18 Best Tournaments of 2009

18 Best Tournaments of 2009

Stewart Cink beat Tom Watson in a heartbreaking playoff at the British Open.
Fred Vuich/SI

Front Nine: The Majors

1. British Open. The agony of defeat never hurt worse than it did at Turnberry, when 59-year-old Tom Watson had a record-tying sixth Open championship in his grasp only to watch it slip away in a playoff with Stewart Cink. The Scots haven’t cried this much since Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.

2. Masters. Good ol’ Kenny Perry was about to finally add a major to his resume after holing a big birdie putt on the par-3 16th. But his green jacket moment vanished when he bogeyed in and lost in a playoff to a very fortunate Angel Cabrera.

3. United States Open. Phil Mickelson, Sam Snead-like in his failed quest for an Open, and David Duval, the comeback poster boy, grabbed the lead during the final nine at Bethpage Black before faltering. Lucas Glover two-putted for a deserving but fan-deflating win.

4. PGA Championship. Tiger Woods took a three-shot lead into the final round at Hazeltine but chipped and putted like a mere mortal. Korea’s Y.E. Yang outplayed him for the win and stepped on Tiger’s reputation of invincibility. (Woods had never before lost a major after holding the 54-hole lead.)

5. Nabisco Championship. Brittany Lincicome trailed Kristy MacPherson and Cristie Kerr by one stroke going to the 72nd hole at Mission Hills. Lincicome gamely flagged her second shot to the par-5 green, which is guarded by water. “The best shot of my life,” she called it later after holing the four-foot eagle putt for her first major win.

6. U.S. Women’s Open. Eun-Hee Ji birdied three of the last six holes at Saucon Valley, including a thrilling 20-foot putt on the final hole to avoid a playoff with Candie Kung. She was the third Korean player to win the women’s Open in the last five years.

7. U.S. Senior Open. In a classic Mutt-and-Jeff duel, diminutive Fred Funk defeated the swaggering Shark, Greg Norman, in a final-round shootout. Not a good summer for the Shark, who also split with his second wife, Chris Evert.

8. Women’s British Open. Ten weeks after giving birth to her second daughter, Catriona Matthew enjoyed a run of three straight birdies midway through her final nine holes at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s to become the first Scot to win the title. “Perhaps I should have started having children earlier,” joked the woman dubbed SuperMum by the British press.

9. British Senior Open. Loren Roberts needed only 31 strokes on Sunningdale’s closing nine, and he outlasted Fred Funk and Mark McNulty in two extra holes to claim his second Open championship.

Back nine: The Rest

1. Tour Championship. A brief dream-come-true moment for PGA Tour execs as Phil Mickelson, back in form with his putter, rolled to an exciting victory at East Lake, beating Tiger Woods by three shots. Phil was at the winner’s ceremony to accept the tournament trophy, and Tiger was there, too, to accept the FedEx Cup trophy and its $10 million prize. Tiger and Phil on the same stage? Sweet.

2. Memorial Tournament. Tiger removed any remaining doubt about whether he was back, closing with 65 on a tough Muirfield Village setup. He birdied three of the final four holes, including a 7-iron staked to one foot on the 72nd hole. He also hit every fairway in the final round — take that, critics.

3. Arnold Palmer Invitational. Was this a replay or something? Tiger drained another birdie putt on Bay Hill’s 18th green for the victory. This time, he came from five shots back and recovered from a 71st-hole bogey to victimize Sean O’Hair.

4. Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Michelle Wie hit a long bunker shot to inches for the birdie that clinched her first win as a pro, not to mention her first win anywhere since she captured the 2003 Women’s Amateur Public Links championship at age 13. It’s a promise of better days ahead for the struggling LPGA.

5. NCAA Championship. Texas A&M’s Bronson Burgoon put his 120-yard approach shot to within inches on the final hole at Inverness. His birdie won the Aggies a national championship.

6. Barclays. Heath Slocum took on the popular role of Cinderella in the FedEx Cup playoffs when he drained a clutch 20-footer for birdie on the final hole in this event’s first playing at scenic but mostly unloved Liberty National.

7. Frys.com Open. Troy Matteson shot back-to-back 61s at Grayhawk but still needed a playoff to outlast a pair of young guns, ex-college stars Jamie Lovemark and Rickie Fowler, who both played on sponsor’s exemptions. On the first extra hole, Lovemark magically bounced an errant approach shot out of the lake by the 18th green to save par, but it wasn’t enough. Matteson stiffed a long approach shot for the victory on the second playoff hole.

8. HSBC Champions. Phil Mickelson outplayed a star-studded leaderboard in the World Golf Championship event in Shanghai. Mickelson started the final round with a two-shot edge over Tiger Woods, who faded, and made an adventurous par on the finishing hole to edge Ernie Els by one stroke.

9. 3M Championship. How sensational was Bernhard Langer’s chip-in for eagle on the final hole of this Champions tour event in Minneapolis? After his hard-rolling ball hit the back of the cup, popped several inches into the air and dropped in, the normally stoic German unleashed an uncharacteristic barrage of emotional fist pumps and finger points. Langer shot 65 and won by a shot over Andy Bean.