About two months removed from his epic collapse in the final round of the Masters, Rory McIlroy celebrated an eight-stroke victory in the US Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. It was the first major championship for the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland, and it came in grand style. His four-round total of 268 was a US Open record.
Queen of the greens
No golfer had a better year than Yani Tseng, a 22-year-old from Taiwan who is already on pace to break some of the LPGA records set by Annika Sorenstam. Tseng won seven tournaments, including the LPGA Championship and women's British Open, and led the ladies' tour in scoring average, driving distance, birdies and rounds under par.
The pluck of an Irishman
Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland hadn't so much as contended for a major championship in 10 years, and was winless in 19 tries in majors for his career. But there he was, at 42, clutching the Claret Jug in the locker room following his victory in the British Open at Royal St. George's in Sandwich, England. It was a popular victory for a guy many European golf fans view as a man of the people. Said Clarke: "I'm a bit of a normal bloke, aren't I?"
On top of the world
England's Luke Donald truly emerged as an international golf star in 2011. Donald became the first golfer to win both the American and European money titles. Although he didn't win a major championship, he was remarkably consistent, finishing in the top 10 in 14 of the 19 tournaments he played.
The Tiger of old?
We hadn't seen this in a while. For the first time since the tabloid sex scandal of November 2009 turned his life and career upside down, Tiger Woods celebrated a victory in a golf tournament. This fist-pumping display came after he made a putt on the 18th hole to secure the win in the Chevron World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club on Dec. 4. That performance, Woods' first win in 26 events, along with a strong showing in the Presidents Cup in Melbourne and a third-place finish, have Woods-watchers thinking 2012 could see a return of the dominant, Jack-chasing Tiger.