Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Y.E. Yangâ€¦not exactly the Mt. Rushmore of golf in this era, but like it or not, each is a very deserved champion of some prestigious events. With all due respect to each of these four men, you likely couldnâ€™t find too terribly many people laying cash down on any of them before they won their respective major championship in 2009. Now that theyâ€™re in the books, why donâ€™t we just take a quick look back and see how we got to this point of having two previous unknowns and a couple of career journeymen win the 4 biggest titles on the PGA Tour schedule.
Quick, who were the three players in the playoff in the 2009 Masters? Huh, playoff? You mean there were other players out there that finished up after Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were done completely blowing our minds with their play on Masterâ€™s Sunday? The 2009 Masters was almost what weâ€™ve all been waiting for since 1997. Tiger Woods staring across the tee box at none other than Phil Mickelson and they both played very well, both guys had their points in that final round that you just knew he was going to win it, it almost seemed too perfect of an ending to the â€œtradition unlike any otherâ€. We almost had it; we had Phil shooting a 6 under 30 on the front nine to make the turn with a share of the lead. We had Tiger eagling the 8th hole to serve up a reminder that that worldâ€™s number one was in his house and he was not going to let anyone take the green jacket without a heck of a fight.
So what happened? There was a time when we had the guys in the lead almost looking like they were members playing twilight round in complete solitude as two heavy weights were trading blows up ahead. It just wasnâ€™t to be though, a couple of late bogeys from both Phil and Tiger left us wishing for more after they tapped out on 18 to finish their day. We had Kenny Perry almost sink a hole-in-one on the 16th hole and if you would have told me at that point that he would not end up winning the 2009 Masters I would have probably bet you a lot of money, as we now know, I would have lost that bet too! Finishing with back to back bogeys slammed the door on Kenny Perry as our 2009 Masters Champion, instead opening the door for a three-man playoff between Perry, Chad Campbell, and
2007 US Open Champion Angel Cabrera. So while it probably wasnâ€™t the ending we all were hoping for, it was without a doubt a very dramatic Sunday on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National and ultimately they crowned a very deserving champion in Angel Cabrera. Going into the seasonâ€™s first major there were some pretty big question marks around Tiger and his knee, it didnâ€™t seem to keep too many of the experts from picking TW to win it, as coverage closed on the final round it seems most of the questions were answered and we knew that Tiger and a few of the other top guns were just fine and weâ€™d be in for one heck of a 2009 season at the majors.
Returning to Bethpage Black we just knew we were going to be in for a great U.S. Open, we also knew who was going to ultimately end up winning the thing, or so we thought! Shortly before the U.S. Open we all learned of the heartbreaking story of Amy Mickelsonâ€™s diagnosis of breast cancer and we were all left to wonder if one of New Yorkâ€™s favorite golfers would even play in this yearâ€™s U.S. Open. Well Phil played and in front of the always raucous crowds of The Big Apple, he played great and found himself yet again right in the mix of things down the stretch at the U.S. Open. We were also treated to a surprising appearance by David Duval on the short list of guys entering the final round of a rain soaked U.S. Open with a chance to win.
With the weather pushing everything to a Monday finish we had a rather interesting leader board to say the least. Of course Tiger was there, it seems as if heâ€™s just always there at the end of a U.S. Open, one legged if he has to. Both legs again held up but it was again someone else holding the title at the end of the day. Midway through that final round it was as up in the air as I can remember a major in quite a while, the course absolutely shined as host of our national championship, somehow surviving a complete waterlogged week. No playoffs necessary this time around, we again witnessed Phil Mickelson miss out on that elusive U.S. Open title as he bogeyed two of his final four holes to finish just two shots back. We saw David Duval again competing for the lead of a major, almost as if he hadnâ€™t even slipped on the face of the earth there for the past eight or so years, ultimately his undoing came with an untimely bogey at the 17th hole, but all in all he played great and really gave us hope again. Letâ€™s not forget about one time future superstar Ricky Barnes, the former U.S. Amateur winner was one of almost a handful of players who survived qualifying to nearly win the title. All three would have to settle for a share of 2nd at it was Lucas Glover with the clutch birdie when everyone else was making bogeys to finish up and lock in his first major title. It was a great tournament that really ended up being a joy to watch, I was up and down hollering at the TV almost every single hole as the dramatic conclusion was being played out.
What else do I really need to even say here? Tom Watson. How in the world is Tom Watson leading the British Open after the first round of a major? It is 2009, not 1977 right? He is still 59 years old right? OK, so the old guy came out and fired a good round of 65 on day one, surely heâ€™ll rest on that round and end up finishing way back in the pack just like all the other past champions seem to do at the majors from time to time. Not this time, Tom Watson would go on to lead most of the entire tournament and stood in the middle of the fairway on the 72nd hole with a 1 shot lead over a late charging Stewart Cink. All he had to do was get down in 3 shots and he was going to absolutely shock the world and make us all believe that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.
I am sure Stewart Cink is a great guy and from everything I have ever seen and read about him I have always liked following him, but câ€™mon man, weâ€™ve got Tom Watson at 59 years old just one four-hole playoff away from something nobody thought was possible. Give credit where credit is due, Cink had a title to win and was forced to put aside his feelings of cheering on the story Tom Watson was putting together and get out there and win the British Open. And did he ever? He played the 4 holes in the playoff just about flawless and went on to become the champion golfer of the year. At the end of the day I feel that Cink is a very deserving champion who ended up winning a title that everyone in the world wanted to see Tom Watson win, part of me feels bad for Cink in a way. He didnâ€™t do anything bad, he simply shot a great score in the final round and went on to put together four solid playoff holes, he shouldnâ€™t have to apologize to anyone either, he deserved this title! Congrats again goes out to Stewart Cink! Oh, Tiger? He missed the cut.
Returning to Hazeltine National Golf Club the PGA Championship came to us as we just watched Tiger Woods win his last two starts in a row after his MC at the British Open, guess his game is just fine, eh? Who can forget the 2002 PGA also held at Hazeltine, that year we saw someone actually outplay Woods down the stretch of a major and we all got to watch Rich Beem dance some kind of funky jig on the 72nd hole as he would successfully hold off a hard final round charge by Tiger. Surely that wasnâ€™t going to happen in 09, especially after Tiger shot out the gates with a first round 67 to claim the lead after 18 holes. Shortly after finishing his round one of Golf Channelâ€™s lovely female analysts who will remain nameless basically proclaimed that Tiger was going to 1. Go on to win this PGA and get to 15 majors, 2. Win at Augusta in 2010 for his 16th, 3. Win the U.S. Open at Pebble in 2010 for 17th, and 4. Tie Jack Nicklaus at 18 majors at the 2010 British Open held at St. Andrews. Pretty bold claim after just the first round donâ€™t you think?
Well Tiger would continue to hold the lead for most of the rest of the 2009 PGA, he would ultimately go into the weekend with a four shot lead over some pretty solid players in their own right, but really nowâ€¦itâ€™s Tiger Woods and we know the forthcoming results, do we really need to plan our weekend around the TV to watch a 36 hole coronation of the king of the golfing world (all due respect to Arnold Palmer of course)? Round 3 showed us a little more conservative side of Tiger and instead of pushing his 4 shot lead to double digits he actually found himself with only half of that cushion left over come Sunday morning.
Playing the final round just behind defending champion Padraig Harrington and grouped with Y.E. Yang (who?) Tiger would begin his last shot at glory with a 2 stroke cushion, certainly he wonâ€™t need it, but just in case someone gets a crazy idea heâ€™ll have that cushion and probably end up building on that as the day progresses and take the PGA by a good 5 or so. Something just seemed different this time around though, 14 for 14 when trying to close out a major the final round of the PGA showed that Tiger actually doesnâ€™t make every putt that matters and he is actually human and is susceptible to a bad swing here or there even with the prize at the end of the day being a major title. Instead of jumping out to further increase his lead Tiger would hang around that same number he started the day with, would this possibly lead to someone running him down from behind? Padraig looked to be the most likely pursuer before the final around started but throwing up an 8 on the par 3 8th hole ultimately took care of Paddy for the tournament.
That left #1 vs. #110, 70 tour wins vs. 1 tour win, 14 major title holder vs. 8 time major champion participant. Tiger Woods vs. Y.E. Yang with Tiger still sporting a slim lead, the ending still very much certain as Tiger couldnâ€™t possibly give up a lead to this guyâ€¦or any guy for that matter. But after Yang dropped an eagle chip on 14 we finally witnessed it, someone finally caught and would end up holding off the best closer in the history of sports and claim a title that was pretty much a foregone conclusion would go to Tiger Woods. So now Tiger is 14-1 when being oh so close to grabbing yet another major title, not a horrible record by any means. I really gained some respect for Tiger, nobody knew how heâ€™d handle giving up the lead in a major but I have to say that he lost with dignity and gave credit to Y.E. Yang as he deserved it after that clutch finish he pulled off.
Alright, so weâ€™ve got Tiger coming in with a couple of T-6 finishes, a MC, and a 2 in the majors in 2009. Probably not what he was hoping for, after all, he enters every tournament expecting to win and weâ€™re all right alongside him expecting him to win as well. The 2009 majors will end up going down more as who lost than they will as who won. The Masters saw Tiger, Phil, and Kenny Perry all lose when it looked at one point that they were going to lock down the green jacket. At the U.S. Open we again witnessed Phil Mickelson lose, along with him David Duval and Tiger Woods all stood there at some point in the final round with a legit shot at winning. The British Open will be remembered as the time that 59 year old Tom Watson game this close to pulling off what might have been the most amazing win in the history of the game. The PGA Championship was our lock, we had Tiger in the lead on Sunday, and finally we were going to see a win go to the person that was supposed to win. Well someone forgot to tell Y.E. Yangâ€™s interpreter to pass that tidbit of information along as he stared the best in the eyes and not only caught him, but ended up building up a lead of his own to claim the title.
For every loser in 2009 though there were some legit players who earned their right to hoist up their trophy with pride. Years from now nobody is going to be able to take this away from each of these guys, and Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, and Y.E. Yang you should all hold you heads up proud as you have done what many before you couldnâ€™t do, win a major title in the Tiger Woods era, sometimes even with Mr. Woods himself playing well enough to win the title down the stretch. These 4 might not be household names, but for this golf fan, I wouldnâ€™t change a single thing about any of the turn outs. Iâ€™ve heard it a million times, â€œI donâ€™t mind Tiger, but jeez, it would be nice to see someone else win for a change.â€ Well I hope you enjoyed 2009 then, because I donâ€™t know that weâ€™ll see this type of major season again real soon.
Here is to keeping it on the short grass