By Bob Duncan
At the start of every year, every golfer makes a commitment to his or her game, claiming that “This year is going to be my year to play great golf!” How did you do in 2015? What were your highlights?
Every year on the PGA tour somebody has a ‘breakthrough’ and makes a splash— especially in the first couple of months. Is it their level of commitment? Could it be a fresh start of a new year or their extra rest from not playing tournaments during the holidays? Let’s take a quick look back at the highlights and lowlights of 2015…
This year the early tour fireworks were provided by Jimmy Walker. He came out hot in the first 2 tournaments of the year, finishing 2nd in a playoff to Patrick Reed at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and then winning the Sony Open in Hawaii by 9 shots! He continued his hot play into March, winning the Valero Texas Open just before playing in the Masters. In 2015 Walker had 2 wins, 2 2nd places, 6 top 10 finishes, and made 21 of 24 cuts.
Jason Day also began the year hot, with a 3rd place at the Hyundai and winning in a 4-way playoff at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. He cooled off a bit until winning the Canadian Open in late July, the PGA Championship and the Barclays in August, and the BMW Championship in mid-September. For a stretch between June 21 and September 27 he had 4 wins, and finished not worse than 12th place at the World Golf and Deutsche Bank Championships.
A lot was expected of Dustin Johnson as he began his memorable season – for reasons both good and bad – with a win at the World Golf Championship in Miami in early March. Starting off as a prime candidate for the season, as it turned out, this would be his only victory on tour this year. We all remember his unfortunate low-light as he 3-putted the last green in the US Open at Chambers Bay, coming in second to Jordan Spieth. Still, Johnson had 11 top 10 finishes and made 18 of 21 cuts.
Expectations were high for both Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler. Rory filled in part of the story with victories at the World Golf and Wells Fargo Championships in May and June, while Rickie won the Players in May and the Deutsche Bank in September. Each had 2 wins and 7 top 10 finishes, while Rory missed one cut and Rickie missed 4.
And speaking of Jordan Spieth, he was relatively quiet until a 4-week stretch in mid-March when he won in a playoff at the Valspar Championship, took 2nd to Walker at the Valero, 2nd in a playoff at Houston, and then won the Masters in mid-April. After missing the cut at the Player’s Championship in mid-May he started another run taking 2nd in the Crowne Plaza at Colonial, 3rd at the Memorial, won the US Open, won the John Deere in a playoff, won the US Open, took 4th at the British Open and 2nd in the PGA. Then he cooled a bit before winning the Tour Championship in late September. With 5 victories, one 2nd place, 15 top 10s and making the cut in 21 of 25 tournaments, that was good enough to earn the PGA Tour Player of the Year award.
Otherwise, tour veterans such as Davis Love, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, and Jim Furyk were all one-time winners, while the remaining winners were less well-known.
A significant lowlight for 2015 was a second back surgery for Tiger Woods. After missing the Masters in 2014 due to back surgery, Tiger placed 17th at the 2015 Masters and the buzz was, ‘Is he back’? His best finish of 2015 was a tie for 10th at the Wyndham Championship in August, but that was followed by the back surgery. His prognosis for a return in early 2016 is good.
What’s on tap for 2016? The big news early will be the USGA’s ban on anchoring the club to make a stroke. Two significant players who will be affected by this are Adam Scott and Tim Clark, with a few more on the Champions Tour.
Prohibition on Anchoring the Club While Making a Stroke – As announced in May 2013, the new Rule 14-1b (Anchoring the Club) prohibits anchoring the club either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point” in making a stroke. The penalty is loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play.
The drama of Jordan Spieth winning the first 2 legs of the Grand Slam this year ended with his 4th place finish in the British Open. One thing is for sure: the game we love certainly supplies drama every year, and 2016 will be no different! What will your story be in 2016?