Let's face it: Even those poor prognosticating Mayans could have predicted that Tiger Woods would be amongst our top newsmakers of the year.
If he returned to prior glory and won a few major championships? Boom. He's a newsmaker. If he continued his post-scandal struggles and failed to win again? You got it. Newsmaker.
And if he showed us glimpses of his former dominant self while still coming up empty at the majors for a fourth straight year? Well, that's exactly what happened – and here he is at No. 3 on our list of golf's top newsmakers of 2012.
Such is life when you're Tiger. Everything induces headlines.
Unlike the past two years of his professional career, the theme of this season was no longer tumultuousness, but a return to stability. In 22 official worldwide starts, Woods claimed a dozen top-10 finishes, including three wins – at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Memorial Tournament and AT&T National; events hosted by Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and himself. He tied Nicklaus’ mark for the second-most PGA Tour titles with his second one, then passed his boyhood idol with the third.
After starting the year in 23rd position on the Official World Golf Ranking, he moved up to third by year’s end, behind only Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald. If that sounds like a momentous climb, consider that it’s 49 places higher than where he was just 13 months earlier.
It was a season about more than just numbers, though.
It was about images, the ups and downs of a roller coaster campaign that never found a dull moment.
There was frustration. In his initial PGA Tour start of the year, Woods found himself in the penultimate Sunday pairing with Phil Mickelson, only to shoot a score 11 strokes worse than his rival and finish in a share of 15th place.
There was promise. Less than a month later, he posted a blistering 62 – the best final-round score of his career – to nearly catch.
There was fear. In his next start, Tiger was forced to withdraw at Doral after 11 holes in the final round because of a sore left Achilles tendon – the very same injury which hampered him throughout the 2011 season.
There was exhilaration. Just two weeks after being shuttled away from Doral, he prevailed at Bay Hill for his first official victory in two-and-a-half years, culminating the triumph with his legendary smile and a two-word explanation of his feelings: “Pure joy.”
There was mentoring. For the first 15 years of his professional career, Woods saw fellow competitors as hurdles toward his end goal of winning titles, but this year he buddied up with not only another player, but his main rival in McIlroy, the two of them often enjoying each other’s company during both practice rounds and competitive events.
There was disappointment. After a T-40 finish at PGA Championship., he was in serious contention at each of the final three majors, but posted weekend scores of 75-73 to finish T-21 at the U.S. Open; 70-73 to finish T-3 at the Open Championship; and 74-72 to finish T-11 at the
And therein lies the most memorable part of Woods’ season. For a man who so often maintains that he wants his game to peak four times each year, his timing was off for such pinnacles, keeping the odometer stuck on 14 in his lifelong quest to unseat Nicklaus as the all-time leading major winner.
“Absolutely it's a good year, but I think winning a major championship puts it into a great-year category,” he explained. “I think that's the difference between the majors and the other events. They're just that much bigger.”
That’s also the difference between Woods and all other professional golfers.
For most elite-level competitors, a three-win season while finishing second on the PGA Tour money list would be a career year, but for someone who has so dramatically raised the bar for himself with past accomplishments, Woods is faced with greater expectations for bigger successes, both internally and from external sources.
While disappointed that he didn’t build on his major championship resume this year, Woods undoubtedly understands that 2012 was an important stepping stone toward reaching that goal.
He will enter 2013 without a major title in close to a half-decade, but with better control of his revamped swing and renewed confidence in his ability to win. It remains to be seen whether he will finally add to that total next year, but here’s one prediction that appears foolproof: Either way, he’ll find himself amongst golf’s top newsmakers once again.
Newsmaker of the Year schedule
No. 2: Dec. 28
No. 1: Dec. 31