Golf’s Top Ten 2012 Significant Events: Numbers 5 to 1

Most of the time when things happen the consequences are not fully appreciated and even understanding what those consequences are, much less getting them correct is not easy – which is why fortune tellers and palm readers can make a living.

With that in mind in the previous column golf’s 2012 significant events, numbers 10 through 6, were listed and here are numbers 5 through 1.

Number 5: Death of PGA Tour Qualifying School

Question: What do John Schlee and Dong-hwan Lee have in common?

Answer: Both were winners of the PGA Tour Qualifying School; Schlee in 1965 at the first and South Korean native Lee in 2012 at the last.

Q-School after 47 years of being the entrée to fame and riches on the PGA Tour is no more. The road to a Tour card now runs through the Tour money list for in 2013 the top 50 on the junior circuit will earn full status on the ‘Big Show.’

Those of us who were merely observers have a sadness at the demise of Q-School for it puts an end to the annual drama of young men fighting for their competitive lives. It was a crucible unlike any other in our sport.

Number 4: TaylorMade dominates metalwoods

TaylorMade Golf went from being a major player in the metalwood category to being the major player. Their domination in drivers and fairways was accomplished with the fatal (for the competition) combination of technical expertise in materials, design, engineering and manufacturing with savvy marketing and promotion. When the original R11 series was introduced in 2011 snide comments could be heard from other club companies belittling the R11’s white clubheads. But TMaG’s white heads became extremely popular on the PGA Tour and sometimes even were seen in the bags of players not on the TaylorMade staff.

TaylorMade is now the largest golf equipment company (sales this year estimated to be over $1.6 billion) while selling roughly one out of two metalwoods. They occupy the top spot is not because of the color of the heads, who plays them on Tour or clever advertising; but because the average golfer says they hit the ball further. That’s just what’s required to keep TaylorMade at the top of the heap.

Number 3: Lewis LPGA POY

Stacy Lewis is the first American to win LPGA Player of the Year since 1994. In the intervening time five non-Americans had occupied the top spot: Annika Sorenstam of Sweden for eight years, Lorena Ocha (Mexico) four, Karrie Webb (Australia) two, Yani Tseng (Taiwan) two and England’s Laura Davies one. Lewis had a great year by anyone’s standards with four wins which moved her into second place behind Tseng in the world rankings.

The LPGA is a worldwide tour but visibility (and interest) at home has declined. The best thing to stimulate U.S. fans would be if Lewis’ accomplishment is a precursor of Americans once more taking center stage.

Number 2: Rory roars

Let’s see…he’s 23, number one on the PGA Tour money list, number one on the European Tour’s money list and number one in the world golf rankings. Rory McIlroy is the real deal and a worthy successor to Tiger Woods as the game’s dominant player.

With three PGA Tour wins plus a major added to the impressive win in the 2011 U.S. Open Championship he has proven the ability to blow away any other player or players. Boy is he going to be fun to watch the next few years!

And since this also was McIlroy’s inaugural year as a full card-carrying member of the PGA Tour he was eligible to win the Vardon Trophy for low stroke average plus he was honored as 2012 PGA Tour Player of the Year. The young man from Northern Ireland has the potential to separate himself from the rest of the competition the same way another phenom did 15 years ago.

Number 1: Bellies and broomsticks

Instituting a ban on putter anchoring was a huge step for the USGA and R&A and as to be expected there is a division of opinion whether the new rule will help or hurt the game. One thing is clear though, golf rule’s makers have created a controversy. A controversy they were prepared to face secure in the knowledge they had thoroughly considered all sides of the question.

Putter that are long enough to be held so the body stabilizes the club by providing a pivot point, leapt to hot topic status after the 2011 PGA Championship won by Keegan Bradley. Bradley was the first major victor to use a non-standard length putter, in this case a so-called broomstick. The red flag was again waved when Webb Simpson took this year’s U.S. Open and Ernie Els the Open Championship with belly putters.

Golf’s rules makers were again late to the party and many recreational players have strong feelings about use of the long putters. The ban because of the circumstances and the history of belated reaction to events (square groves, clubhead COR, groove roll back, etc.) may be another instance of the USGA being out of step with those who play the game. The Association is again running the risk of being seen by the average golfer as irrelevant.

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