2010: The Year of…

October 9, 2010

Having watched the Ryder Cup last weekend, it has become apparent to me that the golf season is officially over. As we here at PF anxiously await the next season of golf, we look back at the season that was.

2009 was The Year of the Letdown.

It started at the ’09 Masters, where Kenny Perry had a two shot lead with only 17 and 18 to play. Now, 17 and 18 at Augusta are no gimmies–in fact, none of the holes are. But, this was Kenny Perry. He had been scorching through the first part of the year, playing years below his age. This was Kenny Perry, who was going to right all the wrongs of his collapse at the ’96 PGA championship.

It was like watching a horrible car crash in slow motion; no matter how much you didn’t want to see what happened, you couldn’t turn away. Perry bogied 17 and 18, bogied the 18th again on the playoff hole, and then double-bogied the 10th to give Cabrera the green jacket.

But ’09 hit us in all of the majors.

The ’09 US Open saw long shot Ricky Barnes, fan favorite Phil Mickelson, and super long shot but fan favorite David Duval in contention. Duval hadn’t truly played competitively in 8 years. He had recovered from severe back injuries, slowly making his way back to professional golf. And we could have been watching a monumental upset. Barnes, the long shot, charmed the crowd with his impressive play and exciting personality.

And then there was Mickelson. Although Mickelson had won two green jackets, he had blown chances at the US Open so many times before: he finished second in ’06 (the famous “I’m an idiot” after hitting driver at 18), second in ’04, second in ’02, and second in ’99 (the famous loss to Payne Stewart at Pinehurst). Moreover, Mickelson’s wife–who didn’t make the trip with him because she was being treated for cancer–told him there was nothing she wanted more than to see him win the trophy.

And who won? Lucas Glover. All three came up short.

Then, the ’09 Open Championship came, seeing an ageless Tom Watson schooling the field at Turnberry where he had won so many years before. Watson, at 59 years old, was poised to become the oldest man in any sport to compete at such a high level. But, although Watson held a one-shot lead on the 18th hole (thanks to Stewart Cink draining a tricky 20-footer on 18), he nuked a 7-iron from 170 yards over the green and failed to get up and down (something he had accomplished all week), leaving room for Cink to win in an anti-climactic 4-hole playoff.

The ’09 PGA was somewhat less of a letdown, unless of course you want to see Tiger Woods win at all cost. Tiger had never lost when leading a major on the final day. Although 2 shots ahead going into the final day, Tiger shot 75 to lose the championship by 3 shots to YE Yang. Letting everyone down.

So, what is 2010? 2010 is the Year of the Euro.

The ’10 Masters should’ve been an indicator to us. Mickelson won, but only a few shots behind him was Lee Westwood (England), who played solid golf the whole week. Westwood had led going into the final day, and Mickelson simply chased him down for the win. But Westwood’s solid play should’ve been an indicator.

In the ’10 US Open, Graeme McDowell (UK) became the first European in 40 years to win the US Open. Although South African Louis Oosthuizen won the British Open, Tiger Woods didn’t crack the leaderboard, no Mickelson, no Furyk. The Americans were gone. Instead, the leaderboard included Westwood (UK, 2nd), Rory McIlroy (UK, T3), Henrik Stenson (Sweden, T3), Paul Casey (UK, T3), Martin Kaymer (Germany, T7), and Luke Donald (UK, T11).

The ’10 PGA Championship at Whistling Straights saw Martin Kaymer (Germany) chase down Dustin Johnson (Mr. Sand Trap) and Bubba Watson, two big-hitting Americans, for the win.

Now, Westwood–who recently took over the #2 world ranking from Mickelson, who never could close the door when he had opportunities to take the #1 spot–is poised to overtake the #1 ranking in the world from an absent Tiger Woods.

So, it should’ve been no surprise to see Europe take home the Ryder Cup in 2010. Even though the Americans fought back to within 1/2 point of retaining, it was never going to happen. It was simply Europe’s year.

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