Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The 2014 golf season got off to roaring start for one player and another player dominated the late part of the schedule, while several others were great throughout.
The 2014 schedule started in late 2013 and Jimmy Walker was the story early on as he won three times between October and February. Patrick Reed won a pair of events and declared himself a top-5 player, and promptly went into a tailspin.
Reed went 12 more events, and nearly five full months, before his next top-10 finish. He did play well at the Ryder Cup, but he couldn't help the United States win the cup back.
After Bubba Watson won the Masters for a second time, Martin Kaymer returned to the winners circle for the first time in three years as he won the Players Championship and followed that with a resounding win at the U.S. Open.
The week after Kaymer won his second major at Pinehurst No. 2, Michelle Wie won her first major at the U.S. Women's Open.
Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer dominated the majors on the Champions Tour as they both won two majors.
The story of the year was Rory McIlroy. The Ulsterman went on a magical run through July and August that saw him win three straight events -- the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship.
After posting a 2-1-2 record at the Ryder Cup, McIlroy cruised down the stretch. He finished second in his final three events, and seemingly didn't play well at times during those events.
As McIlroy dominated, there was plenty of talk about Tiger Woods, but that was all there was. Woods was held to eight events due to back spasms and back surgery. His best finish was a tie for 25th at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he finished 20 strokes behind McIlroy.
While Wie won her first major, like Woods, she also missed time due to an injury. That led to a three-way battle for player of the year on the LPGA between Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park and Lydia Ko. All three won three times with Lewis claiming the Vare Trophy (lowest scoring average) and the money title.
Let's look at the top performers of the season:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR -- RORY MCILROY
Every great season has its bumps in the road. After collecting his first win of 2014, Rory McIlroy went on a four-event run in which his best finish was a tie for 14th.
McIlroy followed that with one of the best stretches of golf by any player in over a decade. Starting in the middle of July with the Open Championship, he played nine events the remainder of the season.
In those nine, McIlroy posted three wins (including two majors) and three second-place finishes. The other three results were a tie for fifth, a share of eighth and a tie for 22nd, which was one of just five finishes outside the top-15 all season.
McIlroy won the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship in three consecutive starts. He now owns three legs of the career grand slam with the Masters being the only major he has yet to win. Let the hype for Augusta begin.
With his win at Valhalla, McIlroy started with three straight rounds in the 60s, marking the third time he has done so en route to winning a major championship.
For the year, McIlroy had four wins in 24 worldwide starts. He also notched five runner-up finishes among his 10 top-5 and 17 top-10 finishes.
In 2012 and 2014, McIlroy combined for nine worldwide wins and he earned over $16.3 million on the PGA Tour in those two seasons.
LPGA stalwarts Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park and Lydia Ko, three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos Ortiz and Champions Tour leading money winner Bernhard Langer were all considered.
TOURNAMENTS OF THE YEAR -- U.S. OPEN and U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
For the first time in history, one course hosted major championships in consecutive weeks, and both provided plenty of storylines other than the course itself.
Martin Kaymer dominated Pinehurst No. 2 the first two rounds and cruised to victory at the U.S. Open Championship. Kaymer opened with a pair of 65s to grab a 6-shot lead at the halfway point.
The German played the final 36 holes at a more U.S. Open-like 1-over par, but he did more than enough in the first two rounds en route to winning by eight strokes.
Kaymer torched the course thanks to a hot putter, which he used every chance he had to putt from off the green. And the plan worked to perfection.
Michelle Wie didn't have it as easy, but Wie finally claimed her first major championship a week after Kaymer's domination at Pinehurst.
Wie shared the lead entering the final round, and she closed with an even-par 70 to hold off Stacy Lewis for the title. Lewis had an impressive eight birdies in the final round, but Wie did enough for the win.
After Lewis had climbed within one, Wie poured in a big eagle putt on the 10th to push her lead back to four shots, and hung on down the stretch.
Pinehurst was set up well to host two majors in back-to-back weeks and two worthy champions walked away with the trophies.
Two other major championships -- PGA Championship and Senior British Open -- as well as the BMW International Open were also considered.
ROOKIE OF YEAR -- LYDIA KO
After winning two LPGA events as an amateur, it was only a matter of time before Lydia Ko earned her first professional title on the LPGA Tour. She waited until her ninth tour start in 2014 to get it done.
In what turned out to be a three-player battle, Ko beat Stacy Lewis and Jenny Shin to win the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.
The victory was Ko's fourth top-10 finish of the season, and she would go on to post 15 top-10s overall. Ko, Lewis and Inbee Park all won three times in 2014.
Ko wrapped up the season with back-to-back 68s, which helped her get into a playoff at the CME Group Tour Championship. On the fourth playoff hole, Ko made par to secure her third title of the season.
The 17-year-old didn't miss a cut in 26 starts, finished third on the money list and third in both top-5 and top-10 finishes.
Brooks Koepka, Scott Dunlap and Chesson Hadley were also considered.
- Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park and Lydia Ko all won three times on the LPGA Tour and battled for Player of the Year honors. Lewis narrowly claimed the award thanks in part to topping the money list and winning the Vare Trophy. Lewis was the first American since Betsy King in 1993 to win Rolex Player of the Year, the Vare Trophy and the money title in the same season.
- Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer both won twice in the 2014 season, and each claimed their second major championship title. Watson won his second Masters title and Kaymer rolled to victory at the U.S. Open.
- Rickie Fowler failed to win in 2014, but had top-5 finishes in all four majors and shared the third-most top-10 finishes (10) on the PGA Tour.
- Bernhard Langer dominated the Champions Tour from beginning to end. He won the season-opener in Hawaii for the first of his five victories. He was a playoff winner at the Senior Players Championship and he dominated the Senior British Open Championship, which he won by a Champions Tour record 13 strokes. Langer posted 18 top-10 finishes in 21 starts, finished outside the top-20 once in 21 events and earned over $3 million.
- Colin Montgomerie won for the first time in the United States, and won his first major championship, two in fact, of his career. Sure, they came on the Champions Tour, but a win is a win. He ended in the top-16 at all five majors and won the European Senior Tour Order of Merit in just six starts, four of which he won.
- Jay Haas won for the first time since the 2012 season and he finished second to Bernhard Langer in top-5 and top-10 finishes. Haas was also third on the money list.
- Carlos Ortiz and Adam Hadwin were the only two multiple winners on the Web.com Tour in 2014. Ortiz won three times and became the 10th player to gain the battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour.
- Due to a lingering back issue that led to surgery, Tiger Woods played in only eight events. He went winless for the third season of his career and his best finish was a share of 25th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
- Ian Poulter had been 12-3 in the Ryder Cup and 4-0 in his four singles matches, but he went 0-1-2 at Gleneagles, which followed an atypical year for the Englishman. He managed a pair of runner-up finishes, but overall collected just five top-10 finishes in 24 starts.
- Phil Mickelson went winless for the first time since 2003 and waited until the PGA Championship to post his one and only top-10 finish of the season.
- Seven-time PGA Tour winner Joey Sindelar notched a single top-10 finish, a tie for 10th at the SAS Championship, in 23 starts on the Champions Tour. Through seven full years on the senior circuit, Sindelar remains winless with four runner-up finishes, two of which came at the then named-Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, which is a team event.
- Former women's world No. 1 Ai Miyazato did not record a single top-10 finish and she missed seven cuts in 22 starts in 2014. Miyazato finished 86th on the money list.