Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the 10 Biggest Golf Surprises of 2013

Kathy BissellCorrespondent INovember 19, 2013

Tiger Woods, one of 2013's biggest golf surprises
Tiger Woods, one of 2013's biggest golf surprisesWarren Little/Getty Images

Every year in golf brings a plethora of surprise winners and losers, and 2013 was no exception. Let's take a look. 

10. Graeme McDowell, PGA Tour First-Time Winner

Despite all his excellent play, his victory at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, his heroic shots at the Ryder Cup in Wales and his new restaurant in Orlando, McDowell had yet to win a regular PGA Tour event.  Last April, he found his way to a PGA Tour trophy ceremony and gained a plaid jacket at the RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island.

Can the tartan coat at the Crown Plaza Invitational at Colonial be far behind?


9. World Golf Hall of Fame Refuses to Induct Anyone in 2014

After criticism of recent inductees by former inductees, particularly Raymond Floyd, the World Golf Hall of Fame decided to delay induction of the next class and re-evaluate the criteria for selection.  That shouldn't affect the LGPA, however, as they have a point system based on victories, and it actually seems unnecessarily tough.

From the LPGA website:


LPGA Tour Hall of Fame, members of the LPGA Tour, who were active in 1998 and going forward, must meet the criteria outlined below. Entrance to the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame is limited to LPGA Tour members who meet the following criteria:

1. Must be/have been an "active" LPGA Tour member for 10 years:
2. Must have won/been awarded at least one of the following - an LPGA major championship, the Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honors; and
3. Must have accumulated a total of 27 points, which are awarded as follows - one point for each LPGA official tournament win, two points for each LPGA major tournament win and one point for each Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honor earned.

8. The New PGA Tour Schedule

After much debate, it's working.

Some players, like former U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson, took advantage of the early-season tournaments to rack up 2014 FedEx points the better to rest later on in 2014.

Recently announced is the change for 2015 to move the McGladrey Classic to an earlier fall date.  That will be followed by PGA Tour-sponsored Asian events.  The move may strengthen participation in the domestic fall events.

In addition to two-year exemptions, fall winners get full FedEx Cup points and Masters and, likely, Players invitations.


7. Inbee Park

Inbee Park won three majors in 2013. That's Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan territory.
Inbee Park won three majors in 2013. That's Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan territory.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Another of South Korea's star LGPA players, Park won three LPGA majors in 2013 and got almost no coverage for it.  In case you forgot or weren't paying attention, they were the Kraft Nabisco Championship, LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open.

Who was the last professional golfer to win three majors in a season?  Tiger Woods.  Before that?  Ben Hogan.  That's how well she played. 


6. Rory McIlroy

Never has so much hype turned into so much fizzle.  After winning two majors, a U.S. Open and a PGA Championship, McIlroy found romance and a new club deal, changed management companies twice and lost direction on the golf course.

If he weren't rich and famous, you could almost feel sorry for him.

Recently, McIlroy modified his driver and golf ball, changing to the VR_S Covert 2.0 Tour driver and RZN prototype ball, and he used those to beat Tiger Woods in an exhibition match in China.

“I would like to play all my tournaments in China where I can beat Tiger,”  McIlroy said about their challenge match.


5. Justin Rose

The fan favorites at the beginning of U.S. Open week were Tiger and Phil.  Very few can say they picked Justin Rose to win it.

When he surprised, Rose became the third European to win the tournament since Tony Jacklin in 1970.

Rose quipped, "(Lee)Trevino says, 'Fell in love with a girl named Merion, just didn't know her last name.'  I've been sort of joking about that all week."

Historically, the U.S. Open has almost always been won by players from the U.S., with the occasional South African jumping in the winner's circle.  With Rose's victory, eight non-U.S. players have won the title since 2000.  They are: Retief Goosen (twice), Michael Campbell, Geoff Ogilvy, Angel Cabrera, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and now Rose.


4. Adam Scott and Augusta National

The Masters has often been called a putting contest because the greens are large and undulating to the point that they instill fear in the hands of those wielding the club.

The idea that someone would win, not just with a long putter, but with a broomstick putter, seemed out of the question.

That's why Adam Scott's victory at The Masters ranks so high on the surprise scale.  Coming nine months after the near-miss at the British Open, where he was ahead with four holes to go and could not finish it off, the Masters was an amazing and unexpected victory for him.


3. Phil Mickelson

No one, including Phil Mickelson, thought he could win a British Open, at least not until the last six or so years.

He hit the ball too high.  He couldn't keep it under the tricky, links winds.  The greens were too slow.  And his putter had become balky.  Never mind the damaged psyche from a sixth loss at the U.S. Open.

Then, when Mickelson won the Scottish Open, it seemed he had peaked a week too soon.  However, Lefty surprised everyone, maybe even himself, when he birdied four of the last six holes at Muirfield to capture the British Open and the third leg of the career grand slam.


2. Henrik Stenson

Stenson was in the 200s in the world rankings, a free fall that started after he won the 2009 Players Championship.  Then, last spring, he reunited with mental coach Torsten Hansson and began one of the most rapid and amazing returns to form that golf has seen in decades.  

Stenson clawed his way up the FedEx points list and won the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup.  Afterward, he announced that his goal was to become the first person to win the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai.  It was new history of sorts, formed by the cash grabs at the end of the seasons on the PGA and  European Tours.

Like Babe Ruth calling a home run in advance, Stenson proceeded to take a commanding lead in the final Race to Dubai tournament.  He won the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai for both titles, setting a new standard for golfers to reach. 

"To get the double double sort of, winning the Tour Championship on both the tours and the total on both tours, that's going to take some beating I guess in the future," Stenson said about his unlikely achievement.


1. Tiger Woods

Woods won five times in 2013, but none of the wins were majors.  With his ability to win and contend, it is the biggest surprise of the year that with five victories, one of them was not a traditional major.   

"So many of you guys here that were saying I could never win again.  Got eight wins since then, so it's been good, and I'm very happy with the progress I've made," Tiger Woods insisted after playing in Turkey.  

He said he's looking forward to next year's major venues, which are Augusta National, Pinehurst No. 2, Royal Liverpool and Valhalla GC.  He's won at three of the four.  

Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report.  Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.


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