With the PGA TOUR season over, I thought it would be fun to look back at the tournament winners for each tournament in 2012, and briefly comment on what those wins meant. There could be a little value in this for gamers, but it’s mainly just for fun.
We will start with January and February today:
Hyundai Tournament of Champions – Steve Stricker ran away with this by three over Martin Laird and was four up over last year’s champ Jonathan Byrd and Webb Simpson. This followed a trend where Stricker was T10 in 2010 and T4 in 2011. Being able to convert mid-range putts is a big key to this tournament. He may not have been selected for the U.S. Ryder Cup team without this win. Like the John Deere Classic, you have to consider Stricker in this event going forward.
Sony Open – There may have been nobody hotter in the month of January than Johnson Wagner, as he picked up his third-career win in the year’s second event. He tied for ninth at the Tournament of Champions, and would tie for second the next week before largely fading out of the picture for the remainder of the year. Of his four top 10s in 2012, three were in his first three events. He was tied for 10th in GIR and third in strokes gained-putting for the week, also playing the two par 5s in 9-under for the week (including two eagles on the 18th). He was two clear of a solid group of runner-ups that included Sean O’Hair, Charles Howell III, Harrison Frazar and Carl Pettersson.
Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation – Mark Wilson fired a 24-under to win the annual go-low by two over Johnson Wagner, Robert Garrigus and John Mallinger. He was tied for third in GIR and fourth in strokes gained-putting. His record leading up to this win in this event was not all that good, so this was a little bit out of nowhere. He also didn’t do all that much the rest of the year, with the exception of a third-place finish in the WGC Match Play in February. In recent years, he has jumped out to nice starts and never sustained them.
Farmers Insurance Open – This might be the first tournament that really mattered in 2012. I bet most golf fans remember Kyle Stanley stepping on the 18th tee with a three-stroke lead and makes an eight on the par 5 to wind up in a playoff that he would eventually lose to Brandt Snedeker. I’m not sure Snedeker is on the Ryder Cup without this gift-wrapped win. In fact, Stanley may have been on the Ryder Cup team if he wins this one and also pulls out the Waste Management Phoenix Open like he did. Of course, it’s highly unlikely Stanley would have actually gone back-to-back.
Waste Management Phoenix Open – Kyle Stanley extracts his revenge from the week before at the expense of Spencer Levin. It was almost a carbon copy of the week before. At this point in the season, Stanley looks like a sure-fire star with a Ryder Cup berth all but locked up. We later realize this to be his last top 10 of the year, and he went through a ton of changes during the season. Brett Waldman caddied for him in each of the last two weeks, but he isn’t on the bag anymore. He also parted ways with numerous other members of his inner circle, moving his home base from South Carolina to Arizona. We are now hearing that Stanley, Rory McIlroy and Nick Watney are going to join the Nike group. If you have Stanley stock, now would be a good time to sell until he shows that he’s adjusted to all this change. Name me a Nike staffer other than Tiger Woods that had anything close to a solid season. In 2009, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, K.J. Choi and Trevor Immelman were all carrying the banner. Since then, Immelman switched to Calloway and the other three did nothing in 2012. Different conversation, but I don’t trust Nike’s equipment and think the trio’s switch to Nike is a mistake from a purely golfing standpoint.
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am – The highlight of Phil Mickelson’s season came early, as he blitzed Pebble Beach for an 8-under-par 64 in the final round to win. To put it in perspective, he started the round in the penultimate group with Tiger Woods, whom he trailed by two. At the end of the day, Phil held the trophy and Tiger slouched to a 3-over and a T15. It would be Mickelson’s only win of the year.
Northern Trust Open – Bill Haas’ playoff win over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley was one of the most entertaining of the year. You had two major winners and a FedExCup Champion firing haymakers down the stretch. Haas looked to have won the tournament, but Mickelson and Bradley each poured in birdies on the difficult 18th to force a three-way playoff. Haas then buried a bomb on the par-4 10th hole in the playoff to end it. Haas didn’t do much after that, but this was a star-studded leaderboard in the shadow of Tinsel Town.
World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play – Hunter Mahan hands Rory McIlroy one of the few losses he would experience in 2012, and in a surprising turn of events doesn’t make the Ryder Cup team. Hindsight being 20/20, arguably Davis Love III’s biggest mistake as a Ryder Cup captain was overlooking Mahan’s accomplishment in this event. As Ian Poulter would later prove at Medinah, match play history and reputation are paramount in that event.
Mayakoba Golf Classic – John Huh (or Johnny Question Mark) bested Robert Allenby in the playoff that would never end at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. It’s a shame this tournament isn’t on the schedule for 2013 because it actually identified some trends. Huh had a huge year. Dickey Pride did too, and it started with his T5 here. Matt Every tied for third and was a factor in numerous events as well. I hate that these third-tier events are having trouble, because they are invaluable for rookies, and other guys in the reshuffle.
We will pick up with March and April soon.