This year had more twists and turns than 17-Mile Drive. Early on, each week seemed to play out like Rocky over Drago, as underdogs (the likes of John Huh and Kyle Stanley) overcame great odds to achieve victory. Next came Tiger Woods's return to the winner's circle. But soon the former world No. 1 would be overshadowed by current No. 1 Rory McIlroy. To acknowledge the people who provided me with so much fodder on Golf Channel and in the pages of Golf Magazine, I bestow the following Chamblees to the authors of 2012's most indelible golf moments.
MOST SURPRISING ON-COURSE BIRDIE
When the squawking intruder known as "Jungle Bird" interrupted the U.S. Open trophy presentation at Olympic Club, he not only made news. He gave USGA executive director and all-around nice guy Mike Davis a chance to flex his chops as a bouncer. (Most of the computers at Golf Channel have the image of Davis throttling this party-crashing jokester as a screensaver.)
MOST SURPRISING OFF-COURSE BIRDIE
The one and only Peter Alliss ended an epic Hall of Fame acceptance speech by extending a certain finger to the memory of the cigarette-smoking Welsh headmistress who once wrote on his report card, "Peter does have a brain but he's rather loath to use it... I fear for his future."
SHOT OF THE YEAR
Forget shot of the year. Bubba Watson's crescent-shaped wedge shot from 155 yards around all those trees and with all that pressure -- to 10 feet -- on the first playoff hole at the Masters was among the greatest shots ever. Heck, he's one of the few players with enough imagination and shotmaking prowess to even try it. I also give him credit for brevity. When David Letterman asked the newly minted Masters champ to describe his style of play, Bubba simply said, "Awesome." Amen to that.
PUTT OF THE YEAR (BELLY DIVISION)
The 12-footer for birdie that Ernie Els made on the 72nd hole of the Open Championship, the bookend on his feel-good win, was almost enough to make me change my mind about anchored putters (almost).
PUTT OF THE YEAR (NON-BELLY DIVISION)
The 25-footer Jason Dufner drained for birdie on No. 18 to steal the HP Byron Nelson away from Dicky Pride, sealing his second win in a month. That putt left both Jason and me speechless.
SHORT GAME I'D MOST LIKE TO STEAL
Luke Donald's short game is sublime. His putting stroke is completely devoid of idiosyncrasy. It's perfect. All the axioms relative to putting technique -- grip, eyes over ball, pendulum stroke, soft acceleration -- are there. How good is his short game? In 2012, he was 165th in driving distance...and 12th in par-5 scoring average.
I LIKE YOU, TIGER... I REALLY, REALLY LIKE YOU!
No one has been more critical of Tiger Woods over the last three years than I have. So I give him full credit -- and three Chamblee Awards -- for a very good, if major-free, 2012. The Most Exciting Moment of the Year came when Woods holed a flop shot from behind the 16th green Sunday en route to his win at the Memorial. Tiger also takes Most Improved Press Tent Behavior honors; after his tense "You're a beauty" moment with a Golf Channel reporter at the Honda Classic, Tiger was (for him) sweeter than apple pie the rest of the year, especially with all the praise he heaped on Rory McIlroy. Finally, Woods wins the Extreme Makeover Award after his countless "Sean-a-thon" range sessions with swing coach Sean Foley finally sank in. This year, Tiger hit more fades in one season than anyone since Bruce Lietzke roamed the Tour.