For the first time since 2003, the majors were won by players who had never won one before. Throw in the World Golf Championships, and it’s evident that 2011 was the year of the breakthrough.
First-time major winners were Charl Schwartzel at the Masters, Rory McIlroy at the U.S. Open, Darren Clarke at the British Open and Keegan Bradley at the PGA Championship.
Luke Donald won his first WGC event in February at the Accenture Match Play Championship, followed by Nick Watney collecting his first world championship at Doral a month later. At Firestone, Adam Scott kept the streak alive by capturing his first WGC event.
Since the WGCs began in 1999, there was never a year in which first-timers won the majors and WGCs.
$2 MILLION MARK: The PGA Tour’s Shell Houston Open and the Houston Golf Association have generated $2,077,000 this year for city charities, HGA officials have announced.
The Houston Golf Association has been funding youth-development programs since 1974. A total of $55.2 million has been donated to charities through the HGA -- about $51.46 million since Shell Oil became the tournament’s title sponsor in 1992.
The money benefits about 200 charities in the Houston area. The HGA raised $2,145,000 in 2010.
The Houston Open is the 10th oldest event on the tour schedule. Last year, Shell announced a five-year extension of its tournament title agreement that will run through 2017.
HIDDEN TIGER: Tiger Woods has gone two years without a win, and his fall from the top of golf has been illustrated by his failure to qualify for the Tour Championship in 2010 for the first time in his career, and his failure this season to even reach the FedExCup playoffs, giving him a forced six-week break.
This week presents another first in the worst kind of way. Even though Woods had no intentions of playing the WGC-HSBC Champions, this is the first time he has not been eligible to play a World Golf Championship. This from a guy who won 15 of the WGC events.
Woods slipped to No. 56 in the world ranking this week. He has only two tournaments left this year, then as many as two events next year to make sure he doesn’t miss another WGC. Only the top 64 in the world ranking get into the next one, the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
DIVOTS: Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, advanced to the second stage of Q-School after being the medalist at one of the seven first-stage qualifiers. Among those who failed to get out of the first stage were former U.S. Amateur champion Byeong-Hun An and Kevin Tway. … J.J. Killeen won the Nationwide Tour money list with $414,273. It was the lowest amount to win the money title since Ken Duke had $382,443 in 2006. … The John Deere Classic, which had a $4.5 million purse, raised $5.29 million for local charities this year. … The Nationwide Tour Championship will return to the TPC Craig Ranch outside of Dallas next year. … Tom Lehman will have a chance this week to be the first player to be named player of the year on the Nationwide Tour, PGA Tour and Champions Tour.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Webb Simpson shot every round in the 60s at eight PGA Tour events this year. He won two of those.
FINAL WORD: “I used to fly coach and didn’t like it. And then somebody told me I should try playing better.” -- Ian Poulter.