The PGA Tour's "playoffs" opened this week at the venue where Lucas Glover had the biggest moment of his career.
Only three years removed from his U.S. Open triumph at Bethpage Black, however, Glover isn’t there. The former Clemson star didn’t even come close to qualifying.
It would be easy to write off Glover’s dreadful 2012 season to a left-knee injury he suffered while paddle boarding in Hawaii in January – sidelining him until late March. The knee is still bothering him enough that he withdrew after the second round of last week’s tournament in Greensboro, N.C., where the local caddie who picked up Sergio Garcia’s bag for the week earned more in four days than Glover earned all year.
But Glover’s absence in the return to Bethpage is more than commentary on the fragility of pro golf stardom. It seems to confirm that 2009 really was the “year of the miss” in golf.
“We’ve been told 2009 will be remembered in golf history as the year the wrong guys won,” wrote Jaime Diaz in Gold World magazine after Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Kenny Perry all played second fiddle to lesser tales on the major stages.
Three years later, there’s no denying the reality that 2009 was a weak vintage. Even the best defense of 2009’s roster of major headline stealers rings pretty hollow in 2012.
“Anyone who says (the 2009) PGA Tour season has been a disappointment because Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and Y.E Yang won the majors ... is, in the words of Dan Jenkins, a point-misser,” wrote Ron Sirak back then.
The only point-missers this year were all four guys in the PGA Tour’s season-long race.
None of the 2009 major winners ranked among the top 125 that reached this week’s first leg of the four-event playoff series that culminates in the Tour Championship at East Lake. Only one of them, Yang, even got particularly close, finishing 127th.
The 2009 major season was the start of a rare run in golf of consecutive different winners that stretched to 16 before Rory McIlroy won his second major in consecutive seasons at the PGA Championship at Kiawah. Clearly, not every major winner is a major star.
Yang certainly seemed to have superstar potential when he became the first Asian golfer to win a major – doing it in dramatic style. He shocked everyone in the PGA at Hazeltine when he did what nobody had ever done before by snapping Woods’ perfect 14-0 record with Sunday leads in a major.
To his credit, Yang has had his major moments since. He tied for eighth in his first Masters the next year and he escorted McIlroy’s U.S. Open romp at Congressional last year, ultimately tying for third.
But Yang hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since 2009 and his only worldwide victories came at events in China and Korea in 2010. He’s gradually slipped from his high-water mark of 29th in the world rankings in March 2011 to 82nd currently, with his best finish on tour this season a tie for 29th in Houston.
Cink’s post-major decline has been more precipitous. The Georgia Tech star was a perennial top-50 stalwart for more than a decade when he finally got his career-validating major victory in the British Open at Turnberry.
Yet one of the tour’s nicest and most popular players was an uncharacteristic villain having ruined the remarkable story of the 59-year-old Watson winning a ninth major 26 years after winning his eighth.
Cink’s British Open win moved him into the top 10 for the third time in his career. But it didn’t prove to be a catalyst for bigger things as Cink hasn’t won since and has steadily plummeted in the world rankings to 208th.
Cink at least ranks higher than Cabrera. The Argentinian won his second major title in two years at the 2009 Masters, winning a three-way playoff and preventing the 49-year-old Perry from becoming the oldest major winner in history.
Once ranked as high as ninth in the world in 2005, Cabrera had been a consistent figure in the world’s top 50 since 1999. This season, however, Cabrera made the cut in only six of 17 events including the Masters (T32) and U.S. Open (T46). With zero top 20s he’s fallen to 222nd in the world.
Which brings us back to Glover, whose 2009 win at Bethpage sent Mickelson off to tend to his wife’s cancer surgery with a fifth runner-up medal in his national championship.
Once considered one of the most promising young Americans after his major breakthrough vaulted him as high as No. 15 in the world, Glover has risen and fallen three times in his career. He’s cycled all the way from inside the top 50 to outside the top 100 each time and currently sits at 155th.
The only one of the 2009 major winners to win since on the PGA Tour, Glover’s 2011 playoff victory over Clemson teammate Jonathan Byrd at Quail Hollow stands out for its shock value in the midst of mostly mundane efforts. Aside from a third at the 2010 Players and 12th in the 2011 British, Glover hasn’t done much on the big stages since 2009.
This season, he joined Alvaro Quiros as the only players in the world to miss the cut in all four majors. Of the six cuts he made in 16 starts this season, no finish has been higher than 46th and he pocketed only $67,112 in finishing 219th of 256 players in the PGA Tour’s points standing.
Guess the 2009 rewind could’ve been worse. If runner-up David Duval had won at Bethpage, he ranks 238th in tour points and 841st in the world.