Golf's unsung heroes of '08

IAN HUTCHINSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

It's believed by some that nobody remembers the guy who didn't win the golf tournament, but there were some unforgettable performances by PGA Tour players who weren't victorious in 2008, a season that began to look grim in June after leading man Tiger Woods announced he was done for the year.

Yet, the supporting cast that many fans don't usually see due to Tiger's glare, stepped forward both before and after that announcement to demonstrate that players who don't have the No. 1 designation in the world also can capably play the game and with compelling emotion.

Some did win, like Padraig Harrington who wasn't given much of a chance to defend the British Open championship he won last year. He did that and added the PGA Championship in 2008 to move from a supporting actor to a starring role.

Others captured our imaginations without winning, but all deserve recognition as outstanding supporting actors in 2008:

ROCCO MEDIATE

Even the most diehard Tiger fan has to have a soft spot for Rocco Mediate, who even had the audacity to wear red down the stretch of a thrilling Monday conclusion to the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Sure, Woods was badly limping and would soon afterwards bow out for the rest of the season, but Mediate was sheer fun as he pushed the world's No. 1 player to the 91st hole of the Open.

A return engagement in 2009 would be outstanding. We'll call it Rocco II, a title that works for name and story line reasons.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON

A raspberry to anybody who wants to put an asterisk beside the Irishman's name for winning a couple of majors while Woods was out of action.

Consecutive major championships, no matter who's in or who's out of the field, add up to well-deserved credibility.

The three major championships captured by Harrington over the past two seasons are equal to the career total posted by Phil Mickelson.

It has been said that Mickelson would be the greatest player of his era if he didn't play at the same time as Woods. Yet, while the world's No. 1 player was on the shelf, Lefty didn't dominate and Harrington became the temporary Tiger who has proven he can win more majors, no matter who he's competing against.

So who should be getting the grief -- Harrington for winning majors in Tiger's absence or Mickelson for not capitalizing with Woods out?

GREG NORMAN

When you think of blonde hair flowing on one of golf's elder statesmen in a major, the immediate thought might be of Jack Nicklaus and his memorable win at the 1986 Masters. But the Shark made like the Bear at this year's British Open, even if he didn't win it.

Nicklaus was 46 when he won his final major, but Norman, 53, was looking like the Shark from the 1980s and '90s despite playing minimal golf before teeing it up at Royal Birkdale.

Norman, a 500-to-1 shot at the start of the week, held a two-shot lead going into the final round to capture the imagination of fans still feeling the effects of Tiger's absence.

A final-round 77 combined with a magnificent performance by Harrington left Norman tied for third, but perhaps left some hope for another charge at the 2009 Masters.

BRANDT SNEDEKER

The blonde locks also were flowing from another longshot at the Masters, but this time it was a 27-year-old capturing the imaginations of fans at Augusta.

While Norman was composed after the British Open, the same couldn't be said for Snedeker who went into the final round just two shots off the lead held by eventual champion Trevor Immelman. But he posted a 77 that day after rounds of 69-68-70 to tie for third.

Snedeker will need to better manage his emotions as his career progresses, but his passion for the game that he displayed at one of golf's most hallowed venues was something to cherish.

CHEZ REAVIE

Another young guy was displaying passion a few months after the Masters, but Reavie's was for different reasons than Snedeker's.

The only people who knew the Arizona State product at the start of the week were media hacks who had been invited to play with Reavie by his Toronto-based apparel company, Quagmire Golf.

After winning the RBC Canadian Open by three shots over Billy Mayfair, Reavie recalls checking his voice mail.

"By the time I got to my phone, I had 150 text messages I believe -- maybe a little more. My voice mail box was full. My fiancee called me three minutes after I won and my voice mail box was already full."


Videos

Photos