Newsmakers Of The Year
Taking stock of 2012 by counting down the year's 25 biggest stories
December 06, 2012
When Donald Trump finds out where he landed on Golf World's 2012 Newsmakers list, the megalomaniacal mogulwill not be pleased. After all, for sheer volume of newsmaking, the master promoter reigns supreme. Just in the last year, Trump became the proud new owner of the Doral resort, saw one of his courses awarded the 2017 U.S. Women's Open and opened the world-class Trump International GLnear Aberdeen, Scotland. Of more interest for the game at large, Trump appears to be one of the few investors of means holding an optimistic view about the golf industry's future. Considering the state of the golf business, the sport really doesn't have a choice but to stand by Trump, no matter how awkward that may prove.
When the future of the Bob Hope Desert Classic looked bleak, the 42nd President inspired a dramatic turnaround that resulted in an eight-year sponsorship deal for the Humana Challenge and the gathering of hundreds of stakeholders in the fields of health care, business and education to promote healthy living. It was as if Clinton was campaigning for office again as he worked fans at the philanthropic tournament that was named 2012 Sports Event of the Year by Sports Business Journal and Sports Business Daily. Although he admits to not knowing his handicap, a lack of skill on the course hasn't stopped Clinton from using the game to service the communityand the nation.
When a then 18-year-old Paula Creamer won in her seventh LPGA start as a pro in 2005 and then Michelle Wie threatened in three majors the next year at 15, the world became aware that no American had been Rolex LPGA Player of the Year since Beth Daniel in 1994. That streak ended in 2012, but it was Lewis -- not Creamer or Wie -- who did it. The 27-year-old who overcame scoliosis won four times and was T-2 in the Wegmans LPGA Championship and T-8 in the Ricoh Women's British Open. When Lewis picked up her POY trophy, it was handed to her by Daniel, and there was a feeling in the air that it might not take 18 years for a Yank to take the title again -- maybe even Lewis.
Course closures outpaced openings for a seventh consecutive year, but two of the year's newbies -- Bandon Preserve in Oregon and Cabot Linksin Nova Scotia (left), both developed by the visionary Mike Keiser -- drew raves and served as a reminder that passionate golfers will still travel to play great venues. Bandon Preserveis a 13-hole par-3 course designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, a splendid complement to Bandon Dunes' four acclaimed 18-holers. Nearly 4,000 miles away, Cabot Links, the creation of Canadian architect Rod Whitman, inspired breathless reviews and convinced Keiser to press forward with a second course for "Bandon East" -- Cabot Cliffs, which Coore and Crenshaw have begun crafting.
The Champions Tour has been the stage for late bloomers and surprise stars, but what Chapman did in 2012 wasn't in the script. Prior to his fabulous twin bill -- victories in the Senior PGA Championship and U.S. Senior Open -- the only golfers to win those titles in the same year were Hall of Famers Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Hale Irwin. Chapman, a likable 53-year-old Englishman, had toiled for 19 seasons before earning his only victory on the European Tour. That made his major conquests all the more special.
They were a perfect mismatch, Jim Flick and Beau Hossler. The pinnacle of their relationship was achieved for a fleeting but memorable moment in June. Precociousness does not typically withstand the scrutiny of the toughest test in golf, yet Hossler, 17, briefy wrested the U.S. Open lead from the game's best players on Friday afternoon and contended into Sunday. Hossler is now a high school senior in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., and will enroll at Texas early next year. In a tragic turn, he will be forging ahead without Flick, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October and died early the next month. It has left a void. Flick was "like a grandpa to me," Hossler said.
"The Stink Eye" -- that's what Bradley calls the deranged-looking, left-eye dominant stare he gives his ball when lining up putts. He'll trash-talk friends and say, "It will burn you," much as it did Jim Furyk on the 72nd hole of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and any opponent during the first two days of the Ryder Cup. But what really burned the golf establishment was that Bradley, the 2011 PGA champ and the first player to win a major with an anchored belly putter, represented the generation of modern playerthat started attaching a putter to his body. The proposed ban on anchoring might draw a stink-eye glance from Bradley, but the USGA defended him when his putting style was heckled during Tiger Woods' World Challenge.
Other than a rib injury that forced him to withdraw from the U.S. Open, not much slowed down Snedeker in 2012, which is the way the fast-playing Tennessean prefers it. He doubled his career win total with two victories, including the Tour Championshipthat enabled him to capture the FedEx Cup title. And even when he didn't win, he made headlines. During the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, the 31-year-old opened with 10-under 130, tying Nick Faldo's 36-hole scoring record in a major. He ended up T-3, but if Snedeker keeps playing like this, a major title will come -- and quickly.
There was a lot of early chatter about slow play on the PGA Tour, but it was on the women's tour where the matter came to a head when Morgan Pressel (below) was penalized in the semis of the Sybase Match Play. After having received a warning earlier in the match, Pressel was hit with a loss-of-hole penaltyfor taking 129 seconds to play three shots (39 more than allowed) on the 12th hole against Azahara Munoz. Her 3-up lead became a tenuous 1-up edge, and Pressel did a slow burn before losing, 2 and 1, to the tournament's eventual champion.
Cary Middlecoff famously said you don't win the U.S. Open, it wins you. Simpson wrote his version at the Olympic Club on a misty June Sunday. He was in the fourth-to-last group but birdied Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 10 before parring the last eight holes on the exacting San Francisco test -- including a nifty save at the par-4 18thfor his second straight 68 -- then waited to see what one-over 281 would do for him. When others (Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell) couldn't match his closing consistency, it did plenty. Simpson, who turned 27 in August, owned his first major championship having proven pars can still be a very valuable currency.
He was the underdog in a field of big-name architects vying for the plum assignment of the year: a course in Rio de Janeiro to host the return of golf to the Olympics in 2016. Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Robert Trent Jones Jr. were among the finalists, but the selection committee was most impressed with Hanse's proposal. The announcement came while Hanse was in Miami to talk about his coming redesign of Doral's high-profile TPC Blue Monster course, a double play that now makes Hanse a big name himself.
The Duff. He's got that slightly unkempt, Droopy Dog look, an idiosyncratic waggle of undetermined frequency or origin and a pulse rate a heart monitor would have trouble detecting. He also earned acclaim as one of America's finest players when, on the weeks before and after his marriage to longtime girlfriend Amanda Boyd, he won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the HP Byron Nelson Championship, then later posted a top-five in the U.S. Open at Olympic Club and was the only rookie on the U.S. Ryder Cup side to win his singles match on an ill-fated Sunday.
The game keeps getting younger, and no player epitomizes the trend more than 15-year-old Ko. Less than a month after the South Korean-born New Zealander cruised to victory at the U.S. Women's Amateur, she ousted Lexi Thompson as the youngest winner of an LPGA event with her three-shot triumph over Inbee Park at the CN Canadian Women's Open. En route she became the first amateur to win on tour since JoAnne Carner in 1969. Ko says she plans to remain an amateur through college, but if she continues to play at this level, passing up six-figure checks will only get harder.
The Big Miss
Hank Haney's The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods was the most talked about golf book of 2012. Written in collaboration with Golf World editor-in-chief Jaime Diaz, *The Big Misswas released just before the Masters and briefly jumped to No. 1 on The New York Times' bestseller list. The 272-page book was alternately praised for its fresh insight into Woods as a person and a competitor (including his extraordinary fascination with Navy SEALS training) and criticized, chiefly by those who felt Haney had violated an unwritten confidentiality code between teachers and pupils. Indeed, there was little middle ground.
Lefty doesn't need to win majors to make news. In 2012 he crushed Tiger Woods in a Sunday smackdown to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, became a minority owner of the San Diego Padres, was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, put his 9,500-square-foot house on the market for $7.1 million, sued an Internet service provider, expressed interest in redesigning Torrey Pines' North course, lost the Masters by two strokes primarily because of two triple bogeys (including one on Sunday) and played mentor to Keegan Bradley during the Ryder Cup. It's hard to believe he had time to take a family vacation, but he did that too, raising questions by skipping the WGC-Accenture Match Play in the process.
Slumps are not supposed to come at age 23, especially when you already have 15 LPGA victories, including five major championships. But after winning three of the first five events of the year, Tseng missed three cuts in four starts over the summer and finished outside the top 25 in 11 of her last 15 tournaments. Three top-five finishes in Asia late in the year were reasons for hope, but Tseng also sounded a lot like a woman bending under the pressure of being No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings.
His was, without doubt, the Shot of the Year, which is saying quite a lot when the guy you're in a playoff with made a 2 on a par 5 the same day. Watson's hooking, spinning gap wedge off the pine straw and magnolia leaves from the deepest, darkest recesses of the forest to the right of Augusta National's 10th fairway was the stroke that paved the way to a green jacket in his sudden-death Masters victory over Louis Oosthuizen. Watson spent the rest of 2012 maneuvering for a different title, however -- father of the year -- after he and his wife, Angie, adopted their first child, Caleb.
PGA Tour Changes
We won't see another PGA Tour season like 2012. No, really. Commissioner Tim Finchem has boldly seen to that. The 2013 campaign will be the last that begins and ends in the same calendar year. Once the FedEx Cup title is decided in late September, a split-calendar season commences three weeks later as fall events and Asian stops are folded in. Q school is being phased out, and the Web.com Tour becomes the sole direct feeder onto the tour. If these guys are good, their boss has been exceptional.
Suddenly, an underachiever has a chance to thrust himself among the game's greats. After 10 years and 37 cracks at it, Els finally picked up his fourth major championshipwhen his final-hole birdie in the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes gave him a 68 that tightened the collar on Adam Scott, who bogeyed the last four holes to finish one stroke behind. The major season began with humiliation for Els, who did not qualify for the Masters and was not offered an invitation after 18 consecutive appearances. Now, one more major ties him with Seve Ballesteros and Byron Nelson, among others, and two put him with Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino. Pretty classy company.
In 2012 belly and long putters were golf's equivalent of the boy band One Direction -- they created significant buzz despite some folks simply abhorring them. After Keegan Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship using a belly putter, consumers nearly broke their ankles jumping on the bandwagon. Sales of the putters soared from 5 percent of the market to approximately 20 percent by March of this year. PGA Tour use also increased to 15 percent (it was 6 percent in 2010 and 11 percent in 2011), with seven wins -- and, importantly, two majors -- recorded by those using longer-than-conventional putters. Golf's ruling bodies noticed, and in November announced a proposed ban of anchoring clubsto one's body starting in 2016. In other words, the real buzz is just beginning.
Augusta National Admits Women
It always seemed a matter of when, not if, and Aug. 20, with a statement from Augusta National GC and Masters chairman Billy Payne, the time had come. The 80-year-old club, under scrutiny for a decade because of its lack of female members, was welcoming its first two: former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (left) and financier Darla Moore. The choices weren't surprising. Rice has become a keen golfer and is a member at Shoal Creek. Moore is an old friend of fellow South Carolinian and former ANGC chairman Hootie Johnson.
It remains relative with Woods. Compared to the previous two years, 2012 was a great success. He got his first official PGA Tour victory since 2009 then added two more, rising as high as No. 2 on the World Ranking. But compared to Woods pre-fire hydrant, it was a dry season. Doing the opposite of what made him so special, Woods played poorly on weekends at majors, never breaking 70. Turning 37 Dec. 30, he says he is pleased with the progress of his swing changes under Sean Foley and claims good physical health. The great unknown is the state of what once separated him from everyone else -- his mind.
Europe's Ryder Cup Victory
Just when it seemed that the Ryder Cup started leaning America's way again, we got the Meltdown at Medinah. The U.S. drubbed the Europeans over the first two days to take a 10-6 lead, but on Sunday the legendary American comeback of 1999 happened in reverse, with the Europeans winning the first five matches before a stunned Chicago crowd. At the end the U.S. was done in by three gut-wrenching 1-up losses -- Justin Rose birdieing the last two holes to beat Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk bogeying the last two holes to lose to Sergio Garcia and Steve Stricker losing the 17th hole with a bogey and watching helplessly as Martin Kaymer made the cup-clinching five-footer on the 18th.
Challenged to a game of My Abs Are Better Than Your Abs by his Danish girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, Rory McIlroy began 2012 with a new body and ended it with a new bromanceand a windfall in Dubai. In between, he won the Honda Classic, went through a mid-season slump during which he admitted to "taking his eye off the ball," validated his overwhelming U.S. Open victory at Congressional CC last year with an equally overwhelming PGA Championship victoryon The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island to became the undisputed World No. 1, won exactly one-half of the playoff events for the FedEx Cup and more. Other than that, it was a ho-hum year.
Golfers lose much more often than they win, and even the greats are on a first-name basis with disappointment. But some defeats are harder than others for the player who has let triumph slip from his grasp and more riveting for those watching it happen. I.K. Kim, say hello to Kyle Stanley. Jim Furyk, you better believe Adam Scottknows what you're talking about. So, even, does Tiger Woods. We could say we don't like to watch when someone is throwing away a trophy, but that would be a lie. The fascination with whether someone can close, or not, has endured throughout the game's lengthy competitive arc, from gutta percha to urethane, hickory to graphite. And the fascination is there because the challenge is.