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Four-Ball: Mulling our favorite performances, memories of 2016

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Coachman: Tiger not far off from becoming threat (2:44)

Jonathan Coachman says that if healthy, Tiger Woods can still be a great golfer and a major threat to other PGA Tour players. Michael Collins echoes Coachman's sentiments and focuses on the positives of Tiger's performance at the Hero World Challenge. (2:44)

While we wait until next year, which isn't so far off, it's a good time to reflect on what we witnessed in 2016.

Our panel members discuss their favorite rounds and majors of the year and share their top memories -- from on and off the course -- of 2016.

What was your favorite pro golf round of the year?

SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman: For me it's not close. The final round at The Open was absolutely mind-blowing. And I don't think Phil Mickelson will soon forget the year that he would have won another major if Henrik Stenson hadn't decided to have the round of his life. I don't think I ever have enjoyed a two-man battle more than that one.

ESPN.com senior golf writer Michael Collins: Complete round for me had to be the final round of The Open. Stenson and Mickelson going toe-to-toe for 18 holes for a major made me think, "This is what reporters watching Jack Nicklaus vs. Tom Watson must have felt during 1977's Duel in the Sun."

ESPN.com senior golf writer Bob Harig: Stenson's final-round 63 at Royal Troon to capture The Open. Only once before had a player shot such a score in the final round of a major to win, and that was Johnny Miller at Oakmont Country Club in the 1973 U.S. Open -- generally regarded as the best round in the game's history. Troon is not Oakmont, but it was nonetheless an incredible score.

ESPN.com senior golf writer Jason Sobel: With everything that took place in golf this year, the victory of Billy Hurley III at his hometown Quicken Loans National event has been too overlooked. This is a man who less than a decade earlier was navigating a Navy ship through the Suez Canal. During this same tournament in 2017, Hurley's father went missing, later found to have committed suicide not far from the tournament site. For Hurley to win that title, on that week, is beyond remarkable.

Which was the best major of the year?

Coachman: The Masters. It had everything: domination, for 63 holes; collapse, for three holes; beautiful golf for about nine holes. Danny Willett's good fortune will always be connected to the emotional devastation for Jordan Spieth. On top that what it gave us, it also set up for some serious drama come 2017. Can't wait.

Collins: This year's U.S. Open had everything you'd expect in a big-budget movie! High tension, drama, a plot twist, a villain no one saw coming (the USGA) and a hero (Dustin Johnson) with a happy ending everyone was good with. It was another one of those stories that no one would believe if it hadn't actually happened.

Harig: The Open. Mickelson opened the tournament with a 63, closed it with a 65, made just four bogeys for the week and shot 17 under in a major -- and still lost. His duel with Stenson will long be remembered as one of the game's greatest, not just in 2016.

Sobel: There was plenty of drama on the back nine of the Masters, but The Open provided the best entertainment of any major this year. Unlike at Augusta, this wasn't one player faltering down the stretch while another took advantage; this was two terrific players with their best stuff, as Stenson outlasted Mickelson in a battle for the ages.

What was your favorite pro golf memory -- inside the ropes -- from 2016?

Coachman: I'll go with the Tour Championship and Rory McIlroy holing out for eagle en route to an improbable comeback and the $10 million dollar prize. All I could think about was the time he said that the prize money didn't really matter to him. But it sure did look like that moment meant a lot to him. McIlroy showed the world once again that when he is on he has the most firepower of anyone, and it's not close.

Collins: When McIlroy and Patrick Reed went at it on the front nine at the Ryder Cup, I walked off the sixth green and saw a friend (who was doing the telecast) and told him what had just happened as the two players walked off the green -- Reed doing the finger wag after McIlroy mocked the finger shush. He said, "I don't like that. It's bad for golf." I replied, "What?! It's great for golf!" When the players walked off the eighth hole, the same guy said to me, "This is awesome!" Converted quickly.

Harig: The Sunday singles match between Mickelson and Sergio Garcia at the Ryder Cup. I watched every shot inside the ropes, and while it ultimately did not decide the outcome of the Ryder Cup, it was riveting nonetheless. Both players shot 63 on their own ball, with Mickelson making 10 birdies and Garcia nine. Down the stretch they continued to match each other, barely uttering a word. It was pressure-packed, intense and ended in a tie, but the golf was as good as it gets.

Sobel: If the USGA's nonruling/ruling about a ball moving on the green had occurred with any other golfer at the U.S. Open, it could have provided enough of an unknown to keep him from winning. Johnson, though, merely shrugged it off, won by four, was later ruled to have won by three, didn't care and took home the trophy -- even though he still wasn't sure why he'd been penalized.

What was your favorite pro golf memory -- outside the ropes -- from 2016?

Coachman: It was a trip that I wasn't even a part of. I sincerely was worried for Spieth after his collapse on the back nine at Augusta. So when he followed through on an island vacation with Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Smylie Kaufman, it showed me that he had golf in the right perspective. Many golfers would have gone home and hid after that. Spieth didn't. It was a moment I won't forget, and I believe Spieth will be rewarded for it in the long term.

Collins: After The Players Championship had ended, I was waiting to get a quick interview with Jason Day when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem came through the volunteer area. I walked over to greet him. As we did the "bro hug," he whispered in my ear, "You're a big pain in my ass." After breaking the embrace, I said, "That's the biggest compliment you could have ever given me, sir. Thank you." I honestly believe he knew it, too.

Harig: Just a few weeks ago in the Bahamas, I lucked into watching a Tiger Woods practice session at Albany several days before the Hero World Challenge, his return to competitive golf after 15 months. What I witnessed was an impressive display, made more so by the low bar many of us had set after so much negativity. For more than two hours, Woods hit all the shots, with plenty of power and length. It was but one day, and yet it was a rare opportunity that will have far more meaning if Woods is able to build on his comeback.

Sobel: Too many to count, too many to narrow down into one memory right here. Not to get all sappy, but I'll say this much: The privilege of covering this game has never been greater -- and I've never enjoyed it as much as I did this year.