With the season ending Tour Championship all wrapped up and the silly season about to begin, it is time that we at SIRSHANKSALOT.COM take a look at the past year… the highs, lows and in-betweens.
Vijay Singh. What more can be said about the man from Fiji. Since the start of the 2003 season Vijay has been absolutely on fire. Nine wins this year, eighteen top-tens, nearly eleven million in earnings and the new number one player in the world. 'Nuff said.
John Daly. Eight and a half years since his last win, The British Open at St. Andrews, Daly won The Buick Invitational in a dramatic playoff beating up-and-comers Luke Donald and Chris Riley. Perhaps most impressively Big John showed off his delicate touch around the greens with a hundred foot bunker shot stopping inches from the cup. The unpredictable but always entertaining Daly came very close to playing his first Ryder Cup ever in his best season in recent memory. Looks like his exes will be wearing more than just Rolex's after banking over $2 million this year.
European Ryder Cup Team. Domination, humiliation, jubilation. Any of these could describe one of the most severe Ryder Cup beatings ever laid down. We'll just stick with humbling. True the Europeans play better as a team but the talent level on the European Tour is much higher than they are given credit for.
Luke Donald. Four top ten finishes on the PGA. Two victories in Europe. Watch out for this young man.
Michelle Wie. At the age of 14 Wie took time out of her busy Grade 8 schedule to come out to the Sony Open and prove that she can play with the big boys. In her first attempt at playing on the PGA Tour Wie missed the cut by one stroke. SHE WAS BORN IN 1989. Let that soak in for a few minutes.
Retief Goosen. Added a second U.S. Open to his list of accomplishments as well as winning the season-ending Tour Championship and the Smurfit European Open. Is it possible that the man currently sitting fourth in the world rankings is also the most underrated player in the world?
Jay Haas. At fifty years old Haas took a pass on the Champions Tour to play with the young guys and proved he could. Despite now having gone eleven seasons without a Tour win Jay finished 27th on the money list with nine top-ten finishes.
Annika Sorenstam. She didn't have the success in the majors she was looking for but the Swede still won seven times and continued her dominance of the LPGA.
PGA, Champions, and Nationwide Tours. Besides giving us one of the most memorable golf seasons to date the number of charities that receive benefits continues to grow. The three tours should reach a combined total of $1 billion donated to charity sometime in 2006. And that excludes the donations given by individual players.
The Slump. Talk about Tiger's "slump" overshadowed some great play by other golfers this year. Tiger still managed to win another World Series event, capture fourteen top-ten finishes, and finish the year second in the world rankings and fourth on the Tour money list. And if you ask me Tiger as a man is becoming infinitely more fun to watch. Despite struggling through the so-called slump, Tiger was flashing that huge smile on the course more often this year than ever before. The newly married man certainly looked like he enjoyed himself more this year on the golf course even though his play was sub par compared to the lofty expectations he has set for himself.
Mark Hensby. After capturing his first victory at the John Deere Classic in July and qualifying for the British Open at the same time, Hensby declined the opportunity to play citing lack of experience in the majors as the reason. He may have had a good season overall but will always be remembered for giving up the chance to play in the biggest tournament in the world.
Phil Mickelson. After winning his first major at The Masters and coming within several strokes of winning the Grand Slam, Phil's season will largely be remembered for his selfish play at the Ryder Cup. Phil's decision to switch golf clubs a week earlier and to not practice with the team certainly didn't help him win over any fans. He might not have been the only reason the American's got creamed but he was a big one.
U.S. Open. It is a shame that the USGA continues to trick up its golf courses in an effort to try and keep anyone from breaking par. It may have worked this year at Shinnecock with only two players under par at the end of four rounds but it also takes the entertainment value out of the sport. As a fan of the game I want to see the best players hitting great shots on great golf courses. If I wanted to watch somebody four-putt I'd go play with my buddies and take lunch off them. Shinnecock Hills was more like watching a Mini-Golf tournament, whoever gets it through the windmill first wins. Hopefully the USGA has taken notice of how well the PGA Championship has been played in recent years.
Ernie Els. Had a great season, led the European Tour Order of Merit, second on the PGA money list, wins all over the world. Will he ever live down his performance in the majors where he was oh so close each time but couldn't get the job done?
Arnold Palmer. It was a sad day when Arnie crossed Hogan's bridge on number 12 for the last time.
Poulter's Pants. The Union Jack or the Stars and Stripes? Love the clothes or hate them you have to like the guy for trying to spice things up a little bit. After all, it's better than wearing red every Sunday. Poulter has the play to back it up too. Watch for him in the upcoming years.
David Duval. Coming back from all the ailments he has gone through lately is probably a huge accomplishment on its own. Unfortunately Duval's play picked up right where it left off before his sabbatical.
Equipment. For the first time in recent years there wasn't a sizeable increase in driving distance. If this trend continues it may prevent some great golf courses from becoming obsolete. Doesn't help us average schmo's though.
Sergio Garcia. Two wins plus one on the Euro tour. Had a career defining Ryder Cup winning 4.5 points but when is the Spaniard going to jump into greatness and start winning some majors?
Well, that about wraps up our year in review. Keep checking back as we begin to look forward to 2005.