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2010 PGA Tour Year In Review
Kevin Currie, Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The 2010 PGA Tour season had plenty of news from off the course, while Europe's best players made lots of noise on course on both sides of the pond.
Three top Americans battled injuries and personal woes, while Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson had coming-out parties.
Tiger Woods struggled throughout the season. His car accident last November led to him going to rehab, and eventually to his divorce. For the first time as a professional, Woods went the entire year without a win.
As if his struggles weren't enough, Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim battled arthritis and injury, respectively. While those three struggled, Jim Furyk and Kuchar picked up their games and Johnson became an emerging presence despite coughing up two majors.
The Europeans dominated the biggest events. If you combine the four majors and the four World Golf Championships, Europeans won four of the eight, including three majors.
One of Europe's major champions, U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell, also holed the winning putt at the Ryder Cup. Lee Westwood, who late in the year took over the top spot in the world rankings, collected his first PGA Tour title.
Rory McIlroy (more on him later) and Justin Rose also won big-name events. McIlroy won at Quail Hollow, while Rose picked up victories at the Memorial and the AT&T National.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR - The wily veteran
A pair of U.S. Ryder Cup players -- Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar -- were among those up for the Player of the Year award. The choice here is Furyk.
The man with the home-built swing picked up three PGA Tour wins this season to raise his career total to 16. One of his biggest to date took place in September.
Earlier in the year, Furyk visited the winner's circle at the Transitions Championship and the Verizon Heritage.
At the Tour Championship, Furyk held off Retief Goosen and Luke Donald to earn the second biggest win of his career. Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, finished second on the money list for the second time in his career, thanks in part to seven top-10 finishes.
Furyk also won the FedEx Cup.
He gets the nod over Kuchar, who won only once, but had the best season of his career.
Ernie Els, Dustin Johnson, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan all won twice this season and were also considered.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - The young Ulsterman
The top-two rookies finished 22nd and 26th on the PGA Tour money list and picking one over the other was just as tough. The PGA Tour players voted for Rickie Fowler, No. 22 on the money list, but the pick here is No. 26, Rory McIlroy.
The 21-year-old from Northern Ireland gets the nod thanks in part to his victory at the Quail Hollow Championship. It wasn't just that he won, but how he did it.
McIlroy, who turned 21 two days after the win, fired a 10-under 62 in the final round to fly past major champions Phil Mickelson and Angel Cabrera for the victory.
He made the cut on the number on Friday, then posted 16-under par over the final two days to come from out of nowhere to get to the winner's circle.
McIlroy missed the cut at the season's first two majors, but he came back to tie for third at the final two majors. McIlroy finished well behind British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen at St. Andrews, then missed the playoff at the PGA Championship by a single stroke.
Fowler, who had a pair of runner-up finishes at Phoenix and the Memorial, could have done more. He made 12 more starts on the PGA Tour than McIlroy did, and had eight more made cuts, but failed to win.
As Herman Edwards once said, "You play to win the game!" Therefore, McIlroy's win helps him get the nod as our Rookie of the Year.
SHOT OF THE YEAR - A pair of iron shots
Two iron shots shaped the first and final majors of 2010. A left-handed six- iron and a right-handed four-iron. One good, the other, not so much.
Heading to the 12th tee at Augusta, Phil Mickelson was tied for the lead, but the fireworks were about to start. He birdied the par-three to move ahead of the field, then he hit his drive on the par-five 13th into the trees.
In typical Mickelson fashion, a lay up was not in the cards. He hit a miraculous six-iron, off pine straw and through a pair of trees, to four feet. Even though he missed the eagle putt, Mickelson made birdie to extend his lead to two strokes.
Mickelson went for broke and succeeded.
At the season's final major, it was a four-iron that made the difference. However, it wasn't where the shot landed, but what happened before the shot was struck.
Dustin Johnson, who had coughed up the U.S. Open earlier in the year, was leading the PGA Championship on the 18th tee. He pushed his drive right of the fairway in the middle of the massive crowd.
Not realizing he was in a bunker, Johnson grounded his four-iron behind the ball as he prepared to hit the shot. He tugged the shot left of the green. Johnson would walk off with a bogey thinking he was about to join Bubba Watson and eventual champion Martin Kaymer in a playoff.
Johnson was greeted by an official as he walked off the green and told there might be a problem with his grounding a club in a bunker. Johnson had no idea he had been in a bunker for his second shot.
"Walking up there, seeing the shot, never once did it cross my mind it was a sand trap," Johnson said in television interview after the round.
He was penalized two strokes for grounding his club in a bunker and ended up two strokes out of the playoff and in a tie for fifth.
Mickelson's six-iron clinched his Masters title and Johnson's four-iron cost him a shot at his first major championship title.
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR - The U.S. Open
The U.S. Open had just about everything you want in a major. Besides the amazing scenery at Pebble Beach, there was a hopeful first-time major winner in the lead with Tiger Woods among those trying to chase him down.
Dustin Johnson won the Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier in the year and was on the short list of favorites entering the U.S. Open. Through three rounds, Johnson did not disappoint.
He finished 54 holes at six-under par and was three shots clear of Graeme McDowell and five ahead of Woods, who scorched Pebble Beach en route to winning the U.S. Open title in 2000.
Johnson was out of contention by the seventh hole as he crashed to a final- round 82 that left him five off the pace.
McDowell was in charge on the back nine, but not only was Woods in his rearview mirror, so was two-time U.S. Open winner Ernie Els and four-time major champion Phil Mickelson.
No player that finished in the top-five on the leaderboard broke par in the final round, so McDowell's closing 74 was enough to give the Northern Irishman his first major championship title. He held off France's Gregory Havret, who closed with a one-over 72 to take second at plus-one.
McDowell became the first European in 40 years to win the U.S. Open. England's Tony Jacklin was the last when he won at Hazeltine in 1970.
Els and Mickelson both shot 73. Els took third, while Mickelson joined Woods (75) in fourth at plus-three.
The Masters and PGA Championship were among the other top tournaments in 2010.
- Graeme McDowell, not only won his first major, but he also clinched the Ryder Cup for Europe. His great year started late in 2009, when he replaced Tiger Woods at Woods' Chevron event. McDowell took second there, which helped him move inside the world top-50, which in turn got him into the Masters. He won three times and had nine top-10s worldwide in 2010.
- Phil Mickelson won his third Masters, but was diagnosed with a rare form of arthritis later in the year. That hurt his results as the season went on, but he still managed six top-10 finishes.
- Dustin Johnson coughed up a pair of major championships, but had two victories among his seven top-10 finishes.
- Quietly, like he does most things, Retief Goosen posted the second-most top-10 finishes this season. The South African had 10 top-10s, including five in his first seven starts.
- Matt Kuchar topped the money list as he earned more than $4.9 million, had the most top-10 finishes (11) and won the Vardon Trophy for best scoring average (69.61) on the PGA Tour.
- Stuart Appleby might not have had a great season overall, but he fired a 59 to win the Greenbrier Classic.
- Tiger Woods didn't win, got divorced, stopped working with his swing coach, missed part of the year because he was in rehab and lost the top spot in the world rankings. Tried to salvage his season with a 3-1 record at the Ryder Cup.
- Vijay Singh had just one top-five and two top-ten finishes all year. He finished outside the top-35 in all four majors and his best finish in a WGC was a tie for 11th at the CA Championship.
- Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen lost his full-time status on the PGA Tour by finishing 147th on the money list. He tried to regain full status at Q School, but ended well off the pace there as well.