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Year in Review: The 2012 PGA Tour was a Wild One

Jeremy Schilling

Schilling covers golf for RotoWire, focusing on young and up-and-coming players. He was a finalist for the FSWA's Golf Writer of the Year award. He also contributes to PGA Magazine and hosts the popular podcast "Teeing It Up" on BlogTalkRadio.

While the Fall Series continues, the majority of the PGA Tour season is completed, including all four majors and the FedEx Cup. Golf had two new major winners in 2012, while one added to a Hall of Fame resume and a fourth used his win to cement himself as world No. 1. Tiger Woods soared, and then disappeared, while Sunday leads became as popular as telemarketers.

All in all, it came together for a wild and unpredictable 2012, culminating in a wild Sunday at the Ryder Cup.

Here are the highlights, lowlights and important developments on this year's PGA Tour.

Tiger Woods won a PGA Tour event again. After failing to win an official PGA Tour event in 2010 and 2011, Tiger Woods broke back into the winner's circle once again with his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. He then backed that up by winning Jack's event, The Memorial, in June, and his own event, the AT&T National, in July. After that, however, he developed a conspicuous problem of closing on the weekend. At the year's final three majors, plus several events down the stretch, Tiger put himself in position to win yet couldn't finish them off, instead rattling off several top-10s and top-15s. Time will tell if this was just a one-year fluke or the beginning of the end for the most dominant weekend player of golf's modern era. ...

Golf finally has a true No. 1 again. No offense to Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer or Luke Donald, but none of these seemed like a true "world No. 1." Only one - Kaymer - has won a major, and none of the three had that signature win to say to the world, "Yes, this is why I, and not the rest of you, am No. 1."

But that all changed in August, when Rory McIlroy won the PGA Championship in commanding fashion for his second win of the year. He then backed that up with victories in back-to-back FedEx Cup Playoff events at the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship, and was a part of the European Ryder Cup team that staged the greatest Sunday comeback ever on foreign soil.

He has a nearly three-point lead on Tiger in the World Golf Rankings, a gap which, considering the way McIlroy has played recently, should only expand. ...

2012 was the Year of the Sunday Collapse. Kyle Stanley, Spencer Levin, Robert Allenby, Ernie Els, Kevin Na, Jim Furyk three times (including at the U.S. Open and Ryder Cup), Adam Scott at the British Open and the American Ryder Cup team collapsed on Sundays this season. No lead felt safe, and everyone felt like they could post a good round and still have a legitimate chance to win.

Brandt Snedeker is a lot richer today than he was Jan. 1. Snedeker had a sterling run in the FedEx Cup playoffs, finishing second at The Barclays, sixth at the Deutsche Bank Championship and T37 at the BMW Championship before winning the Tour Championship, which gave him the FedEx Cup title. It was an $11.44 million payday for Snedeker, made sweeter by the fact that he went directly from Atlanta to the Ryder Cup as a captain's pick. ...

Two of golf's most important "new" faces won big events. Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler are not only best friends and members of Ben Crane's "Golf Boys" video, but are arguably the most important new faces of the PGA Tour's next generation. Highly visible on Twitter (@bubbawatson, @RickieFowlerPGA) and always keeping themselves out there, whether they're playing on a given week or not, each of Watson and Fowler's wins this year helped golf immensely.

Watson's hook-wedge from the pine straw on the right side of the 10th hole on the second playoff hole at The Masters will not only go down as one of the greatest shots in Masters history, but it also showed how "cool" golf can be to the mass audience. (The final of The Masters is usually the most watched golf round all year.)

Fowler's victory at The Wells Fargo Championship in a playoff that included Rory McIlroy, finally gave Fowler the one thing missing from his resume: a PGA Tour victory. Fowler's style of wearing all orange on Sundays has been seen around the PGA Tour for two years now, but he still didn't have that elusive "W" to his name. But a sterling wedge shot to Quail Hollow's 18th green gave him what he wanted; the first of what he believes will hopefully be many victories. ...

Sergio Garcia got to the top again. Garcia seemingly has had this love-hate relationship with golf since he stepped onto the national scene 13 years ago at Medinah, most recently crashing down after failed defeats to win that long-awaited major championship. But two wins late last year in Spain got his confidence back, and he finally broke through on the PGA Tour again when he won the Wyndham Championship in late August. He then took that newfound momentum to the Ryder Cup where he was a big part of Europe's historic Sunday comeback. ...

Only one rookie earned a victory during the FedEx Cup portion of the season. Possibly speaking to how deep golf is at the moment, just one rookie, John Huh, made it to the winner's circle, at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. That could change in the Fall Series as the bigger names sit and more young guys compete to keep their card, but it's still a pretty surprising stat. ...

Phil Mickelson showed up and then disappeared. Mickelson shot a Sunday 64 to win at Pebble Beach, then lost in a playoff to Bill Haas at Riviera the very next week. He also had a chance to win The Masters but saw his chances of winning pretty much disintegrate when his tee shot on the fourth hole ended up against some bamboo. Mickelson was never really the same until the very end of the season, when he contended at the BMW and formed a formidable pairing at the Ryder Cup with Keegan Bradley. ...

Golf's trend of new major champions continued, then ended. Bubba Watson's hook shot for the ages to win at Augusta, Webb Simpson's clutch up and down at the 18th at Olympic Club to win the U.S. Open and Ernie Els' stunning victory at the Open Championship continued an impressive streak - 16 consecutive different major winners. It was the longest such streak in 25 years and was a strong display of the tour's depth. Consider this, of those 16 players, none were named Tiger Woods.

The streak abruptly ended, however, with Rory McIlroy's resounding and dominating victory at the PGA Championship, his second major in as many years. And with his play late in the year, that streak might not return anytime soon.

Follow @jschil on Twitter.

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