Birdies, Pars and Bogeys ' thats how were rating performances this year on the European Tour.
The European Ryder Cup team rebounded from the heart-breaking loss in Brookline in 1999 to defeat the stronger-on-paper USA team at The Belfry. The squad was led by aging wonders Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer as well as some fearless play by some of the rookies in the Sunday singles matches. It was the Euros third victory in the last four Ryder Cups. Underdogs no more.
Though Retief Goosen won the Order of Merit title, it was Ernie Els who had the tours best year. He won three official events and also the Cisco World Match Play tournament, where he defeated Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh and the red-hot Montgomerie in successive days. One of his official wins was, of course, the 131st Open Championship, the third major of his career. Ring up a Birdie for the Big Easy.
Sam Torrance captained the European Ryder Cup team to a resounding victory. Enough said.
Padraig Harrington continues to improve and is on the verge of becoming one of golfs superstars. Finishing a close second to Goosen on the Order of Merit, Harrington won the Dunhill Links Championship, which had one of the strongest fields of the season. He also played well and showed consistency in the majors with high finishes in each, setting the stage for a truly break-out year for 2003.
A record 14 golfers won their maiden European titles this season, compared to the previous high of 13 in both 1996 and 2000.
Justin Rose is now in full bloom, winning four events worldwide ' two on the European Tour ' and also finishing in the top-10 on the Order of Merit. He was one of only four players on tour to have multiple wins in 2002.
Aside from Rose, Adam Scott and Luke Donald also enjoyed wins this year. The trio will look to make things far more difficult for the older European stars in the future.
It's hard to imagine Goosen getting a Par on his report card, but when you win a major and are ranked only behind guys named Woods, Mickelson and Els in the entire world, more things of are expected of you. Yes, he won the Order of Merit, but he did that the year before. Only one victory, in what others would call a career year, is the reason here for Goosens mark. Superstardom doesnt come easy. Great Par, though.
Montgomerie also posted a Par even though a late-season rally would have you believing otherwise. His exceptional and dominant play at the Ryder Cup may have earned a lesser player a sure fire Birdie, but this is Monty. His streak of consecutive years with at least one win came down to the final sunset of the season, with darkness giving the Scotsman a shared first place with Bernhard Langer. Though he had a strong showing of top-10s, Monty came up rather empty in the majors ' two missed cuts, a dismal 82nd in the Open Championship and a tie for 14th at the Masters. Hes happy to make Par.
Sergio Garcia began the year with talk of leading both the PGA Tour and the European Tour in winnings, and looked the part by snatching the PGA Tours season-opening Mercedes Championship. He ultimately finished sixth on the Order of Merit and 12th on the PGA Tour money list. Good stuff, but much like Goosen, wins are what counts for a player like Garcia, and with just one on each tour, a Par is the score.
Jose Marie Olazabal, Nick Faldo and Langer all showed flashes of their old selves but Father Time, longer courses, and the strength of the youngsters is making it undoubtedly ever more difficult to find the winners circle for the Hall-of'Famers. But make no doubt, there is still some get up and go in these thoroughbreds.
2002 has come and gone, and marks yet another year in which no European player was able to captured one of the four majors. The 1999 Masters with Spains Olazabal sporting a green jacket continues to get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. Up to the young guns to turn this Bogey back into an easy Birdie.
Lee Westwood. Again. Hes now gone Bogey-Bogey the last two years.
The leaping celebration of Paul McGinley as he sank the winning putt for the Europeans. Its painful to watch replays of it. And its a great argument as to why many people dont think of golfers as athletes.
Paul Naylor and Freddy Valenti. Who? Exactly. These two finished last on the official Volvo Order of Merit, tied for 341st, each bringing in a whopping $117.21. Selling their clubs would have brought in more cash.
Darren Clarke, like his good buddy Westwood, could seemingly go through the motions and do better than his results in 2002. No top-15s in majors, and just one win with a grand total of three top-10s overall.