As the dust settles on another enthralling season of golf, we have compiled a list of awards, recognising some of the stand-out moments of a year that had absolutely everything.
Player of the Year
It is impossible to look past Rory McIlroy, a man that has shown utter domination on both sides of the Atlantic. He showed his unrivalled talent with a record-breaking eight-shot victory at the PGA Championship, becoming the youngest player since Seve Ballesteros to win two majors. Back-to-back victories in the FedEx Cup play-offs, events comprised of the world’s best golfers, were enough to secure the PGA Tour Money List title. A third-place finish at the Barclays Singapore Open gave him an unassailable lead atop the Race to Dubai standings, and he rounded his campaign off in style by birdieing the last five holes en route to victory at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
- In 2012, McIlroy broke the record for money earned in a single European Tour season
- None of McIlroy’s five European Tour wins have come on European soil
Choke of the year
Unfortunately for Kyle Stanley, there is only one winner. With a three-shot lead after 71 holes of the Farmers Insurance Open, Stanley hit a great drive down the 72nd fairway. Despite his length, he opted to lay-up, and watched in horror as his third spun back off the green and into a pond fronting the putting surface. He played safe with his fifth, and three-putted to fall into a play-off with Brandt Snedeker. Unsurprisingly, in the play-off he went on to lose.
Stat attack: Stanley averaged 306.9 yards from the tee in 2012
Comeback of the year
Stanley, though, deserves enormous credit for his performance the following week at the Phoenix Open. Starting the final round seven shots off the lead, he turned in 33, and added birdies at 11, 13 and 14 to move into the lead. With overnight leader Spencer Levin suffering a collapse of his own, Stanley parred home to claim his first PGA Tour victory. Rarely in the history of sport has someone felt such contrasting emotions in the space of seven days.
Stat attack: Stewart Cink overcame a nine-stroke final-round deficit to claim the 2004 MCI Heritage
Newcomer of the year
If it wasn’t for McIlroy’s heroics, Branden Grace would have claimed the European Tour Player of the Year accolade. A year ago, Grace was at European Tour Q-School, with uncertainty surrounding his future as a top-tier golfer. The South African, however, enjoyed an unprecedented rookie season, winning four times (the only European Tour golfer to do so), amassing €2,502,501 and finishing sixth – one place above Luke Donald – in the Race to Dubai.
Stat attack: Before 2012, Grace had only won two tournaments since turning professional in 2007
Feel good moment
Tommy Gainey’s victory at the McGladrey Classic was, from an emotional standpoint, the best moment of the season. Ten years ago, Gainey was earning $8-an-hour working as an assembly line worker in a water heater factory. Now, he is a PGA Tour champion. Starting the final round of the McGladreys seven-strokes behind former major champions Davis Love and Jim Furyk, he tore through the field with an extraordinary round of 12-under-par 60. No one could catch him, and he earned $720,000 and a two-year PGA Tour exemption.
Stat attack: Gainey has earned $4,405,492 on the PGA and Web.com Tours
Shot of the year
Tiger Woods’s chip-in at Muirfield Village, Louis Oosthuizen’s albatross at the Masters and any number of Ryder Cup shots came close, but Bubba Watson’s pitch from the trees at the Masters takes the title. From the middle of the trees, he contrived to bend a wedge almost 90 degrees and find the putting surface. He would go on to two-putt from 15 feet and claim his maiden major championship.
Stat attack: Bubba’s pink driver earned more than $350,000 dollars for charity this season
Before 2012, there had only been one albatross at the Masters – Gene Sarazen’s ‘shot heard around the world’ on the 13th hole in 1935. This year, Louis Oosthuizen hit a cracking drive down the second fairway, leaving a 253-yard four-iron for his second. It came flying off the middle of the club, landed on the front of the green, followed the contours of the putting surface and, after what seemed like an eternity, found its way into the hole. It was a simply astonishing thing to happen, especially during the final round of a major.
Stat attack: there have been 16 albatrosses in the history of golf’s major championships
There are so many contenders on both tours, from Ernie Els’s Open victory to Bill Haas’s triumph at Riviera, but the award goes to the DP World Tour Championship. World number one Rory McIlroy and world number two Luke Donald shared the lead after rounds two and three, but a new contender surged through the field on Sunday. Justin Rose shot a closing course-record 62 to move two in front of the Ulsterman. Unperturbed, the 23-year-old birdied his last five holes; an extraordinary finish that showed why McIlroy has reached the pinnacle of the sport.
Stat attack: McIlroy shot a combined 40-under-par to win the Deutsche Bank and BMW Championships in consecutive weeks
So many of the world’s best golf courses are used throughout the season, but Medinah Country Club is the narrow winner. Course #3 was set up absolutely perfectly for the Ryder Cup, and fully deserved to be hosting a tournament of such magnitude. The closing stretch – including water-strewn par 3s, a driveable, pond-fronted par 4 and a reachable par 5 – accounted for unbelievable excitement over the four days.
Stat attack: Medinah Country Club’s Course #3 was the longest venue in Ryder Cup history at 7,658 yards
The par-3 17th at Medinah was the most dramatic hole of one of the most dramatic Ryder Cups in history. On Friday, it played host to Nicolas Colsaerts’s hugely significant 25-foot birdie putt with Woods in close. On Saturday, it was the stage for Luke Donald’s seven-iron to two feet in a match Europe simply needed to win. And on Sunday... well, Justin Rose is all that needs to be said.
Stat attack: Three singles matches came to a conclusion on the 17th hole
Lee Westwood, after Europe’s historic Ryder Cup comeback: “We should change the qualifying criteria next year: nine automatic spots, two captain’s picks and Ian Poulter.”
The anchored putter has been hotly disputed over the past couple of seasons. Major wins for Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA), Webb Simpson and Ernie Els - all exponents of the belly putter – added significant weight to the argument they should be banned. On Thursday (28th), those against let out a collective cheer as the R&A and the USGA revealed a proposed change to the Rules of Golf. That change, in short, would see anchored putting strokes outlawed.
Stat attack: No one inside the top 20 in the PGA Tour’s Strokes Gained – Putting category wields an anchored putter
Goose bump moment
It has to be Ian Poulter’s birdie putt on the 18th green at the Ryder Cup; a putt that secured a much-needed four ball victory for Europe over Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson on Saturday afternoon. Having birdied his previous four holes, he dispatched his 12-footer straight into the middle of the hole. That putt galvanised the European side and gave them genuine hope heading into the singles. Seeing such passion and desire to succeed was truly inspirational.
Stat attack: Ian Poulter was the only player with a 100% record at the 2012 Ryder Cup. He has won 12 of his 15 Ryder Cup matches