Ranking the 10 Most Disappointing Golfers in 2013 so Far
Expectations can be very difficult. They define how we assess success, where we identify failure and how we classify accomplishments.
In golf, one man's four-win PGA Tour season isn't enough to qualify for a great year, while a single-win campaign for another is deemed a huge success.
Who you are, what you've done and where the bar has been set has as much to do with how a golfer's performance is judged as the accomplishments themselves.
It may not be fair, but it's the reality of the sport. Golfer's live on an island and own 100 percent of the performances they provide. Some excel in the face of expectations; others are defeated by them.
With three major championships in the books and the PGA Championship right around the corner, here are the 10 most disappointing golfers of the 2013 season.
10. Graeme McDowell
Graeme McDowell is considered one of the top players in the game and for good reason.
But considering his struggles in major championships this year, his 2013 season can’t be held in such a lofty regard.
Yes, McDowell has won both on the PGA and European tours this year, and that’s a significant accomplishment.
When you're a top-10 player, however, strong performances in majors and more consistency across the board are expected. That's where McDowell has failed to deliver this year.
McDowell ranks only 158th in driving and just 168th in greens in regulation, stats that provide some insight as to why he has struggled so mightily in majors.
With the PGA Championship right around the corner, McDowell, who also won the Volvo World Match Play Championship on the European Tour earlier this year, has an opportunity to jump off this list with a strong showing.
To do it, he’ll need to drive the ball better and allow himself more birdie opportunities to compete at Oak Hill next month.
If he does, an average season will get a whole lot better. If he doesn't, however, the doubts surrounding his play in golf’s toughest tests will persist.
9. Keegan Bradley
A year ago this time, Keegan Bradley was a fast-rising American golfer.
Today, he appears to have taken a step back during a 2013 season in which he’s failed to challenge in the sport’s most significant events.
Last year, Bradley claimed his first World Golf Championship title in the Bridgestone Invitational to complement his 2011 PGA Championship crown. He also posted a solid tie for third in his defense of that PGA title at Kiawah Golf Club last August.
Bradley finished the season eighth in the FedEx Cup standings and earned nearly $4 million in the process.
2013, however, has been a different tale altogether.
What’s most troubling about Bradley’s 2013 season is his performance in the sport's most significant tournaments.
The American missed the cut at The Players Championship in May and then repeated that effort just over a month later in the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.
Bradley also missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open and struggled to a tie for 54th at the Masters in April.
Following that effort, Bradley missed the cut at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans two weeks later.
A tie for 15th in last week’s Open Championship was, by far, Bradley’s best performance on golf's largest stage in 2013, but it was, by no means, cause for celebration.
Bradley needs a much better showing at Oak Hill Country Club next month to point his career back in a more positive direction.
8. Jason Dufner
Jason Dufner loves to be in funny pictures and tweet a lot. Challenging for a PGA Tour title in 2013…not so much.
The likable but stoic Dufner leaped onto the scene in 2012 by winning twice on the PGA Tour and posting a top-five finish at the U.S. Open at Olympic Club.
This season, however, the American’s play on the golf course hasn't been near the quality of his 2012 showing.
In 16 starts, Dufner has missed three cuts and recorded only one top-10 finish, a second straight tie for fourth in the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.
By contrast, in 2012, Dufner finished in the top 10 eight times and posted 14 top-25 showings. So far this year, he owns only five.
To his credit, Dufner has managed top 30s at both the Masters and the British Open, but he wasn't really a factor at either over the weekend.
Those performances have been significantly tempered by his missed cuts, the most recent coming at the Travelers Championship in June, and lack of strong performances in regular PGA Tour events this season.
After breaking through last year with his first two career titles, it feels as if Dufner is stuck in neutral and is becoming better known for his take on what’s happening on the course rather than for what’s he doing on it.
7. Louis Oosthuizen
From a performance standpoint, 2013 hasn't been anything to write home about for the sweet-swinging Louis Oosthuizen.
From a physical standpoint, it’s been an extremely painful ride.
Three times this year, including at the past two majors, Oosthuizen has been forced to withdraw due to injury.
The talented South African had to bow out early at the U.S. Open in June with a hip injury. Just this past week, he had to call it quits midway through his first round at the Open Championship while playing alongside Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell.
When Oosthuizen hasn't been forced out by injury, his results haven’t been very good either.
The former British Open champion has missed the cut in four PGA Tour starts this season, including at the Masters where he finished the first two rounds at six over par.
When he’s managed to play four rounds in an official tour event, Oosthuizen’s best finish is only a tie for 10th, which came at the Shell Houston Open way back in March.
Whether Oosthuizen’s health improves during the final quarter of the season and allows him to reverse recent struggles remains to be seen. What is certain at the moment is the past eight months have been a painful ride indeed.
6. Tiger Woods
It’s difficult to imagine how a season that includes four PGA Tour victories before the middle of May can be considered a disappointment.
When talking about Tiger Woods, however, the expectations are different, and so are the standards by which he is judged.
With Tiger, it’s about the majors, and by that standard, 2013 hasn't been what many expected it would.
In three tries this year, Tiger has failed to capture a major, and as a result, his drought has now reached 17 starts.
To be fair, Woods was in contention in two of the three majors, but by his own standards, it’s not enough to contend; winning is the only measure of success for Tiger.
Woods was also in contention at the Masters, but his top-five finish was overshadowed by the controversy around his bad drop on the 15th hole during the second round.
Things weren't much better at the U.S. Open last month, where a relatively weak short game and a sprained elbow led Woods to a 13-over finish, his worst-ever showing in a major as a professional.
The world’s top-ranked golfer has one more opportunity to turn 2013 around and win that elusive 15th major championship.
If Woods should claim the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club next month, his season will be an absolute success.
If his major-less streak heads to 18 starts, however, not even Tiger will want to hear about his PGA Tour wins in 2013—no matter how many he ends up with.
5. Bubba Watson
There’s no denying the 2012 Masters victory was a career-defining accomplishment for Bubba Watson.
Problem is, the talented American hasn't done much of anything since then in majors or otherwise.
Watson hasn't won since his victory from the trees at Augusta National and has threatened to do so only once this year on the PGA Tour.
In 15 starts this year, Bubba has only a trio of top-10 finishes and collapsed down the stretch in his best chance for victory.
Watson was leading the Traveler’s Championship by two shots late in the final round before he hit his tee shot in the water on the 16th hole.
After berating his caddie for the error in front of a national television audience, Watson went on to triple bogey the hole and implode out of contention.
Just as he was at the Traveler’s, Bubba has been his own worst enemy this year. Struggling with accuracy and putting, he has failed to put four solid rounds together and has been erratic from hole to hole in many of his starts.
Watson ranks 130th in driving accuracy, 66th in total putting and a head-scratching 166th in scrambling. As a result, when Watson gets into trouble, he struggles to save strokes and pays the full price for his mistakes.
That’s certainly been his sad story in majors in which Bubba has been a non-factor so far this season. He barely made the cut in his defense at Augusta National and finished at 13 over in the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.
Things weren't much better at Muirfield last week, as Watson finished the Open Championship at nine over.
Given how he won the Masters in 2012 and how likable he is, Bubba seems to be getting a pass for his poor play since. If it continues much longer, however, the rumbling around him will grow much louder.
4. Rickie Fowler
It’s been well over a year since Rickie Fowler’s breakthrough first career win on the PGA Tour at the Wells Fargo Championship, and the talented 24-year-old hasn't really come close to repeating the accomplishment since.
In 17 starts on the PGA Tour this year, Fowler has only one top-five finish and only six others in the top 25. At the same time, he’s not been a real factor in any of the three majors of the season.
Fowler was better at the U.S. Open, finishing in a tie for 10th, but he was still a full six shots behind winner Justin Rose and not a factor down the stretch.
While Fowler seems stuck in neutral, other young American golfers have surged past him , including 19-year-old Jordan Spieth and Billy Horschel, both of whom have recorded career-first victories on the PGA Tour this year.
There’s no denying Fowler has a world of talent at his disposal. Yet in 2013, he’s been "more promise than performance," and now, four years into his professional career, that’s just not good enough anymore.
3. Luke Donald
Luke Donald hasn't won on the PGA Tour since March 2012 and continues to struggle in major championships.
Opening with a nine-over 80 at Muirfield, Donald missed the cut at the Open Championship after struggling to 10 over in the first 36 holes.
The performance has only escalated doubts as to whether the Englishman will ever win a major championship, which has eluded him his entire career.
A month ago at the U.S. Open, Donald was in contention for that first career major before fading in the final round with a five-over 75 to finish in a tie for eighth. He wasn't much of a factor at the Masters, finishing in a tie for 25th at two over.
His tale on the PGA Tour has been better than at majors but not by a lot.
In 10 starts, Donald has eight top-25 finishes and has missed the cut only once.
That said, Donald hasn't really threatened to win his first tournament since the 2012 Transitions Championship in Tampa Bay. He has one top-five finish this year and two other top 10s.
At 35 years of age, there’s plenty of time for Donald to win more PGA Tour events and ultimately capture that elusive major. That said, the former World No. 1 seems stalled and needs something to re-energize his career.
Perhaps, that jumpstart will come next month at the PGA Championship. He’ll have to play much better, however, than he did at Muirfield a week ago to make that happen.
2. Sergio Garcia
Just when you thought Sergio Garcia had matured and was poised to win again on the PGA Tour and challenge in majors, he picked a fight with Tiger Woods.
Not only would Sergio lose that Tiger tussle this past May, but he would also make a racially insensitive comment at the end of it that turned a once-promising 2013 campaign into an utter disaster.
Before falling to Woods in the final round of the 2013 Players Championship and struggling through the controversy that ensued after he called Woods out, Garcia was actually playing well.
He was in Sunday’s final pairing at TPC Sawgrass and had three top-10 finishes, including a tie for eighth at the Masters, before that.
No matter how talented Garcia is, until he stops being his own worst enemy and behaving like a petulant child, he’s going to be a fixture on lists such as this one.
History tells us Garcia has a hard time learning lessons. Perhaps 2013 will be different.
1. Rory McIlroy
Unfortunately for Rory McIlroy, even a blind man would have put him atop this ranking.
No golfer has fallen so short of expectations or been as much a disappointment as McIlroy has during a miserable 2013 season.
The Irishman hasn't won a PGA Tour event in almost a year and has struggled to the point of embarrassment in major championships. Back in April, he lost his world No. 1 ranking to Tiger Woods.
McIlroy’s awful 2013 campaign hit a new low last week at the British Open when he failed to make the cut after struggling to a 12-over finish through the first 36 holes of golf’s oldest major.
In 10 major championship rounds this year, McIlroy is a combined 28 over par, with his best performance a tie for 25th at the Masters. That effort included a 79 in the third round en route to a two-over finish.
The season, which began with a switch in equipment from Titleist to Nike, also included an incident in which McIlroy walked off the course at the Honda Classic midway through a second round in which he was struggling mightily.
More recently, McIlroy admitted to "feeling a bit lost" after missing the cut at the Irish Open in a tuneup for the British Open.
As Rory prepares to defend his 2012 PGA Championship title, there’s no doubt he’s mired in a lost 2013 season.
A strong performance at Oak Hill Country Club next month would cure a lot of ills, but considering his current form, few are betting on that to happen.