T’S BEEN an unforgettable year for the sport of golf and one that will last long in the memory. With Europeans occupying the top four spots in the world rankings and two more enjoying success at the Majors, there is certainly plenty to be enthusiastic about heading into 2012 which is, of course, a Ryder Cup year.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR
Rory McIlroy’s victory at the US Open was one of the best Major victories I’ve ever witnessed. It was an almost flawless performance and showcased an iron resolve that some doubted he possessed.
McIlroy will go on to win many more Majors, but it is unlikely, for all his class, that Darren Clarke will enjoy many better days the one in July when he lifted the famous Claret Jug. His victory was as surprising as it was emotional and for that reason he just pips Rory’s breakthrough success.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
He might still be searching for his maiden Major victory but for his sheer consistency you can’t look past Luke Donald, the world No1, if you’re handing out accolades for the player of 2011. Hardly a significant tournament goes by without the Englishman’s name featuring somewhere close to the head of the leaderboard.
DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR
For all the great memories the last 12 months have provided us with, the death of my dear friend Seve Ballesteros cast an enormous black shadow. Seve was not only a champion golfer, but a wonderful human being. He had a tremendous impact on my own career and it was a privilege to compete against him as well as play with him in seven Ryder Cups.
SHOT OF THE YEAR
Such is the quality on show these days we’re well used to witnessing incredible acts of escapology, but Bill Haas’s recovery shot at the FedEx Cup was one of the most extraordinary shots I’ve ever seen.
Getting the ball virtually stone dead from shallow water would have been highly commendable under normal circumstances. But to have accomplished it in a play-off, in a tournament offering the winner a $10m prize was truly astonishing and provided a sensational moment of sporting theatre.
ONE TO WATCH IN 2012
I’m convinced Tiger Woods is going to have a significant say in matters next year, such has been the level of form he’s displayed over the last few weeks in Australia.
That said, I’m really looking forward to seeing how young Englishman Tom Lewis gets on next year. He made the right decision in turning pro after The Open and has made a dream become a reality by earning his tour card after winning the Portugal Masters. To me he looks like the complete package.
Read more of Sam's golf comments at City A.M.