It's the last week of 2011 - I know I've said it before, but man, time sure flies sometimes. I'm sure you've gotten your fill of the "year in review" articles, lists, and rankings that pop up all through December. Best shots, best players, best equipment...you name it, and I'm sure someone has written about it.
I have to admit that I wasn't a very good golf fan this year - my priorities were shuffled and my golf passion dropped a few rungs on the ladder (it was an awful feeling by the way!). I didn't keep up with my favorite players as much, and more importantly, I didn't play nearly as much golf as I should have. But that's not to say I didn't have golf on the brain sometimes. Here are some of the things I remember being on my mind in the 2011 PGA Tour world...
The Money List - ever since the FedEx Cup was implemented, there has been a change in the way players were identified...it wasn't about the money list anymore, it was about their FedEx Cup points list. Okay, sort of the same thing, but not really. If you go and look up a player's stats on http://www.pgatour.com/, their money list ranking isn't even there! You have to go to the Stats page of the site and then search for your player.
The money list means something in the fall finish as guys try to play their way into the Top 125, but this year it was pretty neat to see Luke Donald add the final tourney of the year (at Disney) to his schedule in order to win the money list. Donald was just shy of $330,000 behind Webb Simpson coming into the Children's Miracle Network event at the end of October, so a high finish would be needed. The #1 Player in the World didn't probably "need" to take the title(and grab a 5-year Tour exemption), but the fact that he wanted to was enough to make the whole thing interesting...better yet was that he actually pulled through winning both the tournament and the Money List title. The FedEx Cup is a neat "game within a game", but to me, the measure of a man on tour for the season is and will be his money list ranking.
Luke Donald - I'm not sure there a more likeable guy on Tour than Donald - and the fact that he's got game to match his fan favorite status makes him the new force on Tour (not to mention being #1 on the OWGR). He's not as splashy and dominant as Tiger (yet), so it seems like the electricity that you'd find at tournaments isn't quite the same, but he's still LUUUUUKE!
Speaking of TW, I think Fred Couples early captain's pick of Tiger for his President's Cup team created a lot of conversation and controversy. My friend Chuck over at Kerplookee wasn't shy about his feelings that Couples had made a bad choice. Now, in hindsight, it actually seemed like he belonged there (to me anyway), but was it fair to the likes of Keegan Bradley? I guess you could follow that up with Steve Stricker's choice to play even though he wasn't feeling great (and giving his spot to Bradley)...but I would NEVER question Stricker so I know he made the right choice.
It wouldn't be a year in review (in my world) if I didn't mention Matt Kuchar...according to Jim McCabe at Golfweek, Kuchar broke the record for most money earned in a season without a Tour win ($4.23 million) in 2011. I knew it would be hard for Kuch to improve on his stellar 2010 season, but I'd say being 6th on the money list and earning over $4 million without a win isn't too bad. He did get "W's" for the President's Cup and the World Cup.
It sort of feels like 2011 was the beginning of passing the torch (or maybe it's been happening and I've been in denial)...my hallmarks of the game (Woods, Mickelson, Els, Furyk, Cink) seemed overshadowed by Rory McIlory, Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson, and Luke Donald. For those of us that vested some serious fan energy in some of "veterans" (for lack of a better word), it's been a bit of a transition getting to know some of these newer guys, but at the same time it's been great to see the game evolve. Of course now it's got me thinking that 2012 might be the year of the comeback for both Mickelson and Woods - which would be a lot of fun for everyone!
Edit: How could I summarize 2011 and not mention Erik Compton getting his PGA Tour card through the Nationwide Top 25!! Can't wait to see him playing in Hawaii!
I'll end my 2011 thoughts with Seve Ballesteros...his impact on the game will carry on well past this generation and I hope his creative spirit finds its way into every golfer's heart and golf swing.
My golf passion has been bubbling for a few weeks now...it's so nice to have it back!!! I'm excited about the PGA Tour season (and fantasy golf!), along with working on some serious improvements in my own game. While I probably won't be hitting golf balls for at least 4 to 5 months, there is still a lot I can do to get my game and myself in golf ready shape. And I'm also excited to write more and to read what Sam has on his mind.
See you in 2012!!!
Filed under: Erik Compton, Q School, Steve Stricker, Cathy Erickson, 2011, Seve, 2012, Money List