Punch Shot: Most defining moment of 2016

From Jordan Spieth’s epic meltdown at the Masters to the U.S. reclaiming the Ryder Cup, there were plenty of moments everyone will remember from 2016, but which one defined the year? Our writers weigh in:


The year’s most defining moment came, as so many have in the past, amid the majestic pines and swirling winds of Amen Corner.

It was there that Jordan Spieth, with a second consecutive green jacket seemingly within his reach, unraveled in the most surprising fashion imaginable. He first put his tee shot on No. 12 into Rae’s Creek, then another ball, and within minutes what had seemed a fait accompli was turned on its head.

There were other more dramatic wins than Danny Willett’s three-shot victory at Augusta National, and certainly many other memorable moments. In fact, history will show that Spieth still had a chance to win after his debacle on Golden Bell.

But the Masters remains the biggest event of the calendar year, and when the defending champion inexplicably melts down, it tends to stick out. So when we look back on 2016, we will first return to that bewildering 15-minute stretch, when Spieth and caddie Michael Greller exchanged shocked expressions as the Masters slipped away. 


As is normally the case in even-numbered years, the 2016 season built to a crescendo at September’s Ryder Cup, and the matches didn’t disappoint.

After almost endless debate since the U.S. team’s loss at Gleneagles in 2014, captain Davis Love III & Co. were under even more pressure than normal when they arrived at Hazeltine National. While anyone associated with the team would tell you that the overhaul to the U.S. Ryder Cup process was about the next 10 matches not just the ’16 edition, another American loss would have been devastating.

After so much effort, so much change, so much promise, to lose the ’16 matches would have led to an even more difficult question – now what?

But the process worked, with Love picking the hottest possible players, including Ryan Moore, and creating the best possible atmosphere.

While Love was unquestionably the leader, it was the captain-by-committee concept that seemed to truly make a difference; with Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Tom Lehman and Bubba Watson all adding something invaluable to the team room.

Patrick Reed emerged as a genuine American star, beating Rory McIlroy in what may become the event’s most inspiring singles match, and Phil Mickelson secured his status as a true leader.

It was a defining moment for golf and for an event that desperately needed a dose of parity.


It was Tiger being shooed out of the U.S. team photo at the Ryder Cup in September.

As defining moments go, it captured the confusing and awkward nature of this new era, where nobody’s quite sure where Tiger fits anymore. The team photo was for players only, and though Woods has been out of the game more than a year recuperating from multiple back surgeries, it was still hard to get your mind around the notion he was an assistant captain in Hazeltine.

Watching a photographer shoo Woods out of the players-only photo was humorous, especially when Woods thought the photographer was merely maneuvering him to the other end of the photo, where Woods got the boot again. Woods still thinks he’s a player, we think. We want him to be a player. But nobody’s quite sure if he’ll ever really be a player again. Whether or not Woods comes back in any meaningful way, we’re seeing the game move on without him this year, whether we like it or not.


Memorable moments often lead to indelible images. That was certainly the case with Jordan Spieth, after he kicked away the Masters with a quadruple-bogey 7 on the 12th hole Sunday.

The rinsed tee shot was understandable – he’d been battling the weak-right shot all week, and that tee ball requires more precision than perhaps any other at Augusta. But the chunked wedge shot that followed led to the most defining moment of 2016, when Spieth spun around and took off his hat, unable to watch his bid for a second consecutive Masters title dribble into Rae’s Creek.

The next few holes would produce an array of heartbreaking images, with a shell-shocked Spieth crouched down, head in hands. The collapse led to a trying year, as he won just once in the next seven months and at times looked lost and vulnerable. Unfortunately for Spieth, long term, his miscues will be replayed on television screens and in the minds of many every time he walks to the 12th tee for the next 40 years.