Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy found themselves paired often, as the two top draws in golf. Most of those pairings were in the early rounds, however, and not on Sundays. That's a fact Tiger pointed out in a December dispatch on his website. While complimenting McIlroy for his five-win season and No. 1 ranking, Woods said he doesn't have a true rivalry with the golfer 13 years his junior. Woods, 36, said they need to go head-to-head for a few major championships before their cordial competition becomes a true rivalry.
With three wins, his first on the PGA Tour since 2009, Tiger Woods had plenty to smile about in 2012. Here's a look back at his eventful year.
Hungry for a win
Tiger Woods opened his 2012 campaign in the last week of January in Abu Dhabi, having professed himself healthy for the first time since knee surgery in 2008. Others saw the after effects of his 2009 sex scandal still dragging him down. Woods finished third, an encouraging start to the season, but he went into the final round tied for the and failed to close as Robert Rock bested him by two strokes in the final group. It became a theme for 2012: Tiger played well but no longer was the Sunday intimidator he once was.
Such a tease
Tiger Woods' inconsistency was never more evident than at Pebble Beach in February. Still feeling his way through the swing changes he made with coach Sean Foley, Woods was spectacular at times and lost at others. In the third round at Pebble Beach, Tiger had six birdies in an eight-hole stretch to shoot 67 and move into third place, poised to end the win drought. But he followed that with a closing 75 that was even uglier than the final score. Playing in the same group, longtime second banana Phil Mickelson bested Woods by 11 strokes on Sunday to win the event.
Tiger Woods had his biggest health scare of the year in March at the Cadillac Championship on the TPC Blue Monster at Doral Golf Resort And Spa. He suffered an Achilles' tendon injury during the final round and quickly departed the premises in mid-round as aerial TV cameras tracked him to the parking lot, and even as he drove away. Since Woods missed three months with a similar injury in 2011, many feared the worst. Instead, the drama of the moment was unfounded. It turned out to be a mild sprain, and Woods did not miss a tee time.
Been a long time
Only two weeks after his injury scare at Doral, Tiger Woods ended his victory drought by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club in late March. His five-stroke win over Graeme McDowell ended a losing streak of 27 PGA Tour events, spanning 923 days. ''It's not like winning a major championship or anything,'' Woods said, "but it certainly feels really good.''
Old aquaintance be forgot
This photo is from the 2010 Masters. No chance of catching Tiger Woods and Hank Haney (left) together in 2012. Haney went on "the list" of those who crossed Tiger when he released a tell-all book about his time as his swing coach and the turmoil of the sex scandal. Haney started telling tales in March, just the Masters, including gems like Tiger wanting to join the Navy SEALs and ignoring golf practice in favor of training sessions with the SEALs. Inquiries with Woods were greeted, at best, with curt non-answers or, at worst, cold, hard stares.
Everything before April is a mere tuneup for the Masters for Tiger Woods. That's how highly he regards the event, how important it is for him to play well at Augusta. So the disappointment was deep when he followed his Bay Hill victory with a clunker in Georgia. he shot 5 over par, matching his worst four-round total at the Masters. Worse yet, he drew renewed criticism for cursing after bad shots and even kicking his club at one point. ''It was an off week at the wrong time,'' he said.
That's a fact, Jack
Tiger Woods got win No. 2 of the year at the Memorial at Muirfield Village Golf Club in early June. And he did so in style. With tournament host Jack Nicklaus watching, Tiger made a remarkable chip shot on the 16th hole to help him catch and pass then-leader Rory Sabbatini. Having over-shot the green, Woods had a tough lie from deep rough and an even tougher pin placement, with a sloping green making it tough to keep the ball anywhere close. Tiger did one better; he holed it. Nicklaus was impressed. "The most unbelievable, gutsy shot I've ever seen,'' he said.
Tiger Woods began the year with 14 major titles and finished it with the same number, still four behind the record he most cherishes — Jack Nicklaus' 18 major titles. But Tiger certainly had his chances. As the sign board shows, Woods began the third round tied for the lead of the US Open at the Olympic Club in June but then shot 8 over par on the weekend to fall from contention. Rarely one to find silver lining in a loss, Woods was surprisingly upbeat after the tough weekend. "I didn't really miss it that badly this week," he said. "The misses were just a fraction off, which is great. That's what we want to have happen. And this golf course is just so demanding that a fraction off you pay a price.''
Make it three
Tiger Woods earned victory No. 3 of the year at the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in July. With three victories in the span of seven tournaments, Woods silenced those who said he was done. He also moved within eight tournament titles of Sam Snead's PGA Tour record of 82 career wins. Woods' 74th win put him one ahead of Jack Nicklaus' total, good for sole possession of second place on the career list.
Tiger Woods' best finish in a major in 2012 was third in the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in July. A triple bogey on hole No. 6 in the final round prevented Tiger from making a serious Sunday run at his 15th major championship. Still, he rose to No. 2 in the world ranking after the third-place showing.
Not this time
Tiger Woods finished 11th in the PGA Championship in August, the final major tournament of the year. As with the US Open, Woods was in the lead at the midpoint of the tournament. But Kiawah Island got the best of him on the weekend as Rory McIlroy notched his second career major title. Woods finished at 2 under par.
For years, Tiger Woods reigned as golf's great intimidator. Potential challengers were beaten before they stepped to the first tee. But in September, golf great Greg Norman suggested it now is Tiger who's intimidated. "He knows his time is up," Norman said of Woods. After first laughing off the suggestion, Tiger finally responded to the suggestion. "No," he said, "no one is the size of Ray Lewis who is going to hit me coming over the middle, so this is a different kind of sport. We go out there and we play our own game and see where it falls at the end of the day."
$100 million man
Tiger Woods finished third in the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston in September, two strokes behind Rory McIlroy. But that wasn't the headline. The big news was that Woods increased his career earnings to $100,350,700, making him golf's first $100 million man.
Tiger Woods cheered on his teammtes during the Ryder Cup and apologized after it. The United States suffered an agonizing 14.5 to 13.5 loss as Europe came storming back in final-day singles. Woods went 0-3-1 in the September event, earning a half-point for the Americans. Though it's a team competition and Woods hardly was the only reason the US lost, he acknowledged the greater expections on him and apologized to his teammates for not doing his part.
Tiger Woods ended his season as host of his annual charity tournament, the Tiger Woods World Challenge. He finished tied for fourth, eight shots behind winner Graeme McDowell. Worse, he ponied up $4 million from his own pockets to cover operating costs after losing some sponsorship for the event.