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How Tiger defined golf in the Noughties

By Paul Gittings, CNN
  • Tiger Woods named Sportsman of the Decade in poll by Associated Press
  • Woods won 12 of his 14 majors in the current decade but is now taking indefinite break
  • Asian golfers made big impression since 2000 by Y.E Yang winning first major this year
  • Golf is continuing to expand worldwide despite the global economic downturn

(CNN) -- In the 10 years since the turn of the century, golf has seen some remarkable twists and turns, but the domination of the sport by one man was a story few other developments could match.

The talent and success of Tiger Woods since 2000 -- a period in which the Floridian took his tally of majors from two to 14 -- has been such that he defined the sport in the Noughties.

Woods came to mean more to golf than just his awesome statistics; his fame attracted thousands of new fans, millions of dollars in new advertising revenue and his appearances boosted prize money for countless tournaments around the world. His meteoric rise to become one of the most recognized faces on the planet made his explosive fall from grace all the more dramatic as the decade closed.

Women's golf has developed at a great pace since 2000 too, with Asian women in particular, dominating the upper echelons of the LPGA Tour while Y.E .Yang became the first man for the region to win a major, outplaying Woods on the final day of this year's U.S. PGA Championship at Hazeltine to lift the Wanamaker Trophy.

Elsewhere, the legendary Seve Ballesteros captured the imagination of golf fans around the world with his battle against a cancerous brain tumor. The Spanish legend is targeting a return to play in the British Open at St. Andrews in 2010.

The IOC's decision to include golf in the Olympic program for 2016 will add further impetus to the global spread of the game, but will the next decade match what has happened over the last 10 years? Listed below is CNN's pick of the most significant trends in golf in the Noughties. Do you agree with the selection?

1. Tiger's Rise: Woods was already a global superstar at the turn of the century but the first two years of the decade saw him dominate as no other golfer previously, completing the grand "Tiger" slam of majors through the 2000 and 2001 seasons.

He won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 shots and was considered unbeatable. Rivals such as Phil Mickelson occasionally bettered the great man, but his aura of invincibility reached its peak when he won his 14th major at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines despite playing in agony with knee and stress fractures in his leg.

2. Tiger's Fall: A saga which began when the world number one required hospital treatment after crashing his SUV into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home, has left the global superstar with his reputation in tatters and major questions marks over his future.

Woods is taking an "indefinite"break after admitting to "transgressions" in his marriage to Swedish model Elin Nordegren and the swirl of lurid allegations show no sign of abating as the decade ends. The global golfing industry is holding its breath to see if Woods will return any time soon.

3. Seve's greatest fight: Severiano Ballesteros may not have won as many majors as Tiger Woods, five against 14, but the impact he made at the peak of his powers was similar. His flamboyant play and Latin looks attracted massive galleries at any tournament he graced and he won 101 worldwide.

Ballesteros, more than anyone responsible for the growth of the European Tour, also helped transform the Ryder Cup into a contest of global significance as he inspired Europe to a string of victories as player and captain. When he was struck down with brain cancer in his native Spain at the end of 2008, the sporting world held its breath, but Seve being Seve, he was not going to be easily beaten.

4. The coming of Asia: At the start of the decade, golf was starting to make inroads in Asia, by the finish it was clear that its most significant growth would be on that continent with China flexing its muscles as an economic powerhouse and hosting tournaments of global significance such as the HSBC-WGC Champions in Shanghai and the World Cup at Mission Hills.

But it is players that make a game and YE Yang, who had famously bested Tiger Woods at the 2006 HSBC Champions, went yet better by overtaking him on the final day of this year's PGA Championship with a superlative display. In the women's game, Asian golfers won 12 of 28 LPGA tournaments in 2009 and Korean golfers alone occupy 35 of the top 100 spots in the official Rolex World Rankings.

5. Golf goes global: Australia's Greg Norman was ridiculed when he predicted that the future of golf would lie in a bona-fide World Tour, but the trend in the opening decade of the 21st century has been in this direction, although the PGA and European Tours remain fiercely independent entities.

The European Tour's lucrative Race to Dubai is probably the model Norman had in mind with qualifying tournaments, including the majors and WGC events, on all the continents. It hopes to attract the likes of Woods and Mickelson, the latter indicating he would join at some time in his career, but much will depend on economic viability in the next few years.

6. Farewell to legends: Women's golf said goodbye in a competitive sense to Swede Annika Sorenstam, who revolutionized the LPGA Tour with a dominance that matched the achievements of Tiger Woods in the men's game. She won 10 majors and 93 tournaments and proved she could compete against all but the elite of men's golf by nearly making the cut at PGA Tour's Colonial Tournament in 2003.

Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer also ended their competitive careers, with all-time major winner Nicklaus bowing out to emotional farewells at the Masters and British Open in 2005. Palmer called it a day a year later. Along with Gary Player they formed the "Big Three" in the 1960s and did more than anyone to popularize golf to a wider audience.

7. Ryder Cup rivalry: The U.S. began the century in possession of golf's most coveted team trophy and ended the decade with the Samuel Ryder Cup back stateside after their thrilling victory at Valhalla in Kentucky last summer.

But in the intervening years it was the Europeans who dominated the biennial competition, securing emphatic victories in 2002, 2004 and 2006. Colin Montgomerie played a key role in all three triumphs and will be non-playing captain as his side bid to regain the trophy at Celtic Manor in Wales in 2010.

8. The wonder of Wie: Hawaiian-born Michelle Wie was not even a teenager in 2000 but was already turning heads with her precocious ability which easily outstripped that of boys of the same age. She was just 13 when she made the cut and challenged in prestigious events such as the Kraft Nabisco and U.S. Women's Open. Aged 15 she was signed by Nike and Sony in multimillion dollar deals.

But a combination of injuries, teenage rebellion and, some said, bad advice, threatened to leave Wie as a footnote in history rather than the great player her abilities merited. But she has confounded her critics by returning to the LPGA Tour in 2009 as a rounded and more mature individual and claimed her first professional win at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in November. A star reborn at the still tender age of 20

9. Technology rules ? Technology has always played an important part in golf, with hickory shafts replaced by steel and now the widespread use of graphite and titanium, but purists are concerned that it has all gone too far and the skill is being taken out of the game and previously tough golf courses rendered impotent.

The statistics tell the story with the average driving distance on the PGA Tour increasing by roughly a yard every year since 2000. Specially grooved club faces also mean players are able to impart greater spin on the balls, which also travel further. Officials have reacted by lengthening holes with substantial changes being made to the Old Course at St.Andrews for next year's British Open.

10. Fashion on the fairways: Golfers through the ages have shown a sense of occasion and the late Payne Stewart was remembered for his plus fours and garish style, but the trend has accelerated of late with European Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter leading the charge.

His Union Jack outfits caused a stir at the British Open and had traditionalists muttering into their gin and tonics, but he was understated compared to Big John Daly's latest psychedelic clothing line. Final word to Tiger. He was voted best dressed player in 2009 by a Sports Illustrated poll of PGA Tour players.