With only the President’s Cup at Muirfield Village left as a significant event on the PGA Tour and the last of the ‘five’ LPGA majors in the books, this might be a good time to look at some of the top stories in the professional ranks in 2013. Let’s do it by the numbers.
15 – 1
Literally beginning at the start, it was a good local story on the national tour that stirred the golf ranks in St. Louis. Making his PGA Tour debut as an official member of the Tour, St. Louisan Scott Langley tossed a tidy 62 at the field at the Sony Hawaiian Open. He followed with rounds of 66-65 and was very much in the hunt on Sunday for a rookie win, but his fourth round 70 left him T3 and $324,800 richer.
Unfortunately for the lefthander the rest of the year didn’t match the auspicious start. Over his next 26 events he missed the cut 15 times. Nonetheless he managed to add one more significant number – 124. The top 125 finish got him into the Fed Ex series for a week and back on the PGA Tour for a second year.
5 – 0
There was a time when Tiger Woods defined a good year as one that included a major win. That was before he began to make majorless years a common occurrence. For the fifth straight season Woods was left empty in his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’s 18 career majors but has suggested that his five PGA Tour wins make this a very good year.
Woods five wins came in events where he had previously been successful, and his winning percentage for the year at 33% is still beyond the imagination of any other player. He also inched closer to the all time record for career wins by Sam Snead (82) by raising his total to 79.
32+32+36 = 3
There was a time when major winners were typically profiled as veterans who had paid their dues before crashing the major winner circle. Then along came Tiger Woods and players in there 20’s seemed the most likely candidates.
In 2013, the ‘mid-pros’ collected all but one of the four majors and the fourth went to an even more senior player. Australian Adam Scott had been one of those twenty somethings expected to win a major, but when he slipped into his first green jacket at Augusta his drivers license read age 32.
Justin Rose made his first run at a major win when he was still in his teens, but his US Open win at Merion also came at 32. In the year’s last American major it was a 36 year old, Jason Dufner, who made it three straight first time major winners in the US this year.
19 – 1
For half of this golf year it looked like Phil Mickelson would be avoiding the number 6 when he played the Powerball. The lefthander made it six runner-up finishes at the US Open when he faltered down the stretch on Sunday at Merion.
As it turns out the number he will be punching in for the next lottery is 19. After eighteen mostly ineffective appearances at the Open Championship in Britain, Mickelson played a brilliant final nine at Muirfield and collected the major most never thought would be his. His remaining number is four because if he can cross the finish line once at the US Open he will join the most exclusive group in golf – career Grand Slam winners.
621 – 6
Henrik Stenson was born and raised in Sweden but his golf career is reminiscent of a story from the Middle East and the Bible. Twice he has climbed the ranks of professional golf only to slip back into obscurity.
Golf’s Lazarus went into the final stop on the PGA Tour in Atlanta ranked sixth in the world, and his performance for the week almost certainly will move him higher. The best player in golf for the last three months on the calendar will start 2014 in the Top 5 in the world. A significant climb from a perch that saw him ranked 621 only a few years earlier.
3 – 2
For a while it appeared that the story of the year in golf would come from the female side of the game. Korea’s Inbee Park put together a historic run through the LPGA first three majors, collecting wins at Nabisco, McDonald’s and the Women’s Open. In a span of less than a year her total wins equaled eight.
She was poised to become the first player ever to win four consecutive majors in the same year and do it at St. Andrews and the Women’s British Open. But the winds and probably hype left her well back of American Stacy Lewis at T42 and she has not posted a top ten finish since her final major win on Long Island in June.
On the PGA Tour Jordan Spieth at 19 became the youngest winner in more than eighty years when he won a playoff at John Deere, but Spieth looks like an elder statesman compared to the LPGA’s Lydia Ko.
The amateur from New Zealand by way of Korea picked up her first LPGA win at the Canadian Open at age fifteen and returned this year to make it two in a row at the venerable age of 16. In addition she has wins in three other professional events around the world and has let it be known that before she qualifies for the cover of Seventeen Magazine she will be collecting paychecks to go along with her trophies.
Although not yet officially posted the PGA Tour will pass the $2,000,000,000 mark for charitable donations in the Tour’s history and the beneficiaries of that fund raising effort whose lives have been changed are beyond measure.