Winston Churchill would have been impressed.
The late British prime minister delivered one of the most famous quotations in golf when he described it as "a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose."
Equipment is a lot better. And if the elite players are not more skilled, there at least are more of them. They put on quite a show this year, offering enough evidence to pick out the most significant shots of the year struck with every club in the bag.
Driver: Bubba Watson had a two-shot lead in the final round of the Masters when he hit driver on par-5 13th. He played a little more of a cut than he intended, and it soared down the left side of the fairways and over the trees. It finally reappeared in the fairway, so far that Watson had only a sand wedge for his second shot. "When you hear a roar on a tee shot, you know you've done good," he said.
3-Wood: Mo Martin hit 3-wood from 240 yards on the par-5 18th hole at Royal Birkdale. She thought at first it might be short, and then it might be long. When she heard the ball clang off the flagstick, she knew it was just right. The ball settled about 6 feet away, and Martin made the eagle putt that turned out to be a winner in the Women's British Open.
5-Wood: Rory McIlroy was trailing by one shot on the final hole in the Honda Classic when he hit 5-wood from 245 yards to a peninsula green at PGA National. The ball plopped down 12 feet away, giving McIlroy an eagle putt for the win. He missed the putt to join a four-man playoff won by Russell Henley. The shot was no less magnificent.
3-Iron: Jason Day was 3 up in the final of the Match Play Championship and looked as though he had given away the par-5 11th hole by driving into the desert and having to chip back to the fairway. His 3-iron bounced onto the green and grazed the edge of the cup, settling 5 feet away for a birdie to halve the hole.
4-Iron: In a free-for-all at Torrey Pines, Scott Stallings had 222 yards to the green on par-5 18th when his caddie said to him, "Let's see what you've got." Stallings hit a 4-iron that narrowly cleared the water and set up a two-putt birdie for a one-shot victory.
5-Iron: Rory McIlroy delivered a knockout punch on Saturday in the British Open. Tied for the lead with six holes remaining in the third round, he capped off a final hour of brilliance with a 5-iron from 239 yards that McIlroy knew was great when the ball was in flight. It rolled up to 10 feet for his second eagle in three holes and a six-shot lead going into the final round.
6-Iron: James Hahn made the rarest shot in golf, an albatross 2 on the par-5 ninth hole at Waialae in the second round of the Sony Open with a 6-iron from 191 yards. It was the second albatross in golf that day. Joost Luiten made one on the 10th hole in South Africa with a 7-iron from 248 years. But the 7-iron was already taken.
7-Iron: Martin Kaymer already had made two bogeys in four holes on Saturday at the U.S. Open when he pulled his tee shot into a sandy area left of the fairway on the par-5 fifth hole. From 202 yards, he hit 7-iron to an elevated green to 5 feet for eagle that restored his momentum. "That was a defining moment for me," he said.
8-Iron: Angel Cabrera finally won a PGA Tour event that wasn't a major, thanks to an 8-iron from 176 yards that he holed for eagle on the 14th hole in the final round of The Greenbrier Classic.
9-Iron: Europe got the perfect ending to the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Jamie Donaldson hit 9-iron to 2 feet on the 15th hole to close out his match against Keegan Bradley to clinch outright victory. "The shot of my life," he called it.
Pitching wedge: Felipe Aguilar needed a birdie on the final hole in Singapore to force a playoff in The Championship at Laguna National. He did one better. Aguilar holed out with a pitching wedge from 142 yards for a 62 to win by one shot.
54-degree wedge: As if his 45-foot birdie putt to force a playoff in the Shell Houston Open wasn't enough, Matt Jones made his first PGA Tour victory even more memorable when he chipped it from 40 yards on the first extra hole with a 54-degree sand wedge.
58-degree wedge: No list is complete without Victor Dubuisson's desert escapes in the Match Play Championship. The first one was the most improbable, but that was a 9-iron, and that club belongs to Donaldson in a Ryder Cup year. So let's move on to the shot from the desert near the grandstand on No. 9 — a 58-degree wedge — that the Frenchman hit to 5 feet. Even his opponent, Jason Day, was laughing.
Lob wedge: Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar both holed bunker shots on the 18th hole. Kuchar's was for birdie to win at Hilton Head. Watson's was for eagle that forced a playoff in a World Golf Championship. The nod goes to Watson.
Putter: Paula Creamer made a 75-foot eagle putt to win the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore. Even better than the putt was her reaction. She high-stepped across the green, patted her head, fell to her knees and slapped her hands on the turf.
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