Itâ€™s hard to believe that the 2009 season is over already. It seems like just last week that we were hyped up for the Masters, we had all these questions that we were excited to get the answers to, we knew weâ€™d be in for a pretty exciting year but we just didnâ€™t know much more than that. Well here we are already close to November and a lot of our readers are starting to pack their clubs away for what is sure to be a long winterâ€™s nap. Before we officially seal the envelope and put a close to the 2009 season THP wants to take a look back; first weâ€™ll talk about the fellas on the PGA Tour, then next weâ€™ll take a look at what was a season like no other on the ladies circuit. So please donâ€™t be sad, sure your golf season might be over, but The Hackers Paradise is here to get you through the off season!
Where to startâ€¦.before we bash all those with such lofty expectations coming into 2009 letâ€™s first look at those who may have slipped under the radar in 09 and turned in a great year without much preconceived hype like weâ€™re so used to. Well for starters we had three first time major winners in 09, while that itself probably isnâ€™t all that surprising it was only the 3rd time since 1999 that weâ€™ve seen this happen. Even more surprising than three first timers is the overall world ranking of the four guys that won. Angel Cabrera (our only repeat major winner) ended the 2008 season 42nd in the OWGR, not bad right? How about our U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, he was 178 after the 2008 campaign. Next we saw Stewart Cink hold off Tom Watson in the British Open, Cink was the highest ranked of the four coming into 2009 at 16th. So far weâ€™ve seen two top 50 winners, nothing real shocking Iâ€™m sure, but whoever says they saw the next one coming is lying to you straight through their teeth. Y.E. Yang ended 2008 ranked 480th in the world, not only did he catch lightning in a bottle for a week in August at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, he did so while standing toe to toe with the man, the legend, the guy who simply does not lose a major on Sunday, Tiger Woods. We all knew it would happen sooner or later, but did we really think it would be a Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson kind of surprise? No way. So these four champions come into 2009 with a combined average OWGR of 179, as it sits today these same four guys sport a nice 21.5 average and all four were prominently involved in this yearâ€™s Presidentâ€™s Cup matches. Congratulations certainly go out to the major winners, so far none of them seem to be that Todd Hamilton type flash in the pan from 2004, and I definitely expect to see more of all four guys in 2010.
So what about everyone else? Just because these four were the ones winning the majors does not mean that theyâ€™re the only ones making a name for themselves in 2009. The first player that jumps out in my mind is world #3 Steve Stricker who until a late season charge from Phil Mickelson held the 2nd spot in the world behind Tiger, as recent as 2005 Strick was all the way down to #337 in the world. While he didnâ€™t surge up the board Y.E. Yang win it all in one shot style, Stricker has seen a steady climb in recent years but none more effective overall than 2009. Coming into the season Stricker had four total wins to his credit, but a dose of steady play all season long earned Stricks three more wins in 2009, definitely not a result of catching a hot streak he won events in May, July, and September showing that his game has really been solid all season long. He teamed up with Tiger Woods in four Presidentâ€™s Cup sessions only go to 4-0 in those matches putting some very tasty icing on an already solid season. Steve Stricker is simply too solid to go much longer without a major win to his credit. Perhaps weâ€™ll see him finally breaking through in 2010.
Early on in the 2009 season we started hearing of these young guns named Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa. Weâ€™ve seen this before though right, remember Ricky Barnes and dare I say it, Ty Tryon? Weâ€™ve seen so much of the hype surrounding young up and comers that weâ€™re almost immune to getting sucked before they do something to show theyâ€™re worth the ink thatâ€™s used to write their name all over the place. Well guess what, you may want to buy into some of this hype; since weâ€™ve been introduced to these young studs they have done nothing short of live up to all of it. In February Rory won the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour, that really got the hype machine started and once he came over to play with the big boys on the PGA Tour he showed that he has the game to not only belong on Tour, but to win and win often. While never winning on U.S. soil he definitely showed he is for real with major finishes of a T20 at the Masters, a T10 in the U.S. Open, a T47 in the British and his best major finish a T3 in the PGA. Thatâ€™s four made cuts in the four majors for you keeping track at home. While Ishikawa might not have had the finishes that Rory had he still is hardly going to be grouped with other over hyped â€œphenomsâ€. Ishikawa has played sparingly on the PGA Tour he still managed to have a pretty solid 2009 in Japan where he won three times and earned himself a captainâ€™s pick for the 2009 Presidentâ€™s Cup where he totaled an overall record of 3-2-0. While Ryo and Rory havenâ€™t quite reached the pinnacle yet, donâ€™t expect it to be too long before we see these guys building on the solid start theyâ€™ve had in their young careers.
Going into 2009 we just were not sure what to expect from worldâ€™s number 1 Tiger Woods, was his knee going to prevent him from playing at the level weâ€™ve all come to expect? Remember other top tier players who had knee surgeries and maybe still havenâ€™t made it all the way back, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh just to name a couple. Well itâ€™s sure easy to look back now and say that Tiger was able to have such a solid 2009 following major knee surgery because of his unparalleled drive and work ethic. I donâ€™t know about you, but I just canâ€™t see TW playing up the knee and laying around too long. Iâ€™m sure he was chomping at the bit to get out there and workout and come back stronger than ever, imagine how hard it must have been for Tiger to see players like Padraig Harrington win two majors when he knows darn well that he owns Padraig down the stretch with a major on the line. While it seems like ages ago now, remember how quickly Tiger was able to get back in the winnerâ€™s circle this season, he won in just his 3rd start of the season at Bay Hill in March. So he didnâ€™t win a major and he even *gasp* missed the cut at the British Openâ€¦..his major record other than the MC was a pair of T6â€™s at the Masters and US Open and a 2nd at the PGA. Oh and he also went on to win a total of six tournaments including his second FedEx Cup in 2009. Letâ€™s not forget his 5-0 record in the 2009 Presidentâ€™s Cup either. Yeah I think the knee thing is a very, very distant memory for Tiger Woods.
World #2 Phil Mickelson would probably just as soon forget the entire year of 2009, â€œThe Peopleâ€™s Championâ€ had to deal with more difficult times in 2009 than anyone anywhere. What do you say when the love of your life is diagnosed with a deadly disease; I mean not many people can even understand how that must feel. Then to throw a little salt on the wounds almost immediately after the announcement of Amy Mickelsonâ€™s diagnoses it also comes out that his mother has breast cancer. I could not imagine how hard it must have been for everyone in that family and my heart certainly goes out to them and all the women who are stricken with this disease just without all the press. Phil handled everything from day one just like we thought he would, like a complete stand up guy full of class. He smiled and appreciated the concern then he went out and played golf. He didnâ€™t do great all the time, but that week at the U.S. Open when he was yet again this close to winning was great to see. There werenâ€™t many people rooting against Phil that week and after how he came up just short yet again but seemingly put it all in perspective like only Phil can, heâ€™ll surely have even more fans in his corner next time he has a chance. So the summer wore on and we didnâ€™t see much of Phil, then when normally Mickelson has packed â€˜er in for the season we get to see a bit of resurgence after some putting tips from Dave Stockton helped Mickelson put together 3 nearly perfect rounds on the way to winning the TOUR Championship and produce a solid 4-0-1 Presidentâ€™s Cup record to close out his 09 season. 2009 was certainly a season Phil Mickelson will never forget, Iâ€™m glad he was able to end on such a strong note and with more positive word coming from both his wife and his mother Iâ€™m thankful and expect 2010 will be Philâ€™s best one yet.
Not everyone had such a great 2009 season unfortunately, at the close of the 2008 season we had what was looking like it could be the face of the PGA Tour for years to come seemingly raising to the top of their game in the absence of Tiger Woods. Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas were both on top of their game after 08; Kim had just finished off a great run at the Ryder Cup that saw him dismantle the European Ryder Cup superstar Sergio Garcia in singles play. Kim had two wins, eight top tenâ€™s, and finished 4th in the FedEx Cup and was 12th in the world all by the end of 2008. Throw in that solid Ryder Cup and we were watching a player turning into a world class force right in front of our eyes. If only 2008 would never had ended for AK, since then he has only eight top tenâ€™s and just a single runner up finish. Heâ€™ll blame a list of injuries as the number one culprit to the awful season, but one has to wonder if perhaps AK wasnâ€™t just living the rock star dream a little too much? Stories of late night partying and plastic looking bimbos trailing him around the course do not usually follow a player about to ascend to the top of their profession. AK has recently said that he has learned a lot in 2009; letâ€™s hope this is true because I think a lot of fans of U.S. golf are certainly pulling for him. Like Anthony Kim, Villegas also had two wins in 08, he finished 2nd in the FedEx Cup behind Vijay Singh and was at #7 in the OWGR. Since then he has just one top three finish, slipped down to 16th in the world and finished the 09 FedEx Cup at 42nd, not even qualifying for the 2009 TOUR Championship. Throw in a disgraceful 0-4-0 record at the 2009 Presidentâ€™s Cup and here again, weâ€™ve got a season that Camilo was much rather forget. For two guys that had such a positive ending to their 2008 seasons it is very difficult to understand just how this U-turn would have happened. I believe there is just too much raw talent in both these guys for any kind of a slump to continue, hopefully weâ€™ll see them both get back to form soon.
4, 7, 15, 74. No I am not trying to introduce you to a new fangled counting system, Iâ€™m simply pointing out the end of the season OWGR held by Adam Scott in each of the last 4 seasons. Following the 2006 season there were some people predicting that Adam Scott would be the next player not named Tiger to hold the #1 ranking in the world. Instead what has happened is a David Duval type tumble down the list, it seemed just a few short years ago that he was a canâ€™t miss superstar on the PGA Tour. I canâ€™t start to speculate as to the reason for his troubles on the course, but it seems that Iâ€™ve seen more press of him on the beach hob knobbing with Hollywood type starlets than any news of him on or around a golf course anywhere. After a surprise selection by captain Greg Norman for the 2009 Presidentâ€™s Cup team Adam Scott has shown a little glimpse of the form that earned him such lofty expectations, his swing is as good as any in golf so Iâ€™m going to say that once he gets his mind right weâ€™ll see Adam Scott start to climb back up those rankings real soon, the guy just seems far too talented not to be great.
2009 will definitely go down as one of the more entertaining seasons in recent memory; it was perfect for all those fans who say theyâ€™re fed up with seeing Tiger win all the time, sure having 3 fresh faces winning majors was definitely nice to see. Personally though, I am always one that wants to see the best playing their best and right now we know who the best is and Iâ€™m happy to say that in 2009 I definitely got to see Tigerâ€™s best, even without a major title. Whether or not people agree with the FedEx Cup business it seems to have worked in the fact that we had 4 straight events where all the top players in the world were competing. Iâ€™ve always said that if thereâ€™s a tournament where the top players are entered Iâ€™ll watch, period. While the 2009 golf season is coming to a close in many of our areas we can all stay in tune with the sport we love by logging some serious time in THPâ€™s forums, any given day there are hundreds of golf fans from around the world helping each other cope with the cold weather and count down the days until the next time we all tee it up!
Stay Tuned Next week for the LPGA Year In Review
Here’s To Keeping It On The Short Grass