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PGA Tour Confidential: 2012 season review, predictions for 2013

Photo: Kohjiro Kinno / SI

Bubba Watson's Masters victory was one of several memorable moments from the season.

Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

EVENT OF THE YEAR
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Welcome to the final PGA Tour Confidential gathering of 2012. (We'll be back Jan. 6.) Charl Schwartzel won in a romp for the second week in a row, and Sergio Garcia won again. But let's talk big picture. What was your favorite event in 2012 and why?

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: For me, the Ryder Cup is always the most interesting event of every other year. This year's was epic. The Masters was a distant second.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: My favorite was the Ryder Cup. For pure excitement, you can't beat team match play, and the conclusion, while tough for American fans to swallow, was amazing. The Masters was one for the ages too, with Louis making the albatross, Phil's triple at No. 4 and, of course, Bubba's circus shot to win in the playoff.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Yeah, the Ryder Cup is a slam dunk. It's always the event with the most passion and the most drama. The Masters was pretty good, too, come to think of it.

Herre: Phil's triple at 4 on Sunday at the Masters had to be the saddest moment of the year.

Van Sickle: I also enjoyed the finish at Riviera, with Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson making birdies on the 72nd hole to get in a playoff. It's not as if Riviera's 18th hole is a pushover. Then Bill Haas holed an unlikely birdie putt on the second extra hole. Lots of drama, lots of big names, and Riviera. A good combo platter.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: From Phil's early-season hot streak to Rory's late-season dominance, it was a fantastic year for golf. But my favorite event was the Masters, where Bubba Watson not only pulled off the shot of the year to win the playoff and his first major, but also took that final step forward to join the game's elite. He basically became a folk hero off that victory. Great finish to a great event.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: The Masters is always my favorite event of the year, and this season's was no different. Although we don't always get the biggest name winner, we get the most excitement and the most drama. Louis Oosthuizen's eagle, Phil's meltdown and Bubba Watson's amazing shot in the playoff - it was all there once again.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It was a vintage year. I'm caught between the Ryder Cup and the British Open, but I'll give the nod to the Open because it so exposed the frailties every golfer goes through, whether you're a duffer trying to break a 100 or Adam Scott trying to win your first major.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: PGA Tour Q-School, because it reminds me of how the other 98 percent of pros live and fight for their dreams.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: I'm biased to the Memorial because it's played in my hometown, but it was pretty special this year. Tiger hit one of the most spectacular shots of his career, and he passed Jack for second on the all-time PGA Tour wins list. Also, hearing Jack say that Tiger's flop shot was as good as he'd ever seen, with Woods sitting right next to him, was pretty cool.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: The Masters, because it featured the best two shots of the year, from the same twosome, four hours apart: Oosthuizen's 2 on 2 and Bubba's bender on 10 in the playoff.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What was your favorite event of 2012?

COLLAPSES AND COMEBACKS
Godich: There were plenty of remarkable comebacks on the PGA Tour in 2012, especially early in the year. Which one was your favorite? Or, to put it another way: Which was the toughest collapse to stomach?

Van Sickle: Adam Scott finishing with four bogeys at the Open was tough to watch. Kyle Stanley needed only a double at 18 to win at Torrey Pines, he hit three good shots and ended up with an 8. That was really tough to watch, like a car wreck in slow motion, which made Stanley's coming through on the closing holes the next week the best comeback of the year.

Hanger: The Ryder Cup was the comeback/collapse of the year, and Ernie Els and Adam Scott were second at the British. For the PGA Tour, I'd vote for Kyle Stanley coming from eight back to win in Phoenix just a week after he tripled 18 to lose at Torrey Pines. He showed a lot of heart to wipe away that tough memory so quickly.

Godich: Agreed. That was remarkable.

Herre: The Stanley story was amazing, and inspiring.

Dusek: Seeing Spencer Levin blow that huge lead almost made me throw up. You could tell that Stanley didn't know whether to celebrate or give Levin a hug. It was just awkward all the way around.

Hanger: Phil's Sunday 64 to overcome a five-shot deficit at Pebble was a heckuva comeback too, and Tiger's 62 at the Honda was amazing, even though he didn't win.

Bamberger: I think the toughest to watch was Furyk at the U.S. Open, because he is supposed to be made for that sort of pressure, and he may never pass that way again.

Dusek: In an odd way, I was waiting for Furyk to melt down. Sure, he won at Olympia Fields in 2003, but when I think of Jim Furyk, I think of near misses in big events rather than his one major championship. Olympic joins Oakmont and Winged Foot.

Van Sickle: I thought Furyk's finish in Akron was even harder to watch. He needed only a bogey on the last hole to be in a playoff, and he made double from the middle of the fairway to lose to Bradley. That was unpleasant.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Team Europe's Ryder Cup comeback, with McIlroy's police escort to make his tee time, was the stuff of legend.

Ritter: Comeback has to go to the Euros at the Ryder Cup. For meltdowns, it was hard to watch Jim Furyk suffer not one, not two, but three epic collapses in the second half of the season. Starting with his snap-hook tee shot on the 16th hole on Sunday at the U.S. Open, continuing at the 72nd hole at Firestone, and concluding with his final holes at the Ryder Cup, those were three monster gut-punch moments. I'm not sure Furyk will ever be the same.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What was the toughest collapse for you to watch in 2012?

BEST SHOT OF THE YEAR
Godich: What is the best shot you saw in 2012? That should be an easy one, but we're taking Bubba Watson's banana wedge and Louis Oosthuizen's double eagle at the Masters off the table.

Van Sickle: Tiger's flop shot at Memorial is maybe too obvious. I'll go with Webb Simpson's chip from the gnarly grass around the final green at Olympic. It wasn't easy, and he knew he had to get up-and-down for the Open.

Dusek: Easy, it has to be Phil Mickelson's 30-foot par putt on the 12th hole Sunday at Pebble Beach after Tiger Woods holed out from the sand. At that moment, I really thought we were going to get a monster year from Mickelson, but obviously that didn't pan out.

Bamberger: McIlroy's shot across the bow at the Honda. Tiger went birdie-eagle to post 62. McIlroy was on 13, with about a 10-footer for birdie. He heard the eagle roar. Back in the day, many would have folded right about then. The kid made the putt, played strong the rest of the way, and not only won but also showed that the Tiger theatrics would not shake him.

Walker: Justin Rose's 50-foot putt on 17 at the Ryder Cup on Sunday to square his match with Mickelson; he made another great putt on 18 to win. Second place: Top 100 Teacher Brian Manzella went out to the fairway bunker on 18 at Medinah on Sunday night to re-create Martin Kaymer's bunker shot for a Golf.com instruction video. Brian was using a borrowed 4-iron and wearing loafers, and he hit it to 15 feet.

Hanger: Tiger's chip-in at the Memorial, Kyle Stanley's escape from the cactus on No. 17 in Phoenix, and Tiger's second shot on 18 at the Honda that set up his closing eagle. Justin Rose's bomb of a putt on 17 at the Ryder Cup was also chill-inducing.

Ritter: One moment we haven't mentioned: In sudden death at Quail Hollow, Rickie Fowler threw a dart with a gap wedge and made the four-footer for birdie to beat McIlroy and earn his first PGA Tour win. Many of us wondered when Fowler would finally break through. The wedge and putt right in front of Rory were huge for him. Now, if only Fowler could've built on that momentum and made the Ryder Cup team.

Godich: Here's another one: Dufner's bomb for par at the 70th hole in New Orleans, which got him in a playoff and paved the way for his first victory.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Besides Bubba and Louie at the Masters, what was the best shot you saw last year?

ALMOST MOMENTS
Godich: Tiger almost won three majors (O.K., that's a stretch). Adam Scott almost won the British. The U.S. almost won the Ryder Cup (O.K., they blew it). What moment almost happened in 2012 that you wish would have played out?

Van Sickle: I'd like to have seen Mickelson get out of the bamboo left of the fourth green, make a bogey and then see how he fared against Oosty and Bubba at the Masters on the back nine. It was another shoulda-coulda major for Phil.

Morfit: I agree that Mickelson meltdown on No. 4 at the Masters was the biggest buzz-kill of the year. Adam Scott's almost moment was hard to watch too. They both happened in slow motion.

Wei: Furyk hitting a nice drive on 16 at Olympic (instead of a snipe) and going on to win the U.S. Open.

Bamberger: It never really got to almost, but two kid amateurs, Jordan Spieth and Beau Hossler, could have contended down the stretch for the U.S. Open. I would have settled for contended.

Walker: I wish it had stayed light long enough for Paula Creamer and Jiyai Shin to play that ninth extra playoff hole at the Kingsmill Championship. It was great how both players kept going until almost pitch darkness for the fans.

Herre: I'd like to have seen Scott win a major. I wouldn't wish the best-player-without-a-major tag on anyone.

Dusek: I wish the U.S. could have won the Ryder Cup, and it would have been great for a guy like Adam Scott to finally get the major monkey off his back. But I really wish Tiger Woods had won the U.S. Open. It would've changed the narrative of the whole season, McIlroy's supremacy would not have been as complete, and it would've been fascinating to see how fans and the media reacted.

Hanger: I'm going to assume that there was a moment when someone at the USGA and the R&A was lobbying against the anchoring ban and almost had his colleagues convinced to drop the idea. I wish that guy had won the argument.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What story almost happened this season that you wish would've played out.

NEXT YEAR'S STAR
Godich: O.K., time to get your crystal ball out. The 2013 PGA Tour Player of the Year will be (fill in the blank) because he will (fill in the blank).

Herre: Jason Dufner, because he spent the off-season sharpening his short game.

Van Sickle: I hate myself for going here, but Tiger Woods, because he'll win at least four times, including a major.

Reiterman: Tiger Woods. Two majors and victories at Memorial and AT&T National.

Bamberger: Bill Haas, because Rory is too obvious a choice, and Haas is due to come roaring back.

Dusek: Luke Donald, because he's going to win both the British Open at Muirfield and the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, along with two or three other PGA Tour events.

Hanger: Our crystal balls, as we've proven over the years with our woeful predictions, are cracked, cloudy and downright unreadable, but here goes anyway. Player of the year is Dufner, who wins two regular events and his first major.

Walker: McIlroy is my pick for Player of the Year 2013 (and 2014 while we're at it). He's way ahead of everyone else right now, especially Tiger.

Van Sickle: I'll throw Keegan Bradley in there as my runner-up nominee, because he'll be on the war path after the ill-advised putter ruling.

Ritter: Graeme McDowell, because after nearly winning two majors in 2012, he won late in the year to launch another hot streak that will lead to three titles in 2013, including his second career major.

Dusek: I almost went with McDowell as well. I think he's in a really good place, mentally, right now.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: The 2013 Player of the Year will be (fill in the blank) because (fill in the blank).

WOODS IN 2013
Godich: Finish the sentence: In 2013, Tiger Woods will ...

Dusek: ... not win a major.

Hanger: ... give thought-provoking, expressive answers to reporters' questions; mutter nothing stronger than "shoot" after bad shots; erase the phrase "it's a process" from his vocabulary; and win two majors as his game returns to form.

Herre: ... leave Sean Foley.

Bamberger: ... hire a psychologist.

Ritter: ...repeat at Bay Hill, win two other Tour events, and come up empty in the majors.

Morfit: ... come closer to Sam Snead's mark for career victories, be romantically linked to a celebrity, come close in the majors, try going gluten-free, and do a Nike ad with a certain young Euro.

Walker: ... win the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, with his sense for the historic moment, but he won't get back to No. 1 in the world.

Wei: Win a couple of regular PGA Tour events and continue to be one of the top 3 players in the world.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Complete the sentence: In 2013, Tiger Woods will...

MCILROY IN 2013
Godich: Finish the sentence: In 2013, Rory McIlroy will ...

Van Sickle: ... get three-fourths of the way to the career Grand Slam.

Bamberger: ... win the Masters and nothing else.

Herre: ... marry Caroline Wozniacki.

Dusek: ... have a very inconsistent start to the season as he adjusts to new clubs and a new ball. It will take a little while for his game to completely get back to what we expect. I think he'll have it figured out in time to contend at Merion.

Ritter: ....struggle with new clubs and a new ball while getting shut out in the majors. But by season's end, he settles in and wins the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup.

Reiterman: ... have an up-and-down year. Two wins, one of which will be a major.

Hanger: ... stay No. 1 all season, win one more major, get a crew cut, collect $10 million in appearance fees from Dubai to Shanghai to Australia, propose to Wozniacki, and start cashing checks from and sporting the logo of a certain giant sporting goods company.

Wei: ... win the Masters and marry Caroline Wozniacki.

Morfit: ... enjoy life, as he did this year and as he should.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: In 2013, Rory McIlroy will...


Godich: Predict the low round for the week and the winning score for the U.S. Open at short, tight, Merion.

Van Sickle: I say 65 and eight under.

Herre: Ten under after a hot, sticky week.

Bamberger: Somebody might shoot 63 in still conditions after a rain, but I think five under, 275, will get you in a playoff.

Herre: Somebody's gonna shoot 62.

Dusek: Someone, somehow, will shoot 66 at Merion, but the winning score will be about three under. Phil Mickelson will be able to stretch his arms and reach both sides of the fairways.

Walker: Six under, and 66 as the low round. With thick rough and fast greens, it's going to play tougher than many people think.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What will be the low and winning scores at Merion this year?

DUF'S HEIR APPARENT
Godich: Jason Dufner went from nice PGA Tour player to rock star in 2012. Which player over the age of 30 is primed for a Dufner-like year in 2013?

Bamberger: His idol, Vijay.

Dusek: Sergio Garcia turns 33 in January, and I think he is primed to finally get back into the top 10 and become a major force - except in the majors. If Garcia is too big a name, I also think Bo Van Pelt, 37, has all the makings of a guy who could win multiple times on the PGA Tour.

Herre: Van Pelt. The guy should have been on the Ryder Cup team. He's a terrific ballstriker and was on the leaderboard a lot in 2012.

Van Sickle: Van Pelt. He can actually putt a bit, which is the key skill Tour pros need.

Hanger: Adam Scott is already kind of a rock star, but I think he'll have a big year as he gets everything out of the long wand that he can before the ban kicks in.

Van Sickle: I wouldn't be surprised if David Toms, after his Ryder Cup snub, doesn't bounce back and win twice in his mid-40s.

Ritter: I could see Ian Poulter using the Ryder Cup as a springboard to a big year and maybe even a major title, although not at Augusta.

Walker: I agree about Poulter. At 36, he looks like he's finally coming into his own. I think he's going to win a couple of times and get into the mix at the majors.

Godich: Nah. We've seen this out of players at the Ryder Cup, Poulter included. It just doesn't always translate. Must be something about the team format.

Van Sickle: It's match play vs. stroke play. In match play, you don't finish out your 7, you just pick up and lose one hole. In stroke play, you count 'em all. It's a different game, really. Also, Poulter just doesn't have the ballstriking consistency to win more than once in a while. He's 39th in driving accuracy and 168th in greens in regulation.

Godich: There's also the comfort in knowing you've got a partner at your side. It's a lot easier to roll those putts when you know you don't have to make the four-footer coming back.

Walker: Still, Poulter won the HSBC Champions in China a month after the Cup. Maybe he's going to worry more about how he plays next year and less about what he wears.

Ritter: Also, Poulter has always been a good putter. It's a hunch, but I could see it finally coming together for him in a major next year.

Van Sickle: We were saying the same thing after Poulter won the Match Play a few years back.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Which player over age 30 is most ready to have a breakout year in 2013?

THREE PREDICTIONS
Godich: Finally, name three things you'd like to see happen in 2013 that would make it a special year in golf.

Herre: A major for Tiger. Two for Rory. A dominating year for Michelle Wie.

Walker: I want Tiger to win a major, just so we can all stop asking when/if he's going to win another major. I want Mickelson, Woods, Bubba, and McIlroy to be in the hunt on Sunday at the Masters. I want good weather at the U.S. majors - especially Merion -and Scottish summer at Muirfield.

Van Sickle: All four majors are won by players wielding anchored putters. Michelle Wie dominating would be great, I agree, but I'll say Lexi Thompson winning two majors and four other events. The R&A admits women members before it turns into a controversy like the one that hit Augusta National.

Walker: You're right about the R&A and women members. They need to get on the right side of this issue before the Open, or it's all people are going to talk about.

Dusek: I would love to see the USGA reverse its decision on anchored putters, Phil Mickelson win the Masters, and Michelle Wie win the U.S Women's Open.

Godich: Why does Mickelson have to win another Masters? How about a U.S. Open?

Dusek: Because the Masters is cooler and winning four would be amazing.

Godich: Fair enough. But I bet Phil would be the first to say that if he could be gifted one more major, he'd take the U.S. Open. At Bethpage, of course.

Bamberger: I'd like to see the governing bodies talk about a Tour ball. I'd like to see women's golf put on such a show that we can't not watch. I'd like to see Olympic golf reject the current system and reinvent itself as an amateur event.

Morfit: I'd like to see Bubba validate with another major. I'd like to see Tiger get one. I'd like to see more of the Keegan fire that was so much fun at the Ryder Cup.

Reiterman: Tiger wins the Masters, Phil wins the U.S. Open, Rory wins the British.

Hanger: Tiger wins the Masters, Phil wins his first U.S. Open, and Sean O'Hair and Kenny Perry repeat at the Franklin Templeton Shootout. (Sorry, couldn't think of a third.)

Morfit: Bubba wins the PGA, Harrington the Open, G-Mac the U.S. Open and Rory the Masters.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Name three things you'd like to see happen in 2013 that would make it a special season.

 

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