13 best moments from the 2017 men's major championships

Justin Thomas
USA Today Sports Images
Every major championship creates magical moments. Here are 13 of the best from 2017.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
Connect with T.J.

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Friday, December 01, 2017 | 7:57 a.m.

The major championships never disappoint. Year after year after year, we can always count on the Masters, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship to deliver when it comes to producing the best moments on the course throughout an entire year.

Whether it was a shot, a run of holes, or a special tribute, the 2017 major championship season was one we won't soon forget.

Here's a look at 13 of our favorite moments from 2017's grand slam events.

13. Special tributes to Arnold Palmer at the Masters and the U.S. Open. In the first two majors played since the passing of the legendary King, both the Masters and U.S. Open were sure that Palmer's presence was felt.

It began on Thursday at the Masters in April, just moments before the start of the first round when Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne gave a heartfelt tribute to Palmer before the ceremonial tee shots -- by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player -- were struck.

It hurt golf fans to not see Palmer on that first tee for the first time in years, but Payne's words provided the perfect touch, conveying that while Palmer is gone, he will never be forgotten.

The Masters also handed out buttons on Thursday morning to all patrons -- like the PGA of America did at the 2016 Ryder Cup -- that read "I am a member of Arnie's Army."

Then in June in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, the USGA honored Palmer in two ways. First, the pin flag on the 18th green during Sunday's final round bore Palmer's celebration silhouette from his only U.S. Open victory from 1960 at Cherry Hills with his famous visor toss.

Along with that, players and fans were given a replica of Palmer's player badge from the 1960 U.S. Open. What an incredible souvenir.

12. Justin Thomas matches a U.S. Open record with his round of 9-under 63 in the third round at Erin Hills, which included an incredible putt for birdie on the par-4 fifth.

Do you remember this Thomas putt we're talking about? It basically took a U-turn before finding its way to the bottom of the cup.

11. Henrik Stenson, the 2016 Open Champion, wasn't playing great in the first round of the 2017 U.S. Open. When he reached the par-4 11th, he was 4-over for the day. But, that didn't stop him from hitting one of the coolest shots of the week at Erin Hills.

From 152 yards out after a stellar drive, Stenson went ahead an slam-dunked the approach for an eagle.

10. Joost Luiten scores an ace on Quail Hollow's fourth hole in the first round of the PGA Championship. Much was made about the severity of the new fourth green at Quail Hollow during PGA week.

Many players expressed their displeasure with how hard the surface was and how difficult it was to get a ball to stop on it.

Noting all that, apparently, Luiten decided it would be in his best interest to hit just one shot on the agonizing hole. So, from 181 yards out, the Dutch golfer hit a 6-iron that bounced once and dropped into the cup for the first hole-in-one at a PGA Championship since Tim Clark in 2013 at Oak Hill.

9. Branden Grace fires a new major championship record low round of 62 in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

For years and years, "62" has been the elusive number in major championship golf. On 31 occasions -- most notably Johnny Miller in the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont -- players have recorded a 63 during a major.

In the third round of the Open in July, however, Grace did one better with his 8-under 62, which included an outward nine of 5-under 29.

It wasn't the lowest score in relation to par. That record is shared by Nick Price at the 1986 Masters, Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters, Paul Broadhurst at the 1990 Open, Rory McIlroy at the 2010 Open, Gary Playeer at the 1984 PGA Championship, Jose Maria Olozabal at the 2000 PGA Championship, Hiroshi Iwata at the 2015 PGA Championship and Justin Thomas at the 2017 U.S. Open. All those players shot 63 on par-72 courses, so they were 9 under in relation to par.

Even still, Grace's "lowest score recorded" in a major is darn impressive.

8. Graham DeLaet's run on holes 13, 14, 15, and 16 at Quail Hollow in the third round of the PGA Championship.

The only reason this isn't higher on our list is because it happened in Round 3 instead of Round 4. But, what the Canadian managed to do over that stretch of four holes was nothing short of amazing.

Beginning at the par-3 13th hole, he missed a hole-in-one by one lousy inch and settled for a kick-in birdie.

On the short, par-4 14th, his tee shot hit the stick -- just missing out on an albatross -- and he knocked in the putt for an eagle.

At the par-5 15th, DaLaet reached the green in two shots and made a sweet putt for his second eagle in as many holes.

On the par-4 16th, DaLaet made a lengthy birdie putt.

That's 6 under in a four-hole stretch, folks.

Impressively, DaLaet would collect pars at both the par-3 17th and par-4 18th to finish out the demanding Green Mile in 1 under. He finished the round with a 3-under 68. That four-hole stretch though was just awesome.

7. Rory McIlroy's par on the par-5 10th hole at Quail Hollow in the second round of the PGA Championship.

Typically, when a player is pin-high in two shots on a par 5, that's a good thing. However, that was far from the case for McIlroy at the 10th hole -- his first of the day -- that Friday at Quail Hollow.

McIlroy fanned his approach with a fairway wood well right. Matters got significantly worse when the ball hit cart path to the right of the green and traveled down a steep hill. So for McIlroy, his third shot, pin-high, was actually still 110 yards from the hole.

I was right in the thick of it that morning, standing roughly 50 yards ahead of McIlroy and just to the right of the cart path. With large trees on each side of the path, McIlroy's only chance to advance the ball near the green would be to skip the ball up the cart path.

There was a greenside bunker that -- if he could hit -- would have been a tremendous effort for McIlroy.

Instead, he did significantly better than that. Closing down the face on a 6-iron -- a bloody 6-iron from 110! -- McIlroy drilled the ball right into the hill on the cart path. It skipped twice, bounced over the bunker, landed on the green and rolled out just off into the fringe. From there, he would get down for the most incredible, hard-working par these eyes have ever seen in person.

I was standing inside the ropes with members of the European press who McIlroy obviously knew. When he walked to the next tee and got close, he looked at them, rolled his eyes and gave a dramatic deep breath as if to suggest, "Fellas, even I can't believe I got away with a par there."

With a player like McIlroy, you expect to see the unexpected. This, however, was just filthy.

6. Justin Thomas's chip-in birdie at the par-3 13th on Sunday at Quail Hollow.

This was the moment at the 2017 PGA Championship where Thomas took the outright lead and never looked back on his way to claiming his first major. It was a spectacular moment and the crowd just went crazy. The birdie got him to 8 under, which is the total he would also finish at on his way to victory.

5. Sergio Garcia's eagle on the par-5 15th at Augusta National in the final round of the Masters. For years, Garcia has been at the very top of the "best player never to win a major list." In April, the Spaniard changed all that.

This particular eagle salvaged for Garcia what very much looked like it could be another major that slipped away.

Garcia had begun to leak oil on the back nine, dropping to 6 under and two shots behind leader Justin Rose. But, with a birdie on the par-4 14th, followed by this eagle on 15, Garcia refused to let this one get away.

Rose bogeyed 17 and the two eventually went to a playoff, but the eagle at 15 truly was the shot that gave Garcia new life that Sunday.

4. Brooks Koepka ties the U.S. Open scoring record on his way to his first major victory. Koepka's 16 under total tied McIlroy's record from the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional for lowest score in relation to par by a U.S. Open winner.

Koepka 272 mark for 72 holes also tied Tiger Woods' performance from the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and is behind only McIlroy’s 268 total from Congressional.

It wasn't just a good week for Koepka, it was a dominating one, as he topped runners up Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama by four shots.

3. Sergio Garcia wins the Masters with a birdie at the 18th on first playoff hole. What a way for Garcia to finish out the week at Augusta National. The sportsmanship displayed by Rose as the runner up was also something to behold.

It's pretty normal to feel good for the winner of a major, but seeing Garcia slip into that green jacket was extra special. It didn't seem right for him to have the career he's had and not have a major.

2. Every major produces a signature moment. The one that will be talked about for years from the 2017 PGA Championship was when -- on the par-5 10th hole at Quail Hollow on Sunday -- it looked like Justin Thomas just missed a relatively short birdie try.

The ball hung on the left edge of the cup for what had to feel like an eternity for Thomas. Until, finally, it dropped in and the crowds went bananas. What a moment.

1. Jordan Spieth's final five holes at Royal Birkdale in the Open Championship. The reason this all matters is actually because of what happened on Spieth's sixth-to-last hole of the final round.

Famously, the three-time major winner needed a ruling at the 13th hole that took forever. He looked to be in serious trouble late in the game, but managed to escape with minimal damage thanks to a crazy bogey.

In what had been a roller coaster of a final round for Spieth to the point, the bogey at 13 marked the first time all day that he trailed Matt Kuchar. Cue all the golf nuts who figured we were in for a repeat of the crumble Spieth had at the 2016 Masters, where his hopes for a second green jacket were dashed with a disaster at the par-3 12th on the last day.

To the surprise of many, however, that's not the Spieth we saw at Birkdale. Instead, he became a man possessed.

On the very next hole, a par 3, Spieth nearly holed his tee shot and tapped in for birdie. On 15, he hit a 3-wood from 256 yards out onto the green and then holed a 50-footer for eagle. At 16, he made a 25-footer for birdie. At the par-5 17th, he matched birdies with Kuchar.

So, after trailing by one with a bogey at 13, Spieth played the next four holes in a crazy 5-under par. With a par at 18, he finished off the Open Championship win, topping a stunned Kuchar by three strokes.

That was Tiger-in-his-heyday-like performance down the stretch by Spieth.

Here's a collection of what he managed to do.

 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.