There’s plenty to reflect on and plenty to look forward to.
My favorite moment of the year? More like moments, and I’ll get to some of them in The Back Nine. That’s the great thing about golf. It’s like a new Super Bowl just about every week.
Actually, golf is a lot like the NFL these days. There’s plenty of parity to go around. I don’t expect 2013 to be any different.
Consider this: There were 37 different winners on TOUR in 2012. Of them, only two players, Rory McIlroy with four wins and Tiger Woods with three, won more than twice.
That number may change in 2013 but not by much, not with the depth of talent that is today’s game.
Now for a look back at 2012, and a look ahead to 2013.
THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT 2012 AND 2013
1. The two things that stand out most to me about Rory McIlroy, and consequently 2012: A back-nine birdie at The Honda Classic as Tiger Woods was making eagle five holes ahead of him on the 18th and roars were reverberating across PGA National; and his eight-shot victory at the PGA Championship. Each was significant for a different reason. Both signaled a new era in golf.
2. A season doesn’t boil down to a single shot, but one can encapsulate it, or at least a player, and none fits that bill better than Bubba Watson’s wickedly carved wedge from the woods in his playoff victory at the Masters, a tournament that almost never fails to deliver high drama.
3. Stat of the Year I: Winning is hard. We saw that more than ever with 54-hole leaders winning just 16 of 44 times on TOUR in 2012. Why? It’s a combination of things but is mostly attributable to the depth of talent I mentioned earlier.
4. For every failure was a chance for redemption. None were better than Kyle Stanley’s or Ernie Els’.
5. Stat of the Year II: $122 million. That’s how much the TOUR raised in charitable dollars in 2012. Big number, big impact in communities all across the country.
6. Golf on the TOUR is also as healthy as ever with 28 of the top 30 in the year-end Official World Golf Ranking members of the TOUR for 2013 (No. 29 Paul Lawrie and No. 30 Francesco Molinari are the exceptions).
7. I think Rory McIlroy wins at least one major next season, which isn’t exactly going out on a limb. I think Brandt Snedeker could, too. I see Snedeker winning twice, somewhere, next year.
8. Tiger Woods? Who knows. At 37 years old he’s fighting younger players and Father Time. He made progress in 2012, winning three times and gaining a greater grasp of the swing changes he’s been working on with coach Sean Foley. Woods will win, I think, next season, but how often is anyone’s guess.
9. Happy holidays. It’s been a blast. See you next season … in four days.
QUOTES OF THE YEAR
"I never made it this far in my dreams." -- Bubba Watson, in the Butler Cabin talking about dreaming of winning the Masters when he was growing up in the Florida Panhandle.
“The rest of the field had that same shot to hit today and I'm pretty sure no one hit as (expletive) a shot as I did. I did the worst job of handling it and I have no one to blame but myself. I should have hit a different shot off the tee. – Jim Furyk following his loss at the U.S. Open, where he badly hooked a tee shot on 16th hole in the final round at The Olympic Club.
"I really feel for my buddy, Scottie, I really do. I've been there before. I've blown majors before and golf tournaments before, and I just hope he doesn't take it as hard as I did. I said to him, I'm sorry how things turned out. I told him that I've been there many times and you've just got to bounce back quickly. Don't let this thing linger." -- Ernie Els on Adam Scott's collapse at the British Open, and what he said to his good friend afterward.
TWEETS OF THE YEAR
@PaulAzinger: For Phil to beat Tiger by 11 shots and in front of Romo no less, must feel pretty good. -- Azinger after Mickelson beat Woods, and everyone else, at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
@LukeDonald: Congrats @McIlroyRory enjoy the view! -- The former No. 1 congratulating the current No. 1 after McIlroy’s victory at The Honda Classic.
@ogilviej: Assume this will be the smallest gallery @TigerWoods has played in front of since he was 12. Possible that he is at a disadvantage -- Joe Ogilvie during the AT&T National, where fans weren’t allowed on the course for third round after a storm caused heavy damage the night before. Woods went on to win.
@GeoffOgilvy: I am happy for Ernie, but I feel sick right now – Ogilvy following an epic collapse by Adam Scott at the British Open that resulted in another Claret Jug for Ernie Els.
@McIlroyRory: Wow!!!!!!! Did that just happen!!!!??? Unbelievable performance from all the boys today! Seve..... This one is for you!! -- McIlroy following Europe’s improbable final-day comeback to win the Ryder Cup.
Which newcomers will make an impact on TOUR this season? -- Dan Schacherer
It depends on how you look at it, Dan. Martin Kaymer, for example, will technically be a rookie on TOUR this year since it’s his first year as a full-time member. Same with Peter Hanson. Then there are guys like Patrick Reed and Luke List, each of whom, in my opinion, could win after what were stellar amateur careers and a stint on the Web.com Tour for List and a ridiculous record of Monday qualifying six times for Reed.
How many wins each for Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson this coming year? -- C.J. Allard
I think Tiger wins at least twice if not as many as four times in 2013, including a major (probably the Masters). Watson is harder to predict, but he’s improved each of the last couple of years and I think that continues next season when I think Watson will once, maybe twice. He’s just too talented not to.
FORWARD SPIN: WHO I LIKE THIS WEEK
The 2013 season starts in exactly four days. So what can we expect? One word comes to mind: Parity. As I mentioned earlier, there were 37 different winners on TOUR last season with no one having won more than four times. This is how golf used to be BTW (Before Tiger Woods). He changed the paradigm and our perspective. That said, here are two more words for 2013: Rory McIlroy. The 23-year-old is the only player who will come close to having the type of dominance Woods had for a decade or so (and I still don’t think he’ll quite approach that level of supremacy).