Ranking the 10 Players Who Should Celebrate 2012 the Most

Ron Juckett@ronjuckettContributor IIIDecember 19, 2012

Ranking the 10 Players Who Should Celebrate 2012 the Most

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    As we turn the page towards the new year, it is time to look back at golf's wonderful year.

    We saw four different winners in the majors and another winner at the FedEx Cup.

    That does not even include Tiger Woods coming back and taking three tournaments!

    As the best and brightest on the PGA Tour relax and gear up for 2013, here are 10 players who are entitled to an extra helping of champagne or egg nog.

10. Sergio Garcia

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    There have been times during the last few years that Garcia just seemed to be going through the motions like a bored factory worker.

    The man who was one of the most infectious personalities in the game had beat himself up to the point that golf was not a joy anymore.

    In the last week of the regular season this August at the Wyndham Championship, Garcia had parted with his caddy and was looking for a long break before the Ryder Cup.

    When they finished that week, Garcia and his temporary caddy—a spotter for CBS—had won.

    That provided a spark, and Garcia nearly won the FedEx Cup Playoff opener at the Barclays and ended his American year with a great Ryder Cup.

9. John Huh

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    When your first full year on tour gets you Rookie of the Year, you have every reason to celebrate.

    Huh broke through for his first win in Puerto Rico at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and pulled a Top Five at Colonial.

    At just 22, he also played the FedEx Cup all the way through—the only rookie to qualify for the TOUR Championship—and finished the year 25th in the race.

    With $2.6 million in earnings, Huh will have no trouble celebrating the season.

8. Zach Johnson

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    After falling out of the winner's circle the last couple of years, Johnson returned back to his winning ways with a vengeance.

    Johnson registered his first win at the MasterCard Colonial and his second at the John Deere Classic.

    A tie for ninth at the Open Championship and a pair of second-place finishes at the RBC Heritage and the PLAYERS tell us that the 2007 Masters champion has returned.

    Taking just under $1.89 million in 2011, Johnson won just over $4.5 million on tour in 2012.

7. Jason Dufner

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    With the way he played this year, Jason Dufner will not remain anonymous very long.

    Dufner won twice in the space of a month. A playoff won him his first tour win at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans followed three weeks later by an outright victory at the HP Byron Nelson Classic.

    Known for being reserved on the course, Dufner fed into the emotion of the Ryder Cup and played very well on the losing side.

    More importantly, Dufner was married this summer. That alone gives him every reason to celebrate, let alone his wonderful year on the course.

6. Tiger Woods

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    You know this is a tough list to crack when Woods can only finish sixth on it.

    Tiger Woods finally passed Jack Nicklaus on the all-time wins list, winning his own tournament, the AT&T National.

    Woods also won Arnold Palmer’s get-together at Bay Hill and Jack’s own tournament, the Memorial.

    Woods' epic chip-in for a birdie on the 16th hole on Sunday at Muirfield Village told the world that he was indeed back.

    Whether he will choose to celebrate his season is another story, yet his fans must be excited about the year, his budding rivalry with Rory McIlroy and the year ahead. 

5. Brandt Snedeker

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    Snedeker stole the show at the big-money season-ending TOUR Championship.

    While we were all watching to see if Woods or McIlroy would end up winning the FedEx Cup—and the $10 million paycheck that comes with it—Snedeker ended up taking both titles home.

    Besides the huge money, Snedeker won in a playoff in Los Angeles at the Farmers Insurance Open and was the 36-hole leader at the Open Championship.

    What will be forgotten about Snedeker’s amazing run this fall was his two Top 10s in the playoffs that set up his amazing win.

    He believes in his game and can look back at this year with a big smile.

4. Ernie Els

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    Consider the fact that the guy who won the Open Championship could not even qualify for the Masters this past spring, and you will understand why Els has every reason to celebrate.

    Els could not crack the Top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings or sneak in a win before the Masters, and that put a fire in him that we have not seen in years.

    When Adam Scott blew his four-shot lead with four holes to play at Royal Lytham & St Annes, Els was there to pass him with a final round of 68 and his second claret jug.

    At 43 and with three majors already on his resume, Els really did not have much to prove to the golf world.

    His snub at Augusta showed, however, that he had something to prove to himself.

3. Bubba Watson

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    It has been a pretty good year when you can say the General Lee is parked in the garage and a green jacket is hanging in the closet.

    This year "Bubba Golf" earned himself a major.

    With a pink-shafted driver that can just bomb the ball for miles, Watson earned his breakthrough with his creativity and short game.

    On the second hole of his playoff with Louis Oosthuizen, Watson found the pine straw off the 10th tee and Oosthuizen was on the fairway.

    Watson hooked a seven-iron around a tree and onto the green. He made par and won.

    The always-emotional Watson could hold back no longer, and he may never stop celebrating his win.

2. Webb Simpson

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    The United States Open is supposed to be a brutal examination of all the skills a golfer has—both mental and physical.

    As Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk fell by the wayside on the weekend, Simpson took full advantage of a course that demanded accuracy over power and won his first major.

    Olympic Club was indeed hard from short holes to areas around the green cut so short that a missed green could see a ball roll 40 yards away from the hole.

    Simpson survived the Open at one-over par.

    He sat with his pregnant wife in the clubhouse and watched Furyk and Graeme McDowell finish behind on television.

    We can celebrate his Open all we want. He will take his healthy baby girl every day of the week.

1. Rory McIlroy

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    If he replaced the "World’s Most Interesting Man" on those beer ads, would you be surprised?

    McIlroy the celebrity hit new heights this year with his romance with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, and his game entered the stratosphere.

    During the weekend at the WGC-Bridgestone Classic, something clicked with his game. You could see it in his eyes.

    The very next week, he tore apart the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island and ran away Sunday with his second major—the PGA Championship.

    McIlroy rode his hot hand all the way down to the TOUR Championship on wins the previous two weeks at the Deutsche Bank and the BMW before falling to Brandt Snedeker.

    At only 23, he still comes across as the neighborhood kid who wants to mow your lawn for $10.

    Right now though, he is the best golfer on the planet and still has yet to tap his full potential.