Golf, 2014 in review
• With all those Scottish fans chanting and singing and the photographers jostling for position, it seemed as if Rory McIlroy might get swallowed up by the crowd. Extricating himself for the briefest of moments, the golfer from Northern Ireland raised an index finger into the air. It was a symbolic moment for McIlroy, who had just helped the European team clinch the 2014 Ryder Cup on the Gleneagles course in Scotland. The victory capped a year in which he won the last two majors and also grabbed firm hold of the No. 1 spot in the world ranking. "It's the icing on the cake," he said. "I couldn't have asked for the summer to end any better." His amazing run through July and August — with that Cup victory in September added for good measure — ranked among the highlights of the year in golf. McIlroy's streak began in late July with a wire-to-wire sprint at the British Open, followed by a two-stroke win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to regain the top ranking from Adam Scott. The following week, he added the PGA Championship at Valhalla. "It's a great place to be in," he said. "To be the face of golf or one of the faces of golf, it's a big responsibility, but at the same time, I feel like I'm up to the task of handling it well."
• While McIlroy was cementing his position in the men's game, a new star made history on the LPGA Tour as Lydia Ko became the youngest rookie of the year and the youngest golfer to amass $2 million. Along the way, the 17-year-old from New Zealand won the season-ending Tour Championship and the season-long points race. "It's a huge honor for me to be here in this position," she said. "I'm looking forward to what's coming up next year."
• If the Ryder Cup was a crowning moment for McIlroy, it represented a low point for American golf. The U.S. team arrived at Gleneagles as a heavy underdog and played like it, struggling through foursome matches on the way to a resounding defeat, 16 1/2 to 11 1/2. Afterward, players vented their frustration with Captain Tom Watson. In an open letter published several days later, Watson responded: "The bottom line is this. I was their captain. In hindsight whatever mistakes that were made were mine."
• Three of America's biggest names missed the Ryder Cup — and the FedEx Cup playoffs. Tiger Woods underwent back surgery in the spring, returned to competition and then pulled himself out for more recuperation in August. Jason Dufner went down with a neck injury and Dustin Johnson left the tour to seek help for "personal challenges" amid reports that he had failed multiple drug tests.