The Year in Review 2012: Rory McIlroy, No. 1 player in the world, leads the year in golf

By JOHN HENDEL, United Press International   |  Dec. 23, 2012 at 5:01 AM
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Rory McIlroy ended the year with a flourish, marking a second half of the year that left him the undoubted No. 1-ranked player in the world.

McIlroy had four stints at the No. 1 ranking in 2012. The first -- also the first of his career -- came in March after he won the Honda Classic. It was the first of his five titles on the year.

But that lasted only two weeks. He had two-week and three-week stints on top of the rankings interrupted by Luke Donald but in August, after McIlroy won the PGA Championship, he was back on top.

McIlroy picked up the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship within six days. However, he tied for 24th at The Barclays -- the opening FedEx Cup event -- and tied for 10th at the Tour Championship, which allowed Brandt Snedeker to win the FedEx Cup.

McIlroy still managed to lead the PGA Tour money list with more than $8 million -- about $1.5 million more than runner-up Tiger Woods. He also led the European Tour money list with more than $7 million. (Some of the money won counts on both lists). Justin Rose, with winnings of $4.9 million was second on the European list.

McIlroy was inconsistent, although he was generally better more than he wasn't. One of those good weeks was the PGA Championship, which he won by a record eight strokes. Another was in the European Tour's year-end select DP World Tour Championship where McIlroy birdied his final five holes and won by two strokes.

But in the other major tournaments McIlroy tied for 40th at the Masters, tied for 60th at the British Open and missed the cut at the U.S. Open.

Bubba Watson beat Louis Oosthuizen on the second playoff hole and won the Masters and another American -- Webb Simpson -- took the U.S. Open. Ernie Els was a one-stroke winner at the British Open. It was his fourth major tournament title but first since the 2002 British Open.

The European team won 8 1/2 points over the 12 Sunday singles matches to retain the Ryder Cup. The U.S. side was up 10-6 and playing solidly until the singles. McIlroy and Donald were among the Europeans who had early wins that gave the team momentum to tie the biggest final-day comeback in Ryder Cup history.

McIlroy picked up the PGA Player of the Year Award and the Vardon Trophy for low scoring average.

Woods won three PGA events, passing Jack Nicklaus (73) for second on the all-time list but he's still eight behind Sam Snead. He was as inconsistent as McIlroy and managed just one Top 10 finish (tie for third at the British Open) at a major tournament.

In women's golf, Yani Tseng was No. 1 in the rankings throughout 2012. It was a solid year -- she won three times -- but after 2011 when she piled up 11 wins and matched her 2010 total of two major victories -- it seemed off.

The 2012 majors all went to Asian players as Yoo Sun-young won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in a playoff; the Wegman LPGA Championship was won by Feng Shanshan; Choi Na-yeon collected the U.S. Women's Open; and Jiyai Shin was a nine-stroke winner at the Women's British Open.

Shin defeated Paula Creamer on the ninth hole of a playoff in winning the Kingsmill Championship. It was a record number of holes for a sudden-death playoff.

Inbee Park, after two LPGA wins, was the LPGA leading money winner with about $2.2 million but the LPGA Tour Player of the Year was Stacy Lewis, who won four championships in 2012. Park won the Vare Trophy (low scoring average) and the LPGA Rookie of the Year was Ryu-So-yeon.

Lydia Ko was just 14 in January when she won an event on the ALPG Tour only to have Brooke Henderson, also 14, break Ko's mark as the youngest person to win a professional tour event with a championship in Canada. Ko also won the Canadian Women's Open in August, after she turned 15. That set a record for youngest to win an LPGA tournament.

The winner of the PGA Senior Tour's Charles Schwab Cup (points for Top 10 finishes) was Tom Lehman, who won one major tournament and was second in two others. Bernhard Langer won his fourth money title in five years, taking home about $2.1 million.

Roger Chapman won two of the five senior majors, finishing two strokes ahead of John Cook at the Senior Players Championship and the U.S. Senior Open by two strokes over four players, who included Langer and Lehman. Lehman repeated as the Regions Tradition winner and the Senior PGA Championship was won by Joe Daley, by two strokes over Lehman.

Also of note, Augusta National Golf Club extended invitations to former U.S. Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore to join the exclusive club.

Augusta is so exclusive, Rice and Moore are the first two female members.

The club is the host organization and course for the Masters.

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