Thu Dec 29 09:11am EST
Normally lists are done in tens. The 10 best golfers of all time. The 10 best shots of the year. But in golf, 10 isn't the number we surround ourselves with. It's nine. We play 9 holes. We hope to end our round with a 9 in it (be it, 89, 79, 69, or even, gasp, 59), and so this year, we've decided to focus our end of year awards in nines. These are the biggest disappointments of the year.
9.) Marquee U.S. names fail to show up on LPGA -- One year after Americans Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer (captured her first major) and Michelle Wie won in the same season, not one of them hoisted a trophy in '11. Only Brittany Lincicome and Lexi Thompson managed to represent the United States in the winner's circle. While both are certainly great players, the tour could have used a big season from Kerr, Creamer and Wie. Unfortunately, they all left their games at home.
8.) Stupid rules win again -- The Rules of Golf maintain the integrity of our great sport; however, some of the rules are incredibly stupid. Padraig Harrington was DQ'd from a tournament in Abu Dhabi after his ball moved -- heck, it appears to oscillate just a bit, in my opinion -- a fraction of an inch. Webb Simpson also missed out on a win in New Orleans when his ball moved after addressing a five-foot putt. Gotta love pointless rules.
[Related: The top 10 sporting gaffes of 2011]
7.) American golf falls out of the OWGR top five -- For the first time in 17 years, no American player will be ranked in the top five of the final World Golf Rankings of the year. That's pretty sobering news for a country that used to dominate the golf scene. The good news for the U.S. is that a new crop of guys are coming on strong. But if this season taught us anything, it's that the professional golf scene no longer belongs to the Stars and Stripes.
6.) Graeme McDowell's incredible slide -- Seriously, what the heck happened to Graeme McDowell this season? One year after winning his first major, sinking the winning putt at the Ryder Cup, and beating Tiger Woods at his own event, the Ulsterman completely fell off the map in '11. Aside from not posting a win, his best finish of the season was a third-place showing ... which he posted in the first event of the season. He also struggled with his swing for most of the year, posting a couple of rounds in the 80's. You have to wonder who's going to show up next season, Jekyll or Hyde?
5.) Parity in golf -- Tim Finchem is a big fan of parity in golf, but if the PGA is going to thrive again, somebody needs to step up and take the reins. Without a single three-time winner on the PGA Tour in 2011 and no repeat major winners since 2008, the sport is unpredictable at the moment. That may be fine for some, but most fans know the sport is always at its best when there's a clear-cut favorite leading the pack.
4.) John Daly implodes -- Some may consider this a highlight, but John Daly's Tin Cup-esque moment at the Australian Open was just another black eye for golf's biggest sideshow. After knocking one shot in the water on the par-5 11th, Daly proceeded to hit six more in the water before running out of balls and walking off the course. His actions prompted the tournament committee to ban him from future events in Oz.
[Related: Golf's top five stories of 2011]
3.) Professional athletes taking away spots in mini-tour events -- One year after NFL legend Jerry Rice took away spots in two Nationwide events, former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz tried his luck in a mini-tour event earlier in the year ... and got humbled by the course. To make matters worse, Rice teed it up again and missed the cut. The biggest disappointment here isn't Rice and Smoltz missing the cut, it's tour events deciding it makes sense to give a spot to an undeserving pro athlete over a guy who, you know, actually earned his tour card.
2.) Bubba Watson's comments about France -- Bubba Watson's one of the funniest guys on tour, but his sense of humor (or lack thereof) certainly didn't translate when he played in the French Open. Watson called the iconic Eiffel Tower "that big tower," and the Arc de Triomphe "this arch I drove round in a circle." Talk about doing everything you can to endear yourself to the locals.
1.) Tiger Woods -- Sure, the guy finally got his first win in more than two years earlier this month, but a look at his body of work tells you everything you need to know about Tiger's season. No doubt about it, this was another down year for the former No.1. Not only did he fail to win a major, he also withdrew from the Players with another leg injury; missed the cut for the first time ever at the PGA Championship; and looked completely out of sorts for most of the year. Say what you will about the state of his game; overall, 2011 was a major disappointment.
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