2013 - The golfing year in review
BY Bruce Young | 18 Dec 2013
As the 2013 golfing year winds to a close it is perhaps a good time to look back on the year and see what and who made a difference amongst both the game’s elite and the Australians.
The year began with Rory McIlroy as the world number one player ahead of Luke Donald, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Adam Scott and ended with Woods returning to his number one position ahead of Scott and Henrik Stenson.
Stenson moved from 53rd to 3rd during 2013 making him perhaps the biggest mover and shaker amongst the elite players.
But it was once again the major championships that would play a role in the highlights of the year, Adam Scott setting the ball rolling with his dramatic playoff win at Augusta National, not only breaking through for his first major championship but silencing the many who had scorned his previous best effort in a major when losing his way over the closing stages of the 2012 Open Championship.
To have made his first major championship the one Australians had been crying out for since the event’s inception in 1934 made the victory even more special.
“What an incredible day,” said Scott after his round. "Everything fell my way in the end I guess. I just kept plugging away. You never know. I didn’t know if was going to happen through nine but a good back nine here solves a lot and gives you a chance.
“I am just so proud of myself and everyone around me who had helped me. The list is just so long I can’t do thank yous. I am a proud Australian and I hope this sits really well back home and even in New Zealand. With Steve we are a trans Tasman combo.
“It was so great to have my Dad here. A hug with him behind the 10th green when it was all over was something I will never forget.”
A few weeks later it would be Justin Rose breaking through for his first major championship rapidly reducing the those who could be considered the best player without a major championship.
Fifteen years after turning professional and yet still only 32, Rose became the first Englishman since Tony Jacklin 43 years earlier to win the US Open to win by two over Australian Jason Day and Phil Mickelson.
“I’ve been striving my whole life really to win a major championship, said Rose. "I’ve holed a putt to win a major championship hundreds of thousands of times on the putting green at home. And preparing for this tournament, I dream about the moment of having a putt to win. Pretty happy it was a two incher on the last.
“But that’s as a professional golfer, I mean this is the pinnacle of the game, winning major championships, and to win the United States Open Championship is, I guess in a way, very fitting of how my game has been the last couple of years.
“Last year leading greens in regulation and this year sort of being No. 1, I think, in total driving coming into the week. I felt like this tournament really began to be on my radar as possibly the one major championship that would suit me the most. I had always felt good at Augusta, always dreamed about winning The Open Championship, but I thought this one actually might have been my best chance.
“I really targeted Merion. Philadelphia’s been a good town to me and certainly a great town for my caddie too. So I just love it when a plan comes together. It’s kind of how this week felt, to be honest with you.”
The victory played a key role in Rose finishing the year in 4th position in the world ranking. It would be his only victory in 2013 but there were seven other top five finishes amounting to an amazingly consistent season.
The Open Championship proved a surprise of sorts although the victory by Phil Mickelson in Scotland the week prior to the Open Championship gave a hint of an increasing versatility in the 42 year’s old’s game and a growing capacity to handle the vagaries of British Golf.
Mickelson held off challenges from Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood, Scott actually having the lead during the final round before struggling down the stretch.
The victory took Mickelson to the number two position in the game at that point and although he finished the year in 5th position in the world ranking he had added a whole new dimension to how he is perceived in terms of greatness.
The only major Mickelson does not claim to his name amongst his now five major championship titles is the one he has perhaps been the most consistent in, the US Open, but there is little doubt he has entered the realms of greatness as far as the history of the game is concerned.
“This is just an amazing feeling to win this great championship and to play probably the best round of my career makes it even better,” said Mickelson.
“I hit some of the best shots I have ever hit, putted better than I have ever putted and you know I was getting ready to play earlier and I thought I needed to bring my ’A’ game today and I needed to show up and play some of my best golf and I did. I played some of the best golf of my career.
“I think that the last eight or nine years, I’ve started to play better golf in links style, better golf in bad weather, better golf along the ground and I’ve gotten a lot better. But it is still a challenge for me and it’s still not something that I grew up doing and it’s still something that I’m trying to learn as I continue through my career. So I’m always cautiously optimistic.”
Then it was the PGA Championship where Jason Dufner gained some retribution for his playoff loss in 2011 when winning by two over Jim Furyk and by three over Henrik Stenson.
“Today was a tough day,” he said. "The golf course, again, played pretty tough. Me and Jim, it kind of came down to a two man race there at the end. He’s a great champion and he’s played so well in so many Majors, and he’s been there before.
“So it was a tough test for me. The golf course was tough, but you know, like you said, my name will always be on this trophy, and nobody can take that away from me, so it’s a great accomplishment for me and I’m really excited about it.”
Dufner would end the year in 15th position in the world ranking.
The WGC events, established in 1999 to allow the elite play against the elite on a more regular basis were won by Matt Kuchar, Tiger Woods (2) Dustin Johnson while Tiger Woods won the Players Championship and Henrik Stenson won the Tour Championship and became the Fed Ex Cup Champion in the process.
Stenson also won the money list in both Europe and the USA completing a great comeback season.
Woods secured the Player of the Year trophy having won five times on the PGA Tour including the Players Championship, the WGC Bridgestone, the WGC Cadillac and at what must be his favourite piece of golfing real estate, Torrey Pines. He did not win a major but again won big events against elite fields.
In women’s golf Yani Tseng began the year in 1st position on the Rolex World Ranking but by year’s end she had slipped to 32nd, an amazing fall from the giddy heights of an almost unbeatable reign eighteen months earlier.
Taking her place at the top of the female game were Stacy Lewis then Inbee Park who won six events in the first six months of the year including the first three majors and although she was unable to win again she held off strong challenges from Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis to retain her number one position.
The story of 2013 in women’s golf however might well have been the continuing rise of now 16 year old New Zealander Lydia Ko. Ko began the year by winning her own national open then added victories at the Canadian Open and, in just her second event as a professional, late in the year won an event in Korea.
Ko finished the season in 4th position in the Rolex Ranking and now appears if the golfing world is at her feet.
In Japan Hideki Matsuyama lived up to the reputation he gained as an amateur by winning on four occasions in his rookie season, finished inside the top ten in two major championships and established himself a world class player finishing the year in 23rd position in the world and finishing in a clear first position on the Japan Tour money list.
In Asia Kiradech Aphibarnrat was a clear winner of their money list, although Australia’s Scott Hend did well to finish runner-up after three wins on the Asian Tour schedule.
From a stand alone Australian perspective Adam Scott’s was both a breakthrough and standout year. Breakthrough because of his success at Augusta National, finally ending the 13 year wait for Australian golf fans for his amazing talent to be realised in the form of a major championship.
Scott would also win the Barclays on the PGA tour, the Australian PGA Championship and the Australian Masters, finished runner-up at the Australian Open and was third at the World Cup of Golf.
It was not only what the 33 year old was achieving on the golf course however as he almost single handedly carried the summer of golf in Australia with his humility and preparedness to give himself to the Australian golfing public.
The crowds that flocked to more especially the Australian PGA Championship and the Australian Open, were there to celebrate with Scott what he had achieved for himself and the game in his homeland and he handled the task with class and humility.
He might be a different personality to Greg Norman but in many ways he was achieving the same result, namely rekindling interest in the game.
Jason Day also played his part in the golfing resurgence winning the individual title at the World Cup of Golf and playing a key role in he and Scott taking the team title. Day was finally showing to Australian fans what he had been displaying in the US for several years, namely that he has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Norman and Scott and perhaps eventually set even higher standards.
Marc Leishman had a another good solid year on the PGA Tour, finishing a very impressive 4th at the US Masters and had the privilege of a front row seat as Scott created Australian golfing folklore by being the first Australian to win the Green Jacket.
Leishman capped his year by being selected as a Captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup team.
The effort of Arizona based Sydneysider, Matt Jones, should not be forgotten either. Jones finished the year with US$1.725 million, his best by US$500,000 and was 48th on the money list.
Brett Rumford had his best ever season on the European Tour, winning twice in succession in Asia early in the season and finishing 17th in the race to Dubai standings with earnings of nearly €1.3 million.
Karrie Webb was again far and away Australia’s best female golfer. She won three times including her eighth victory at the Volvik RACV Royal Pines Ladies Masters, the Shoprite LPGA Classic in the US and at the Ladies European Masters. She has finished the season in 8th position in the World.
Webb is the only Australian female inside the top 10 in the Rolex Ranking and continues to build her claims for the mantle as Australia’s greatest ever of either sex.
Of the Australian amateurs it has been again a great year. Oliver Goss reached the final of the US Amateur before being beaten by brilliant British talent Matthew Fitzpatrick but earns a start at the Masters and the US Open in 2014.
Brady Watt was one of the world’s leading ranked amateurs before turning professional late in the year, his highlight perhaps making the semi finals of the US Amateur before being beaten by Goss.
Cameron Smith finished his amateur career with a victory at the Australian Amateur Championship before turning professional midyear.
The female amateurs in Australia have also done well with Minjee Lee the Australian Amateur Champion and Su Hyun Oh finishing runner-up to Karrie Webb at the Ladies Masters in February.
It has been an outstanding year for golf generally and specifically for Australian golf. The boost the success of Adam Scott and perhaps a wider range of Australians has given the game is hopefully the catalyst for more and although the two do not automatically follow there is a level of positivity about the game that has been missing for several years.
Thank you Adam Scott.