Choosing the best moments from an entire golf year is a fool’s errand. The exercise is too subjective, the Twitter backlash too terrifying. Safer to highlight a group of 2018 moments that were well worth remembering. Some we chose for their significance, some for their indelible imagery, and some because they were damn interesting. Many of them nail all three. Enjoy!
1. FROM THE HEART
With 12 European Tour wins and a highlight reel of unforgettable Ryder Cup moments, Ian Poulter has knocked down his share of big putts. He added an exclamation point on April Fool’s Day. Needing to jar a 20-footer on the 72nd hole to earn a Houston Open playoff, Poults buried it and erupted with emotion. One hole later, the 42-year-old Brit secured his first PGA Tour stroke-play victory on U.S. soil and a trip to Augusta.
Swedish golfer Pernilla Lindberg had to sweat out a Monday finish and eight sudden-death playoff holes against Inbee Park to capture the ANA Inspiration. It was Lindberg’s first major and her only win in 14 years as a professional. Here she celebrates her surprising victory with caddie and future-husband Daniel Taylor in Poppie’s Pond, at the Dinah Shores Tournament Course at Mission Hills C.C.
3. TWIST & SHOUT
After his seventh-hole ace at the Masters Par-3 Contest, Tony Finau’s euphoric celebration was cut short by a wicked ankle roll. He was able to play despite dislocating the joint, and went on to become the week’s feel-good story, finishing top-10 on one good leg.
The Par-3 Contest was kinder to Tom Watson, 68, Jack Nicklaus, 78, and Gary Player, 82, who came out to entertain the crowd and each other. Player finished T10, Jack T4, and Watson won the damn thing. While this legendary trio has 35 major titles among them, this year’s Green Jacket went to first-time major winner Patrick Reed, who let his emotions fly.
4. WELCOME BACK
Although the pressure to return to the winner’s circle must have been immense, you’d hardly know from Lydia Ko’s demeanor that she hadn’t raised a trophy in two years. But when she sealed the deal at the Mediheal Championship, a weight was lifted, and the 15-time winner couldn’t mask her emotion.
5. SMOKED IT!
Talk about being in the zone. With ash plumes rising from the Kilauea volcano, on Hawaii’s Big Island, golfers at the aptly named Volcano Golf & Country Club appeared not the least bit fazed. That wasn’t the case in ’08, when another of Kilauea’s eruptions forced an evacuation of (though no damage to) the course.
6. EYE OF THE STORM
It was great to see Phil Mickelson win on Tour for the first time in five years (WGC-Mexico), but the frenzy here was earned after his ill-advised putter swipe at 13 during the third round of the U.S. Open. The media criticized the rules violation as disrespectful, Lefty insisted it was deliberate. But really, bro, a not so genius move.
7. CLARET KISS
Francesco Molinari was snarled near the top of the British Open leaderboard with a pack of major champions (Spieth, McIlroy, Rose among them) and was paired on Sunday with none other than a hungry and resurgent Tiger Woods. Undaunted, the steady Italian was the one who kept making pars, and ultimately the only golfer among the leaders to finish the day in red numbers, coming from three back to win his—and his country’s—first major championship.
8. NATIONAL HERO
Six years ago, at age 14, Brooke Henderson won a Canadian Women’s Tour event. Six LPGA wins later (including a major), the Ontario native won Canada’s national championship, at the CP Women’s Open. It was a capper.
9. FOLLOW THE LEADER
Brooks Koepka confidently strode up 18 to clean up his par and claim his second major victory of 2018. Despite serious challenges from Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, Koepka set a PGA Championship scoring record (264) on his way to earning the PGA Tour’s—and GOLF’s—Player of the Year honors.
10. RED SEA PARTING
Crowds strained against the ropes all week at the season-ending Tour Championship. On Sunday, they engulfed the final twosome coming up 18 as sheriff s hustled to keep them at bay. Tiger Woods was going to win this thing, and his fans wanted to be part of history. Even Rory seems to be thinking, “Dude, we missed you!” Has it really been five years since Sundays were so much fun?
11. EURO EUPHORIA
Tommy Fleetwood began his week at Le Golf National a Ryder Cup rookie, and finished it—along with playing partner Francesco Molinari—a Ryder Cup messiah. The duo won 27 holes, earning four points to lead the triumphant Euro squad over Team USA.