It's the time of the year when golfers, well, golf writers anyway, start thinking about "best of" lists. I'll start with what I believe was the best shot of the season. By "best," I mean a shot that wasn't only extraordinary and unexpected, but that came at a critical point in a tournament. It's even better, or has a chance of being declared "best," if the shot won a major championship.
Maybe I've already given away my selection. It is, of course, the snap-hooking, super shrimp of a twisting wedge that lefty Bubba Watson saw, contrived, and executed from deep in the trees to the right of the 10th fairway to win the Masters on the second extra hole of his playoff against Louis Oosthuizen. They'd each parred the 18th hole, the first of the sudden-death playoff.
Now, maybe I'm in trouble right away, or would be if I hadn't said the shot to be declared "best" had to come at a critical point and, ideally, to win a major. This is because Oosthuizen hit a majestic four-iron from the top of the hill on the par-five second hole of the Augusta National Golf Club that final round of the Masters, and it went in the hole for a double eagle.
The shot took forever to come to its amazing conclusion, after taking the contour of the green and rolling and rolling and rolling into the hole that was cut in the far right corner. Some shot, 210 yards to the front of the green and 235 to the hole, and at an important time. But it didn't win the Masters.
Watson's shot did win the Masters and gave him the first major championship of his career. He had driven into the forest and looked to be in trouble. But Bubba loves trouble, if, that is, he can see a way out of it. He did. He had told his caddy six years before that, "If I have a swing, I've got a shot."
He had a swing, so he had a shot. Sure, the shot had to start miles left of the green and hook in a huge curve back to the green, and with a wedge yet. It's difficult to make a wedge curve so much, because, needless to say, it doesn't have as much time to twist and coil in the relatively short distance the ball travels compared to when hit with a longer club.
Now, Bubba does hit his wedge a long way when he wants to. He wanted to. He had about 160 yards to the hole, and he remembered that he had been in those same trees earlier in the day. He'd come up with the right shot then, that is, the left to right shot, and he told his caddy Ted Scott, "We hit it close already today."
This time he had to hit a 40-yard hook with his 52-degree wedge. Scott was cool with it, and reminded him that, yes, if he had a swing, he had a shot. Bubba was cool with it. Something in his creative golfing self relished the opportunity to pull off the shot. A tree was in his line, the direct line, that is. A tower was in his way. Never mind. He'd make sure it wasn't in his way, because he would hit a roundabout hook.
"I get down there, saw it was a perfect draw," Bubba said after he did pull off the shot. "Even though the tower was in my way, I didn't' want to ask if I get relief or anything, because it just set up for a perfect draw–well, hook. That's what we did."
He had 135 yards to the front of the green, "the only number I was looking at," he said. "I think we had like 164 hole, give or take. In that area, maybe a little less. And I hit 52-degree, my gap wedge, hooked it about 40 yards, hit about 15 feet off the ground until it got under the tree and then started rising. Pretty easy."
Bubba hit the green, his ball finishing 15-feet from the hole. He parred the hole and Oosthuizen bogied after missing the fairway and green. Bubba was soon wearing the green jacket. What did Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Championship winner, think about Bubba's shot?
"Well, he must have a great feel of the game," he said. "I mean, it's great knowing you almost have every little shot there is. That's really entertaining, to play with him, to see the shots that he's taking on and shots that I don't really see or I would ever hit."
On Sunday April 8th, Bubba took on the shot and he made the shot – the shot of the year.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round's on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at email@example.com . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein