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The other big winner this year would be the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Association, who patiently waited through a 90-day comment period before announcing a new rule that starts in 2016 and will outlaw the anchored method for using long putters. Keegan Bradley was the first player to win a major with an anchored putting stroke (belly put- ter). He started a trend in which four players with long putters won six majors. Those days will be over in two years.

One reason so many players could claim such a great year was because of Woods. When he was winning six or seven times a year, including a major or more, there wasn’t enough wealth to share. Colin Montgomerie used to joke — we think he was joking, anyway — that it was harder than ever to win a major because Woods typically won two of them, another was won by the likes of Mickelson, Els and Vijay Singh, and that left only one for everyone else. That’s no longer the case. Woods has played 18 straight majors without winning one; compare that with the start of his career when he won six of the first 18 majors he played. However, he won five times, which is no small task on the PGA Tour these days. It was the 11th time in his career he had won at least five times worldwide in a single season. Five other players won at least three times — Scott, Matsuyama, Graeme McDowell, Mickelson and Stenson.

Might the landscape have looked differently if McIlroy had kept his form? He ended the 2012 season at No. 1 in the world, and it wasn’t par- ticularly close. He had won a major in each of the previous two years by eight shots, setting a U.S. Open scoring record (268) at Congressional in 2011 and a PGA Championship record for winning margin (eight shots) at Kiawah Island a year later. McIlroy was trying to join Woods and Mickelson as the only players in the last 30 years to win a major in three successive seasons. But the golf didn’t match the hype, and the hype didn’t always have to do with his golf. In the worst-kept secret in the industry, McIlroy agreed to a massive deal with Nike in which he switched out his entire line of equipment — driver, fairway metals, irons, putter, golf ball — and only conceded late in the year that it took him until September to find the right driver.

Frustration set in early. A missed cut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. A first-round loss at the Accenture Match Play Champion- ship. He walked off the course after 26 holes at the Honda Classic and had to face his first serious criticism and his first “mea culpa” before the press. In May, it was revealed that McIlroy was changing management companies (for the second time in two years), a dispute that wound up in an Irish court and likely won’t be resolved until it goes to trial right after the Ryder Cup. He finished his long year with a win in Australia and a big sigh of relief when he walked off the 18th green in the final round of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. “It’s been the first year I had to put up with scrutiny and criticism, and it was trying. You have just to believe in what you’re doing and not let it get to you too much,” McIlroy said. “I let it get to me a few times.”

It was a year to forget for McIlroy, but it is worth remembering because of the Woods factor. They were supposed to be the latest rivalry in golf. McIlroy was No. 1. McIlroy figured to be the favorite in the majors. McIlroy had won five times the previous year, the most of anyone in the world. Would he have the same effect on players’ ability to win multiple tournaments the way Woods once did? Stay tuned. That certainly wasn’t the case in 2013. Woods was No. 3 in the World Ranking to start 2013. The gap between McIlroy at No. 1 and Woods at No. 3 was comparable to the gap between Woods and Jim Furyk at No. 27. Woods needed only six tournaments to return to No. 1 in the world. His universe appeared to return to normal when he won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, the seventh time Woods had won the tournament, not including his U.S. Open win in 2008. More telling was that the outcome was inevitable as Woods built an eight-shot lead in the final round, which was completed on Monday because of fog. Only when the pace dragged on did Woods lose patience and stop dropping shots that really didn’t mat- ter. He still won by four shots in his PGA Tour debut. He won again at another familiar haunt — the TPC Blue Monster at Doral — after getting a putting tip from Steve Stricker. It turned out to be one of the best put- ting weeks of his year. Another weather-related finish on Monday, this due to a microburst at Bay Hill that toppled tents, ended with Woods’ third win in four stroke-play events. More than his play, there was a sense of peace about him that had been missing the last couple of years. He was comfortable on the golf course and before the media. He announced he was dating Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn, and he was having his way with the competition with the Masters right around the corner. That peace was shattered by a perfect shot.

Woods appeared to be in total control when he arrived on the 15th hole Friday at Augusta National, tied for the lead and with a lob wedge in his hand. The shot looked to be perfect — too perfect, as it turned out. It hit the flag and caromed back down the front of the green and into the water. Instead of a short birdie attempt to take the lead, he had to scramble for bogey. Only the next morning was it revealed that Woods had taken an incorrect drop — purposely a few feet behind his divot to avoid hitting the pin — and he was penalized two shots. Woods was not disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard (his 71 became a 73) because of a committee error. Augusta National said it had information that the drop might have been incorrect but failed to talk to Woods about it before he signed his card. This is covered under Rule 33-7. Woods tied for fourth, four shots out of the lead, though he was not a serious contender on the back nine Sunday. The rest of the weekend was filled with arguments and opinions on how he was not disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard and that he should have withdrawn. Woods was in the middle of a controversy not of his doing except for going blank when it came to taking the proper drop. He won The Players Championship for only the second time in his career, and the first time since 2001. He didn’t reveal until the U.S. Open that he had an elbow injury at the TPC Sawgrass, and Woods constantly shook his left arm during the U.S. Open at Merion, where he said his elbow was in serious pain. It was serious enough that he withdrew from the AT&T National, which benefits his foundation, and the Greenbrier Classic. He challenged at the Open Championship, and won his fifth tournament of the year at Firestone with a seven-shot victory in the Bridgestone Invitational. It was his 18th title in a World Golf Championship and the sixth time he had won multiple WGCs in one season. A pretty good year, indeed. But his year was equally measured by more than five wins. It was remembered for no majors and three rules violations.

The latter made this a most peculiar year for Woods. He missed the cut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship when he took relief from what he thought was an imbedded ball in vegetation, except that it was considered sand and relief was not allowed. He was docked two shots, taking him outside the cut line. Then came the most memorable ruling at Augusta National, in which Woods said in post-round interviews that he purposely chose not to drop in the same spot. The most perplexing rules violation happened at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms during the FedExCup Playoffs. Early in the second round, Woods went long of the first green and had a small twig in front of his ball that he tried to move. When it appeared the ball began to move, Woods stopped what he was doing.

Little did he know that a videographer from PGA Tour Entertainment captured the entire sequence on film because of the scenic nature — all anyone could see beneath the canopy of trees was Woods from the knees down. The videographer shipped the film to headquarters, where an editor thought he detected the ball moved. He notified the tour, which notified the rules officials on site. Video showed the ball moved, if not a fraction of an inch. Woods, however, was insistent than it only oscillated. He was overruled by the rules staff, which assessed him a two-shot penalty.

The timing was only fitting. It was such a strange year on the PGA Tour that while Woods was watching the video replay in a scoring trailer with two officials, Jim Furyk was only a few hundred yards away, knocking in a three-foot birdie putt on his final hole (No. 9) at Conway Farms to become only the sixth player in tour history with a 59. What made this score so unique is that Furyk became the first player to shoot 59 with a bogey! He joined Chip Beck and Paul Goydos as the only players with a 59 who failed to win. Victory that week went to Zach Johnson. The story, as usual, was Woods.

He was celebrated for his five wins on strong courses against the strongest fields. He was criticized for not winning a major. He was under great scru- tiny because of the rules violations, even though he was penalized in each case. And the tone turned ugly at the end of the year when Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, in a column posted to, crossed out a grade of “A” and gave Woods an “F” for his season, insinuating that he had cheated. Chamblee ultimately apologized for “going too far” in his analysis, and Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, suggested a lawsuit might be in order. It ended there. Woods finished out his year by losing a four-shot lead on the back nine of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. Zach Johnson holed out from the drop zone in the 18th fairway for par to force a playoff, and Johnson won when Woods missed a short par putt on the first extra hole. These are the kind of things Woods rarely did, if ever.

Stenson’s disappearing and reappearing act? Been there, done that. He was at No. 351 in the World Ranking at the start of June in 2004 and then climbed all the way to No. 6 within three years. Injuries contributed plenty to his most recent slide that took him all the way down to No. 230 in the world early in 2012. Perhaps more telling of the slump was that Stenson, who holed the putt that gave Europe outright victory in the 2006 Ryder Cup, was not even close to making the last two teams. He was all but forgotten. History should suggest never to write him off. There were signs of Stenson turning his game around late in 2012 when he had the occasional top-10 (followed by a missed cut), and then won the South African Open to crack the top 100. In the spring, he still needed a late surge just to qualify for the Masters. He got there with a top-10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, and then a 68-66 weekend in the Shell Houston Open to get into the top 50. And he was on his way.

There are various metrics to measure his meteoric rise back to the elite in golf. Stenson earned roughly $2 million in 2012, finishing out of the top 100 on the PGA Tour money list and only No. 40 on the European Tour. He finished 2013 second with just over $9.1 million on the World Money List, second only to the nearly $9.5 million won by Woods. Of course, that doesn’t include the $10 million bonus Stenson earned from capturing the FedExCup, or the $1 million bonus from winning the Race to Dubai. He played in only one major in 2012 (the Masters, based on his 2009 victory in The Players Championship). He not only played in all four majors in 2013, he had a chance to win two of them. But perhaps the best measure of progress occurred after the third round of the PGA Championship. After signing his card, a Golf Channel reporter approached and said, “Henrik, can you give us time for a few questions?” To which the droll Swede replied, “Do you have time to show a few of my shots on TV?” He wasn’t blam- ing the reporters, and part of it was tongue-in-cheek. But only part of it. He was annoyed to have the lead on Sunday at the Scottish Open and get what he thought was limited coverage. By the end of the year, golf could not take its eyes off Stenson.

It all started with a tie for third in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, and then his runner-up finish in the Open Championship. Two weeks later, he was a side note to Woods winning the Bridgestone Invitational by seven shots at Firestone. Even so, it was another runner-up finish for Stenson, and he followed that with a third-place performance at Oak Hill in the PGA Championship. He had done everything but win. Stenson took care of that, finally, on Labor Day in the Deutsche Bank Championship. Two shots behind Sergio Garcia going into the final round, Stenson closed with a 66 and turned back one final challenge from Stricker by holing out from the bunker on the 17th for a birdie that carried him to a two-shot win. “There’s never a bad time to win a golf tournament, I know that much,” Stenson said. “I’m just pleased I won here. This was a big goal of mine to win a golf tournament after all those nice finishes.” A good year was quickly turning into a great one. And he was just getting warmed up.

For a man at peace with himself, Stenson showed the expectations he has for himself. Two weeks after his big win in Boston, he snapped off the head of his driver in the final round of the BMW Championship, and then smashed up his wooden locker at Conway Farms. The photo of the damaged locker went viral — though not as much as that photo of Stenson playing a shot out of the water at Doral years ago wearing nothing but his white underwear — and Stenson was asked the following week how some- one could lose his mind so soon after winning. “I can tell you don’t have much experience with Swedes, do you?” Stenson replied, handling criticism with aplomb and his great humor. He apologized and paid for the damage, and later explained he was exhausted from his big stretch and irritated by having to play Monday in Chicago because of rain delays. But the week off reminded him that “the world is in a good place,” and so was he.

Stenson at one point had a nine-shot lead in the third round at the Tour Championship, and he only had to hold off a late surge from Spieth on the final day to win the Tour Championship and the FedExCup. Doubling the pleasure, he tied for seventh in the Turkish Airlines Open and then won the season finale in Dubai. And to imagine that only a year earlier, big success for Stenson was winning the South Africa Open. “Obviously, it’s been a dream year, a dream summer for me, and the season of my life,” he said. “I would be lying if I said I saw all that coming.”

For Mickelson, there’s never telling what he might do next — or what he might say.

After opening the year with a mediocre performance at the Humana Chal- lenge, he vented to a couple of reporters about the taxes he pays living in California and said there might be drastic changes. Golf Digest estimated his earnings the previous year at $45 million, which was a number that resonated more than the percentage he said he paid in taxes from living in San Diego County. It caused a controversy and put Mickelson’s vast popularity on the line by going public with a polarizing issue. He tried to blunt the controvery by releasing a statement ahead of his press confer- ence, saying that financial matters are personal and he should have kept his opinions to himself. When he faced the media, which was carried live by Golf Channel, Lefty turned to his self-deprecating humor to put the matter to rest. He drew a parallel to when he blew a chance to win the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in 2006 by hitting a tee shot way left off the corporate tents and then trying to hit three iron around a tree. He made double bogey and lost by one. “So this happened to be way right,” he said, a playful reference to his position on higher taxes. “I’ve made some dumb, dumb mistakes. And obviously, talking about this stuff was one of them.” He made his usual assortment of mistakes on the golf course, too. One exception would be the opening round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where Mickelson hardly missed. He was on the cusp of shooting a 59 — finally, a chance to do something Woods never has in an official event — until his 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole took a wicked swirl in and out of the cup and he had to settle for a 60. He still went on to a wire-to-wire win, one of three worldwide wins for Mickelson. The biggest blunder on the course, or at least the one that caused the most pain, was at a familiar venue.

Mickelson figured he had prepared so sufficiently at Merion for the U.S. Open that he flew back to California in the days leading to the champion- ship so he could watch his oldest daughter graduate from the eighth grade. He arrived in time for his tee time, and while the pre-tournament days off might not be a good recipe for contending, Mickelson always walks to a different beat. He took a one-shot lead into the final round, and he had the lead when he pitched in for birdie on No. 10. But he came undone on the back with two wedges in his hand. One was at the par-three 13th, where he went long into a bunker and made bogey on a hole that was set up for birdies. The other was on the 15th hole after a magnificent drive. He came up short, on the front of the green, chipped off the putting surface and made bogey. He couldn’t make up the strokes to catch Justin Rose. It was yet another runner-up finish at the major he covets.

“Heartbreak. This is tough to swallow after coming so close,” he said. “This was my best chance of all. I felt this was as good an opportunity as you could ask for. It really hurts.” He later said it took him longer than any other loss to move on. But move on he did.

The Open Championship is the one major where Mickelson has never been much of a threat, except for Royal St. George’s in 2011 when he was a runner-up behind Darren Clarke. Mickelson got in some good work ahead of time, however, winning the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart for his first victory in links condition. He playfully — and wrongly, as it turned out — asked the media if they knew the last player to win a major com- ing off a victory the week before. He was alluding to his 2006 Masters win (after the BellSouth Classic), though he overlooked Woods winning the Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship in successive weeks in 2007. Mickelson at least gave himself a reasonable chance, five shots behind Lee Westwood going into the final round at Muirfield. What followed was sheer genius with every club in the bag, from the five iron into the deceptive 13th to start his run of birdies, the consecutive three woods that led to a pivotal birdie on the par-five 17th, and a birdie putt to cap off his remarkable win. Mickelson could not help but look forward to 2014 and a return to Pinehurst No. 2, his next chance at a U.S. Open to complete the career Grand Slam.

That was his last win, however. There was a feeling that three wins, plus a major, would be enough for Mickelson to finally be voted PGA Tour Player of the Year. But he had to settle for an Open Championship and one other U.S. win, not nearly enough to stack up against Woods’ five victories, the money title and Vardon Trophy. He finished the year at No. 5 in the World Ranking, up from No. 17 at the start. He celebrated his 42nd birthday. Mickelson still deals with arthritis, though this is one area where he is very much like Woods. When it comes to his health, he is not likely to reveals details. Even so, he picked up his 42nd career win on the PGA Tour as he tries to get to 50. Is time running out on Mickelson? With him, one never knows.


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