My top 10 stories from 2009 and what we learned from them:
1) The Tiger Woods’ crash and the scandal that followed
Wow, where do you begin? Maybe it’s the message in Romans 3:10: “There is none righteous, not even one.” Let’s see. There’s a lesson about worshipping idols. There’s also the realization that we’ve become a nation of Peeping Toms. Really, though, the big lesson’s probably still in the works. Redemption is life’s great storyline. The Tiger Woods’ story will now be about so much more than whether he reaches the goals he had tacked on a wall in his home when he was growing up. It will be about more than his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus. It will be about character and what Woods makes most important in his life after the crash.
2) Tom Watson nearly wins the British Open
This isn’t so much about what we learned as what we were reminded. As celebrated as Watson’s career has been, it is underrated. When talking about the greatest players who ever lived, his name deserves more prominent mention. He may be the greatest on links courses, right there with Harry Vardon and Peter Thomson. We also learned that Stewart Cink is as gracious and classy as he is a worthy champion.
3) Y.E. Yang knocks off Tiger Woods to win the PGA Championship
Tiger Woods is beatable with the lead in the final round of a major. That’s what we learned at Hazeltine. We weren’t really sure if that were true until Yang overcame a two-shot deficit and beat Woods by three shots. Woods didn’t have the same aura of invincibility leaving that major, but who knew Yang wouldn’t engineer the most painful takedown of Woods this year? Who knew it would be Us Weekly?
4) Tiger Woods returns from knee surgery and wins seven times
The curious waited to see if Woods would be vulnerable on a rebuilt left knee in his return after eight months away. There were doubts, but he answered them with six PGA Tour victories and a seventh title in Australia in November. We learned that Woods’ knee won’t prevent him from being a force again. We’ll have to wait and see if injuries to his heart and soul will be more damaging.
5) Lucas Glover defeats Phil Mickelson and David Duval to win the U.S. Open
Duval’s bid to find his best form doesn’t feel like a hopeless task despite the fact that he wasn’t able to build on the momentum of his runner-up finish in June. Duval didn’t win fully exempt status at Q-School last week, but the memory of Bethpage Black offers hope he will become a factor in golf again. We learned in close calls at Shinnecock, Winged Foot and Bethpage Black that New Yorkers can only will Mickelson so far. We also learned that as much as Glover likes to read, he doesn’t care for storybook endings. He squashed the sentimental favorites in his real-life ending.
6) Phil Mickelson’s wife (Amy) and mother (Mary) are diagnosed with breast cancer
Breast cancer’s practically an epidemic, and it doesn’t discriminate. Rich, famous and beautiful aren’t exempt. We learned in the Mickelsons’ ordeal that maybe golf isn’t the solitary game it seems to be. It’s a team sport.
7) Michelle Wie wins her first LPGA event
Wie-mania was only dormant. With her victory at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational last month, Wie resurrected all the hope she brought to women’s golf as the young Hawaiian phenom whose mighty swings made even PGA Tour pros marvel. Wie is still capable of leading a new wave of popularity for the LPGA.
8) Carolyn Bivens ousted as LPGA commissioner, Michael Whan hired
The LPGA was built on a mom-and-pop corner-store foundation, where long-term relationships were about more than business. Bivens was a board-room warrior who couldn’t change the dynamic. We learned in the player revolt that, ultimately, the commissioner doesn’t run the tour. The players do.
9) Economy’s effect on golf
We learned golf isn’t recession proof. The PGA Tour is facing its challenges, especially with uncertainty over how the game will be affected by Woods’ “transgressions,” but it was the LPGA that was hit hardest. The tour will feature 24 events next year, down from 34 last year.
10) Golf named as an Olympic sport beginning in 2016
We learned the timing of these things is crucial. Who knows how the process would have gone if Woods had become embroiled in controversy in the months leading up to the Olympic vote?
Apologies to Angel Cabrera, who knocked off Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell to win The Masters. He's No. 11 in my top stories of the year.