According to the Chinese calendar 2012 was the Year of the Dragon, but as we sorted through the year-end edition of Cut Line it became clear this was a season of change (PGA Tour, U.S. Golf Association, PGA of America), collapse (Jim Furyk, Adam Scott) and coronation (Rory McIlroy).
Rory McIlroy. An encore was always going to be a tough pull for the Northern Irishman following what was a historic 2011, but at 23 years old he delivered again.
After a rousing victory at The Honda Classic over Tiger Woods in March, McIlroy added his second Grand Slam tilt, rewriting another major record book at the PGA, won two of four FedEx Cup playoff events and completed the transatlantic double with money-list titles on both the PGA Tour and European Tour.
Maybe more impressive, however, was how McIlroy dealt with what some called his first professional slump. After his Honda victory, McIlroy missed four of five cuts and added the Fedex St. Jude Classic to his schedule in a move to steady the ship.
It's one thing to ride a hot streak, but the Ulsterman’s ability to 'fix' things on the fly may have been his greatest accomplishment in 2012.
U.S. Golf Association. Whatever your opinion on the impending anchoring ban give credit to the USGA, with an assist to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, for moving thoughtfully and deliberately through an emotionally charged landscape.
USGA executive director Mike Davis made the best of a complicated situation that was not of his doing and created a new rule that is clear if not concise.
Davis & Co. also get credit for a Sunday setup at The Olympic Club that tested every aspect of the players' games, including a new tee box at No. 16 that Jim Furyk is still trying to wrap his head around.
Tweets of the Year: It was Twitter at its 140-character best, two high-profile players playfully trading barbs and self-deprecating humor that began with Keegan Bradley (@Keegan_Bradley) reacting to Thursday's news that Tom Watson would captain the 2014 U.S. team.
'Congrats to Tom Watson on being named USA Ryder Cup captain! I hope to have the privilege to play for him.' Which was followed by two more tweets: 'Cue the belly putter comments . . .'
'All this Ryder Cup talk is getting me excited. Can we play now?'
Which prompted McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) to join the fun: 'You wanna get beaten again already?'
Note to Watson: Whatever you do in ’14 at Gleneagles, we have to see Rory vs. Keegan II on Sunday.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
PGA Tour. Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., secured a new long-term agreement with FedEx for its season-long race, introduced a new qualifying process and completed the delicate transition to a split-calendar schedule that begins next season. Along the way, however, there was collateral damage.
Gone from the 2013-14 lineup will be the Disney stop, a Tour staple since 1971, and direct access to the circuit via Q-School, an extreme makeover that will leave many veterans, and likely more than a few newcomers, professionally adrift next fall.
The Tour has also embraced an increasingly international schedule with the addition of the CIMB Classic and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Asia to the official docket, but it seems to have come at a cost for long-time domestic stops. So much so the circuit may want to adjust its old marketing campaign to 'These guys are good and have passports.'
PGA of America. For an organization that hosts a maximum of two marquee events a season, and that's only in even-numbered years, the PGA made more than its share of headlines in 2012.
Kiawah Island, site of this year’s PGA Championship, produced a worthy champion (McIlroy) and an endless stream of 'beauties' for the national television audience but was nothing short of a logistical nightmare for the thousands who tried, and often failed, to attend Glory’s Last Shot. If the PGA is married to another Low Country major, may we suggest the powers dig up the Ocean Course and put it in a more geographically friendly locale.
The organization also broke the mold this week by naming 63-year-old Tom Watson the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain. Perhaps Old Tom is a natural to lead the U.S. team in two years in Scotland, but president Ted Bishop’s acknowledgement that this pick was 13 months in the making is curious.
Let's say Davis Love III's dozen doesn’t collapse on Sunday at Medinah, and the U.S. improves to two for three since 2008 with a one-point loss in ’10 in Wales, did the system really need to be blown up?
Closers. Golf had the look of a Chicago Cubs bullpen in 2012, with enough blown leads to fill an entire September swoon.
In order, Tiger Woods began the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship with a two-stroke advantage and closed with a 73; Jim Furyk started Sunday at The Olympic Club leading by two and limped in with a 74 and Adam Scott was four clear of the field at the Open Championship and signed for a 75. All three lost.
Of course the ultimate blown save came at September's Ryder Cup when the U.S. side began Sunday's singles frame with a commanding 10-6 lead, failed to win a point in the first five matches and succumbed to the largest collapse by a home team in event history.
It was, by any measure, a tough year for front-runners.
Luke Donald. Although the affable Englishman will likely close the year at No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, he managed just a single win in the U.S. in 2012 (Transitions Championship), failed to seriously contend in any of the year’s majors and simply didn’t appear as sharp as he was in '11.
The lowlight, however, came during the Deutsche Bank Championship when he committed the ultimate social media faux pas and inadvertently tweeted a series of critical messages directed at architect Gil Hanse following a round at TPC Boston. 'Nothing quite like hitting my best shot of the day into the last and walking off with a (bogey), what a terribly redesigned green. #sourtaste,' was the G-Rated of the two tweets.
Donald later apologized for the tweet, which he said was supposed to be a private message, and, thankfully, has returned as one of the game’s most-creative tweeters.
Olympic Golf. Although the Games are still some four years away golf's return to the Olympics is off to a shaky start as organizers scramble to be ready for 2016.
An ongoing land dispute in Brazil has pushed back the start of construction of the Olympic golf course and may jeopardize the timing of a 'test tournament' on the '16 venue. As one official recently explained to Cut Line, the test event could be played in early 2016 but that would leave little time to make any adjustments before the Games.
Organizers also seem to have missed the mark on golf’s format for the Games. Although 72-hole stroke play may be the preferred method of crowning a champion among the play-for-pay set, there is a growing sentiment to come up with a more creative format. All these questions and concerns may be sorted out in time, but this was likely not the smooth start organizers envisioned.