2011 was a year full of anticipation and most of it was about Tiger. Surely he would return to form, win all four majors, 10 tournaments and the FedEx Cup going away. But that didn’t happen. By December we have all but forgotten about Tiger and if he has another year like 2011, his fall from grace will be the perfect tragedy.
The real 2011 started with Jonathan Byrd winning two out of the first three tournaments, then Mark Wilson winning two out of the next four with Bubba Watson taking the Farmers Insurance Open. Five tournaments into the season we had only three winners.
By the time the tour reached Pebble Beach the field was starting to be a bit more comfortable when Tour veteran D. A. grabbed his first win in years. This was followed by the return of Aaron Baddeley after a year of injuries. Johnson Wagner, the guy with two last names won the Mayakoba Classic in Cancun while the big boys were in Florida at the WGC where Nick Watney pocketed $1,400,000 and 550 FedEx points.
Down the street the Tavistock Cup was won by a gaggle of foreigners and that was quickly followed by Gary Woodland’s win at the Transitions Championship. Arnold Palmer Invited the usual suspects to Bay Hill and Martin Laird took home the bacon. Then it was off to Texas.
The Shell Houston Open has occupied the week before the Masters for a while now and many of the big names skip the event to sip on a Mint Julep and practice at Augusta. Phil Mickelson decided to grab the million bucks in Houston and worry about the Masters later. History says that’s a bad decision since only one guy in the last fifty years has won the week before the Masters, then gone on to win the Masters. Phil did not change history; Charl Schwartzel did take the green Jacket back to South Africa.
The Tour returned to Texas where Brendan Steele loaded up on hot sauce and the 1.1 million bucks they give the winners. Then for some odd reason the Tour decided that they should return to the East Coast and Harbor Town for the Heritage. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Heritage and so does Brendan Steele who went back-to-back and grabbed another million bucks, but Florida to Texas to Augusta, back to Texas, then South Carolina, then to New Orleans seems like it’s good for frequent flier miles, but nothing else.
It was good to see the Zurich Classic of New Orleans starting to look better after the hurricane, and who better to win in New Orleans than Bubba Watson, which gives him a double for the year. Logic would dictate that the Tour would now make the easy hop over to Texas, but because the PGA wanted to position the Players Championship to attract the best field, the Tour headed to North Carolina where Lucas Glover took the winnings and the 500 FedEx points.
All of this jet lag was follow by the PGA’s favorite tournament, The Players, which has turned out to be less than most golfers hoped for year after year, proving that Majors are special and the Players isn’t. This is certainly not the opinion of K.J. Choi who won the thing, but he’s wrong.
Okay, now it’s back to Texas for the Colonial where the only Tiger in sight was LSU Tiger David Toms, who took home the prize. The Tour then drove 30 miles east for the Byron Nelson and the coming out party of a new star, Keegan Bradley. With the heat of the summer looming, the Tour headed north to the Memorial where steady Steve Stricker grabbed the gold.
From a new star, to an established star, to a star than never was came Harrison Frazar. Without a victory in his entire career, he is the king of what might have been and had decided that 2011 would be his last year on Tour. Then something strange happenned... he won the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Good for you Harrison.
By now the big boys are warmed up and it’s time for the U.S. Open. Tiger is rested and ready, but nobody told Rory McIlroy who won his first major championship by shooting a 2-under 69 and ended his four-day rout at 16-under 268, eight shots ahead of Jason Day and four shots better than the U.S. Open scoring record held by you know who. It was, without question, the Tournament of the year, not because it was competitive, but because it wasn’t.
Once again there was the oddity of having two tournaments in one week, the CVS Caremark Charity Classic, won by Zack Johnson and Matt Kuchar, and the Travelers Championship that Fredrik Jacobson cashed in on. Then came the second AT&T, the one not in California where Nick Watney tallied win number two. A new comer to the summer was the John Deere Classic and steady Steve Stricker snagged his second win of the season. This was followed by the Viking Classic which was scheduled for the same week as the British Open. Chris Kirk won it, and because everybody was watching the British, only his wife and Mother knew.
Under the title of, “I’ll try anything twenty times,” Darren Clarke won The British Open. While most tuned in to see Rory McIlroy win his second major, the senior Irishman stole the show and won the hearts for everyone. He’s one of the good guys.
Then it was off the the PGA Championship. Along the way Sean O’Hair would make a comeback at the Canadian Open, Scott Stallings would win at Greensbrier, Scott Piercy would roll a “7” in Reno, and Adam Scott would take his new caddie to the WCG Bridgestone and get back in the winners circle.
Our boy Keegan Bradley would mark his territory on Tour with his second win and his first major at the PGA Championship. That would be followed by Webb Simpson at the Wyndham, then came the Playoffs where Dustin Johnson said don’t forget about me at the Barclays. This was followed by that guy Webb Simpson once again at the Deutsche Bank, and Justin Rose at the BMW.
Then, with the table set, Bill Haas came from out of nowhere to win it all at the Tour Championship. Interestingly, Bill was unaware that he had also won the FedEx Cup at the same time. That was fun.
With the big guys headed for the exit, Kevin Na won the Timberlake and Bryce Molder took the Frys.com Open. This was followed by video star Ben Crane’s win at the McGladrey and Luke Donald’s win at the Children’s Miracle Network. And, least we forget, Keegan Bradley took win number three at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.
In November Zack Johnson and Jerry Kelly won the Skills Challenge, and the Champions Tour guys won the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge, and to end the month, Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland won the last WCG.
Thankfully there are only three tournaments left in the year, but only one is really important, the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, and it just might be the most exciting of them all.
It’s been a great year for golf, but it’s time to recharge the batteries. Enjoy the holidays. Eat some more turkey and dream about warmer weather.