What you should take away from 2013
With the new year just a week away, I spent some time thinking about my year in golf. As always, I spent a lot of time updating the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings and addressing the many issues that surround that enormous database, which tells us who is playing the best at all levels. And with that comes all sorts of headaches and fun facts.
First, the headache of Steve Stricker computing to No. 1 in the pro men’s rankings. I am OK with Stricker being No. 1, even though people like to tell me about Tiger Woods’ five victories this year. It’s important to remember that these rankings are based on head-to-head performances, not number of victories. Woods and Stricker competed in the same event 10 times in 2013, and Stricker was better than Woods in six of those starts, which gave him a 6-4 head-to-head record against Woods. Stricker’s overall head-to-head winning percentage was the best in professional golf.
Now to the most fun fact of the year: that Alabama lost to just one team in all of 2013. It was truly an amazing accomplishment. Jay Seawell guided his team to 11 tournament victories in 12 starts in the past 12 months, and that was highlighted by winning the national championship.
My year took me to almost every corner of the United States, from Florida to Oregon to Connecticut to California. I was able to watch some of the future’s bright young stars play some of the best courses in the country and, of course, eat some great food. This helped compile my 2013 top-10 golf list.
From my home office in Ellettsville, Ind., … my top 10 golf moments from 2013:
• 10. Let’s get started with a meal to remember! Each year I look forward to my visit to El Paso, Texas, for the Western Refining All-America Classic. Not only because many of college golf’s best players are displaying their talents on the course, but also because of the food. The ribeye steak prepared by members of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Posse is one of the best meals of the year.
• 9. The match-play format at the NCAA Championship always creates memories. Watching the Illinois men find a path to the championship match before losing to Alabama was another memory from match play.
• 8. This is many moments all rolled into one: Television and NCAA golf. It’s certainly going to help create more awareness and bring visibility to the great young players in the game who seem to be transitioning to the next level more smoothly and making a bigger impact at that level.
• 7. The historic season of the California men’s golf team is something to remember. I was on hand when the Golden Bears fought back to win the Western Intercollegiate at Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif. Trailing by nine shots with 18 holes to play, Cal rallied in the final round to win by 13. It was the Bears' ninth victory of the season.
• 6. With cold temperatures, rain and some sleet, the opening day of the Golfweek Division II Fall Invitational at the Crosswater Course at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore., might have been one of the most miserable days I have witnessed on a golf course. But that did not hold back the Cal State Monterey golf team. The Otters blitzed the field with rounds of 302 and 288 to build a 26-shot lead after 36 holes. Yes, they would hang on to win the title.
• 5. Watching USC and Annie Park at the NCAA Championship last spring at the University of Georgia Golf Course was something nobody will soon forget. The Trojans finished 21 shots clear of runner-up Duke. Park, just a freshman, went 10 under par to win the individual title by six shots.
• 4. Bobby Wyatt’s holed flop shot at the NCAA Championship was something to see. From an almost impossible spot behind the 14th green at the Crabapple Couse at the Capital City Club in Woodstock, Ga., Wyatt holed a shot that gave us a moment to remember.
• 3. Playing 36 holes at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is something I will never forget. It’s an absolute must for anyone who truly loves to play the game. My experience nearly gave me my first hole-in-one when I hit a 9-iron that lipped out on the par-3 14th hole at Pacific Dunes.
• 2. Watching on TV as Phil Mickelson carded a final-round 5-under 66 to win the Claret Jug at Muirfield. It was great to see this for so many golf reasons, but even great for me because I had Lefty in my weekly golf draft.
And my No. 1 moment for my 2013 golfing year was finally getting out on the links and teeing it up with my 10-year-old son, Landon. We played many rounds (mostly just nine holes), and that one moment where I was able to capture on video his first birdie. Way to go, Landon!