2014 Golf Wishes
When you look back at the 2013 calendar year, golf fans were pretty fortunate with what they saw. The return of Tiger Woods to the top of the world ranking, the best major year in at least a decade and the emergence of new stars that should keep the game in good hands for the foreseeable future made for some of the best action we’ve seen in years.
With that said, 2014 is on the horizon and golf can do a ton of things to both improve and build on the 2013 campaign. Here are 15 wishes of mine that I hope can come true in 2014.
Tiger Woods wins a major
I seemed to spend a good portion of 2013 defending Tiger, which certainly wasn’t my intention. Even though I’ve never really considered myself a Tiger fan, there’s no question that his presence, especially at the top of leaderboards, makes golf infinitely better and more interesting. He had a great 2013, winning five times and firmly establishing his place at the top of the game, despite the fact that he went 0-4 again in major championships, bringing his current streak to 22 consecutive majors without a win.
To be honest, my hope that he wins a major in 2014 is pretty much all about ending the inane conversation about his ability to do so. People have been saying for so long that he can’t win one, that I just want him to do it so I can stop hearing about it. It simply doesn’t make sense to me that a player with his ability can close out five tournaments, but can’t do it at any of the four majors. The courses all set up well for him this year, and I think he gets at least one in 2014.
David Duval and Mike Weir stage successful comebacks
The inexplicable falls from the top in golf are numerous, with Duval and Weir representing two of the most recent versions. Duval is a former world number one, accomplishing the feat in the middle of Tiger’s most dominant period, but outside of a run at the 2009 U.S. Open, he hasn’t done much of anything since about 2001, despite many attempts to get back into form. Not getting a spot at the 2013 Humana was an eye opener, and his recent Twitter activity has some thinking that this could be it if he doesn’t figure it out this time. He’s saying all of the right things at the moment about his game, but thirteen years is a long time, and the odds are definitely not in his favour.
As for Weir, I think there’s a perception that his 2003 Masters win was his only real victory, like he was some sort of Shaun Micheel copy, but his eight PGA Tour wins and ascent to third in the Official World Golf Rankings suggest otherwise. Injuries and inconsistent play have killed Weir in recent years, and he’s all out of exemptions coming into 2014 after using his top-50 in career earnings status to retain his card this season. Much like Duval, he’s of the opinion that he’s close, but he hasn’t done anything of note recently to make a believer out of many people.
The point is, both of these guys are universally liked and respected inside the golf industry and while they may not be big names in the current game, they could be again if they can put something together. They’re both longshots, but everyone likes the underdog story, right?
Sergio Garcia makes headlines for his play, not his mouth
The Tiger/Sergio feud was one of the biggest storylines of the year, with Sergio doing what he usually does best, and speaking before he thinks. I know he’s not the most popular player with the fans, the media or even the other players, but when he’s on his game, Sergio is one of the most engaging and entertaining guys out there. The hated “best player in the world without a major” has been placed on Sergio at various points throughout his career, but I really think he’s in the best position he’s ever been to win one. I have no idea if that happens, but I do know that him sticking his foot in his mouth is pretty much the worst thing he can do, so hopefully that doesn’t happen in 2014.
The 2014 Ryder Cup is just as entertaining as the 2012 version
Outside of Ian Poulter, there wasn’t a whole lot going on for the European side prior to Sunday at the 2012 Ryder Cup, but the comeback that the Europeans put on versus the Americans was something that I’ll never forget. With the 2014 version set to go at Gleneagles, the Europeans are obviously looking to defend their title, and an already strong side figures to be even stronger assuming Henrik Stenson continues to play the way he did in 2013. It’ll be nearly impossible to top 2012, but hopefully it can come close.
Billy Horschel vs. Ian Poulter at Gleneagles
This is just a tiny one, but can you imagine the intensity at Gleneagles if Horschel and Poulter are pitted against each other in a meaningful Sunday singles match? Poulter will be on the European team, while Horschel will likely be fighting an uphill battle to get on the American side, but if it happened, you’d be enthralled the entire time.
Angel Cabrera and Miguel Angel Jimenez keep playing well
The North American golf fan has been severely deprived of these two guys over the years, but for entirely different reasons. Jimenez has played most of his career in Europe, only showing up in North America for bigger events and majors, while Cabrera is usually just so inconsistent that he’s either in contention on Sunday, or he doesn’t make it to the weekend. Both of these guys though make the game infinitely more entertaining to watch with their aggressive play and mannerisms that you just don’t see often in a game that takes itself too seriously far too often.
A late season win in Hong Kong ensured that we’ll see Jimenez at Augusta next year after missing out in 2013, while Cabrera should still be around after his playoff duel with Adam Scott at the Masters and a string of decent finishes afterwards. Golf is better with these guys, and I hope they can stick around.
That Lydia Ko knows what she’s doing
Up until last week, Lydia Ko has pretty much been the darling of the golf world, as the 16-year old is now widely considered as the future of women’s golf and rightfully so. Then came the news that Ko was dumping her swing coach, Guy Wilson, on the basis that she thinks he wasn’t going to be able to spend as much time with her now that she’s turned pro and has decided to move to the U.S. while playing on the LPGA Tour. Ko will now be working with legendary coach David Leadbetter going forward.
First off, this sucks for Wilson, who seemingly got dumped just as his star pupil was about to hit it big, but unfortunately that’s the way it goes sometimes with players and coaches. I’m not going to jump down Ko’s throat here because if she thinks this is the move that she needs to make, that’s all that matters. With that said, the list of players who have lost it after changing swings, coaches and whatever else is alarmingly long, and there’s a lot riding on Ko here as mentioned above. When asked about it by Golf Channel’s Randall Mell, Leadbetter said:
“If she plays well, it will be because she’s a great player. If she doesn’t, we will be the bad guys.”
Jordan Spieth, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Hideki Matsuyama continue to improve
Spieth and Matsuyama became stars in 2013, and Aphibarnrat is planning on making a run at the PGA Tour whenever he has time. These guys are part of the core group of young players that should help keep the game fun and interesting, assuming they are playing well.
Advanced stats continue to get more attention
I’ve talked about advanced stats in golf before, and while they are still in their infancy, it’s important to know that several players are starting to take them very seriously. Brandt Snedeker and Edoardo Molinari are two players who are starting to look at things in a different light. The old mantra of hitting fairways and greens just isn’t good enough anymore, and while golf is nowhere near the level of baseball or hockey when it comes to advanced stats, it’s getting better and it’s only going to grow as time goes on.
If you’re interested in learning more, Richie3Jack’s Pro Golf Synopsis is a good start.
That women’s golf builds on a solid 2013
I didn’t get to cover the LPGA Tour as much as I would have wanted in 2013, mostly because my full-time job only affords me a certain amount of time to talk about golf, but 2013 was a great year for women’s golf. Ko was a huge story, Inbee Park dominated like Tiger once did, plus Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson pumped up the American end of things. The LPGA Tour wasn’t in the best shape a few years ago, but they seem to be getting things back on track and hopefully it continues in 2014.
The media remembers that there are other players in the U.S. Open field other than Phil Mickelson
I like Phil Mickelson, I really do. However, the build up for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst has revolved almost entirely around his chase for the one major that has eluded him to this point in his career after he somehow won the Open at Muirfield last year. There’s no shortage of storylines for the media to point to when it comes to Phil in 2014:
- His six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open are the most ever.
- He’s looking for the career grand slam. Only Jones, Nicklaus, Hogan, Player, Sarazen and Tiger have accomplished that.
- Pinehurst, the site of the tournament, played host to his first runner-up 15 years ago in 1999 to Payne Stewart.
- The typical Father’s Day story that comes out of every U.S. Open.
Part of me though is simply tired of the fawning that the media does over Phil, and Tiger, when it comes to every single tournament. If he’s in contention on the weekend, it’s going to be impossible to watch the broadcast without a mention of him in every other sentence, and I’m almost hoping that he fires an 81 on Thursday just so I don’t have to listen to it. There’s going to be plenty of stuff to talk about at Pinehurst that isn’t related to Phil, and I hope that those who are in charge of the discussions will remember that.
Something on a digital media plan for the game
I mentioned this last week in my thoughts on how professional golf can improve, and while I don’t think my suggestion is something that could take effect in 2014, I’d hope that someone at the PGA, LPGA or European Tours can start talking about what they plan on doing about digital media going forward. Eventually, golf is going to have to do something about the fact that people can’t watch a tournament when it’s in progress if it isn’t in the TV window.
Fewer weather delays
One of the big stories on the PGA Tour in 2013 was the amount of weather delays or stoppages that just kept cropping up. You’re never going to have a delay-free season, but it seemed like a delay was happening every other week in 2013 and that isn’t good for anyone.
Boo Weekley and Henrik Stenson don’t go away this time
A combination of injuries and inconsistent play forced Weekley and Stenson away from the game a few years ago, and their returns to quality play in 2013 was a welcome sight. Along with being good players, they are characters as well who aren’t concerned with giving stock answers or showing their personalities on the course. I think and I hope that they are here to stay in 2014, and beyond.
Returns to form for Rory, Lee, Luke, Bubba, Louis and Rickie
Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen and Rickie Fowler all struggled for most of 2013, and that’s a problem. I think Rory’s issues actually masked the fact that these other guys weren’t doing anything of note either, and outside of late season wins by Rory and Donald, and maybe Westwood’s run at the Open, there’s a good chance that you can’t name a single positive thing that any of those guys did in 2013, and they are all too good for that.