"Hey Rocco, can you believe that Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press didn't think I was going to win this thing?"
Robert Beck/SI
By Gary Van Sickle
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

You remember the big moments of 2008. Tiger Woods, the Open and his knee. Rocco Mediate as Cinderella. Greg Norman vying to win a major at 53. Padraig Harrington snagging two majors. The American team proving that yes, Johnny can win the Ryder Cup. And the quiet little sport of golf beginning drug testing (so don't look for Jose Canseco at the Masters).

Here's a look back at the small moments of '08, moments that may make you laugh, shake your head or wonder, what the ... er, heck.

The clubs would've been free for Taylormade Mizuno MacLachlan
Actor Kyle MacLachlan, who has had roles in popular TV series such as Twin Peaks, Sex in the City and Desperate Housewives, appeared on Live with Regis and Kelly in April and announced that he and his wife were expecting their first child. "We know it's going to be a boy," MacLachlan said, "and he's going to get golf clubs."\n

When the baby was born in July, the couple named him Callum Lyon.

Next to go? Probably making Buicks
If you had any doubt that 2008 was a tough year for everybody, consider this: even Tiger Woods got fired.

Troubled automaker Buick ended its endorsement relationship with Woods a year early. It was reportedly paying him $7 million a year. There are also questions about the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines and the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich., and whether Buick will continue to sponsor those events through 2010. Buick also announced that it will stop providing courtesy cars to most PGA Tour events in 2009.

Forget DisneyWorld's courses—too many water hazards
Michael Phelps, you just won a record eight gold medals swimming in the Olympics, what are you going to do now? That's right, take a golf vacation to Portugal's Algarve region.

An inconvenient truth—isn't that right, Al?
Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, explaining Tiger Woods: "People ask me why we don't stand up to this guy. The fact is, we are not as good as he is. The sooner people accept that we are second best, the more chance we have to live up to our potential. If you are trying to beat him, good luck. You are not going to do it. He is not going to let you. I don't think that is being defeatist, it is being realistic."

Damn, there goes the David Feherty line of signature kilts
Bubba Watson was best known for hitting massive drives, using a pink shaft, growing up in little Bagdad, Fla., and attending the same high school as fellow tour pros Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum. Last year, he dived into the world of fashion with Bubbagolf, a line of inexpensive golf attire for Steve & Barry's, a discount chain. (Maybe "Bubba of Bagdad" would've been a more appealing brand name.) Watson wore pleated, electric pink slacks one day at the Masters to showcase his line.

Steve & Barry's, which also featured inexpensive court shoes by Stephon Marbury, filed for bankruptcy this summer, laid off 5,000 employees and is liquidating its remaining stores. Coincidence?

As for the people who think that second shot on Winged Foot's last hole was a bad shot ...
Phil Mickelson's approach shot to the fifth green at the Memorial went long and hit a youngster in the knee. Mickelson wrote "I'm sorry" on a golf glove and gave it to the kid before referencing his Crowne Plaza Hotel commercial in which he's joined in a conference room by spectators who have been struck by his errant shots. "We're getting a banquet room to handle the rest," Mickelson joked to the crowd behind the green.

It's a matter of degrees: Bubba 1, Tiger 0
The play of the year in golf belongs to the aforementioned Watson, who officially became a college graduate in August. Bubba was just two credits shy of his degree when he left the University of Georgia in December of 2001. He was angry that he was the sixth man on the powerhouse golf team, so he turned pro. Good decision? Yeah, he's won more $4 million in the last three years.

Watson made five trips back to Athens, Ga., to attend a class to complete work for his degree in consumer economics. That included writing a 30-page paper about his venture into the retail business—Bubbagolf—and taking a two-hour mandatory exam. He learned that he'd passed a week before the PGA Championship.

Watson decided he needed a degree when he began working with youth tournaments and scholarship programs back home in Bagdad. "I couldn't tell kids they needed to go to school unless I did it myself," Watson said. "It was important for me to get that piece of paper. It was a big accomplishment."

He might be able to drive the lane—if he had a golf cart
Jason Collins, a seven-foot center for the Minnesota Timberwolves, missed the first five games of the NBA season due to surgery on a triceps tendon in his elbow. He hurt the elbow on a golf course in September when the golf cart he was driving skidded on wet ground and tipped over. Wolves fans were already ticked off because Collins was part of a draft-night trade that sent O.J. Mayo to the Memphis Grizzlies. Since Kevin McHale took over as head coach mid-season, Collins hasn't even been getting into games.

Woods needs more ice time
Tiger Woods, asked for a prediction on the Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup showdown with the Detroit Red Wings last spring, joked dismissively, "I don't think anybody really watches hockey anymore."

Is that right? Game 5 of the Stanley Cup, a triple-overtime game aired on NBC, received a 4.3 overnight rating and was the most-watched NHL game in the last six years—4.5 million viewers. Compare that, Tiger, to your win at Wachovia in 2007, which got a 3.8 rating for the final round, or to your Monday U.S. Open playoff with Rocco Mediate, the most-watched cable golf telecast ever, with 4.8 million viewers.

Thanks, you wanna go out for a pizza now?
The best text message of the year (that we know about), sent from a friend to Rocco Mediate after he tied Tiger Woods on Sunday at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines: "Congratulations on finishing low mortal."

Anybody have Rafael Palmeiro's phone number?
Drug-testing began on the PGA Tour in 2008 with a lot of fanfare and not much impact, apparently. This analysis from the Champions Tour:
Bobby Wadkins: "All the tour needs to do is test Tiger. If he's clean, to hell with everybody else."
Mark Lye, in response: "Maybe they should legalize it for everyone else."

Oh, really? Just wait until the Vancouver Canucks play the Columbus Blue Jackets
Jay Leno on NBC's Tonight Show: "Mathematicians at Stanford have calculated the smallest number known to man. It's the Nielsen ratings golf will get without Tiger Woods."?

You sure you weren't carrying John Daly by mistake?
The celebrity caddie of the year award goes to Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Jon Gruden, who was among those who took shelter in a Hooters concession area during a storm delay that interrupted play at the PODS Championship at Innisbrook Resort. Also there was tour player John Daly, a long-time Hooters endorser, and his caddie. When play resumed two hours later, Daly went back onto the course with Gruden as his caddie. "It's not as easy as it looks," Gruden said. "His bag weighs like 450 pounds."

Note to self: Quit playing Cobra irons
The Nashua South African Masters ended for Eugen Marugi on the 12th hole. Marugi, 24, pulled his tee shot left into thick brush on the 12th hole. He played a provisional, then went looking in the bushes for his original shot. He suddenly felt a tickle on his left bicep, then excruciating pain. He had been bitten by a snake, possibly a deadly green mamba.

"Everyone, including me, thought it was a green mamba," he said. "You don't want to know what thoughts rush through your head when people are saying that you could be dead in 10 minutes."

He was rushed to a doctor, who determined that Marugi had been bitten by a night adder, not a green mamba. "They are poisonous but not deadly," Marugi said. "Man, that was a relief."

Marugi was given anti-venom treatment and declared fit to play, but he was disqualified from the tournament because he'd left the course.

Next time, try Outback's curbside pickup
The rookie blunder of the year may belong to Chad Collins, who played in Monday qualifying with 112 other pros to try to get one of four spots available in the PODS Championship field. Collins, an early finisher, shot a 67 that looked as if it would hold up. But Marco Dawson, playing in the last group, posted 65 and two others shot late 66s. That left Collins and tour veteran Ted Purdy at 67, facing a playoff for the last spot. Purdy got the spot when Collins didn't show up for the playoff. Tournament officials reached Collins by phone. He was 45 minutes away, dining at a Beef O'Brady's. It would have been sunset by the time he returned to the course, so Purdy got the last berth.

Gators out of water
A man has to have limits. Chris DiMarco, a University of Florida alum and a diehard Gator fan, graciously signed hats for fans after his round at the Memorial in Columbus, Ohio—even Ohio State hats, on which he penned, "Go Gators." He declined to sign one fan's University of Georgia cap, one of Florida's hated rivals. "I don't do SEC," DiMarco said.

Tour player Dudley Hart, also a Florida alum, signed autographs along a fence a few feet away from DiMarco. On the Ohio State gear, Hart wrote, "Second is not too bad," a references to Florida's 2007 football and basketball national championships, both of which came against Ohio State.

John Daly wouldn't know
It was a major streak-busting year in golf. Davis Love played 70 consecutive major championships until he failed to qualify for the 2008 Masters. Juli Inkster hadn't missed an LPGA major since the 1994 Kraft Nabisco Championship, which she skipped to give birth to her second daughter, Cori. Inkster's streak ended at 56 when she passed up the McDonald's LPGA Championship to attend Cori's eighth-grade graduation ceremony. "You only graduate once, right?" Inkster said.

Runner-up quote of the year
"Lick the lollipop of mediocrity once and you'll suck forever."—Rory Sabbatini

Heather Locklear will never get the yips
Neurological researchers from the Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University conducted a study into the causes of the putting yips and possible treatments. Fifty golfers were involved. The study's conclusion? Botox might lead to a cure.

Great moments in psychic journalism
From Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press, before the U.S. Open (beneath the headline, "Woods won't vie for Open title, might not even make the cut"): "No one wants to say it ... But I will. Tiger Woods has no chance of winning the U.S. Open this week at Torrey Pines ... Woods, for all his competitive fire and success on this course, simply cannot return from a two-month competitive layoff and win the world's most demanding, brutal and punishing tournament."

From Mark Purdy, San Jose Mercury News, after the U.S. Open's first-round marquee pairing of Woods and Mickelson: "I walked all 18 holes with them. Took careful notes. Watched them closely. My conclusion: Neither of these guys is going to win this U.S. Open. I can't tell you who will be holding the trophy come Sunday. But it will not be Woods or Mickelson."

No. 1 Quote of the Year
PGA Tour veteran Stewart Cink: "Tiger Woods isn't one in a million, he's one in ever."

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