By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Four wins, including his second major, on the PGA TOUR. The money titles on both sides of the Atlantic. The Byron Nelson Award and Vardon Trophy for low scoring average.
So what’s not to like when newly-named PGA TOUR Player of the Year Rory McIlroy looks back on 2012? Well, he does have one regret, and it speaks volumes about the young Northern Irishman.
"We are judged on wins ultimately, and this year has been a great year with four wins on the PGA TOUR and winning in Dubai a couple weeks ago," McIlroy said in a teleconference on Tuesday. "But next thing, I won my first major in ’11, I backed it up this season with another one, and I’d love to go into ’13 with that same goal of obviously trying to win another major.
"But I think really what was disappointing this year for me, if there was a disappointment, that I was only in contention once in the majors, and luckily I was able to win it. But next year I’d love to be in contention in all four of them and have a chance to win all — not saying I’m going to win all of them, but at least give myself a chance."
McIlroy’s victory at the PGA Championship, which came by a whopping eight strokes courtesy of a flawless 66 on Sunday, sparked a surge that saw him win consecutive tournaments during the FedExCup Playoffs.
He ended up second in the FedExCup to Brandt Snedeker, who won the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, and then turned his attention back to the European Tour where McIlroy won the season-ending Dubai World Championship.
McIlroy was named Player of the Year in a vote of his peers. The ballot, as PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem noted, was a "stout" one, featuring Snedeker; Masters champion Bubba Watson, three-time winner Tiger Woods and Jason Dufner, who broke through with two victories.
"It’s always nice to get recognition from your peers, the guys that you’re trying to beat week in, week out, and obviously there’s been a lot of guys on the PGA TOUR that have had great years this year," McIlroy said. "… So to beat those guys is … a very nice feeling. It’s very rewarding, and I guess it’s just a great way to end what has been a great year and my best season so far."
McIlroy said he drew confidence from a tie for fifth at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational the week before he headed to Kiawah Island, S.C., for the season’s final major. In his previous five starts, the 23-year-old had missed three cuts, including in his title defense at the U.S. Open and tied for 60th at the Open Championship, while posting a single top-10 in Memphis.
"I think everyone knows that my game wasn’t where I wanted it to be sort of through the start of the summer and leading up to the PGA," McIlroy said. "But I felt like the week before in Akron I had a good week. I finished fifth and actually got a bit of confidence from that. I felt like my game was coming back to where I wanted it to be.
"Of course every time I go into a major I have expectations, but maybe at the PGA my expectations were maybe slightly lower just because of the form that I was in, and I got myself into a great position going into the weekend, and … I didn’t want to sort of let this opportunity pass me because it was a great opportunity to win my second major, and obviously I was able to do it, and from that I gained a lot of confidence.”
McIlroy is the third European to be named Player of the Year, following Luke Donald in 2011 and Padraig Harrington in 2008. The world No. 1 is also the youngest to earn the distinction since Tiger Woods did in 1997.
In addition to his many accolades earned for his work on the golf course, Finchem said McIlroy was equally accomplished outside the ropes. "He is at a very young age already making a very solid contribution to what is the most important asset of the PGA TOUR, and that is the image of its players, " the commissioner said.
Finchem also announced John Huh’s selection as the PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year. Huh won the Mayakoba Golf Classic in just his fifth start on TOUR, beating veteran Robert Allenby in an eight-hole playoff.
Huh is the first player of Korean descent to be honored with the award and was the only rookie to reach the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, finishing 29th in the FedExCup.