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Shots that shaped the 2004 season

The first sign that Vijay Singh would be a relentless force on the PGA Tour came in a tournament he didn't win, with a putt that ultimately didn't matter.

Singh was five shots behind with five holes to play at the season-opening Mercedes Championships. He came within an inch of forcing a playoff when his 100-foot eagle putt on the 18th at Kapalua grazed the cup.

He finished one shot behind, but that putt was a powerful statement that he should never be counted out.

Singh proved that over the next nine months. He shot 29 on the back nine to win in New Orleans. He refused to get flustered at the Buick Open after John Daly started birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. He won the PGA Championship despite trailing by two shots as he stood on the 16th tee.

And in perhaps the most amazing of his nine wins, Singh made two triple-bogeys and still won the Canadian Open.

Singh's best shot of the year was his 3-iron into 6 feet on the par-3 17th at Whistling Straits during the three-hole playoff at the PGA Championship, which assured him a one-shot lead going to the final hole.

There were dozens of other memorable shots -- Craig Parry holing out with a 6-iron to win at Doral, Todd Hamilton's bump-and-run with a utility club on the 18th at Royal Troon; Mike Weir chipping to 5 feet from the side of the hill at Riviera to save par and win for the second straight year.

But other shots, some of them obscure, helped shape the year on the PGA Tour.

Phil Mickelson at Augusta National

The 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th at Augusta National is what gave Mickelson his first major, but he might not have been in that position without a birdie on the par-3 16th.

No. 16 can be a tricky hole for a lefty, and it cost Mickelson in 2001 when he put his tee shot atop the ridge right of the flag, three-putting for bogey.

He was up to the task this year. One shot behind, Mickelson hit 8-iron into 15 feet and made birdie to draw even with Ernie Els and set up his dramatic finish.

And without that green jacket, a spectacular year in the majors would have looked like a flop.

Mickelson was tied with Retief Goosen at the U.S. Open until a three-putt from 5 feet to make double-bogey on the 17th hole. He had the lead at Royal Troon until missing a 4-foot par putt on 13 and settling for pars the rest of the way, finishing one shot out of the playoff.

But he has a green jacket. It was a great year.

And it was a perfect 8-iron on the 16th.

John Rollins on No. 18 at La Costa

Rollins wasn't even eligible for the Match Play Championship until Els withdrew, and he wasn't optimistic about a first-round match with defending champion Tiger Woods.

The match was even on the par-5 18th, and both players had to lay up about 100 yards short of the green. Woods went first and hit a marginal wedge into 20 feet. Rollins tried to stick it close, but the ball drifted just long enough to catch the bunker. He wound up with a bogey and lost.

Woods went on to win his next five matches for his only victory of the year.

John Daly at Torrey Pines

It had been 10 years since Daly won a PGA Tour event on American soil, and it looked like he might have to wait even longer.

Luke Donald hit a wedge into 6 feet on the par-5 18th, the first playoff hole at the Buick Invitational. Chris Riley, one of the best putters on Tour, was about 5 feet away. Daly went for the green in two and found a bunker, leaving him 100 feet from the cup on a downhill shot with water on the other side.

With exquisite touch, Daly blasted out to 4 inches, then won when Donald and Riley missed.

Galleries had even more reason to follow Daly the rest of the year. He made the Tour Championship for the first time in 13 years, and was a hot topic in August whenever someone mentioned the Ryder Cup.

Joey Sindelar at Quail Hollow

One of the most congenial players in the game, Sindelar showed that it's never too late to recapture the magic.

He made up four shots over the final three holes in the Wachovia Championship, no shot more important than a 4-iron into 3 feet on the par-3 17th, which has a peninsula green and ranks as the hardest hole at Quail Hollow. It was enough to get into a playoff, where the 46-year-old Sindelar won for the first time in 370 tournaments spanning 14 years.

Sindelar was one of six players in their 40s who won this year. Fred Funk won for the first time in six years, Woody Austin for the first time in nine years, and Stephen Ames and Bart Bryant had never won.

Tom Lehman at Las Vegas

Lehman went three straight weeks with at least a share of the 54-hole lead. During that stretch, he talked about wanting to play in the next Ryder Cup, but only if he could earn a spot on the team by ending five years without a victory.

Lehman didn't convert any of those leads. He best chance was Las Vegas, when he missed a 3-foot par putt on the 17th hole and wound up one shot behind.

Just think if Lehman had made that putt and gone on to win in Las Vegas. When the PGA of America came calling two weeks later, would he have accepted the job as Ryder Cup captain?

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