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2012 Golf Year In Review
By Kevin Currie, Senior Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The 2012 golf season was marked by dramatic shots, epic collapses and wrapped up with a near-death experience on the course.
Bubba Watson hit a remarkable hook from the woods to win the Masters, while I.K. Kim blew a 1-foot tap-in that would have given the Korean her first major championship. Those were just a pair of remarkable turnarounds that occurred in 2012.
The PGA Tour saw several large leads blown in the final round with the worst of those blown leads coming at the British Open, where Adam Scott was four up with four to go, but lost to Ernie Els.
As many of the big names were heading for their off-season retreats or playing big-money, small-field events, the final event at Disney World saw Charlie Beljan fight off health concerns to win the title.
That was huge for the rookie as he entered the week 14 spots outside the top 125 on the money list, which is where he needed to get to keep his tour card. After nearly passing out several times in round two with a rapid heart rate and trouble breathing, he went 4-under over the final two rounds to seal the win, which gave him his tour card for two more years.
That near-death experience is rare on the golf course, but the outstanding play worldwide was something we see year in and year out. Let's look at the top performers of the season:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR -- RORY MCILROY
With seven top-5 finishes in his first eight worldwide starts, Rory McIlroy seemed destined for a gigantic season. Then a funny thing happened on the way to that huge year.
The Ulsterman hit the proverbial bump in the road. Four missed cuts in his next five starts and people were wondering if he was jet-setting around the world too much with his equally famous girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki.
A pair of top-10 finishes righted the ship for McIlroy before a blowout win erased any doubts at how good the 23-year-old is. Despite a second-round 75, McIlroy won the PGA Championship by a record eight strokes.
He went on to win two of the four FedExCup playoff events on the PGA Tour and the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai on the European Tour.
Five worldwide wins were more than enough to earn him Player of the Year honors on both the PGA and European Tours. He followed Ryder Cup teammate Luke Donald as the second player to top the money list on both tours.
McIlroy's huge win at the PGA closed out what had been a disappointing season in the majors. He shared 40th (Masters), 60th British and missed the cut in his title defense at the U.S. Open.
With his PGA Championship victory, McIlroy became the sixth-youngest in history to win two majors. McIlroy also tallied a 3-2 record at the Ryder Cup, including a 2 & 1 win over 2011 PGA Champion Keegan Bradley, who was unbeaten in his first three matches.
McIlroy was tremendous early in the season and again late in the year to garner Player of the Year honors.
Among those considered: Branden Grace, who matched McIlroy with five worldwide titles; Tom Lehman, who became the first player to repeat as Charles Schwab Cup champion; Stacy Lewis, who led the LPGA with four wins; Louis Oosthuizen, who carded two wins and 11 worldwide top-5 finishes; and Tiger Woods, who got back to his winnings ways with three titles.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR -- SO YEON RYU
In 2011, So Yeon Ryu won the U.S. Women's Open in a playoff and that win gave her membership on the LPGA Tour. Ryu took full advantage in her first full season on tour.
Ryu opened the season with three straight top-11 finishes, then again had three in a row after struggling at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
The 22-year-old later returned to the U.S. after sharing 31st at the Evian Masters and caught fire the remainder of the year. She fired a 10-under 62 in the final round to blow away the field by seven strokes at the Jamie Farr Owens Toledo Classic.
After sharing fourth at the Safeway Classic, Ryu missed her only cut of the year at the Canadian Women's Open. She didn't finish outside the top eight the remainder of the year.
Ryu tied for fifth at the Women's British Open, for her best finish of the season in the majors. She broke par in 19 of her final 23 rounds on the LPGA Tour and closed the season with her second runner-up finish at the CME Group Titleholders.
The South Korean matched Stacy Lewis for the tour lead in top-5 finishes (12) and top-10 finishes (16).
Also considered were John Huh, who was the only PGA Tour rookie to qualify for the Tour Championship; Jonas Blixt and Charlie Beljan, who won in the Fall Series; and Kirk Triplett, who joined the Champions Tour and collected his first win of any kind since 2006.
SHOT OF THE YEAR -- THE PUTTS
There were plenty of choices for Shot of the Year, but to select one big putt over another was too much to ask. And the putts I speak of all came at the Ryder Cup.
It all started Saturday afternoon at Medinah, when Ian Poulter birdied the final five holes as he and Rory McIlroy rallied to beat Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner, 1-up. That set the stage for Europe's comeback win.
Choosing from those five birdies would be tough, but there were more to chose from in Sunday's singles matches. During Sunday's matches, the European team went 10-2 on the 17th and 18th holes sinking clutch putt after clutch putt.
Maybe the biggest putt of them all came from Justin Rose. He poured in a 40- footer for birdie on the 17th to square his match with Phil Mickelson. If that putt didn't hit the hole, it easily would have ran 10 feet by and opened the door to Mickelson closing out the match.
Instead, the putt fell and Europe's improbable comeback was moving full speed ahead.
And if Rose's putt wasn't the biggest, Martin Kaymer's was. The former PGA Champion holed a 6-footer at the last to seal Europe's comeback.
Another putt was among the top shots considered, but this one was a miss. I.K. Kim missed a 1-foot tap-in on the final hole of the Kraft Nabisco Championship and that cost her the title. Also considered was Bubba Watson's hook shot at the Masters, as well as Louis Oosthuizen's and Nick Watney's double-eagles at the Masters and U.S. Open respectively, Corey Pavin's back-handed chip at the Allianz Championship and Hudson Swafford's sand shot at the Stadion Classic.
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR -- THE RYDER CUP
There were majors on both the PGA and LPGA Tour that had plenty of drama, but there was nothing that matched the atmosphere at this year's Ryder Cup.
The U.S. team looked like a runaway train the first 15 matches of this year's Ryder Cup. Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson rolled to three straight wins, before taking the fourth session off.
Those two seemingly carried the U.S. to an 8-4 lead after three sessions. In the afternoon fourballs, things started to change late in the day.
The Americans won the first two matches to surge to a 10-4 lead. The Europeans got a little closer when Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald fended off Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.
It was the final match of the day that set the tone for Sunday's singles. Ian Poulter birdied the last five holes to give he and Rory McIlroy an improbable 1-up win over Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, who had won their first two matches together.
Trailing by four points entering the final day, the Europeans won the first five matches in singles action before Martin Kaymer sealed the remarkable comeback in the penultimate match.
Tiger Woods lost the final hole to give the Europeans the victory. If he had halved the hole, the matches would have been halved, but the Euros would have retained the cup.
Regardless, the European team was going to party like rock stars after matching the greatest comeback in event history.
The first three majors on the PGA Tour -- the Masters with Bubba Watson's playoff win, the U.S. Open with Webb Simpson's rally and Adam Scott collapse at the British Open -- were also considered as were the Kraft Nabisco, the Dubai Desert Classic, the U.S. Senior Open and the Chiquita Classic.
Roger Chapman posted only two top-10 finishes on the Champions Tour, but both were wins and both victories were at major championships. He won the Senior PGA and U.S. Senior Open by two strokes, and both titles happened in the state of Michigan.
Jason Dufner won twice and finished second three other times, and ended the season with 21 consecutive cuts made.
Branden Grace won five times worldwide to match Rory McIlroy for the most wins in 2012. Four of Grace's wins were on the European Tour, making him the first player in European Tour history to win four times after gaining his tour card for that season at Q School.
Tom Lehman won his second major on the Champions Tour, the Regions Tradition, and capped the season with a victory at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. That also gave Lehman his second straight title in the season-long race for the Charles Schwab Cup.
Stacy Lewis led the LPGA with four wins, tied for the tour lead in top-5 (12) and top-10 finishes (16). Three of those top-10 finishes came in the four majors, where she shared second at the LPGA Championship, fourth at the Kraft Nabisco and eighth at the Women's British Open.
Louis Oosthuizen had two wins and 11 worldwide top-5 finishes. His double- eagle at the Masters could have been the shot of the year, but ended up not even being the shot of the tournament after Bubba Watson's hook shot from the trees helped the left-hander beat Oosthuizen at Augusta.
Tiger Woods finally won on the PGA Tour again as he titled at the three of his favorite courses -- Bay Hill, Muirfield Village and Congressional.
Ryan Armour posted 26 starts on the Web.com Tour, but only made four cuts.
John Cook won three times in 2011, but was held without a victory in 2012.
Carlos Del Moral and Peter Hedblom had the most starts, 29, on the European Tour and still finished outside the top 119 on the Order of Merit.
Jim Furyk managed to finish 12th on the money list, but he coughed up the U.S. Open and the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational before posting a 1-2 mark at the Ryder Cup, where he lost the final two holes to Sergio Garcia to lose his singles match, 1-down.
J.J. Killeen had the most PGA Tour starts (33) for those that finished outside the top 150 on the money list.
Outside of Stacy Lewis, it was tough year for American women's golf. Natalie Gulbis finished 42nd, Morgan Pressel was three spots below her and Michelle Wie ended just 64th on the money list.
12/24 13:31:55 ET
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