McIlroy on song as Scott duffs lines
Top of the world: Rory McIlroy. Photo: AFP
Rory McIlroy did it all, and more, in 2012.
A star wasn't quite born. Rory McIlroy turned 23 in 2012, but he had arrived as a major force in golf 12 months earlier, when he won the 2011 US Open. But in 2012, McIlroy became the No. 1 player in the world, and stayed there for most of the year. Amongthe highlights for the Northern Irishman were his win in the US PGA and his elevation to the top of the rankings. He also finished as the leader on the US and Europe money lists.
With four holes to play in the British Open, Adam Scott was pencilled in for the paragraph above this one. Leading the tournament by four shots, it would take some capitulation for Scott to be denied. But Scott, who was chasing his first major victory, crumbled as Ernie Els clambered over the top of him at Royal Lytham. His choke - which immediately drew comparisons with Greg Norman's infamous 1996 US Masters collapse - emphasised the unpredictable nature of sport. Prior to the tournament, Scott would surely have taken a second-place finish in the British Open. But after letting victory slip from his nervous grasp, many feared that the 32-year-old would be scarred for life. ''I know I've let a really great chance slip through my fingers today,'' he said. ''But somehow I'll look back and take the positives from it.''
Rory McIlroy won the US PGA by eight strokes, breaking a record held by Jack Nicklaus - and is considered by Greg Norman more likely than Tiger Woods to break Nicklaus' record of 18 major victories. That's a big call when McIlroy has won two majors to Woods' 14. McIlroy also topped the US and European money lists - and, of course, the world rankings - won the Race to Dubai, and was an integral part of Europe's Ryder Cup triumph, despite almost missing his tee-off time on the final day in Chicago. Apart from all that, and finding time to date tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, he didn't do much else really.
What else? Those long putters which calm the stroke of golfers on the putting green but send many others into a frenzy. But the controversial broomstick and belly putters are on the way out. Global governing bodies The Royal & Ancient and the US Golf Association proposed in November that by January 1, 2016, anchoring strokes would be prohibited, effectively banning the long putters. That means the likes of Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley - the latter who became the first golfer to win a major with a long putter - will need a major rethink of their technique. The decision has polarised opinion.
The old and the new. Tiger Woods will continue his quest to win his first major since 2008, Rory McIlroy will continue his quest to keep Tiger at bay, and Adam Scott will attempt to move on from his British Open capitulation. For those ranked a little lower than those three stars, 2013 will bring different challenges. Australians will no longer be able to play in the lucrative US PGA Tour via Q-school. The 2012 Q-school was the last of its kind; those not exempt will need to qualify via the Web.com tour and otherwise. Closer to home, debate will continue about the future of tournaments in Australia. Will officials be able to attract overseas stars? When should Australia's tournaments be played? And what is Clive Palmer going to do next?
''I told him that I've been there many times and you've just got to bounce back quickly. Don't let this thing linger … I feel for him, but thankfully he's young enough … He's got the next 10 years that he can win more [majors] than I've won. I've won four now. I think he can win more than that.'' - Ernie Els on Adam Scott after the British Open.
First came Keegan Bradley, who said: ''All this Ryder Cup talk is getting me excited. Can we play now?'' To which Rory McIlroy, who beat Bradley on the final day at the Medinah Country Club, replied: ''You wanna get beaten again already?''