SI senior writerGary Van Sickle has covered more than 225 golf tournaments during his 11 yearsat the magazine. Here are his five favorites from 2007.
5 U.S. OpenBecause I live in Pittsburgh, I slept in my own bed, had a 30-minute commuteand, in an upset, didn't have to battle the traffic backups on the main road toOakmont Country Club. The Open had a dramatic finish, and some Oakmont membersare still chuckling about the fierce rough and the pros' big numbers.
4 EDS Byron NelsonChampionship Until the end, not much went right for the Nelson. Lord Byron haddied the year before, the tournament was moved to an unattractive date in lateApril, and the greens at TPC Four Seasons Resort were brown and bumpy. But theevent had the feel-good finish of the year when Tour veteran Scott Verplank,who had been mentored by Nelson since his teens, holed the winning putt,pointed skyward and mouthed, "Thank you."
3 U.S. Senior OpenPardon my sacrilege, but Whistling Straits, perched on bluffs above LakeMichigan, might be a better course than Pebble Beach. Watching Tom Watson thinkhis way around the Straits was as good as it gets.
2 British OpenThere was nonstop drama at Carnoustie, beginning with Tiger Woods sending hisopening tee shot of the second round way out-of-bounds--with a four-iron! I gotmy first up-close look at Rory McIlroy, the 18-year-old from Northern Ireland,and saw that he really is the Next Big Thing. Then there were the amazing10-birdie round by Andres Romero and the 18th-hole flameouts by Sergio Garcíaand Padraig Harrington. Harrington is as nice as anybody on any tour, soeveryone was happy to see him win his first major in a playoff. And I have tosmile anytime Sergio goes into crybaby mode.
1 Windon MemorialNorthwestern hosted this college event at Lake Shore Country Club. I watched myson, Mike, who's a junior at Marquette, birdie six of the last eight holes fora closing 30 that lifted him into a tie for first. No nine holes meant more ormade me happier in 2007.
Dominators of the Year
Based on performance against their peers, here are the10¬†most dominant players of 2007, ranked in ascending order ofsupremacy.
10 Suzann Pettersen LPGA After letting the KraftNabisco Championship slip through her fingers, the 26-year-old from Norwaybounced back to win the McDonald's LPGA Championship and four other LPGAtitles.
9 Spencer Levin Canadian tour The former New MexicoLobo lost in a playoff in his Canadian debut, but the 23-year-old from ElkGrove, Calif., went on to score two wins, a second, and two thirds and fourthsin 10 starts.
8 Carl Mason European Senior tour Mason, 54, ofAdderbury, England, continued to rule his over-50 circuit (he is the all-timeleading money-winner), triumphing five times in 17¬†starts, with11¬†top fives.
7 Louis Oosthuizen Sunshine tour Once a nationallyranked tennis player in South Africa, Oosthuizen, 25, smashed-volleyed his homecountry's pro tour, winning half of the six tournaments he entered.
6 Vicky Hurst AJGA The 17-year-old from Melbourne,Fla., completed her junior career with three straight American Junior GolfAssociation wins (four for the year). Hurst went on to win last month's DuramedFutures tour Q school and may turn pro.
5 Tiger Woods PGA Tour The No.¬†1-ranked player inthe world pushed his consecutive victory streak to seven at the start of theyear, then was unstoppable in the late summer with wins in Akron, at the PGAand in two of the four FedEx Cup playoffs. Overall, he finished with seven winsin 16 Tour starts.
4 Lorena Ochoa LPGA The greatest golfer in Mexicanhistory and the No.¬†1 player in the Rolex Rankings won her first major(Women's British Open) and seven other titles in 25 LPGA starts. Ochoa finishedoutside the top¬†10 only four times.
3 Zhang Lianwei Omega China tour Now 42, the firstChinese to win on a major tour (Euro tour's '03 Caltex Masters) and to play inthe Masters ('04) had three wins and five top fives in six starts on the Chinatour.
2 Amanda Blumenherst Duke A junior at the three-timedefending NCAA champion, Blumenherst, 21, could become the collegiate player ofthe year for a third consecutive season. The runner-up in the U.S. Women'sAmateur, she won three college events in a row in the spring and five overallin '07 (bringing her three-year total to nine).
1 Ji Yai Shin Korean LPGA This 19-year-old rookie fromChonnam Province had a Woods-like season, breaking almost all of Se Ri Pak'sKLPGA records. Shin's victory in the season-ending ADT CAPS Championship washer ninth of the year, and she handily won the money title.
It's tough to accept. We're out here working our buttsoff to get a spot in that tournament, and it's handed to her.
-- BRITTANY LINCICOME, ON MICHELLE WIE BEING GIVEN ASPONSOR'S EXEMPTION TO THE SAMSUNG WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
DAVID WALBERG (VAN SICKLE); DAVID CANNON/GETTY IMAGES (PETTERSEN); ROSS KINNAIRD/GETTY IMAGES (LEVIN); PHIL INGLIS/GETTY IMAGES (MASON); GARY ROTHSTEIN/ICON SMI (OOSTHUIZEN); AP PHOTO/GERRY BROOME (HURST); FRED VUICH (WOODS); SCOTT HALLEREAN/GETTY IMAGES (OCHOA); KIKI/COLOR CHINA PHOTOS/ZUMA PRESS (LIANWEI); JON GARDINER/DUKE PHOTOGRAPHY (BLUMENHERST); JONATHAN WOOD/GETTY IMAGES (SHIN)