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Last Updated: Monday, 20 December, 2004, 12:00 GMT
Golf goes global in 2004
GOLFING GLORY
2004 reviewed in pictures

Retief Goosen's victory in the Tour Championship confirmed golf's transformation into a truly global game again in 2004, with the balance of power tilting away from the USA.

Fiji's Vijay Singh and South Africa's Ernie Els, temporarily, moved ahead of Tiger Woods in the world rankings, while Europe's Ryder Cup team delivered a record 18-9 thumping to the Americans in their own back yard.

Only four of the world's top 10 at the end of the season were American, alonside the Fijian, two South Africans, a Canadian, an Irishman and a Spaniard, despite more world ranking points on offer at US Tour events.

Even six of the top 10 on the US money list were non-American.

2004 TOP 10
1 Vijay Singh (Fij)
2 Tiger Woods (USA)
3 Ernie Els (SA)
4 Retief Goosen (SA)
5 Phil Mickelson (USA)
6 Mike Weir (Can)
7 Padraig Harrington (Ire)
8 Davis Love (USA)
9 Sergio Garcia (Spa)
10 Stewart Cink (USA)
Singh became the first man to topple Woods for five years when he took over as world number one in September.

He won nine tournaments, including his third major, the USPGA, to become the first man to pass the $10m earnings barrier in a season.

Els' five wins worldwide also swept him past the American, who failed to win a strokeplay event for the first season since 1995.

Woods took time off to get married and go on honeymoon, though he bounced back with a second-place finish in the final event of the year to regain second place in the standings.

2004 MAJORS

The Surrey-based Els tightened his grip on European golf with a second Order of Merit title, with countryman Retief Goosen, the US Open champion, over 1m adrift in second.

And it was Els who hinted at the changing power base in world golf.

Known as the "Big Easy" for his manner as much as his golf swing, Els was outraged at PGA Tour demands, since retracted, that he play more in America.

He said: "There's a world outside America and I'm part of it. They can't restrict me from playing where I want."

This season looked like being the year of Phil Mickelson after his stunning Masters success finally rid him of the tag "best player never to have won a major".

He was also second to Goosen at the US Open, third at the Open at Royal Troon and sixth at the USPGA behind Singh at Whistling Straits.

MOST US TOUR WINS IN A SEASON
18 B Nelson, 1945
13 B Hogan, 1946
11 S Snead, 1950
10 B Hogan, 1948
9 P Runyan, 1933; T Woods, 2000; V Singh, 2004

For the left-hander, though, his season imploded at the Ryder Cup when he struggled in the dream pairing with Woods and contributed one point out of four.

But the story of the majors was Els' near misses in all four.

He finished second at Augusta, ninth in the US Open after a final-round 80 at the infamous Shinnecock Hills, second to American Todd Hamilton after a play-off in the Open and was one shot off a three-way play-off for the USPGA.

He took several weeks off after the Whistling Straits event to repair his shattered confidence but hit back to win the WGC-Amex in Ireland and claim a record sixth World Match Play at Wentworth.

Europe ended the year with only Ireland's Padraig Harrington and Spain's Sergio Garcia inside the world's top 10.

Tiger Woods
Woods was without a strokeplay win for the first year since 1995

And another year went by without a European major winner - the last was Paul Lawrie at Carnoustie in 1999.

Since then, Americans have won 16 of the 21 majors played with South Africa winning three (two for Goosen, one for Els), and Fiji (Singh) and Canada (Weir) winning one each.

But despite Europe's lack of success in the major strokeplay events, a spirited and united team landed a devastating blow to a star-studded American side bereft of unity, organisation and confidence at the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills, Detroit.

As much as Woods struggled in the team format, though, his resurgence at the Tour Championship suggests the 2005 season will be a shoot-out to savour.

The women's game witnessed more of the same in 2004, as Annika Sorenstam continued to dominate in much the same fashion that Woods once ruled the men's game.

Teenage superstar

Eight titles worldwide, a seventh career major and a stranglehold on the number one ranking - the 34-year-old Swede enjoyed another imperious season.

But 2004 was also a good year for British women's golf.

Karen Stupples provided the highlight when she capped a breakthrough season with a five-shot triumph at the British Women's Open.

Only the third Englishwoman to win a major, and the first since 1996, Stupples also won the season opener on the LPGA tour.

Scotland's Catriona Matthew was another to win in the US, and Laura Davies claimed a sixth European Order of Merit title.

And while Sorenstam can probably look forward a few more years at the top, American prodigy Michelle Wie provided a few more clues of her burgeoning talent.

The 15-year-old played six events on the LPGA Tour - with her best finish being fourth - and starred in a young American team's 10-8 victory over Great Britain and Ireland at the Curtis Cup in June.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer on Europe's victory


Watch final round highlights from The Open


Todd Hamilton reflects on his win at The Open



SPORTS REVIEW 2004

 

Highlights of 2004


FAREWELL TO...



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