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Tiger's Troubles, Triumphs Mark 2009 in Golf


The past year in golf gave fans plenty to cheer - and plenty to jeer - both on and off the course. Tiger Woods returned from injury, Tom Watson electrified the British Open, and Phil Mickelson helped his family fight cancer. A late season sex scandal threatened to overshadow everything that happened on the course.

This was supposed to be Tiger Woods' comeback year. The world No. 1 golfer returned to the game following reconstructive knee surgery and expectations for his success were high.

Tiger did not play until late February when the PGA Tour was in Arizona for the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play event. Woods showed some of the effects of more than eight months off, losing to South Africa's Tim Clark in the second round.

Tiger then tied for ninth in his next start at the WGC-CA Championships in March, just four weeks before the Masters. But Woods gave golf fans what they were waiting for - a win - at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida two weeks later.

When the world No. 1 got to Augusta National in Georgia, it appeared he would add another winner's green jacket to his collection. Woods played with fellow-American Phil Mickelson on the final day, but ended the tournament tied for sixth. Mickelson finished in fifth place.

Cabrera Wins Masters

Argentina's Angel Cabrera won the Masters - his second major title after the 2007 U.S. Open - by outlasting Americans Kenny Perry, and Chad Campbell. Perry had gone 22 consecutive holes without a bogey until he dropped shots on each of the last two holes for a 71 to force the playoff.

Afterwards, Cabrera said - through an interpreter - that he hoped winning his second major title would spark enthusiasm for golf in Argentina.

"This win, to take a major back to Argentina is going to mean a lot, and I hope it can help our game. It's simply one of the best tournaments in the world," he said.

Mickelson's Wife Battles Cancer

Between the Masters and the U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson announced his wife Amy had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Six weeks later, Mickelson's mother was also diagnosed with the disease. The American took took several weeks off the tour to care for his family, returning at the St. Jude Classic tournament in Tennessee the week before the U.S. Open.

Mickelson said before the U.S. Open in June that doctors had found Amy's cancer early, and the prognosis of a full recovery was good.

"I am so lucky to be married to her," Mickelson said. "She has made my life so fulfilling and enriching. With that being said, obviously we are going through a tough time right now. We are fortunate that we believe we caught it early that we don't have to rush into decisions and can make some good long-term decisions, decisions that will help us beat this quickly."

In July, Mickelson's mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment at the same hospital as Amy Mickelson. Phil Mickelson would later decide to skip the British Open in order to be with his family, ending a streak of 61 straight major tournament appearances.

He would return to action in time to play at the PGA Championship, where he finished 73rd. The second-ranked American would later win the Tour Championship in Atlanta, help the United States win the Presidents Cup, and would win the HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai.

Memories of Tiger Woods's dramatic playoff win at the 2008 U.S. Open spurred hopes he would repeat as champion in 2009. But just like The Masters, Woods finished tied for sixth, this time behind American Lucas Glover, a soft-spoken Southerner who captured his first major at New York's Bethpage Black public course in June.

Cink Edges Watson at British Open

One of the most heart-warming - and heart-breaking - stories of 2009 came at the British Open, where 59-year-old five-time champion Tom Watson led for 71 holes at Turnberry, Scotland. A bogey on the last hole of the tournament put Watson into a four-hole playoff with fellow-American Stewart Cink. In the end, Cink was the one holding the Claret Jug, not Watson.

Afterward, Cink said that he knew he had what it took to win a major, even the British Open.

"Having outlasted this field on this golf course with the way the weather tried to beat us down the last three days, it's something I will never forget. It's just great to be the one left," Cink said.

Watson said having come so close to being the oldest player ever to win a major was deeply disappointing.

"Coming in this week I could have dreamt it, yes, the way I was playing. I really felt I was playing well. And I knew how to play this golf course. And it was almost, almost. The dream almost came true," Watson said.

Woods Deals with Ups and Downs

Tiger Woods surprisingly missed the cut at the British Open, finishing at five-over-par for two rounds.

Woods looked close to his first major win in more than a year at the PGA Championship in August. He held or shared the lead in each of the first three rounds. However, in the end second-year PGA Tour player Y.E. Yang from South Korea, outdueled Woods head-to-head in the final round to celebrate a stunning victory.

Tiger had been a perfect 14-of-14 when leading a major after 54 holes. But Woods' short game abandoned him when he needed it, with the top-ranked player finishing second, three strokes behind Yang.

The past year was not a complete wash for Woods. He won six times and captured the season's lucrative FedEx Cup title for the second time in three years. Afterwards, Tiger said that the season did not turn out as he had planned, but he was hopeful 2010 would be the year he would win his 15th major.

"I was very consistent. When I didn't win, I was in the top 10, so I kept accumulating points," Woods explained. "And in the playoffs I played pretty good actually. I was pretty consistent as I said. The only thing is I wish I could have gotten a few more 'W's' [wins] this year."

Tiger did help get a big W - or win - in a major team event, helping the United States beat the International team at the Presidents Cup in San Francisco (19 ½ to 14 ½).

However, it was the first time since 2004 that Tiger Woods had not won at least one major tournament in a season. The man who was the first $1 billion athlete (in earnings) had struggled in his first year back from the knee injury. But his on-the-course troubles would pale before year's end.

Woods Sex Scandal Stuns Golf Fans

Early in the morning of November 27, police in a suburb of Orlando, Florida, received a call of someone wrecking a sports utility vehicle in a nearby, upscale gated community. The driver was Tiger Woods.

Initial reports said the No. 1 golfer was seriously injured, but later it was learned he was treated and released from a local hospital. When it emerged that his wife Elin had used a golf club to smash the back windows of the Cadillac SUV to free Woods, speculation swirled over whether the couple was having marital trouble.

The speculation would turn out to be true.

In the days following the accident, at least a dozen women told news outlets they had had affairs with Woods. The reports outlined a life of partying and gambling in Las Vegas, late night sexual escapades, and racy cell (mobile) phone text messages.

The world No. 1 decided to take an indefinite leave from golf to try to work on his marriage. However, news reports in December said that Elin Woods planned to file for divorce.

PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem said he supported Woods' decision to work on his family, and that golf will survive. But former two-time major tournament winner John Daly of the United States disagreed when asked about Woods at a tournament in Australia.

"I hope we get him back soon. You know, golf needs him more than he needs golf. They always say there is nobody better than golf, than the game itself, but right now there is, and it's him," Daly said.

Woods, who had made more than $105 million last year from endorsements, also faced the loss of some of his top sponsors. Accenture management group, which sponsors the World Match Play Championship, said it would no longer use him in its advertisements.

Gillette shaving products said it would remove Woods from its ads and Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer said it would drop him from its advertising. Woods' No. 1 sponsor Nike came out in support of him, saying it would continue to back him.

But as the year ended, no one knew when Tiger Woods might make his first public appearance to address what had happened.

Lincicome Wins Kraft Tournament

Highlighting women's golf, American Brittany Lincicome won the Kraft Nabisco tournament in April, her first major victory and the third of her career. Swedish Rookie Anna Nordqvist won the year's second major, the McDonald's LPGA Championship in June.

South Korea's Ji Eun-hee won her first major title at the women's U.S. Open in July, sinking a birdie putt on the final hole. Scotland's Catriona Matthew won the women's British Open in front of home fans at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's.

Wie Wins First LPGA Tournament

The USA won the Solheim Cup team competition, defeating Europe 16-12 in Sugar Grove, Illinois in August. Michelle Wie of the United States was the second rookie to qualify for the Cup as a captain's pick after only one season in which she could earn points. After much hype early in her pro career when she played some tournaments against men, the 20-year-old Wie finally won her first LPGA Tour tournament in 2009 at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico in November.

Though Ochoa did not win a major tournament in 2009, she played consistently well enough to earn her fourth straight Player of the Year honors, edging out South Korean Jiyai Shin by a single point.

Westwood Dominates European Golf

In European men's golf, England's Lee Westwood ended the year as the Continent's No. 1 player, earning more than $6 million for the season. Westwood also won the Dubai World Championship, and he became the eighth Englishman to win the Harry Vardon Trophy twice (as the European Tour's top money winner).

Tiger Woods electrified golf in 2009 both on and off the course. Though he did not win a major, Woods still needs only five more major wins in his career to surpass Hall of Fame player Jack Nicklaus. When Tiger can - or will - resume the quest to pass Nicklaus remains unknown.

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