This season was about so much more than Tiger Woods' humanity, or lack thereof, being exposed.
Now in the last gasp of the 2010 PGA Tour season, we look back at ten moments, events, breakthroughs and champions which defined what has been called the "year of parity."
Fans watched in disbelief as young players like Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler challenged the best players in the game to bring their 'A' game week in and week out.
Two of the lowest scores ever recorded in PGA history occurred just 24 days apart.
But the season was especially highlighted by those unsuspecting, and sometimes unrecognizable, professionals who earned worldwide credit as major champions.
Dustin Johnson’s season long performance represents what golf is all about: honor, perseverance, forward vision and patience.
After he won the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, Johnson was rightfully the favorite heading into the US Open. After opening with three days of spectacular golf, his first major championship appeared imminent with a six-shot lead heading into Sunday. However, his final round collapse had fans and foes alike questioning whether this kid had the game to excel under pressure.
But Johnson never threw a club or buried his head in shame. He just kept playing the game.
At the PGA Championship, Johnson once again played stellar golf for three days and put himself in position to earn retribution with a major championship victory. However, the ominous clouds of despair from Pebble Beach once more hovered over him on the 18th hole at Whistling Straits. Johnson committed the most crucial, costly error of his short career—grounding his club in an area that specifically was considered hazard. The penalty inhibited his entrance into the playoff and the cost him the chance to win.
But for all the hardship Johnson endured, he also enjoyed remarkable success. He earned seven top-10s, two victories, his first Ryder Cup appearance, and he contended in two of the four major championships.
Mickelson's game tends to be reckless, risky and rather remarkable.
No doubt he's dazzled as many fans as those he's caused to shake their heads and ask their friends "Did he really just do that?" (Perhaps in reference to his 2005 Winged Foot disaster). Then at this year's Masters, in the final round while in sole possession of the lead, Mickelson was on the verge of either a major victory or tragic collapse.
On the 13th hole, from behind an enormous tree, Mickelson ripped his ball through wood chips and watched it draw over the threatening stream protecting the hole and land within a few feet of the cup. It was a crucial turning point for Lefty, securing the green jacket.
Not since he drained the final putt on the 18th hole to clinch his first Masters, and major championship victory, has Mickelson generated such uncontrollable pandemonium among throngs of shocked, thrilled and bedazzled fans.
Opening rounds of 72-73 don't often bode well for the weekend of a PGA Tour professional.
But Rory McIlroy isn't any run-of-the-mill player.
After McIlroy barely made the cut at the brutally difficult Quail Hollow Golf Course, he relentlessly battled back with a Saturday 66. The 21-year-old left nothing in the bag on Sunday, posting a course record 10-under par 62, routing the field by four strokes. But more importantly, his victory at the Wells Fargo Championship was his first as a professional, though definitely not his last.
Only three times in a half century did the golf world see the epic score of 59. Now in one season, it came twice: first from Paul Goydos and then in the most dramatic circumstances by Stuart Appleby.
At the John Deere Classic, Goydos opened the tourney splitting fairways, knocking it tight into greens and putting almost unconsciously, yielding 12 birdies to reach the magic number. Just 24 days later, Stuart Appleby made nine birdies and an eagle on the Old White course at the Greenbrier Resort to capture the luminous victory by a single stroke over Jeff Overton.
Shooting that magical number has been such a rarity because a 59 is as much a mental hurdle as it is one based on talent and stamina.
If two 59s weren’t enough, three pros also got within one of the number this season. The same day of Goydos’ 59, Steve Stricker shot 60. Carl Petterson shot a third-round 60 at the Canadian Open, and then J.B. Holmes had the magic touch at the Greenbrier with another 60.
Fans watched as these birdie rampages allowed pros to manhandle some of the most demanding golf courses across the country.
For Louis Oothiuzen, it must have been a rather speedy transition. One minute no one can pronounce your name, and the next minute it’s being announced in praise for winning the British Open at the sanctuary of golf, St. Andrews.
The South African won arguably the most coveted event in the golf world because he did everything a champion must—hit fairways and greens, putted well, minimized his mistakes and kept cool under pressure.
But he shocked the world for two reasons.
First, he won with hardly any experience. Prior to the Open, he had eight missed cuts at previous major championships and five victories on what was assumed to be a mediocre tour (Sunshine Tour).
Second, Oosthiuzen is the fifth first-time major champion in the last six major championships. His victory restored hope for players not named Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson that they too have the capacity to capture the pinnacle of golf achievement.
When he won, too many critics said that other elite players like Paul Casey and Lee Westwood underperformed, instead of giving Oosthiuzen his due. However, it was Louis’ consistency from tee to green and strength of mind that allowed him to persevere and earn himself his first major championship.
As the first European to win the US Open in 40 years, Graeme McDowell soared to victory with style, self control, and well, a little luck.
Graeme McDowell played the most consistent golf of any player all week, effectively limiting his mistakes and ascending to the top of the leaderboard. His accuracy off the tee was a crucial aspect of his success, but equally important was his course management. McDowell rarely hit his ball to the wrong side or level of the green, giving him an easier time securing pars and giving himself viable birdie opportunities.
But, while McDowell did so much right, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods did so much wrong.
Between Els’ putter that caught frostbite, Mickelson’s inability to hit a green in regulation and Tiger’s struggle to generate any semblance of momentum, three of golf’s best players basically handed the trophy to the Northern Irishman. That is not to invalidate McDowell’s victory because it was a well-deserved, stellar showing. However, it was simply painful to watch the Big Three blow opportunities hole after hole, within just a stroke or two of the lead on the final day of the US Open.
It was a battle until the end and definitely one of the most captivating tournaments of the season.
Rickie Fowler doesn’t dress like the conventional golfer, instead sporting vibrant colors from head-to-toe. But he didn’t play like any average rookie this season, either.
Fowler made 17 cuts, had five top-10s, including two second place finishes and earned a Captain’s Pick to compete for the Ryder Cup.
That doesn’t sound like a rookie, does it?
Fowler has had an absolutely remarkable season. If Hunter Mahan had not shot a miraculous final-round 65 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Justin Rose hadn’t shot a flawless 66 Sunday at the Memorial, Fowler would’ve been among a very select few to have won twice this season. He put himself in contention, which is incredibly rare for a player of his experience level.
This kid made a name for himself in one season because, despite missing eight cuts, he was a blueprint for consistency.
He was excellent in the greens in regulation category (ranked 35th on Tour), had a reliable putter (3rd in Putts from 15-20 feet), and came up big on the most pressure-filled stages. He earned a solos ixth at the Wells Fargo Championship, T14 at the British Open, and closed his single match at the Ryder Cup with two magnificent birdies that kept the hopes of the US alive.
Martin Kaymer has a lot to smile about. He made golf history this season, winning four times, three of which were consecutively, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Tiger Woods' run in 2006.
Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in January, the PGA Championship in August, the KLM Open in September and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship just last week. The 26-year-old rapidly ascended to the No. 4 ranking in the Official World Golf Rankings.
What’s most unbelievable about Kaymer is that he only turned pro five years ago. In that time he’s earned eight victories on the European Tour and became just the second German professional to win a major championship after Berhard Langer. He was a shoe-in to compete for the European Ryder Cup team, and though he lost his singles match, he won both four-ball matches and halved his foursome.
He's just a gutsy player who thrives under pressure. He finished T8 at this year’s US Open and T7 at the British Open.
Over the last few seasons Hunter Mahan has been on the precipice of being one of the most talented, competitive professionals in golf. His 2010 performance ended the questioning, silenced the naysayers and elevated him to a new level of prestige.
This palpable transition was mainly due to his extraordinary knack for going low on the weekend.
For example, when he won the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Mahan delivered a pair of 65s for a weekend surge to the top of the leader board. At the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational he posted descending scores of 71-67-66-64, earning him his second victory of the season and third of his career. As ESPN analyst Jason Sobel said of Mahan’s performance, “Those numbers reveal a player who isn't afraid to take it deep on the weekends and doesn’t get unnerved by the big stage.”
Despite receiving a good deal of criticism from the public for his loss in the singles match at the Ryder Cup, Mahan performed exceptionally throughout the season.
To be totally blunt, no player on Tour is as deserving as Matt Kuchar of the PGA Tour Player of the Year.
He owns the most significant stats in the game: No.1 All-Around Ranking, No.1 in Scoring Average (69.43), No.1 in Top-10 Finishes (11), and he earned a place on the US Ryder Cup Team.
He came gut-wrenchingly close to winning the Fed-Ex Cup Championship after coming in third at the Tour Championship but still reinforced his already stellar season-long scorecard.
After a season that epitomized consistency, Kuchar finally earned a victory, just the third of his career, in a dramatic sudden-death playoff at the Barclay’s. Kuchar hit a sky-high 7-iron to the right side of the green and let the severe slope roll the ball back down towards the hole to within a few feet. It was a picture-perfect finish for the most talented player in the game.