I have grandchildren so I can tell them about that."

    10. Sergio Garcia at the British Open (No. 17)

    The British Open was one of the few memorable tournaments for Garcia in a disappointing 2003 season, and the highlight of his week came at the 17th hole in Saturday's third round.

    Near the top of the leaderboard, Garcia was facing disaster on the tough par-4 after driving it in the deep stuff and needing two more strokes to chop it back into the fairway. But Sergio managed to avoid a big number, holing a 60-yard wedge for what he called "the best par of my life." He went on to shoot 70, and was two strokes out of the lead heading into the final round.

    Honorable Mention: Sorenstam at the Skins Game (No. 9, Trilogy GC)

    Annika Sorenstam
    Annika Sorenstam tossed her wedge in the air after draining her bunker shot at the Skins Game.
    Sorenstam showed she was one of the guys at the Skins Game with one of the best shots in the history of the event.

    With four skins and $175,000 at stake on the par-5 ninth hole, Sorenstam holed a 39-yard bunker shot for an eagle that netted her the skins, the cash and the cheers of a wild gallery and impressed playing partners.

    ''I've hit some great shots at major championships to win them,'' she said, ''but with all the people watching, against these guys a tough shot like that, I think it's the best shot under the circumstances.''

    David Lefort is ESPN.com's golf editor, and he can be reached at david.m.lefort@espn3.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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