Golf World's 2010 Newsmakers

SUBSCRIBE

Golf World's 2010 Newsmakers

December 12, 2010

Photo By: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Photo By: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Photo By: Mark Pain/The Mail

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: J.D. Cuban

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

Photo By: Dom Furore

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

Photo By: Erin Patrice O'Brien

Photo By: Scott Halleran/Getty Images for LPGA

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

Photo By: Chris Stanford

TIGER'S TRIBULATIONSOff the course or on it, in contention or woefully out of the running, Tiger Woods was news, one of the strangest years an athletic icon has ever had.From precocious tot to the most dominant golfer the world has known, Woods always made headlines for the right things. But that changed. His tightly controlled image exploded into a tangle of revelations of infidelity that would send him into rehabilitation, end his marriage and soil his reputation.The most extraordinary golfer of his time looked quite ordinary at times, his mystique punctured in a way that isn't easy to patch. Woods took on Sean Foleyto help him with his game as he continued to work on his life, which further changed Aug. 23 when his divorce from Elin Nordegren was finalized."It's been difficult, but also it's been very rewarding at the same time," Woods said recently. "It forced me to look deeper into myself."--* Bill Fields*

Groove ThingsAlthough some predicted equipment Armageddon, the USGA-mandated less-aggressive grooves did not significantly alter play. They did bring angst, however. Scott McCarron branded Phil Mickelson a cheater for using an older (but legal) Ping Eye2 wedge, and 16-year-old Erynne Lee qualified for the U.S. Women's Open before learning her wedges didn't conform and was disqualified. Duramed Futures Tour player Sarah Brown also got bounced for having illegal wedges—except hers conformed. Her DQ was the result of an overzealous (and misinformed) official. Not exactly the impact the USGA was seeking.

Wales TalesRotten weather and remarkable drama were the twin story lines at the 38th Ryder Cup in Wales,the former taking a backseat to the latter only after forcing the first extra day in the event's history. Celtic Manor's valley setting exacerbated the rain's toll, but on a finally sunny Monday the competitive peaks that the Ryder Cup is known for held sway. Despite a furious American effort, Graeme McDowellably anchored Captain Monty's Europeans and U.S. hopes went slip-sliding away.

Photo By: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Lorena LeavesFor the second time in three seasons, the LPGA had to deal with its top player retiring. Newly married and the stepmother of three, Lorena Ochoaawoke one February morning in Singapore, half a world away from her family in Mexico, and decided this was not what she wanted. In April, at the age of 28 and No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings, Ochoa quit, as Annika Sorenstam had in 2008, taking with her 27 career victories and two major championships. Ochoa returned last month to finish T-25 in the Lorena Ochoa Invitationaland will compete occasionally, mainly to help raise funds for her foundation.

Dustin JohnsonThis towering, sideburned bomber was the Forrest Gump of 2010, being seen at every big event this summer. But unlike the Tom Hanks character who appeared in the background at significant events in history, Johnson'simpact was real. The third-round leader at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Johnson suffered a closing 82 that dropped him to T-8. The end of the PGA Championship was even harsher: a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in an almost unrecognizable bunker kept him out of a playoff. That the 26-year-old won the BMW Championship and was part of the U.S. Ryder Cup team proved his resiliency and makes him one to watch in 2011.

Graeme McDowellIn a golden year of Irish golf, no one shone brighter than the easygoing fellow from Portrush known as G-Mac. On fast, fiery Pebble Beach GL, the kid who grew up on the links of Rathmore GC outlasted Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods (and others) to capture America's national championship. But he wasn't through breaking Yankee hearts. When the U.S. rallied in Ryder Cup singles,it was G-Mac who delivered the coup de grace in Wales -- which made his recent Chevron Challenge playoffK.O. of Woods hardly shocking.

Going LowOnly one question should have been posed during the mid-summer run of super-low scores: What took so long?A sky-is-falling hysteria understandably broke out after 59s were posted by Paul Goydosand Stuart Applebyin the same four-week span that also included rounds of 60 from J.B. Holmes, Carl Pettersson and Steve Stricker. This followed Ryo Ishikawa's 58in a Japanese Tour event in May and perhaps most stunning of all, 17-year-old Bobby Wyattposting an astonishing 57 on July 28 at the 6,643-yard CC of Mobile in the Alabama state junior championship.Though relative normalcy returned to scoring at all levels when fall weather set in and greens firmed up, stats reinforced that the epic rounds were nothing more than an impressive outburst that, with today's course conditioning, should happen more often.--* Geoff Shackelford*

Erica BlasbergAlmost from the time she could walk, Erica Blasbergwas raised to be a pro golfer. A standout in college, there was every reason to believe she would make it on the LPGA. But after six years of struggling on the course, Blasberg, 25, took her life May 9 in her home near Las Vegas, the story drawing attention from mainstream media. Squeezed by the tour's diminished schedule, Blasberg had made it into only one tournament in 2010, finishing T-44. After a more than three-month investigation, authorities ruled her death a suicide but never released the contents of a note she left behind.

Mighty GermansAfter Martin Kaymer,his 25-year-old countryman, won the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Hall of Famer Bernhard Langer said, "It's good for German golf to have a superstar." True as the statement was, it under-reported by one Deutschland's golf-icon count. Even at 53, Langer retains that lofty status. Beyond his five victories (including two majors, back-to-back), Langer finished 2010 as the first Champions Tour golfer to win player of the year and the money title three consecutive years. Kaymer and Langer represent different generations, but they share some impressive, starry traits: They're fit, focused and efficiently formidable.

Photo By: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Viral SpiralYou don't have to be Tiger Woods to know that, in this YouTubed, Twittered, Photoshopped age, 2010 was the year of stories -- even non-stories -- gone wild. Just ask Rupesh Shingadia, a London-based investment analyst who was minding his own business watching Woods mis-play a famously photographed pitch shot at the Ryder Cup.(OK, so there was the Havana, Groucho Marx 'stache and Miguel Angel Jiménez wig.) Faster than you can say "fore, right," Cigar Guy was born, his goofy face atop Internet images of everything (e.g., Statue of Liberty) and everyone (see: Muhammad Ali over a fallen Sonny Liston). Heck, he even became a Halloween costume -- which is no weirder than Ben Crane becoming the zany star of a workout video spoof that became an instant hit.

Photo By: Mark Pain/The Mail

Fred CouplesHigh expectations greeted Couples' Champions Tour arrival -- and he exceeded them. Fan favorite Freddiegave the circuit a buzz it can't buy by reeling off three straight victories early in the year then finished sixth at the Masters. Couples' back sidelined him most of May, and he wasn't able to snare a senior major, but he ended '10 with four wins and a tour-record 67.96 scoring average -- one of seven marks he set while leading 13 statistical categories.

Generation NextRory McIlroy,Rickie Fowler,and Ryo Ishikawaare more than just good. All three seem to understand that there's more to the game than hitting great shots, doing an occasional fist pump and cashing big checks. They all revel in having a relationship with the fans, who they understand are the ones making them wealthy at a very young age. They are willing to talk to the media whether they shot 62 or 77 (as McIlroy did in the second round at the U.S. Open to miss the cut. They are from Japan, Northern Ireland and California. Each seems mature beyond his years. All have extremely bright futures based on what we saw in 2010. Nothing is ever certain in golf -- Gordon Sherry was labeled the "European Tiger Woods" 15 years ago -- but this year Ishikawa, McIlroy and Fowler all showed they have the potential to be great. On and off the golf course.-- John Feinstein

Photo By: Getty Images

Paula CreamerThe year didn't begin the way she wanted. Creamer withdrew from her first tournament in February, had surgery on her left thumb in March and didn't return to competition until June. But in her fourth tournament back, Creamer won the U.S Women's Open at brutally difficult Oakmont, playing a sensational final six holes on her way to a closing 69. It was her first major and, at age 23, her ninth career LPGA victory.

Photo By: J.D. Cuban

Matt KucharThe hands-down winner of this year's "Didn't See That Coming" Award (Tiger Woods won in 2009), Kuchar,distinctive-looking one-plane swing and all, ignored the low expectations of tour fans and golf media and delivered consistent, high-level play throughout 2010. Don't let the big grin and affable manner fool you: Kuchar is a tough competitor, and his season summary -- No. 2 in FedEx Cup points; No. 1 in earnings ($4,910,477), top-10s (11) and adjusted scoring average (69.61) -- underscores the point.

Italy's Fab FratelliHow good were the Molinari sibs in 2010? Well, unlike the Turnesas, the game's previous best Italian brother act, this pair was born and raised in the old country and virtually every week one or the other was in contention. Edoardo (Barclays Scottish Open, Johnnie Walker Championship) had the edge over Francesco (WGC-HSBC Champions) in victories, but both made the Ryder Cup team (Costantino Rocca had been the only Italian-born player to do that) and both climbed into the top 20 on the World Ranking. In the end Francesco (right) finished fifth on the European Tour's Race to Dubai, Edoardo 11th. Bravissimo!

Phil MickelsonLet's see: The grooves protest. Amy's health. The Augusta eagles. The 6-iron off the pine straw. The hug. The tears. The third green jacket, joining Jimmy and Nick and Gary and Sam. The Krispy Kreme drive-thru. The Sunday at Pebble Beach when nothing went in. The arthritis. The vegetarian diet. Wales, where nothing went in, Part 2. The losingest Ryder Cup player on a lot of losing U.S. teams. So, maybe just one burger won't hurt. All in all, your average Phil year.

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

Life At The TopIn the years that the Official World Golf Ranking, and its little sister, the Rolex Rankings, were each the dominated domain of Tiger Woods and Lorena Ochoa, even golf nerds paid them little mind. But in 2010, Woods' freefall and Ochoa's retirement unleashed a multi-gender scramble for No. 1, making the rankings once again golf's favorite punching bag.After Lee Westwood succeeded Woods, critics carped that no player who is without a major should be considered the world's best. For that matter, how could Woods remain No. 1 for so long after first not competing for four months, and then upon coming back, not winning? Professional golf has always been the most difficult of sports to measure players against each other, and as the margins get tighter, the rankings become more important. They may have gotten bashed in 2010, but going into 2011, they carry more authority than ever.-- Jaime Diaz

Photo By: Dom Furore

Jim FurykAppropriate how Furyk wore his cap backward on the putt that won him the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup. Looked like a rally cap, and rally is what the 40-year-old did in 2010 with a career-high three wins. Interestingly, Furyk's stats,including scoring, slipped slightly from his winless '09 season, but clearly he was better prepared (most of the time) to answer the bell when opportunity arose. Call him the ultimate, um, sleeper pick for player of the year.

Sea IslandIf not for Tiger Woods, the subject of golf's biggest fall-from-grace story of 2010 would have been the Sea Island Co. Long considered one of the most luxurious golf destinations in the world, Sea Islandwas forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August, a victim of the recession and an ambitious but ill-timed renovation project that left the company more than $1 billion in debt. In November the resort was sold for $212 million to a consortium of investment firms, who sold off parcels to, among others, Wayne Huizenga and Herb Kohler.

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

The Seve FactorHis words to attendees at the Champions Dinner during Masters Week had to be communicated by a moving letter read by an old friend. He sent his regrets to the R&A in July when doctors advised him not to travel to St. Andrews for the British Open Champions' Challenge. And his Ryder Cup role was limited to an emotional phone call to Wales imploring the Euros to "go get [the U.S.] so hard that they'll all be caddies in the future." Even though his two-year battle against cancer kept him home in Spain, Seve Ballesterosremained a presence despite his absence. "Seve," as Augusta National chairman Billy Payne noted, "continues to inspire us all with his passion and his determination."

Photo By: Erin Patrice O'Brien

Louis OosthuizenIt may have taken a century and a half, but the British Open was finally won by a cartoon character. A product of fellow South African Ernie Els' junior program, this gentle, good-natured son of a dairy farmer, nicknamed "Shrek" because of the gap between his front teeth, lapped the field around the grandest stage in golf, The Old Course at St. Andrews. Oosthuizenjoined Bobby Locke, Gary Player and Els as South African winners of the world's most windblown championship.

Asian InfluencersThe steady stream of talented Korean players now numbers nearly four dozen on the LPGA, but in 2010 all of Asia staked a claim for tour supremacy. The winner of the most titles was 25-year-old Ai Miyazato of Japan, who picked off five. Yani Tseng, a 21-year-old from Taiwan, had two majors (Kraft Nabisco Championship, Ricoh Women's British Open) among her three wins, and Jiyai Shin, 22, added to the Korean victory column with two titles, giving her eight LPGA wins and a major in less than three years on tour. That trio combined for eight top-10s in majors in 2010, and at their young ages they will likely be forces for years to come.

Photo By: Scott Halleran/Getty Images for LPGA

Peter UihleinIt was once a foregone conclusion the 21-year-old would have a year like 2010, winning the U.S. Amateur after an All-American season at Oklahoma State. Until it wasn't. Uihlein's transition from junior sensation to amateur standout proved more complicated than merely putting on an orange Cowboys shirt. Learning how to respond when his Titleists (made by the company his father, Wally, runs) no longer listened to him led to a maturation that saw a young man go from haughty to humble. In turn, his future regained its shine.

Old MacdonaldThe most anticipated course of the year did not disappoint. Old Macdonald GL completes a grand slam of firm-and-fast, fescue-turfed layouts at Bandon Dunes Resort on Oregon's southwestern coast. Laid out and shaped by architects Tom Doak and Jim Urbina, the windswept Old Mac sports enormously wide fairways and oversize greens, allowing every golfer a chance to play his or her own game. It could be the template for future golf courses in America -- if there are any future courses.

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

The UpstartsHow improbable was Augusta State's victory over top-ranked Oklahoma State, the dominant men's college program for almost four decades, at The Honors Course outside Chattanooga, Tenn.? At Augusta State, enrollment is roughly 7,000 and golf is the only Division I sport. While nationally-ranked men's golf teams often have budgets in the low six figures, Jaguars coach Josh Gregory works with $29,700, of which $3,500 is allotted to recruiting. Perhaps that's right considering he has only $57,000 in scholarship money to give to players, far below the 4 ½ scholarships schools can offer.--* Ryan Herrington*

Photo By: Chris Stanford

Shop This Look