Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy dominated in 2012, winning a second career major (the PGA Championship), the PGA and European money titles and world No. 1 status. While still a dozen major titles behind Tiger Woods, the 23-year-old has emerged as the game’s most dominant and popular player.
Woods, 37, had a bounce-back year in 2012, winning three PGA tournaments and more than $ 6 million. But until he ends his victory drought at majors, which stretches back to 2008, by pocketing his 15th and resuming his chase of Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18, most won’t consider him truly back.
Luke Donald begins the year as the world No. 2, a spot lower than last year. But the Englishman continues to chase an elusive first career major, as do five others among the globe’s top-10 ranked golfers — Justin Rose (4), Adam Scott (5), Lee Westwood (7), Brandt Snedeker (8) and Jason Dufner (10).
Ottawa’s Brad Fritsch, a 27-year-old Tour rookie, leads the Canadian contingent into the Sony Open. The Web.com Tour graduate, a pro since 2000 and 12-time entrant in the PGA Tour qualifying school, is one of five Canuck regulars.
The other four are also teeing it up at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
Among the veterans, Mike Weir, 42, of Brights Grove, Ont., is looking to bounce back from two seasons plagued by injury and poor performance while Stephen Ames, 48, eyes improved results as he winds down his PGA Tour career ahead of his expected move to the Champions Tour at age 50.
While the changes would not take effect until the next Rules of Golf is published on Jan. 1, 2016, the fact that three of the last five major champions used them — Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els — likely means the debate will continue.
POINTS OVER BUCKS
Beginning this season, playing privileges for next season will be determined not by tournament winnings and finishing in the top 125 on the money list but rather total FedEx Cup points accumulated. While the two things correspond at most events, it’s not as glamorous a statistic as money earned.