Heartache Par for the Course
The PGA Tour's season story line is an odd one, a tale whose overriding theme concerns what could have been but wasn't.
Confirmation was best supplied on an ancient stage near the craggy Ayrshire coast of Turnberry, Scotland, where then-59-year-old Tom Watson made an implausible march before falling just short of a fairy tale ending in the British Open.
Needing a par on the 72nd hole, Watson missed an 8-foot putt, then lost his bid for a sixth Claret Jug to Stewart Cink in a four-hole playoff.
"This ain't a funeral, you know," Watson said.
Watson's heartbreak was hardly the only one.
Although the year's biggest events came to a close with the USA's triumph in The Presidents Cup last weekend, more misfortune could be in store at the Fall Series' final event, the Children's Miracle Network Classic in November, when some players will be scrapping to finish in the top 125 on the money list to secure full playing privileges in 2010. And in December at Q School, where disaster is one bogey away.
But as heartbreaks go, it will be tough to top the 2009 majors.
In The Masters, Kenny Perry, 49, was two holes away from becoming the oldest major championship winner in history. But bogeys on the final two holes preceded a playoff loss to Angel Cabrera.
In the U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson was playing in his second tournament since his wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The huge sentimental choice made a week-long charge but finished in a tie for second (his record fifth runner-up in the event) as Lucas Glover won.
In the PGA Championship, Tiger Woods failed to get his 15th major win when he couldn't hold a 54-hole lead in a major for the first time in his career. Instead of taking one more step toward Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors, Woods took a back seat to winner Y.E. Yang, who used to be north of No. 400 in the world golf rankings.
Still, there were other highlights:
Year of the Tiger:@ Woods could bag awards for player of the year and comeback player of the year after recovering from a broken leg and reconstructive knee surgery.
In 16 stroke-play events, he won six times, finished runner-up three times and had five other top-10s and a tie for 11th. His lone missed cut came in the British Open. He also won his second FedExCup title in two tries and leads the Tour in seven major statistical categories, including scoring average, all-around and the money list. And he finished 5-0 in the USA's Presidents Cup victory.
"Absolutely, it's a successful year," said Woods, who is scheduled to play at least three more events, including stops in Australia and China. "To have gone through what I went through for eight months and then coming back and being as consistent as I've been, that's something I'm proud of."
Mickelson's story:@ The stunning news came in May - Amy Mickelson was diagnosed with breast cancer. Seven weeks later, Mickelson's mother, Mary, was diagnosed with the same disease.
Mickelson, who had won at Riviera and Doral, suspended his schedule. The Tour held a "Pink Out" tribute to the Mickelsons at the end of May in the third round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational that left Amy Mickelson with "tears streaming down her face," Mickelson said. It also promoted awareness for breast cancer research.
"I'm very proud of my wife and my mom on the fight that they've been through. We're in good shape, and we're fortunate that our long-term outlook looks good," Mickelson said after winning The Tour Championship. "Also, I feel like I have some direction now on where I want to go with my putter. I can't wait for 2010 to arrive."
Big guns misfiring:@ Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia - who have 65 Tour wins and nine majors among them - haven't won on the Tour this year. All five, however, are on an upswing and feel 2010 holds promise.
Young guns coming:@ Rickie Fowler (20), Japan's Ryo Ishikawa (18), South Korea's Byeong-Hun An (17) and Italy's Matteo Manassero (16) showed their presence will be felt. Fowler, the former No. 1 amateur in the world, won all four of his matches in the Walker Cup before turning pro in September. Ishikawa won four times in his native land and caused a stir in the USA, including a successful Presidents Cup debut. An became the youngest to win the U.S. Amateur, and Manassero became the youngest to win the British Amateur.