2006 Golf Year in Review

Just when we thought we'd pegged the year in golf, the 2006 season ricocheted in the other direction like a wayward drive off a corporate tent.

The first half was all Phil Mickelson, but after he played pinball with his Callaway on the 72nd hole of the United States Open, the second half was all Tiger Woods. And for 72 hours during a highly anticipated team event in Ireland, Sergio Garcia was able to do what he has not been able to do over 72 holes, mercilessly beating both of them (and the rest of the U.S. Ryder Cup squad).

Woods lost his father, Ryder Cup teammate Chris DiMarco lost his mother, Darren Clarke lost his wife and golf lost Byron Nelson. Arnold Palmer retired again, Jack Nicklaus didn't play at all and Loren Roberts looked like a living legend.

And depending on the week, so did Stephen Ames, Stuart Appleby, Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Geoff Ogilvy, Trevor Immelman, Adam Scott and, least likely of all, Chris Couch.

Herewith, the season's highlights and lowlights.

Thanks, but I'm stuffed after the grilled bunions
Jay Haas divulged in an interview with GOLF Magazine that his favorite meal is fried chicken gizzards.

But if she ever goes blue, she'll know who to call
In its Ryder Cup preview issue, the Dubliner magazine printed photos of a topless woman who the magazine claimed was Elin Nordegren under the headline, "Ryder Cup filth for Ireland." Sadly, the woman in question wasn't Mrs. Tiger Woods or even her twin sister.

The Duh in Dublin (Ohio division)
For his Memorial tourney, Jack Nicklaus ordered Muirfield Village course workers to widen the spaces between the teeth of the bunker rakes, which looked like the product of an Amish high school wood shop and created deep furrows in the sand that the players hated.

He had no special feeling about tomorrow
Ben Crenshaw, 54, was five strokes off the lead through 36 holes at Augusta but insisted to the poets in the press that he had no shot at winning another Masters. Proving his point, he shot 78-79 on the weekend.

And John lacked his usual quickness after the bucket old wings
After John Daly filed for divorce (for the fourth time) from ex-con Sherrie Miller Daly on October 18 — one day after she did — her attorney quipped, "It was kind of a race to the courthouse."

Sure, but it does help me to see better
Chris DiMarco was skiing in Colorado when he fell on what he called "my sunglass case or my phone" and hurt his ribs, but Tom Lehman later dished to GOLF that the offending item was in fact a schnapps bottle.

Plus, I get to use my assistant Borat however I want
Paul Azinger accepted the PGA of America's offer to captain the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team, but only after being given two more captain's picks and changing from a points- to a money-based qualification system.

Yes, we saw his ink. Or did we?
Lost in New Orleans on the Monday of the Zurich Classic, Chris Couch accepted a ride from strangers before asking to be let out and commencing a desperate sprint that ended when he called police from a tattoo parlor. Visibly nervous as he tried to finish off his first W six days later, he wiggled in a 12-foot putt for bogey on the 71st hole and chipped in cross-handed for the victory on the 72nd.

Live by the double ...
Phil Mickelson used two different Callaway drivers, one for a hook and one for a fade, while winning the BellSouth Classic by 13 strokes and the Masters the following week.

Must have been 'Lead' deficiency
Charles Howell III left longtime swing coach David Leadbetter, shot 80-84 at the Masters, and hired him back.

Which pretty much summed up her year on the PGA Tour
Showing symptoms of heat stroke in 90-degree temps, Michelle Wie withdrew and left the John Deere Classic in the back of an ambulance.

But his press conference was considerably shorter
Padraig Harrington, who finished two strokes behind winner Geoff Ogilvy, made a triple-bogey 7 on the 18th hole in the third round of the U.S. Open, a stroke worse than Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie's score on the same hole the next day.

Christmas in March: Priceless After missing his 3-foot par putt, Greg Owen quick-hit and missed his 2-foot bogey try on the 71st hole of the Bay Hill Invitational. Shell-shocked, he bogeyed 18 to hand the trophy to Rod Pampling.

Anything to make Greg Owen feel better
Aaron Barber, who played with Annika Sorenstam at the 2003 Colonial, was four strokes off the lead going into the last round of the first stage of the PGA Tour Q school, but finished double-bogey, quadruple-bogey, quadruple-bogey to miss qualifying for the second stage by one stroke.

Aged Wisconsin cheddar
Madison's Steve Stricker, 39, had limited eligibility to begin the season but made the most of his 17 starts, notching top-10s at the U.S. Open and PGA and finishing 34th on the money list. Corey Pavin, 46, hadn't won since the 1996 Colonial, but he got W No. 15 at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.

So true
In assessing his upcoming first-round match against Tiger Woods at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Stephen Ames told the Associated Press, "Anything can happen, especially where he's hitting the ball." Woods birdied the first six holes and seven of the first eight to win 9&8.

Where if the recent history of four-time All-Americans is any indication, he'll be subjected to all manner of indignities
Part of an elite group of four-time, first-team college All-Americans (with David Duval, Gary Hallberg and Phil Mickelson), but a bust since turning pro in 2001, Bryce Molder won the Nationwide tour's penultimate tournament and hung on to 22nd on the money list by $6,137 for the circuit's final send-up to the PGA Tour in 2007.

We'll let you know this time next year
PGA Tour commish Tim Finchem, upon being interrupted by a loud engine outside the Tour Championship press tent while touting the upcoming "FedEx Cup" playoff system: "Is that a backhoe or a tank?" Good question. It sure is making a lot of noise.

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