With 2012's four major championships in the books, we hand out our own awards
August 14, 2012
The "Did He Really Just Do That?" Award (72-Hole Division)
Rory McIlroy: When McIlroy claimed his first major in record-setting fashion at Congressional, we could see it coming from the start. This time, the final scoreboard at Kiawah's Ocean Course was a true stunner. On a Sunday when there weren't too many other moves, the 23-year-old fired a flawless 66 to increase a 54-hole lead of three shots to a PGA record eight-shot blowout. And speaking of blowouts, how about that hair?
The "Did He Really Just Do That?" Award (single shot division)
Bubba Watson: Nerves seemed to finally catch up to Watson when he badly hooked his tee shot on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff at the Masters. But with a wedge, he manufactured the shot of his life, hooking a 150-yard shot some 40 yardsfrom left to right and to within 15 feet of the hole. The resulting two-putt par gave him his first major -- and unleashed the best non-reality TV crying display of 2012.
Best Weekday Player
Tiger Woods: If only majors were 36 holes instead of 72. Woods held a share of the lead at the midway point at both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship and in between, he was third place after 36 at Royal Lytham. But amazingly, he never was a serious threat on Sunday at any of the three. Instead, Woods failed to break par in all eight weekend rounds at majors in 2012, putting a damper on what has otherwise been a very encouraging season. Maybe Steve Williams really is a great front-runner. . .
The "How did I blow that one?" Award
Adam Scott: For 68 holes at the British Open, the Aussie -- and his impeccable swing -- reminded us why we have long expected big things from him in the game's biggest events. But on the final four holes, he reminded us more of his idol, the often shaky-under-pressure Greg Norman. Four-straight bogeys to closeleft Scott one shot behind Ernie Els, who made up a remarkable seven shots on the back nine at Royal Lytham. On second thought, maybe Steve Williams isn't such a good front-runner. . .
The "How did I blow that one?" Award (Over-40 division)
Jim Furyk: If 2012 is remembered for one 42-year-old (Ernie Els) adding another major to an already impressive resume, it may also be remembered for another 42-year-old not capitalizing on his chance to do the same. Furyk looked like he would collect a second U.S. Open title all week, but he came undone with a badly-hooked tee shot on the par-5 16th. After failing to birdie the easy par-5 17th, he came to the last needing a birdie, but a pumped-up Furyk launched his approach shot over the green (left). Um, does 5-hour Energy come in decaf?
Feel-Good Story Of The Year
Ernie Els: How far had the South African fallen? He didn't even qualify -- or get an invite -- for the year's first major at Augusta. But after hanging around the leader board at Royal Lytham all week, he shot a back-nine 32 on Sunday as everyone -- most notably Adam Scott -- crumbled around him. The result was a deserved, but unexpected second claret jug and a fourth career major. Els' resurgence has been linked to his having recently quit drinking. But if ever there was a moment worthy of a few celebratory swigs, this was it.
The "Where did he come from?" Award
Webb Simpson: The thought that Simpson, last year's runner-up in the FedEx Cup and PGA Tour Player of the Year voting, could win a major certainly wasn't crazy, but Simpson entered the weekend at Olympic Club as a total afterthought. But a pair of 68s took him from T-29 to the top of the leader board by Sunday evening. His clutch up-and-down for par from a bad lie on the finishing hole kept him tied for the lead, but he only took the lead by himself after he signed his card and retired to the clubhouse. It probably isn't the way he dreamed it up as a kid, but we're pretty sure he'll take it. Well, minus what happened next, of course. . .
The "Where did he come from?" Award (Nutjob division)
The "Jungle Bird": Webb Simpson had barely been crowned the U.S. Open champ when Andrew Dudley, an oddly-dressed man protesting deforestation, stole the show at the trophy ceremony. That is, until USGA executive director Mike Davis literally took matters into his own hands (left) and dragged the intruder out of the way. The self-proclaimed "Jungle Bird" showed up again at the British Open. Perhaps when he learned Davis was there as well, he smartly decided to stay outside the ropes.
Most Disappointing (Major-winner division)
Phil Mickelson: Like clockwork, Lefty contended at Augusta National after a promising start to the season that included a breathtaking win at Pebble Beach. And almost like clockwork, he did something epic to end his chances of winning. This time, it was an errant tee shot on the par-3 fourth. After hacking around in the brush for a few moments (left), Mickelson's triple bogey dropped him too far back to catch up. He finished T-3, but went T-65, MC and T-36 at the year's final three majors. On the bright side, no one can make shooting a 74 look more entertaining.
Most Disappointing (Non-major winner division)
Tie, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood: This, like last year, and the one before that, was finally supposed to be the year when at least one of these Brits was going to get the job done in a major. Instead, neither of them even managed a runner-up like the one unheralded fellow countryman David Lynn produced at the PGA. Westwood at least contended at both the Masters and the U.S. Open (a lost ball in a tree at Olympic didn't help), but Donald, outside of a back-door T-5 at the British Open was nowhere to be found, despite being ranked No. 1 entering all four majors. OK, let's try this again. 2013 will be the year these guys finally break through in one of the game's biggest events. . .
The "But we appreciate the effort" award
Graeme McDowell: After a disappointing 2011 campaign, G-Mac resurfaced in the game's biggest events in a big way. He played in the final group at both the U.S. and British Opens and had strong showings at both the Masters (T-12) and PGA (T-11) as well. Add it all up, and his four-under-par total at the majors only trailed Adam Scott among the 12 golfers who made the cut in all four events. Which is a far cry from this fellow 2010 major champion. . .
The "Where Have You Gone?" Award
Martin Kaymer: In 2010, Kaymer won the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. In 2011, he ascended to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. But by the end of 2012, he may have needed to present proper ID in order to be let through tournament gates. After a T-44 at the Masters, Kaymer managed a T-15 at the U.S. Open, but he didn't come close to making it to the weekend at either the British Open or the PGA. While this went largely unnoticed, unfortunately for the German, there was nowhere to hide in Kiawah (left) when he was part of the marquee pairing with Tiger Woods and Keegan Bradley the first two days. While on his way to a pair of 79s, some fans may have wondered, "Who is that nice club pro helping to tend the flagstick?"