Major winners & falling stars: A review of the golfing year

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The Race to Dubai, won by Swede Henrik Stenson a comfortable six strokes clear of Ian Poulter, marked the end of the 2013 European Tour season, and also, effectively, the golfing calendar year. After a thrilling 2012, with the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ and Adam Scott’s catastrophic collapse at the Open Championship, 2013 had a lot to live up to. Here, SCAN reviews the past twelve months, revisiting the four Major tournaments and also detailing the big winners and losers on the Tour.

 

by Caren Firouz
Photograph: Caren Firouz

The Majors

‘Redemption’ is a word often misused in sport, but one has to admit it is a fitting ‘buzzword’ to describe Adam Scott’s victory in the Masters at Augusta. After blowing a four-shot lead and handing the Open title to Ernie Els in July 2012, it seemed as if the Aussie was about to finally win his first Major championship after sinking a twenty-five footer for birdie at the 18th. However, Angel Cabrera had other ideas, and also birdied, taking the tournament to a nerve-rattling sudden-death playoff. After both golfers parred the first hole, Cabrera missed his putt, and left Scott with a difficult fifteen foot putt to become the first Australian to win the competition. Lesser men would have bottled it, but Scott came good, and finally laid the ghosts of Lytham St. Annes to rest.

Another metaphorical ‘weight’ was lifted off the shoulders at the second major of the year, the US Open at Merion in Pennsylvania. Since Nick Faldo’s victory at Augusta in 1996, no Englishman had won a Major, yet, in difficult conditions, Justin Rose emerged to put that damning statistic to bed, eventually finishing two strokes clear of perennial runner-up Phil Mickelson and the talented Australian Jason Day. After victory had been confirmed, Rose dedicated his win to father Ken, who died from leukaemia in 2002. Fittingly, the final round was played on the 17th June – Father’s Day in the United Kingdom.

Phil Mickelson is, no doubt, one of the best golfers of the past two decades, yet, there has always been a lingering sense that his talent has gone unfulfilled, best exemplified by his astonishing six runner-up finishes in the US Open. However, the three-time Masters winner rocked up at Muirfield and stunned the golfing world, carding a magnificent final round 66 to coast to the Open Championship title. Mickelson had started the day in vague contention, yet the rest of the field couldn’t cope with the American’s masterful management of  the famous links course, making Mickelson the third successive over-forty winner of the Claret Jug, following Darren Clarke and Ernie Els.

The final Major of the year, the PGA Championship, is often forgotten in this country, amidst the fervor surrounding the beginning of the football season, but the 95th edition of the tournament, played at Oak Hill in New York State, did not disappoint, throwing up a fourth ‘maiden winner’ in five years. This time, it was the American Jason Dufner’s turn to claim his first Major title, and he did so in style, holding his nerve to record a two stroke victory over seasoned pro Jim Furyk. Dufner was so delighted with his win that he slept with the huge Wanamaker trophy, to the delight of his Instagram followers.

 

Big winners

At the beginning of last year, Henrik Stenson was effectively marooned in the golfing wilderness. The former Ryder Cup player had fallen to 230th in the rankings, a personal low, and it seemed as if he needed to take some time away from the game in order to rediscover some sort of form. Yet, after a formidable eighteen months, capped by his victory in Dubai, Stenson became the first winner of both the FedEx Cup and World Tour Championship titles in the same year, cashing in a substantial $11,000,000 worth of prize money to enjoy in the process. However, the biggest winner of the year has to be Tiger Woods. The fourteen-time major winner returned to the number-one ranking he once monopolised, and also topped the PGA prize money list, something that has not occurred since 2009, before of course, revelations about Woods’ marital infidelity were publicised. If Woods’ maintains his imperious form into the New Year, few would bet against him adding to that large, albeit dusty trophy cabinet.

 

Big losers

Presumably, Rory McIlroy did not want 2012 to end. His second major championship, the USPGA, was comfortably won at Kiawah Island, he was the leading prize-winner on the Tour, and the recipient of the prestigious PGA Tour Player of the Year accolade to boot. Fast forward a year, and the 24 year-old from County Down will presumably be wondering what happened. After a year of disappointment on the course, and struggles in his personal life, Rory has seen his number-one world ranking disappear, and his golfing achievements usurped by Stenson. Lee Westwood would also love to see the back of 2013. More putting mishaps cost him his chance of finally claiming his first Major, at both Augusta and Muirfield, whilst a disappointing fifth place finish in Dubai meant failure to record a single win on the Tour for the first time since 2008.

 

2014 should be a stellar year – with Ryder Cup places to fight for, the world’s best will be eager to get back out on the courses and prove their worth to team captains Tom Watson and Paul McGinley as the tournament returns to Scottish shores.

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