BEST COURSE MANAGEMENT Tiger Woods. His body is break- ing down, his putting stroke has become dodgy and he has little faith in his driver, but Woods can still think his way around a course like no other. Though he was undone by sloppy execution, his play at tight, twisty Olympic was such a tour de force in tactical golf even his clueless playing part- ner Bubba Watson couldn’t help but notice. “I learned a lot at the U.S. Open watching Tiger, learn- ing about strategy,” Watson said.
BEST CLUTCH PUTTER Stacy Lewis. The LPGA’s first American player of the year in nearly two decades, Lewis holed a series of do-or-die putts en route to her four victories. Case in point was the final round of the Mizuno Classic, at which Lewis made key putts on the last three holes—from 25 feet, 12, and 25 feet again—to win by one stroke.
HONORABLE MENTION Ian Poulter. We don’t need any stats for this one, just the memory of the saucer-eyed Poults pour- ing in a do-or-die 15-footer in the Saturday gloaming to forever alter the 2012 Ryder Cup. Poulter is a grinder with limited gifts who has become an elite player mostly on an uncanny ability to hole make-or-break putts.
BEST CHIPPER Jose Maria Olazabal. The two-time Masters champ can get it up and down from anywhere, and probably already has during his long career. At the 2012 Mas- ters I watched Olley make an absurd recovery on the 18th hole — playing from an awkward spot on the edge of the ninth green, he flew a knot of fans, landed his ball short of the putting surface and then let it trickle off a slope and down the length of the green to within five feet. Afterward I foolishly asked him if it was the great- est par-save of his career. Olazabal just laughed. “My friend,” he said, with mock solemnity, “I have had many nice par-saves.”
BEST ATHLETE Gary Woodland. The limber, long-limbed Dustin Johnson struts around like golf’s big man on campus, but it’s the 6’1”, 195-pound Woodland who played college basketball. As a freshman shooting guard at Div. II Wash- burn University he once scored 21 second-half points in a barrage that included five straight three- pointers. Before that, Woodland was a standout shortstop who at 16 led his team to the NBC World Series title, hitting a grand slam in the semifinals to key a 5-4 victory. This year on the PGA Tour nearly a quarter of all his drives traveled more than 320 yards.
HONORABLE MENTION Suzann Pettersen. When not over- powering golf courses, this Nordic goddess is a hellacious downhill skier.
••• BEST QUOTE
Christina Kim. By turns incisive, lewd, profound and counter-intuitive, the LPGA’s biggest personality has an
opinion on everything.
HONORABLE MENTION Bubba Watson. Like Forrest Gump, he is brutally honest and accidentally profound, even when talking about his own life. The scatter-brained Watson often begins a sentence without know- ing where it will end, which makes his interviews riveting high-wire acts.
BEST DRESSED Natalie Gulbis. Are her skirts too short? Who cares! Gulbis’ fun, flirty fashion sense has proven that it’s possible to be feminine and athletic at the same time.
Alan Shipnuck is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and writes two weekly columns for golf.com.