Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Shane Bacon and head writer Jonathan Wall take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by hitting us on Twitter at @shanebacon and @jonathanrwall. Today, we wrap up the season's last major once and for all.
Bacon: With this week being one of the only weeks of the year with absolutely no golf happening (Seriously, even my sticks have been moved to the closet), I figured it was worth a moment to not only look back at 2012, but ahead at 2013. This past year was really crazy. A long-hitting lefty went from fun-loving country boy to Masters champion. A cardigan-wearing American took home the nation's championship after two former U.S. Open winners fell apart, and a South African that looked like his career was over snagged the Claret Jug from the hands of an Australian with all the talent in the world (and I didn't even mention Rory McIlroy's year, which will probably be an entirely different paragraph). So McIlroy aside, who had the best year in 2012, and who surprised you the most?
Wall: Rory McIlroy is the obvious answer to your "who had the best year" question, but if you're going to force me to think a little bit during the offseason, I'm going to say Justin Rose. You were expecting me to say Tiger Woods, right? Well if you're looking at the season as a whole, I think Rose's entire body of work was better. He won early in the year at Doral, posted eight top-10 finishes in 19 PGA Tour starts, was in contention at three of the four majors, and made what I believe was the putt that won Europe the Ryder Cup. He's my guy.
As far as surprised goes, I think Jim Furyk deserves the award for the epic collapses he produced this year. I know he's not a world-beater, but Furyk's been one of the most consistent guys on tour over the years. You just expect him to close the deal when he has a lead late in the final round. Not only did he implode at the U.S. Open, but he followed it up with a gut-wrenching loss at the WGC-Bridgestone ... and an awful performance at the Ryder Cup. We're used to seeing rookies and inexperienced players choke under the pressure, but it still blows my mind that Furyk let three golden opportunities slip away this season.
What about you?
Bacon: As far as impressive years go, I think you'd have to toss Jason Dufner in the mix, along with Tiger. I know it's easy to pick Woods, and we judge him on majors and majors alone these days, but the dude hadn't won a PGA Tour event in over two years before he pulled out that win at Bay Hill (and he almost did it early with that 62 at the Honda if not for Mr. McIlroy). Sure, Woods struggled when he got into contention at the majors, and that definitely bruises his year as a whole, but I was impressed with his ability to win multiple times after going on a serious drought that had some wondering if he'd ever win again.
Now for most disappointing? I might have to go Phil since you took Furyk. His win at the AT&T was incredible, especially being paired with Tiger, but his year was as unforgettable as any he has ever had, and the lowlight of his season might have come at Augusta National when the lasting image of Mickelson was hacking it out right-handed when he was very much contention for another green jacket. Mickelson played well at the end of the year, but he's still considered one of the most elite in the game and to not finish in the top 35 in any of the last three majors wasn't good stuff from Phil.
Now I ask you; with what we talked about, who carries this momentum (or lack thereof) into 2013? Do you like Rory to continue what he's doing? Is Tiger finally going to win a major? What are three certainties you have for the coming PGA Tour season?
Wall: I think Rory McIlroy could be the most intriguing story of 2013. He comes into the season with some incredible momentum and would be the obvious choice. But I wonder if there's going to be an adjustment period switching from Titleist clubs and balls to Nike. I'm sure Nike can build similar prototypes, and his swing coach said last month that he didn't believe the equipment change would be an issue. That may be true, but it's still a giant question mark until we see him on the course. However, even with the equipment change, I still think he's the best player in the world and the guy carrying to most momentum into next season.
As far as certainties go, I don't think you can guarantee anything in this sports — especially the way things are going right now. But if I'm going to go out on a limb: Justin Rose and/or Ian Poulter wins a major next season, Rory maintains the No. 1 ranking ... and wins his third major, and Bud Cauley has a breakout season with two wins. But don't put money on those predictions.
Bacon: Too late, already did. And a lot, but yeah, I think I'm right there with you on the predictions. Rory has a big year, I like the two Englishmen to possibly snag a major and Cauley sure seems way more mature than his age.
My big question marks actually lie with some Americans, namely Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan. What happened to these guys at the end of the year? I would like to see them bounce back in 2013, but I'm a little nervous about the possibility of it not happening.
Wall: Yeah, I'm not sure what to make of Mahan and Fowler at this point. Both played incredibly well early in the season and then disappeared right around the time we figured they were Ryder Cup locks. Seeing two of America's rising stars hit a rough patch at the exact same time is the kind of thing that should set off alarm bells, but I have to say I'm not worried about either. Fowler picked up his first PGA Tour win last season, and Mahan showed early on that he has the game to contend with the best in the world. Call me crazy, but I actually think both end up with a least one win next season.
My final question for you: Will Tiger Woods win major No. 15 in 2013? You and I both know he'll likely be in contention at Augusta, but what about Merion, Muirfield and Oak Hill? (Please tell me he wins at least one, because I'm not sure I can handle the major-less talk for another year.)
Bacon: OF COURSE HE WILL HE'S TIGER WOODS! Or no he won't, because he isn't the same guy anymore! Yeah, those are basically the two trains of thought, right?
Personally, I think Tiger wins next year. I know he has really struggled with the changes at Augusta for some reason, but I like him at Muirfield and continue to think the British is the best chance for him to breakout with a major win because he doesn't have to be perfect to win there (although it would help). I think he snags a major next year and I'm simply saying that because I'm with you; another year of major-less Tiger talk is bound to drive us to a scary place.
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