The 2012 season has given us many memories, including a cult figure who flashed the magic of Houdini while winning the Masters, an old-fashioned par-'em-to-death U.S. Open champion, a resurgent Hall of Famer taking the British Open, and a field-pummeling win by a fresh-faced kid at a PGA held on a dead-end beach road in South Carolina. But more than anything, 2012 gave us what so many have been wanting for so long—a bona fide rivalry. For there to be a rivalry, there must be a competition, and, wow, do we have one. Forget the comments by Greg Norman about Tiger Woods being intimidated by Rory McIlroy (below). Those mindless remarks only focused more energy on what we really have—a healthy, respectful, friendly, barb-filled tug of war between two super heavyweights. In Tiger we have the clear dominator, the standard for more than a decade. But he was the ruler who, unlike Arnold Palmer, built a moat around his fortress. In Rory we have the youthful √ºber Dude who has not only supplanted Tiger as the best player in the world but also penetrated Woods's defenses with a sense of humor. Can you imagine Jack Nicklaus busting Arnold about his widow's peak? Tiger's rivalries with the likes of Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh, though much more tense, were almost drummed up in a feeble effort by the media to question Tiger's indisputable domination. The Tiger-Rory rivalry is for real. It's built on respect, but each guy has the undeniable desire to beat the other to a pulp. Let's enjoy this for all it is and hope that Tiger and Rory are paired against each other this week with the Ryder Cup on the line.
Dottie Pepper is a 17-year LPGA veteran and a reporter for NBC.