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Pro golf year in review

For the most part, the pro golf season is over. The major champions have been crowned, the FedEx Cup winner has been decided, and the Ryder Cup has gone to the Europeans. The only thing left is the PGA Tour's fall series and the "silly season,'' where golfers line their pockets in unofficial events. The fall series is not for the big names. This time of year is for the guys fighting to keep their PGA Tour card. The top 125 players on the money list at the end of the season retain their cards for next season. The fall series began Sept. 30 and ends Nov. 11-14 at the Children's Miracle Network Classic in Lake Buena Vista. Those not in the top 125 after that have to play in the tour's qualifying school tournament to try to get a card for next year. Here is a look back at this season and a look ahead to 2011:

Five memorable moments

m 1. Tiger returns at the Masters: All eyes were on Tiger Woods as he chose Augusta National for his return to golf after sitting out the season to that point to take care of his personal life. He didn't play poorly, tying for fourth. He is winless this year and even finished last at the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational.

m 2. Phil Mickelson's shot at the Masters: On the 13th hole of the final round, Mickelson was 205 yards from the pin but stuck in the pine straw with two trees in front of him. A 6-foot gap was between the trees, and Mickelson hit a 6 iron right through it. The shot landed 3 feet from the cup. He went on to win the green jacket.

. 3. Dustin Johnson grounds his club: On the 18th hole of the PGA Championship's final round, Johnson (far right, speaking to an official) sprayed his tee shot into a waste area at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. Thinking it was part of the course and not a bunker, Johnson grounded his club before hitting the shot. He later learned it is a bunker and was assessed a two-shot penalty. He missed a spot in a playoff with Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer, who won.

. 4. Rory McIlroy goes low: We've been hearing about McIlroy for two years, but until the Quail Hollow Championship in early May, he hadn't broken through on the PGA Tour. But the Irishman shot a final-round 62, a course record, and defeated Phil Mickelson by four shots for the title. McIlroy, 20, made the cut by two shots.

m 5. Jim Furyk's nerves: Imagine being in a greenside bunker with no view of the hole and having to get up and down for $11.35 million. That's what Furyk did at the Tour Championship, to not only win the tournament but the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus. The usually stoic Furyk celebrated on the 18th green.

Player of the year

Jim Furyk: He has won three times, including the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor and the Tour Championship. He has had seven top-10 finishes in 21 tournaments and missed only three cuts. At 40, Furyk is just starting to play his best.

Rookie of the year

Rickie Fowler: He hasn't won yet, but he has done just about everything else. He has had two seconds and five top 10s in 25 tournaments entering this weekend's Open, in which he is playing. And he was a captain's pick by Corey Pavin for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Surprise of the year

Matt Kuchar: He has not only notched his third career win this year, but he has a second and three thirds, and earned $4,910,477, tops on the money list. He was second in the FedEx Cup standings and made a career-best 22 cuts. He is a lock for the Vardon Cup, given to the player with the lowest scoring average. His average per round is 69.57. All this after falling to the Nationwide Tour in 2006 before getting his PGA Tour card back.

Disappointment of the year

Boo Weekley: It's hard to boo a season in which a player makes more than $800,000, but it has been a weak season for Weekley. He has missed 11 cuts and had only three top 10s.

World view

This was the year for non-Americans to be prominent. Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland won the U.S. Open. Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa won the British Open. Martin Kaymer of Germany won the PGA Championship. England's Lee Westwood is getting ready to take Tiger Woods' top spot in the world ranking. Six of the top 10 players in the world are from outside the United States. And to cap it off, Europe won the Ryder Cup.

Five to watch in 2011

m 1. Tiger Woods: He's always a player to watch, but this will be his first full season back after his self-inflicted problems of late 2009. Will he rebound or continue to fade?

m 2. Bubba Watson: This was his fifth season on the PGA Tour, and he finally broke through with a win. He hits the ball a mile, and if he continues to control it, he could be even better in 2011.

, 3. Dustin Johnson: Some may not realize how good Johnson has been this year. He has won twice and was in contention in two majors on the final day before he made trouble for himself. He shot a final-round 82 at the U.S. Open after entering with the lead and took a two-stroke penalty on No. 18 at the PGA Championship that kept him out of a playoff. Johnson, 26, also made the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

m 4. Bill Haas: He has slowly climbed the ladder since turning pro in 2004. He's the hottest player on the PGA Tour right now, with a first and a second in his past two tournaments. If he can carry that momentum into 2011, he could start contending for majors.

m 5. Martin Kaymer: He not only won the PGA Championship, but also has won two tournaments since on the European Tour. He is fourth in the world ranking and first on the European Tour's version of the FedEx Cup playoffs, the Race To Dubai. Kaymer, 25, could become a household name in the United States next year.

Pro golf year in review 10/14/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 14, 2010 1:19am]
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