Commentary | Golf gave us exciting 2013 on local and national stages

December 26, 2013 

Australia Open Golf

Australia's Adam Scott reacts to a missed putt during his third round at the Australian Open Golf tournament in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

ROB GRIFFITH — ASSOCIATED PRESS

For a slow-moving sport, golf sure provided fans some captivating moments in 2013 -- both on the national and local stages.

In no particular order, here's a look back at the year that was:

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

If you had told this grade-schooler back in 1996 that the Masters' first Australian winner wouldn't come until 2013, I'd have laughed in your face and said, "Don't you see how many shots Greg Norman is leading by heading into the final round?"

Well, Norman fell on his sword as Nick Faldo made the improbable comeback that year, and golf fans were left scratching their heads as to when or if an Australian could ever climb the mountaintop at Augusta National.

And even in this year's tournament, it looked like Adam Scott's faulty putter was going to let him down a year after failing to win the British Open.

Ah, but Scott crafted a 4-under-par stretch in his final six holes -- four in regulation and two sudden-death -- to earn the playoff victory at Augusta. Quite the moment for golf fans worldwide, especially in the land Down Under.

Momentous majors

Two other major championships provided thrills, and, in one case, added to a legacy.

Justin Rose captured his first major title and dropped his name from the dubious "Best Players Never to Win a Major" list, when he won the U.S. Open. Rose accomplished the feat at Merion, while Phil Mickelson bogeyed three of his final six holes to earn his sixth runner-up finish at the national championship.

Lefty, though, plowed through that heartbreak and added to his legacy by winning his fifth major.

And it came at a tournament where he had struggled; Mickelson previously had just two top 10 finishes in 20 appearances. That event was the British Open just a month following the U.S. Open debacle. Mickelson entered the final round an afterthought as he trailed Lee Westwood, another player trying to shed that no-major tag, by five shots.

Instead, Mickelson shined with a 66 to take the claret jug.

The lesson here: Mickelson excels when nobody gives him a chance.

Budding star

Jordan Spieth is a name that a vast majority of American golf fans had no clue about entering 2013.

He had no PGA Tour card and was just another 19-year-old looking to make a mark any chance he could get.

Granted, Spieth's resume was pretty solid. Tiger Woods is the only other player in history to have won multiple U.S. Junior Amateur crowns.

And Spieth continued the link with Woods by becoming the first player to go from no status to the Tour Championship since El Tigre did it in 1996.

Spieth also rose the world rankings from the 800s at the start of the year to No. 82.

Dominant program

And we'd be remiss not to mention the difficult task that was completed this fall by the Lakewood Ranch High boys golf team. The Mustangs polished off their third straight state championship, becoming the first public school to accomplish the feat in boys golf in Florida state history.

Ranch also tied the now-defunct Bradenton Prep as the only programs to win three consecutive state titles.

Only seniors Ramsey Touchberry and Danny Walker, in addition to head coach Dave Frantz and assistant coach Matt Gordon, had a hand in all three.

Nonetheless, the strength of the lineup that included junior Luke Miller and sophomores Kelly and Charlie Sun, paved the way for another state crown.

So as we bid farewell to 2013, the memories from those magical moments won't be forgotten anytime soon.

Jason Dill, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7017. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill.

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