2012 European Tour Year In Review
By Kevin Currie, Senior Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The 2012 European Tour season brought several new faces to the fore, but it was the tour stalwarts that shined the brightest.
Branden Grace, in his second season on tour, posted four wins, the most on tour in 2012. He was one of six players with multiple wins, the other five all had two victories.
Among that group were big names like Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Lawrie as well as Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, who hadn't won in his previous two years on the circuit.
Tour regulars won the final two majors of the year, and were in contention at the other two majors.
Of course, the Europeans' best event was at the Ryder Cup, where they put together an enormous rally in Sunday's singles matches to retain the cup.
Let's look at who did what in 2012:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR -- Rory McIlroy
It was big news last year when Luke Donald topped both the PGA Tour and European Tour money lists. Well, it happened again this year.
Rory McIlroy started the season with four straight top-5 finishes, including a runner-up finish at the WGC - Match Play Championship.
After starting the Masters in contention, he went 9-over par in the final two rounds to tumble into a share of 40th. That was a sign of things to come as he missed four cuts in a five-event span worldwide.
McIlroy struggled to a share of 60th at the British Open, but caught fire the rest of the year.
He cruised to an 8-shot win at the PGA Championship, and became the sixth- youngest player with two major championships. His margin of victory was the largest in PGA Championship history.
After winning a pair of FedExCup playoff events, McIlroy returned to the European Tour while it was in Asia. He posted 20-under par at the BMW Masters, but lost to Peter Hanson by a shot, then took third in Singapore.
McIlroy missed the cut in Hong Kong, but responded with three rounds of 66 at the DP World Tour Championship en route to a 2-stroke win. His margin of victory would have been greater, but Justin Rose posted a blistering 10-under 62 in the final round.
The 23-year-old McIlroy has two majors already and easily won this year's Order of Merit. It is scary to think where he could go from here.
Among the others considered were Rose, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace.
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR -- Els wins after Scott collapses
Ernie Els started the final round at the British Open six strokes off Adam Scott's lead. While Els closed with four birdies on the back nine, it was Scott's collapse that allowed the South African to win the claret jug.
Els was still six back at the turn, but the 2002 British Open champion birdied three of the first five holes on the back nine, to close within four, as Scott also birdied the 14th. Scott was four clear with four to go.
The South African played steady golf down the stretch as he parred three in a row from the 15th.
Scott, however, was stumbling. He missed an 8-foot par putt at 15, then lipped out a short par effort on 16. As Scott was playing the 17th, Els rolled in a 15-footer for birdie at the last to close within one.
Scott was in the fairway on the penultimate hole, but pulled his second long and left. He pitched to 25 feet and failed to save par. Now tied for the lead, Scott needed a birdie to win or a par to force a playoff.
The Australian found a bunker off the tee at the last, and was forced to pitch out sideways. Scott dropped his third to eight feet. Needing to make the putt to force a playoff, Scott missed left and the collapse was complete.
Els won the claret jug for the second time, and claimed his fourth major championship title. Scott, who remained winless in the majors. finished second in a major for a second time.
Other events considered were the Dubai Desert Classic, the BMW PGA Championship and the WGC - HSBC Champions.
SHOT OF THE YEAR -- Ramsay's eagle
Richie Ramsay was battling for his second European Tour title of his career at the European Masters, and needed a strong final round to get that elusive second victory.
The Scotsman started the round one stroke ahead of the field, but Paul Lawrie eagled the first to grab a piece of the lead.
Ramsay, who had birdied the first, poured in five more birdies on the opening nine, and led by four at the turn. Clinging to that lead around the turn, Ramsay tripped to a bogey on 13
However, he put the tournament away at the par-5 14th. He played his second shot to 120 yards. Ramsay's third landed just behind the hole and to the right, it checked up and spun back into the hole for an improbable eagle.
"It was just what I needed, and it all came down to the endless hours of practice routines I went through over the winter," Ramsay said. "When you hit a shot like that, there's no better feeling. The adrenaline rush you get is incredible."
He cruised home from there and won for the second time on tour.
Other shots considered were Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen's Masters shots and countless shots during Sunday's singles at the Ryder Cup.
ROOKIE OF YEAR -- Matthew Baldwin
England's Matthew Baldwin started 27 events in 2012 and made 17 cuts. He started his season with a tie of 10th at the Africa Open, but missed his next three cuts.
And that was the story of his season. On four separate occasions, Baldwin made three straight cuts, then missed the cut in his next start.
His best 3-event run came in late April, early May. After missing the cut in Malaysia, Baldwin posted 13-under par in China and that gave him a tie for 14th. He followed with top-25 finishes in his next two starts.
For the season, he posted just one top-10 finish, a share of fifth at the Scottish Open, while also tallying five top-20 finishes.
He was also the top rookie on the Order of Merit as he finished 72nd.
Other considered were Jorge Campillo, Tommy Fleetwood and Ricardo Santos, who was the only rookie winner in 2012.
- Justin Rose had a win at the WGC - Cadillac Championship and a pair of runner-up finishes. His only missed cut was at the British Open and he finished inside the top 25 in his 10 other stroke-play events.
- Louis Oosthuizen collected a pair of wins early in the season, including one in Malaysia, the week after he lost to Bubba Watson in The Masters playoff. He posted four top-7 finishes in his first six events, then closed the year with four straight top-6 finishes.
- Peter Hanson had a pair of hot stretches in 2012. He had four top-5 finishes in a five-event stretch, including a tie for third at The Masters. He wrapped two wins around his disappointing 0-2 showing at the Ryder Cup.
- If we gave out the Player of the Year award for the first half of the season, Branden Grace's name would have been on the trophy. He posted back-to- back wins in South Africa in January, before winning for a third time in China in April. He had three top-10 finishes the rest of the year, including win No. 4. He became the first Q School grad to win four times in one season.
- Martin Kaymer, a two-time winner in 2011, finished 30th on the money list in 2012 and went through a rough stretch in the middle of the season in which he finished outside the top 25 three times and missed three cuts as well.
- Carlos Del Moral and Peter Hedblom had the most starts, 29, and still finished outside the top 119 on the Order of Merit. Del Moral closed with a 73 to share fourth at the Madeira Islands Open and had two other top-20 finishes in 12 cuts made.
- Hedblom made only eight cuts. He had just one top-20 finish all season and that after he missed six cuts in a row. Hedblom then missed the next five after sharing 18th at the BMW PGA Championship.
- Jamie Moul played in 24 events and only finished 200th on the Order of Merit. He made just seven cuts and his best finish was a share of 35th at the Avantha Masters.
12/17 14:38:32 ET