2013 was a year of firsts, of near firsts, of comebacks, some from the dead, some just within the moment, on the PGA Tour. It was a great and memorable season and some of what happened will be remembered years from now with fondness.
It was also a year that had fallbacks, and struggles of one of the PGA Tour's brightest stars. It was a year of controversy, both on the course and off. One can hope that those things will be distant memories in a very short while. We won't focus on those here.
It's difficult not to look back with fondness at Adam Scott's career making win at The Masters in April. Here was a man, who in his early 30's had a heartbreaking loss at the 2012 Open Championship, where he led by four strokes with four holes to play, only to collapse and hand Ernie Els a career reviving victory. We asked, would Adam Scott recover? His playoff victory over Angel Cabrera at Augusta that landed him the Green Jacket proved not only could he recover from disappointment, he could do it under pressure. Finally, his outstanding play throughout the rest of the season, with a third place finish at the U.S. Open, and a win at the Barclay's, demonstrates that his Master's win won't be his last Major Championship. He will win more.
And what about Justin Rose? With his clutch win at the U.S. Open at Merion, he became the first Englishman to do so since Tony Jacklin in 1970. He was also the first Englishman to win a Major Championship of any kind since Sir Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters. As he stood in the fairway on number 18 at Merion, near the same spot as Ben Hogan stood back 63 years earlier in his historic win, we watched in awe as Rose striped his approach shot onto the green to give himself a two putt par that would eventually ensure victory.
That victory turned out to be at the expense of Phil Mickelson, who earlier in the final round at Merion, had taken the lead on the field with a brilliant hole out eagle on the tenth hole. As had happened five times previously though, Lefty made a couple of mistakes on the back nine that cost him and he ended finishing tied for second for a sixth time. We wondered if Phil would ever win another Major Championship, let alone ever win the U.S. Open once.
We didn't have to wonder long about the former. Phil Mickelson managed to win the one Major Championship that most fans of golf never dreamed he would. The Open Championship at Muirfield. A lifetime of stubbornness had limited Lefty's times in contention at the Open Championship, but in recent years, he showed signs of embracing the type of golf it takes to win one. His win at the Scottish Open the week before this year's Open Championship gave him a sign of hope.
Mickelson began the final round at Muirfield five strokes behind leader Lee Westwood, in a tie for ninth. It didn't seem likely that Mickelson could be a factor, with not only Westwood leading, but with Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, and Zack Johnson all ahead of him. Surely one of them would go low and take the Claret Jug.
But Phil turned into Phil at the right magical moment. Sitting at +1 on the 13th tee, Mickelson proceeded to birdie four of the last six holes to not only win, but to blow the field away by three strokes, leaving even runner up Henrik Stenson in the dust at even par. The shot of the tournament, possibly the shot of the year, was Mickelson's daring second shot at the par five 17th. It was fraught with risk, but he pured his 5 wood onto the green for an eagle opportunity that turned into a tap in birdie. He crowned that effort with another unlikely birdie on 18 sending the mostly British throng into a frenzy as he marched up the 18th fairway.
Finally the season closed with Jason Dufner's machine like win at the PGA Championship, that set off a nationwide frenzy about "dufnering". Dufner cemented his way into the world elite among golfers in a Major Championship that he nearly won only two years earlier. It showed us that regular guys are winners too.
The other two big moments on the year were more around individual competitors rather than moments. One was the world stage entrance of golf's next superstar, Jordan Spieth, who became the first teenager to win a PGA event in 82 years with his victory at the John Deere Classic. His play throughout this year, a year that began with Spieth having no PGA Tour status whatsoever, earned him not only a seventh place finish in the FedEx Cup race, but a place on Team USA as one one of Fred Couple's captain's pick for the upcoming President's Cup.
And finally, there is Henrik Stenson. Perhaps the greatest Swede to ever play on the PGA Tour, he began the year ranked outside the top 200 world rankings, and finished it by playing the best golf of anybody down the stretch. He won twice during a three week stretch of the playoffs, and coupled that with runner ups in the Scottish Open and The Open Championship. He culminated the year with his win this past weekend at the Tour Championship that helped him secure the FedEx Cup. He's definitely the Comeback Player of the Year.
As we look to 2014 there will be questions that people will seek answers to. Can Tiger win another major next year after now going nearly six years without one? Will Rory Mcllroy rebound and become the Rory of 2011 and 2012? Will Jordan Spieth keep up the incredible play and challenge for his first Major Championship? Will Phil finally bring in a U.S. Open win at Pinehurst, the scene of one his past runner up finishes? If you're a true fan of golf, you cannot wait to find out.
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