As 2011 has ended and the 2012 season is upon us, we’re (still) taking an obligatory look at the winners and losers of 2011. First, we reviewed the best shots. Then, we cringed through the greatest meltdowns. We also checked out some players who were considered overachievers. Next, we took a gander at those who had the most disappointing seasons. Since Shoshana worships Tiger Woods (borderline obsession!), she picked his top-five moments of 2011 — a touching tribute to his 36th birthday (Dec 30).
5a. The front nine on Sunday at the Masters — For nine holes on Sunday at Augusta, Tiger Woods was playing like pre-hydrant-era Tiger. Capping the front with a great eagle on No. 8 and a miraculous par to go out in 31, he appeared to have a shot at (another) green jacket and his 15th major. However, he blew his chances, missing several short putts on the back nine. We found out after the fact he had suffered injuries to his left leg in the third round, which sidelined him for three months.
5b. Cameo at The Players — After an injury the month before at the Masters in April, Tiger tried to return to competition before he was physically ready. He shot a six-over 42 before limping off TPC Sawgrass:
Matt Kuchar and Martin Kaymer started the day playing in a three-ball at TPC Sawgrass, but nine holes into the round, it turned into a two-ball after Tiger Woods withdrew, citing injury. Woods has been recovering from a Grade 1 mild medical collateral ligament sprain to his left knee (the same one that’s endured four surgeries) and a mild strain to his left Achilles tendon. He shot a dreadful six-over 42, which included rolling in a 17-footer for triple-bogey on the fourth hole. Before leaving, he said the pain started on the first tee shot. “Yeah, the knee acted up and then the Achilles followed after that and then the calf started cramping up,” he said. “Everything started getting tight, so it’s just a whole chain reaction.”
We wouldn’t see him again until the first week of Augusta at Firestone.
4. Tiger gets his man — In the midst of Tiger’s rehabilitation period, he fired erstwhile bagman Steve Williams. At the conclusion of the FedExCup Butch Harmon took the liberty of announcing that Tiger had hired Joe LaCava, who had been looping for Dustin Johnson since May. LaCava was Fred Couples’ long-time caddie — arguably the best in the business and a true professional. LaCava is someone Tiger had known and respected for a while and an overall great hire. As Stephanie said at the time:
“Like I said when the news first broke, I actually have much more confidence in Tiger now with Joe on his bag. It’s the best decision the 14-time major champ has publicly made in years!”
3. The final round of the Australian Open — Tiger entered the third round of the Australian Open with a one-shot lead before playing his way down the leaderboard. Now feeling healthy, he was able to spend time practicing afterward (at one point having a chipping contest with Nick Watney), and then went to dinner with Freddie. At dinner that night, Tiger told him to watch the next day for a much better round. On Sunday he went out and delivered on his promise. While he was too far back to catch eventual champion Greg Chalmers, he was striking the ball the best he had in two years and his swing changes with instructor Sean Foley had finally come together.
2. Presidents Cup Singles — Tiger had played fairly well most of the week at the Presidents Cup (despite being dragged down by someone resembling Dustin Johnson in the team matches). On Sunday with the International team mounting a morning charge, Tiger was confident he would get the point, according to caddie Joe LaCava:
“I think he went out there on Sunday basically knowing he was going to defeat Aaaron Baddeley even though Baddeley was playing well. I don’t think that match was ever in jeopardy. He came out and just felt he was going to get that point for the U.S”
1. Chevron World Challenge — Tiger entered the Chevron with the confidence gained from his previous starts in Australia. Despite a poor round on Saturday, he was only one shot back heading into Sunday. After taking an early lead, Tiger found himself one stroke behind Zach Johnson, heading to the 17th tee. From there, he didn’t miss a shot, posting consecutive birdies to close and earn his first individual victory of any kind in over two years. We also saw the return of the fist pump! It was encouraging to see Tiger in the winner’s circle again as we head into 2012.
Once again, happy 36th birthday, Tiger! Hope you had a great time celebrating. (Wink, wink.)
What were your favorite Tiger moments of 2011?