The European Tour Year in Review

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European TourWith many of the top players having typically solid years, a one-time phenom broke through to win the Order of Merit.
 
Justin Rose burst onto the scene as a teenager at the 1998 British Open, but finally broke through in 2007. He claimed two titles and won the Order of Merit for the first time.
 
Two European Tour regulars broke through with their first major titles as Angel Cabrera won the U.S. Open and Padraig Harrington took the British Open in a playoff.
 
There were 18 first-time winners in 2007 topped by Pablo Martin, who won the Open de Portugal as an amateur. He became the first amateur to win on the European Tour.
 
PLAYER OF THE YEAR - The Irishman
One year after winning his first Order of Merit title, Padraig Harrington claimed his first major championship.
 
Harrington, who finished third in the 2007 Order of Merit race, won the British Open in a playoff over four-time European Ryder Cup teammate Sergio Garcia.
 
The Irishman needed 15 strokes to complete the four-hole playoff, one better than Garcia. The Spaniard had held at least a share of the lead after the first three rounds, but was done in by a two-over 73 in the final round.
 
Harrington fired a four-under 67 to erase a six-stroke deficit and win his first major title. The victory also snapped a seven-year drought for Europeans as Paul Lawrie's win at the 1999 British had been the last major win for a European.
 
The Open Championship was played at Carnoustie and the last time it was played there was 1999 when Jean Van de Velde had a disastrous 18th to lose the title to Lawrie.
 
This year nearly saw a repeat of Van de Velde's meltdown. Harrington led by one on the 18th tee, but stumbled to a double-bogey after finding a burn off the tee.
 
Garcia, playing behind the Irishman, had to wait while Harrington finished and a raker tended to a greenside bunker. Garcia's second found sand, but he blasted to six feet.
 
The Spaniard needed that for the win, but he missed. Harrington birdied the first extra hole and Garcia made bogey giving the Irishman a commanding lead.
 
Harrington parred the next two, then bogeyed the 18th, but it was enough to claim major victory No. 1.
 
The victory at Carnoustie was Harrington's second of the season as he also claimed his national title, winning the Irish Open in a playoff over Bradley Dredge.
 
Harrington started and finished the season in strong fashion. He began the '07 season with a pair of top-six finishes, then closed with three top-nine finishes.
 
In between, he missed just one cut the entire season and that came at the U.S. Open, where he missed the weekend at Oakmont by three shots. His season was so strong he only finished outside the top 25 in three of his 15 starts.
 
His closing push secured his third-place finish in the Order of Merit race. He has finished in the top seven in that race in eight of the last nine years.
 
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR - A return to dominance
Year in and year out the HSBC World Match Play Championship has one of the strongest fields. The two players who make the final have to play four 36-hole matches.
 
Much like Fred Couples is the king of the Skins Game, Ernie Els is the king of the HSBC World Match Play.
 
Contested at Wentworth, where Els owns a home, the event may soon be named after Els. Els dominated U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, 6 & 4, to win the title for the seventh time.
 
Els and Cabrera both won their opening matches, 6 & 5, while Els cruised past Andres Romero by the same margin in the second round. Cabrera took out 2006 winner Paul Casey, 4 & 3, in round two.
 
The semifinals saw both Els and Cabrera battle in their closest matches. Els fended off Henrik Stenson, 3 & 2. Stenson had a strong year in match play events as he won the WGC - Accenture Match Play earlier in the season.
 
Cabrera held off Hunter Mahan, 2 & 1, to get into the finals against his fellow U.S. Open winner.
 
Els raced out to a 3-up lead after nine holes, but after that his lead never dipped below 2-up the rest of the way. The first turning point came at the 22nd hole when Els scrambled to a par.
 
Cabrera had a five foot putt to halve the hole, but could not convert and he slid 4-down. The Argentine got back within 2-down after 27, but Els turned it on down the stretch.
 
Els drained an 18-footer for birdie at 10, then two-putted for birdie on 12 to extend his lead back to 4-up. He two-putted for par at 13, and that was enough to give him a 5-up lead with five to go.
 
Els knocked his second to 10 feet and the 14th and was conceded the putt after Cabrera missed the green and could not hole his birdie chip.
 
SHOT OF THE YEAR - Two hops into the burn
I've played golf for about 20 years now and have caddied for about 10 years as well. Needless to say, I've seen a lot of weird stuff on a golf course.
 
I have witnessed a hole-in-one where my playing partner seemingly snap-hooked his ball well left of the green until the ball ricocheted off a tree before rolling across the green and into the cup.
 
About the only shot I've have never seen in person is an albatross, or double- eagle.
 
Every golfer faces pressure at some point in their career. Standing on the 18th tee with a one-stroke lead in a major championship, when going for your first major championship win, has to among the most pressure-packed moments for a professional golfer.
 
Padraig Harrington faced just such a moment at the British Open, leading by one on the final tee. Harrington pushed his tee ball right of the fairway towards a burn.
 
The Irishman's ball bounced not once, but twice, on a small bridge and then into the burn. Harrington scrambled to a double-bogey, then defeated Sergio Garcia in a playoff to win the British Open.
 
As amazing as it was to watch that shot on television, I saw it again just days later.
 
I played in a golf outing a few days after the British Open and watched a ball bounce past the tee box I was standing on, then bounce four times on a bridge behind the tee.
 
Unfortunately for that golfer, his ball also found water beneath the bridge. But it didn't matter since the event we were playing in was a scramble.
 
ROOKIE OF YEAR - A new German power?
Once upon a time, Bernhard Langer was the leading golfer from Germany. That torch has been passed on, but who is the new German star on the European Tour?
 
In 2007, it was Martin Kaymer. He was the named the tour's Rookie of the Year.
 
After missing the cut in six of his first seven starts, Kaymer collected five top-10 finishes and finished in the top 20 11 times in 29 starts.
 
Kaymer, who did not play in any major or World Golf Championship event, closed with two top-seven finishes. In those two events, he collected over 210,000 euros en route to finishing 41st on the Order of Merit.
 
His main competition for the award came from Alexander Noren and Alvaro Quiros, who won the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. Noren finished 63rd on the Order of Merit, while Quiros finished 102nd after missing nearly four months with an injury.
 
GOOD YEAR
Justin Rose - Since bursting onto the golf scene with a fourth place finish as a teenaged amateur at the 1998 British Open, things have not always gone Justin Rose's way. Rose began to fulfill his potential in 2007 as he won two events, including the season-ending Volvo Masters. That also gave him his first Order of Merit title.
 
Ernie Els - The South African won twice and posted eight top-five finishes while finishing second to Rose in the Order of Merit race. Made some noise at the end of the year when he skipped the Volvo Masters and a chance to win the Order of Merit.
 
Henrik Stenson - Despite missing the cut in three of the four majors, Stenson finished fourth on the Order of Merit. Picked up back-to-back wins, one on the European Tour and one on the PGA Tour, early in the season and had six top 10s in a limited schedule. Excluding the World Golf Championship events and the four majors, Stenson played just 10 events on 2007 European Tour International schedule.
 
Angel Cabrera - Picked up his first major title in winning the U.S. Open and took sixth on the Order of Merit despite making just 13 starts on the European Tour.
 
BAD YEAR
Retief Goosen - OK, so he finished ninth in the Order of Merit race, but he had more missed cuts (four) than wins (one). After a tie for second at the Masters, didn't have another top-10 finish in a stroke-play event the rest of the year and fell out of the top 20 in the world rankings.
 
Marcel Siem - This former winner posted just one top-20 finish and that came in his first start of the year. Fell to 129th on the Order of Merit while missing nine cuts.
 
Gary Emerson - Made 31 starts but finished 220th on the Order of Merit. He was the only player with more than 30 starts to finish outside the top 175 on the Order of Merit.
 
Jonathan Lomas - The only player to make 20 or more starts and finish outside the top 225 on the Order of Merit. Lomas picked up four pay checks in 20 starts.
 
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