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A Look Back on 2013
Most years have a little bit of everything, but 2013 - now there's a year you can put a stamp and a fancy label on. This one was a vintage year. They don't come much better.
Consider, for openers, that you had Tiger Woods making a comeback and also getting called out on rules flaps at the same time. It seems the emperor had tattered clothes. And then there was the Strange Case of the Disappearance of Rory McIlroy. To say nothing of his Killer Wisdom Tooth.
But on a scale of 1 to 10, the No. 1 item surfaced in the fall, and without much fanfare. To add a twist to a splendid cliché, if a shoe drops and nobody's around to hear it, did it really drop?
The answer is yes. But Tim Finchem, PGA Tour commissioner, heard it and is probably cringing at the thought of the other shoe dropping, This isn't the season of ho-ho-ho for Finchem, it's oh-oh-oh.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has introduced a bill that, in essence, would strip pro sports organizations of their tax-exempt status. This could cost the PGA Tour millions and could change tournaments the way we know them. It would sting the LPGA Tour, as well.
Just when this all might come to pass, if ever, is not even up for speculation. But it's the other shoe Finchem is waiting for.
EXPANDED HORIZONS: Well, 2013 wasn't all bad for Finchem. He established a beachhead in Asia with the China Tour-PGA Tour China Series, out-flanking the European Tour in the race to global golf. It's a developmental circuit of 12 events, starting in 2014, intended to produce A-game Chinese golfers for export. It's also could be a way for the PGA Tour to tap the immense Chinese market. Think of TPC courses as far as the eye can see. Finchem already had the Western Hemisphere under the tour's umbrella (see PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica). If the tour is someday looking for a slogan, how about borrowing from the old British Empire: "The sun never sets on the PGA Tour."
TALES OF THE TIGER: It was, as everyone said, just a question of time until Tiger Woods was back. Well, dollar signs and decimal points to the contrary, he wasn't really the old Tiger Woods in 2013. Too many stray shots and yipped putts for that. But he was spectacular for the most part, and there was enough of him to return to No. 1 in the world and win five times to lead the tour with $8.5 million. Still, it wasn't a great year. You need a major for that, he always said, and he didn't get one. He's been shut out since the 2008 U.S. Open.
Then there were the rules flaps - plural - of which the moving ball at the BMW in September was the biggest. The bad drop at the Masters was pretty hefty, too. At the BMW, Woods insisted his ball only oscillated, but a TV review showed that it moved. This was caught before he could sign an incorrect scorecard, so he didn't get disqualified. At the Masters, his wedge shot hit the flagstick and caromed into the water. He then dropped in the wrong place, and it was after he'd signed his card that this all developed, but the committee had granted him a dispensation from disqualification, the regular penalty. Then there was the controversial drop at the Players Championship. So these and other incidents, taken as a body of work, as it were, moved TV commentator Brandel Chamblee to write that Woods was "cavalier" in his approach to the rules. Chamblee, writing in Golf.com, also made a peripheral comment that, if read a certain way, hinted that Woods was cheating. This was followed by a volcanic uproar in which statements of outrage from the Woods camp seemed to threaten legal action for defamation. But there was no chance there would be a lawsuit.
SLOPPIEST SPIN MOVE OF THE YEAR: At the Honda Classic in March, Rory McIlroy went 7-over in the first eight holes and walked off the course. "I'm not in a good place, mentally," he told reporters in the parking lot. Was it the new Nike clubs? No. Anything physically wrong? "No," he said. Oops. His agents, Horizon Sports Management, took his boyish naivete, ran it through their spin machine and came out with: "I have been suffering with a sore wisdom tooth . . . I was simply unable to concentrate." Oops again. With agents like these, who needs critics?
All in all, it was just a lousy year for McIlroy. He had his $20 million a year (est.) Nike equipment contract, and his girl, tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, but these were faint consolations. He was hitting it everywhere. He finally settled down and won the Australian Open in December, which spared him an 0-fer year. Off the course, he got into a remarkable do-si-do. Oakley sued McIlroy, McIlroy sued Horizon, Horizon counter-sued McIlroy.
LIFE IS GOOD (MOST WITH THE LEAST DEPT.): Brendan Steele wins 2013's Most with Least Award. With a fourth-place finish and a tie for sixth and nine missed cuts in 26 starts, he won $1,004,161 - the last of the year's millionaires, at No. 82 on the money list. Not to be unappreciative, but you make a lot more hitting .100 in baseball.
YEAR OF THE WRAP-AROUND: The last millionaire used to be somewhere in the 90-100 group, but don't forget - this was the first year of the so-called wrap-around season (like basketball). The 2013 season ended with the Tour Championship in mid-September, and the 2013-14 season began with the Frys.com Open, which made the former card-chasing fall season a full-fledged part of the tour. This was dandy with Jimmy Walker. He won the tournament, $900,000 and berths in the Masters and PGA Championship.
LEFT-HANDED COMPLIMENT OF THE YEAR: Sergio Garcia wins the final Asian Tour event of the year, the Thailand Golf Championship, thereby avoids going 0-for-2013, then tells the natives: "I'm very, very happy, and I can't wait to go back to Switzerland and kind of sleep on it a little bit."
A HAIR OF THE DEER THAT BIT YOU: The word "outré" was invented for the case of Vijay Singh and his fling with deer-antler spray. The stuff is made from the velvet of antlers and is supposed to heal various injuries. No, you do not chew on antlers. You spray the stuff under your tongue. Singh admitted to using deer-antler spray in a story in Sports Illustrated, and said he didn't know it contained a banned substance. So the tour was going to suspend him. But the tour reversed itself on learning that the spray contained so little of the magic elixir. Singh, however, had already sued the tour for exposing him to "public humiliation and ridicule" - defamation. Well, it did raise a bunch of eyebrows. Said Bubba Watson: "It sounds like something I would never want near me. I think we should check them for mental problems if they're taking deer-antler spray. That's kind of weird."
ALSO THE YEAR FOR NEOLOGISMS: That means new words, and this one is "Dufnering." "Slothful" is the closest existing word. It came from Jason Dufner, the Emperor of Laidbackedness, caught by a photographer amid a bunch of little school kids, lying prone on the floor and partly slouched against the wall. Then everybody was Dufnering. The truth is, Dufner is Dufnering even when he's walking.
Marino Parascenzo can assure you that hanging around with great and famous pro golfers does nothing to help your game. They just won't give you the secret. But it makes for a dandy career. As a sportswriter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (now retired), Parascenzo covered the whole gamut of sports - Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Pitt, Penn State and others - but golf was his favorite. As the beat writer for the paper, he covered all the stateside majors and numerous other pro events, and as a freelancer handled reporting duties for the British Open and other tournaments overseas - in Britain, Spain, Italy, the Caribbean, South Africa, China and Malayasia. Marino has won more than 20 national golf-writing awards, along with state and regional honors. He has received the Memorial Tournament's Golf Journalism Award and the PGA of America's Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. His writing has appeared in numerous magazines, among them Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest and Golf Magazine, and in anthologies and foreign publications. He also wrote the history of Oakmont Country Club. Parascenzo is a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America and is on its board of directors. He is the founder and chairman of the GWAA's Journalism Scholarship Program. He is a graduate of Penn State and was an adjunct instructor in journalism at Pitt.