Normally lists are done in tens. The 10 best golfers of all time. The 10 best shots of the year. But in golf, 10 isn't the number we surround ourselves with. It's nine. We play 9 holes. We hope to end our round with a 9 in it (be it, 89, 79, 69, or even, gasp, 59), and so this year, we've decided to focus our end of year awards in nines. These are the most clutch moments of the year.
9.) Brittany Lincicome's chip at the ShopRite LPGA Classic -- Tied for the lead going to the 18th hole, Lincicome needed to get up and down from the thick heather, on the left side of the green, to give herself a shot to win in regulation. Standing on a sidehill slope, Lincicome hit a deft chip that hit the ridge and rolled within four feet of the hole. She went on to make the putt and win for the first time in two years.
8.) Luke Donald's back nine run at Disney -- With his wife a couple weeks from giving birth to their second child, Luke Donald decided to take the risk and play Disney for the chance to secure the PGA Tour money title in the final event of the year. But going to the back nine on Sunday, it appeared Webb Simpson was on the verge of passing him. That was until Donald birdied the 10th hole, and the next five after it for a run of six consecutive birdies. A long bomb on the par-3 15th capped off incredible streak and allowed Donald to win not only the tournament, but the money title as well.
7.) Webb Simpson's comeback win at the Deutsche Bank -- Needing a 30-foot putt to fall on the par-5 18th hole to force a playoff in Boston, Simpson calmly rolled in the putt to force extras with Chez Reavie. From there, he made made a 15-footer for birdie on the first playoff hole, before sinking an 8-foot birdie putt on the exact same hole. In all, Simpson birdied the 18th three consecutive times to capture his first FedEx Cup win. Not too shabby.
6.) Europe secures improbable Solheim Cup victory -- Severe underdogs coming into the event, nobody gave Europe much of a chance to win the cup. That ended up being a big mistake, as a group of gritty European golfers staged an improbable comeback on the final day. Suzann Pettersen came from one hole down, with three to play, to defeat Michelle Wie on the final hole. And Caroline Hedwall came from two holes back with two to play to secure the deciding half-point.
5.) Tiger Woods' putt on the 17th at Chevron -- Woods' six-foot putt to secure his first win in more than two years was pretty darn good. But if you want to find the clutch moment in the tournament, go back at hole to the 17th. Down one to Zach Johnson with two to play, Wood needed a birdie to square things up going to the final hole. After watching Johnson burn the edge with his putt, Woods made his first clutch putt in some time, rolling in a 15-foot birdie to a thunderous ovation from the crowd. Who knows if he even wins the tournament if that putt doesn't fall.
4.) Charl Schwartzel's four-hole Masters finish -- Sure, the South African won by two shots, which doesn't seem like that big of a deal. But just look at what he did to secure his first green jacket: he birdied his last four holes. At Augusta National. With the entire world watching. That's how you close, folks.
3.) Steve Stricker's approach shot at the John Deere Classic -- Most will remember Stricker's third consecutive John Deere win for the 25-foot putt he made at the last hole. But without the approach shot he hit on 18, we would most likely be talking about Kyle Stanley winning his first PGA Tour event. Let's set the scene: Needing a birdie on the last to win, Stricker found his ball resting in an awkward position on the side of a fairway bunker. With one foot in the bunker and one in the rough, he pulled off one of the most amazing shots of the season, curling the ball around the lake and a couple of tall trees, and stopping it on the green. Stricker called it a "one-in-10 shot or a two-in-10 shot." We'd have to agree.
2.) Bill Haas gets up-and-down from the water to win FedEx Cup -- With $10 million on the line, the last scenario you'd want to have is one that involves hitting a shot from a water hazard. Good thing Bill Haas made the most of a bad situation at the Tour Championship. Needing to get up-and-down from a water hazard to win the tournament and FedEx Cup playoffs, Haas pulled off an incredible shot, hitting his half-submerged ball to within a couple of feet and making the putt to win on the second playoff hole. The most impressive part? He didn't get soaked in the process.
1.) Keegan Bradley's PGA Championship finish -- You want to talk about clutch? Keegan Bradley's finish at the PGA Championship was the epitome of clutch. During the final round at Atlanta Athletic Club, Bradley was neck-and-neck with Jason Dufner, until a triple bogey on the 15th dropped him five shots back with three holes to play. Ball game. But instead of quitting, Bradley put together one of the greatest finishes in major championship history, rolling in back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 to force a playoff. His birdie on the 16th, the first hole of the playoff, was ultimately the difference, but that three-hole stretch to end the tournament was the only reason he hoisted the Wanamaker on Sunday evening.