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Thursday, January 3, 2013
Updated: January 4, 3:12 PM ET
Opener recalls wins, losses of 2012

By Farrell Evans
ESPN.com

Winning is full of layers. Looking over the 30-man field at this week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, my thoughts are torn between these winners and the players they beat in 2012. I think about the emotional and physical costs of outlasting 140 or so of the best players in the world on any given week. I wonder about the value of wins -- the strength of field, what type a course a player is best suited to compete and how wins are measured over time.

What about a phenomenal talent like Bo Van Pelt, who shared the PGA Tour lead in 2012 with Rory McIlroy with 10 top-10s, but couldn't manage to get into the winner's circle? And the players who qualified for this week's field, but chose not to play?

Hunter Mahan won twice on the PGA Tour in 2012, but it wasn't good enough to earn one of Davis Love III's four captain's picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. The 30-year-old, five-time tour winner must be happy to be in Kapalua, but it's these two wins that lifted his hopes of making a second Ryder Cup team. No matter what he says, those two victories must signal some hopelessness and despair about being left off that team.

What's enough? Three, four wins ...

If you're Louis Oosthuizen, you might be asking what does it take to win a Masters after he made a double-eagle in April on the par-5 second in the final round. It was only the fourth double eagle at Augusta and the first on the second hole. Yet that albatross would be overshadowed by Bubba Watson's bionic recovery off the pine needles in the playoff.

Oosthuizen didn't make it into the Hyundai, but the site of Watson harkens memories of the former Open Champion's magical play in Augusta.

In November, Charlie Beljan suffered mightily through a panic attack on his way to winning his first PGA Tour title at Disney, during a season where he worried himself sick about keeping his card.

Kyle Stanley didn't have a panic attack when he lost a 4-shot lead on the 72nd hole at the Farmers Insurance Open near San Diego after he spun his wedge shot off the green at the par-5 into the water. But if he had, it would have been understandable. Stanley probably wouldn't have fully appreciated the win he had the very next week in Phoenix if were not for the bad luck at Torrey Pines.

I can't ponder Webb Simpson's win at the Olympic Club in the U.S. Open without reconsidering his anchored belly putter.

What role did his victory play in the USGA and R&A proposing a ban on anchoring, beginning in 2016? And what will that coming ban mean for his career? This will be the former Wake Forest star's first tournament in a world where his magic wand is under a death watch.

Kyle Stanley
After coughing up a 4-shot lead on the final hole of the Farmers Insurance Open in 2012, Kyle Stanley probably didn't think he'd be teeing it up at the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions less than a year later.


Jim Furyk was one of the men that Simpson beat that Sunday afternoon in San Francisco. Furyk, who had held a 2-shot lead early in the round, had three bogeys over his last six holes to lose his grip on his second U.S. Open title. It was his tournament to win. He is supposed to be in sunny Hawaii, not Simpson.

Ernie Els isn't playing this week, but his large shadow looms over Kapalua. With his surprise triumph at the Open Championship in July, the 43-year South African was the third player in five majors to win with a belly putter.

And what about the man he beat to earn his fourth major? Adam Scott's meltdown over the final stretch of holes at Royal Lytham & St. Annes was one of the saddest moments of the season. Scott is easily in a class of elite players that includes Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, who are ready to win majors.

But then in his victory speech, Els put the moment in a broader perspective by uplifting one of his heroes, Nelson Mandela, who had turned 94 that week.

One year ago, Els was on a chase to earn a spot into his 19th consecutive Masters. Though he had won 65 times around the world, a win now seemed the most important thing to his career. He didn't make it to Augusta, but the excitement of being in contention lit a spark that positioned him to finish off his second Open Championship.

Then there are the absences of McIlroy, Donald and Tiger Woods from Kapalua. As the top three ranked players in the game, their presence here will be sorely missed. With four wins including the PGA Championship in 2012, McIlroy made the inevitable ascent to No. 1 in the world. If he hasn't supplanted Tiger as the best player in the world, then he's made an excellent case for why he'll be the top dog for many years to come.

Tiger won three times in 2012, his first official wins in almost three years, but his season will probably be best remembered for the disappointing finishes he had on the weekends in the majors. Sure, Tiger appreciates all 74 of his career tour wins, but his legacy rests on those 14 majors.

Looking ahead to the 2013 season, there will be many stories of winners and losers, bonded by some dramatic moment on a Sunday afternoon. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions will always help us remember the winners, but to really understand the full story of their achievements, we had better know the losers, too.