As Jason Dufner putted out for a two-stroke victory at the PGA Championship over Jim Furyk, so completed another year of majors in professional golf.
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were winless, some of golf’s best got a monkey of their backs, and a Hall-of-Famer added another trophy to his expanding closet.
With 241 days left until the 2014 Masters (insert sad face here), here are my grades for the 2013 major championships.
THE MASTERS: A+
Does the season opener ever disappoint? Although one can argue that it was a fairly pedestrian championship until the back nine, but that’s the old adage. The Masters never begins until the back nine on Sunday. The shot-making from Angel Cabrera and eventual winner Adam Scott was wonderful, as was the pure passion that was exuded by Scott when he nailed two putts – one for the win, and one to essentially force a playoff with Cabrera. C’mon Aussie, indeed.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were basically non-factors. McIlroy was undone by a Saturday 79, and although Woods shots three rounds of 70, his second round 73 was his downfall and lead to a T4. McIlroy finished T25.
Mike Weir was the lone Canadian to participate and despite an opening round even par 72, he shot 79 on Friday and missed the cut.
THE U.S. OPEN: B+
The leaderboard was stacked, and the story of the week was the course (of course) come Sunday. Many thought that Phil Mickelson would finally get his U.S. Open championship victory, but it turned out to be his sixth runner-up finish after a Sunday 74. Englishman Justin Rose – who missed his first 21 cuts after turning pro – emerged victorious by two shots over Mickelson and Aussie Jason Day (who just keeps popping up on major championship leaderboards). Rose joined Adam Scott as another 32-year-old major champion for the year. There were few fireworks, but the USGA set up the venerable Merion GC in perfect U.S. Open condition.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were basically non-factors at Merion. They basically shot identical tournament rounds, and Woods eventually clipped McIlroy by one shot to finish T32 (13-over) to the wunderkind’s T41 (14-over).
There were five(!) Canadians who played in the U.S. Open, thanks to making it through final qualifying tournaments. Only full-time PGA Tour members Mike Weir (+12, T28) and David Hearn (+11, T21) made the cut – and Weir actually held a share of the lead early in the week – but it was a good experience for fellow Canucks Ryan Yip, Mackenzie Hughes, and Adam Hadwin, who are currently dabbling on various mini-tours. Hughes, Hadwin, Weir, and Hearn even played a practice round together Tuesday of tournament week.
THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP: A
“Momentum” was the word of this championship. It was all happening. And for us in North America, it all happened over breakfast. There is a rare feeling as good as watching professional sports over the first meal of the day. That aside, it was a juicy championship that could have had a handful of different guys eventually winning. Alas, it was Phil Mickelson (of all people) who ended up taking the Claret Jug. Most thought that the British Open would be the lone major that would elude Mickelson when all was said and done, but he rolled in a bending 15-foot putt for birdie on the 18th and the tournament was over in a flash. It seemed like it was truly anyone’s tournament for most of the day, and then in approximately 20 minutes, it was all over.
Tiger Woods had a realistic chance to win this one, but struggled over the weekend – especially on Sunday (what else is new?) – and ended up T6, five strokes back. Rory McIlroy shot 79>75 to miss the cut.
Graham DeLaet was the lone Canadian in the field. He was a last-minute addition due to some reshuffling of players because of world rankings. It was his first major championship, and he played all four rounds – making the cut with shots to spare – and relished the experience. It was nice to see, but after playing the “extra” rounds of golf that DeLaet didn’t plan for, he was fatigued during the Canadian Open and ended up missing the cut at Glen Abbey.
THE PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: B
Personally, I thought there would be more fireworks on Sunday, considering the names in the mix. Keegan Bradley got off to such a quick start, and I thought that had opened the door for one of the guys who started a few shots behind – Rory McIlroy in particular – to go out and shoot a low number like 65 and really put the pressure on the leaders. It didn’t pan out that way, and Jason Dufner deadpanned his way to the Wanamaker Trophy. Absolutely nothing against Dufner. He’s fun to watch, he’s got a great swing, and is a fine student of the game who will likely win more than one major, but like I said, I thought there would be more excitement considering who was in the mix. Dufner got the job done though, and that’s all that matters. Like he said in his post-round press conference, “my name will always be on this trophy. And no one can take that away from me.”
Tiger Woods was essentially a non-factor at Oak Hill. Perhaps he struggled to get used to the speed of the greens (another classic Tiger response) but he also was hitting his driver poorly. That was not going to lead to any sort of success considering the length of the rough. He finished T40. McIlroy on the other hand, had his first top-10 at a major for 2013. He got it to 3-under and finished T8.
Graham DeLaet and David Hearn both played in the PGA Championship. DeLaet courtesy of his world ranking, and Hearn made it in as first alternate. Hearn was in second place after day one, but just couldn’t get anything else going the rest of the week. He finished T47, while DeLaet missed the cut. Both will now look towards the FedEx Cup playoffs. DeLaet also has an outside chance of making the President’s Cup team.
Predictions are pointless in golf, but if I had to pick winners of the 2014 major championships right now I would say:
The Masters: Brandt Snedeker
U.S. Open: Rickie Fowler
British Open: Adam Scott
PGA Championship: Tiger Woods