Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Another season has come and gone on the European Tour, but not before the 2014 campaign produced a number of compelling storylines, including the emergence of the now-No. 1 player in the world.
Rory McIlroy has always been a rising star in the sport of golf, but it still appeared as if he had not quite taken that leap to the next level. That all changed in 2014 as McIlroy had loads of success on both the European and PGA Tours en route to claiming the season-long Race to Dubai.
While McIlroy reeled in four wins last season, including two major championships, there was quite a bit of parity on the European circuit as only four other players earned multiple wins.
Mikko Ilonen, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Bubba Watson and Alexander Levy each had two victories, with one of Watson's wins being his second career Masters title in April.
While Henrik Stenson did not have the season he had in 2013, the Swede still led the way in top-10 finishes and he ended 2014 on a high note by winning his second consecutive DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
Now let's see who else made some noise in 2014:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR -- RORY MCILROY
There is little surprise here as McIlroy took the golf world by storm in 2014 and emerged as the best player on the planet.
At the end of 2013, McIlroy was ranked No. 6 in the world and he had five victories on the European Tour in his career.
While McIlroy did not pick up a win early on in the season, he certainly threw his name into the mix in nearly every event he played in, starting with the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
McIlroy began his season on the European Tour with a tie for second in Abu Dhabi and he followed that up with another top 10 as the then-24-year-old finished tied for ninth at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Following a pair of so-so results at the seasons first two World Golf Championship events, McIlroy registered a tie for eighth at the Masters, the only major championship he would not have claimed come season's end.
McIlroy's first win of the season and sixth victory on the European circuit came at the BMW PGA Championship a couple weeks after his 25th birthday. McIlroy carded a 6-under 66 in the final round to beat out Shane Lowry by one shot.
The U.S. Open was up next for McIlroy, a championship he won back in 2011. McIlroy did not fare well at Pinehurst No. 2 as he tied for 23rd. He followed that up by missing his only cut of the season at the Irish Open.
After a tie for 14th at the Scottish Open, McIlroy caught fire and emerged as the world's best player down the stretch. He put his name back on the map with a 2-shot victory at the Open Championship, his third career major title. McIlroy shot three rounds in the 60s before concluding with a 1-under 71, but it was enough to beat out Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler by two.
McIlroy made it two straight events with a win as he shot four rounds in the 60s en route to a 2-shot victory over Garcia again at the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational.
The Ulsterman kept things going as he made it three consecutive victories when he emerged with a 1-shot win in the dark at the PGA Championship. McIlroy beat out Phil Mickelson to win his second PGA Championship title and his fourth major championship overall.
McIlroy did not win again in 2014, but he concluded his European Tour season with a pair of runner-up finishes at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
On the season, McIlroy made 14 starts and missed just one cut. He accumulated four wins, three runner-ups, seven top-5 finishes and nine top-10 finishes.
Henrik Stenson was also considered for Player of the Year honors.
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR -- BMW INTERNATIONAL OPEN
Entering the week in Germany, Fabrizio Zanotti had never won on the European Tour, and he really had to work for his first career title at the BMW International Open in June.
Zanotti shot up the leaderboard on the final day with seven birdies and no bogeys en route to a 7-under 65, which put him at 19-under-par 269 for the week.
That was not quite good enough to win it in regulation, however, as Gregory Havret, Henrik Stenson and Rafael Cabrera-Bello joined Zanotti in a four-way playoff that lasted five extra holes.
Stenson, who had a huge back nine in regulation that featured four birdies and an eagle, nearly ended things on the first playoff hole, but his birdie effort just rolled past the left edge. All four players wound up making par and advanced to a second playoff hole.
Back on the 18th hole for the third straight time, Havret was the only player to miss the fairway off the tee and he tripped to a bogey. Meanwhile, Zanotti, Stenson and Cabrera-Bello all came through with birdies and the playoff continued with three remaining.
On the short, par-4 17th at Golf Club Gut Larchenhof, all three players hit the green from the tee, but the trio missed their eagle efforts and each settled for birdie.
Back to the 18th for the fourth playoff hole, Cabrera-Bello missed the fairway and he found water on his second shot. Zanotti and Stenson settled for pars, while Cabrera-Bello was eliminated.
Now with heavy rain falling, Zanotti and Stenson headed back to 17. Stenson's tee shot cost him the title as his ball went into the water. Zanotti's first shot came up just short of the green and he knocked his second shot close. Stenson's third shot found a bunker and the ensuing shot went well by the hole. The Swede conceded the hole from there to give the title to Zanotti.
The win is still Zanotti's only victory on tour. In 2014, Zanotti went on to finish in the top 10 five times, with his second-best finish coming at the Madeira Islands Open, where he tied for third.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR -- BROOKS KOEPKA
In his first full season on the European Tour, Brooks Koepka certainly made a name for himself with one victory and five total top-10 finishes during the 2014 season.
Making 15 total starts on the year, Koepka made 11 cuts, had two finishes inside the top three and four inside the top five. At the end of the campaign, the American finished eighth in the season-long Race to Dubai.
Koepka posted his first top finish at the Dubai Desert Classic, where he tied for third. That was Koepka's last European Tour start for over three months as he played on the PGA Tour as well.
Koepka returned for the BMW PGA Championship and missed the cut, but he found a lot more success at the U.S. Open a couple weeks later. While Martin Kaymer ran away with an 8-shot win, Koepka tied for fourth.
After missing a pair of cuts, Koepka settled for a share of 67th place at the British Open before he earned a tie for 15th at the PGA Championship.
Koepka finished his season strong as he did not miss a cut after the Scottish Open. In his next four starts, Koepka had three top-11 finishes and he tied for 48th at the BMW Masters.
Koepka waited until the second-to-last event of the season to pick up his first win as he outlasted Ian Poulter to win the Turkish Airlines Open by one shot. Koepka fired a final-round, 7-under 65 to come back and win.
A tie for 42nd at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai rounded out Koepka's 2014 season.
- Henrik Stenson waited until the final event of the season to pick up his first win of 2014. The Swede missed just one cut in 19 starts on the season, picking up a tour-leading 10 top-10 finishes, including two runner-ups.
- Joost Luiten had one victory on the year at the Irish Open, but he was also tied for second with Rory McIlroy in top-10 finishes with nine. Luiten came in third three times and was inside the top five seven times.
- Mikko Ilonen, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Bubba Watson and Alexander Levy joined McIlroy as the only other multiple winners on tour in 2014. All four of them had two victories each.
- After a successful rookie season in 2013, American Peter Uihlein made just 13 cuts in 23 events, notching just two top-10 finishes all season.
- Ian Poulter is a 12-time winner on the European Tour, but despite making all but two cuts in 14 events in 2014, Poulter did not register a win. He had just one runner-up and finished inside the top 10 three times all season.
- Justin Walters made 29 starts on the season, but he made the cut just 10 times with only one top-10 finish. Walters' lone top 10 was a tie for second at the Joburg Open. Over his final 12 events, Walters missed the cut nine times and was disqualified once.