Geoff Ogilvy successfully defended his title at the SBS Championship when the PGA Tour's season teed off in January in Hawaii.

Geoff Ogilvy successfully defended his title at the SBS Championship when the PGA Tour's season teed off in January in Hawaii.

The mood enveloping the tour at that time couldn't match the tropical weather in Maui and things would only get worse.

Before the first month of the new year had passed, the event formerly known as the Buick Invitational would be left without a primary sponsor just 10 days before the opening round. But then Farmers Insurance stepped up in time to sign a contract that will keep its name on the tournament staged at famed Torre Pines outside San Diego for the next three years.

With Tiger Woods' scandal in full swing, in January controversy found even Phil Mickelson, arguably the tour's second-most important player. He was accused by several peers of violating "the spirit of the rule" for employing an illegal club permitted only through a grandfather clause.

"It's been an interesting season so far, that's for sure," Memorial Tournament Director Dan Sullivan said. "That probably doesn't even begin to describe it."

But something happened along the way, and that once-sour mood has brightened considerably as the PGA Tour prepares to stop next week in Dublin. For starters, a number of veterans reasserted themselves during Woods' absence, former Memorial champions Ernie Els and Jim Furyk included.

Els became the season's first two-time winner when he prevailed at the World Golf Championships-CA Championship in mid-March and again two weeks later at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, concluding the longest drought of his career by claiming his first victories since 2008. In between those events, Furyk bested the field at the Transitions Championship for his first title since 2007, also the longest winless stretch of his career. Both are former major champions.

"I'm 40 years old," Els said after the CA Championship. "I've had a tough run."

Moreover, Mickelson won The Masters for a third time in early April, capping an emotional year in which his wife battled breast cancer. The couple's tearful hug near the 18th green at Augusta National just might be the PGA Tour's most endearing moment to date.

"It's become easier to find compelling reasons to pay attention to the game," Sullivan said. "There are a lot of feel-good stories out there."

The tour's young guns also have had their moments.

Two days shy of his 21st birthday, Rory Mcllroy shot a 10-under 62 to win the Quail Hollow Championship earlier this month in what has to be the season's best final-round performance so far. Mcllroy became the youngest winner since Woods was a rookie in 2007.

Anthony Kim, 24, shrugged off a dismal third-season showing by winning the Shell Houston Open in early April for his first title since winning twice in 2008. He also finished third at The Masters a week later. Derek Lamely, 29, became the first rookie to win this season at the Puerto Rico Open in mid-March.

"I sent him a text message right after that," said Dublin native Chris Wilson, another rookie. "I asked him what kind of car he was going to buy."

The good karma must be contagious enough to spread overseas, too. On the same day Mcllroy hoisted his trophy, an 18-year-old Japanese player became the first on any of the world's major tours to shoot a 58.

Another signature moment of 2010 highlighted sportsmanship. That came in April when Furyk picked up his second victory at the Verizon Heritage, prevailing when winless Brian Davis called a two-shot penalty on himself during a playoff.

"It's obviously a tough loss for him," Furyk said. "I admire and respect what he did."

Elsewhere, Ryan Palmer earned his first win since 2008 at the Sony Open in January, Ben Crane won for the first time since '05 at Torre Pines and Hunter Mahan for the first time since '07 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February. Camilo Villegas then posted his first victory since 2008 at the Honda Classic the following week.

And after losing his playing card just four years ago, 17-year veteran Steve Stricker won for the fourth time in 15 starts dating to last season with his triumph at the Northern Trust Open in early February.
Other winners have included Dustin Johnson (AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am), Cameron Beckman (Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya-Cancun) and Ian Poulter (WGC-Accenture Match-Play Championship).

There was a father-son moment when Bill Haas, a highly-touted rookie in 2006, finally picked up his first title at the Bob Hope Classic in late January. His father, Jay Haas, won there 22 years earlier.

There almost was another memory to cherish on Mother's Day, but Robert Allenby couldn't quite close out THE PLAYERS Championship as Tim Clark pocketed the richest purse in golf ($1.7 million) with a one-shot victory. Allenby, prolonging a winless stretch that reached 223 starts dating to 2001, was wearing pink that day in honor of his late mother, who died of cancer in January, 2008.

"Obviously, the golfing gods were with Tim today," Allenby said. "I can accept that."

After graciousness such as that, one can't help but wonder, what's next?