2015 Year in Review: Part Two
Previous posts: Part One
50. Marc and Audrey Leishman
Coming into the 2015 Masters, I don’t think anyone would have suggested that Marc Leishman was a serious contender to win the tournament, but considering his talent and T4 finish back in 2013, it definitely wouldn’t have been out of the question but ten days before the event was set to begin, the Masters took a back seat for the Australian. Leishman’s wife Audrey admitted herself to hospital due to a case of acute respiratory distress and toxic shock on March 31st, and had to be placed in a coma. She was given a five percent chance of survival and on the day before the Masters was set to begin, Leishman withdrew to be by her side. Fortunately, it seemed like the doctors severely underestimated Audrey’s strength and perseverance, as that five percent chance was all Audrey needed and she made a full recovery, as detailed in this great piece by Brian Wacker, which has a fantastic quote at the end.
Just a great story that thankfully had a happy ending.
49. Harrington, Furyk and Love win
2015 was definitely a year where a young group of talented golfers took control of the game and dominated the conversation, and rightfully so. It was something that was desperately needed as previously, golf didn’t really seem to have much of a plan for how to draw people to the game when Tiger and Phil started to fade into the background. Having said that, three wins on the PGA Tour definitely stood out from older players that we hadn’t seen take him a trophy in a very, very long time:
- Padraig Harrington defeated Daniel Berger in a playoff at the Honda Classic, grabbing his first PGA Tour win since the 2008 Open Championship. Forever a tinkerer, Harrington tore everything down after winning three majors in thirteen months, proving that he very well may be an absolute lunatic, but his return from the wilderness was cool to see as anytime Paddy is on TV, you know that you’re likely in for some very interesting and insightful conversation. Hopefully we see it continue in 2016.
- Jim Furyk’s incredible consistency is something that we really don’t talk about enough, probably because he had gone almost five years since his last win when he took the RBC Heritage in April. He’s been outside of the top-50 in the OWGR for a total of thirteen weeks since June of 1996, which is an absolutely insane thing to think about.
- Davis Love is 51 years old and is about to become a Ryder Cup captain for the second time. Players like that shouldn’t be winning on the PGA Tour anymore, but it’s a testament to how good he is and probably that the equipment has helped give older players a little more life than they previously would have had. Much like Vijay Singh, I’m sure that the Champions Tour guys will be happy if Love decides to stay away from their tour for at least a couple more years.
48. Rory tosses a 3-iron at Doral
We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of a bad round but you’ve managed to hit a ball right into the middle of the fairway, putting you in green light territory for a shot at the green in two. Naturally, you wait for the green to clear from 245 yards because “if I really catch one, I can get there.” You take your practice swings over the ball and when the green finally clears in front, you step up to the ball and in a cruel twist that is absolutely not your fault, the ball ducks into the pond on the left. Something or someone has to pay, and it’s not you, so you might as well send your club into orbit. Enter Rory McIlroy:
There are so many things to talk about here. First, Rory probably threw that 3-iron a good 45 yards or so and even though clubs are lighter now than ever before, that’s still pretty impressive. I’d be willing to bet that that’s better than 95% of the PGA Tour could pull off, but still probably a good 65 yards behind any kind of unofficial record that I’m sure is held by Pat Perez. This whole thing gave us some great quotes too, from Rory saying that “it felt good at the time” and Henrik Stenson mentioning that he was the first one to comment to Rory because it “takes one to know one, you know?” Stenson also told Rory that if you’re not playing well enough to get on SportsCenter, you need to do something to get on there, and well, mission accomplished. Sometimes, you just need to blow off a little steam, and I was totally cool with Rory doing it and his apology to the PGA Tour afterwards actually saved him $20,000. He even made fun of himself later in the tournament:
Rory’s best moment? Probably not, but definitely memorable.
47. Dash Day is everywhere
Jason Day’s incredible season is one of the stories of the year (which we’ll talk about later), but it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun without his son Dash, who got more TV time than the vast majority of tour pros in 2015. The weird thing is that he totally deserved that time too because it just seems like he has a knack for doing something funny whenever the camera focuses on him, and he even got a Golf Digest cover out of it:
When you combine Dash’s breakout with mother Ellie giving birth to a new baby girl a few weeks ago, and Jason’s incredible year on the course, it’s hard to imagine life getting much better for the Day family.
46. Ivor Robson retires
In the grand scheme of things, European Tour and Open Championship starter Ivor Robson calling it quits after forty plus years might not mean a ton and I’m sure that whoever replaces him will do a fine job, but man, it’s going to be really weird to not have him around. There are countless videos on YouTube of players imitating Robson and none of them can really get it just right and part of that is because he’s just so unique and for a lot of people, he along with Peter Alliss really are the voices of golf. He famously never left his post at any point during live events, even apparently during delays which we saw at the Open earlier this year:
Enjoy retirement, Ivor.
45. PGA Tour pros wouldn’t help Bubba, Patrick, Rory and Robert
Ahead of the Masters earlier this year, ESPN ran a survey of PGA Tour pros about a variety of topics and the most interesting question by far was about which player they wouldn’t help if they were in a parking lot brawl and the top four really weren’t all that surprising: Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Rory Sabbatini and Robert Allenby finished at the top, but what I’m really interested in is who the rest of the players were because you know that there’s at least a few that come WAY out of left field, like earlier this year when Darin Erstad somehow got a vote for the Hall of Fame. I’m not asking for the specific names to be released of those who did the voting because that would be insane, but wouldn’t you like to know if one player said, “You know, I wouldn’t mind it if someone was wailing on Ben Martin.” Did anyone say Tiger? Were there any reasons why they said anyone specific? Did someone say Jordan Spieth so they could get a leg up in the tournament the following week? We need names and answers, people.
44. Clarke and Love announced as Ryder Cup captains
There wasn’t really much suspense with the European announcement of Darren Clarke as Ryder Cup captain, but it seemed like no one had any idea what Team USA were going to do. After Europe handed the Americans their eighth loss in ten events at Gleneagles in September of 2014, which culminated in Phil Mickelson throwing captain Tom Watson under a row of buses and lighting them on fire, it was decided that a task force was needed to determine what exactly the Americans were doing wrong every other year. This task force of former captains and legendary figures was going to make their recommendations for the team, including a suggestion for captain.
Love was one of the people on the task force, and for the most part, we heard two names come out as contenders for the captaincy: Paul Azinger and Fred Couples. Azinger apparently didn’t want the job and despite the players allegedly wanting Couples to lead them, Love was selected and to be honest, it makes a lot of sense. Love will do a fine job just like he did in 2012 at Medinah, but ultimately the captain is meaningless if the players keep performing like they have over the last two decades.
43. Tiger’s worst ball 66
Ahead of the Masters, no one had any idea if Tiger was going to tee it up and if he did play, there was no reason to believe or expect that he would play well after his disastrous showings earlier in the year. That didn’t stop the hype train from rolling on though, as Tim Rosaforte reported that Tiger shot a worst ball 66 at Medalist in preparation for the event, meaning that he was playing two balls and taking the worst score on each hole. This became a thing for a few days, like everything with Tiger, and there might not be a story that I can remember over the last few years that better embodies our collective obsession with the man.
I have no reason to doubt Rosaforte’s reporting and with the way he played at Augusta, it certainly seems plausible but caring about a practice round on a course that a player knows like the back of his hand, worst ball or not, is insane and yet, it became a talking point. We shouldn’t be talking about these things and in reality, we don’t except when it comes to one player.
42. Ernie Els struggles
If I told you that there was significance behind Ernie Els and the number 187, what would come to mind?
- That Ernie has killed a man?
- The number of times in the past week that you have thought, “I’d kill a man to have Ernie’s swing.”
- Ernie’s approximate earnings in millions.
- His current Official World Golf ranking.
It’s actually a trick question because I’m sure that the second point is valid, but the real answer is that Ernie Els is currently ranked 187th in the world and at least for me, it’s incredibly depressing to watch. He fell out of the top 100 in the world after missing the cut at the Memorial earlier this year, which was the first time he had been outside of the top 100 since February of 1992. To put that into context, we were still eighteen months away from the birth of Jordan Spieth when Ernie was last outside of the top 100. The whole thing about Father Time being undefeated gets thrown around an awful lot in golf circles, most recently with Tiger, but Ernie’s fall down the list has been steep too and a lot of it has to do with the putting that you see above and below.
I never got to see Johnny Miller play in his prime when he was going through the yips on the green, but it feels like Ernie is going through something very similar and it’s especially jarring with him because of how elegant he still looks from tee to green. The swing is a little shorter than it was when he was at the top of the game, but it’s still one of the best looking you’ll see but when he gets on the greens, it feels like a parental advisory message needs to be displayed. Like Tiger, I hope that Ernie bounces back and makes another run because golf is more enjoyable when he’s involved, but it’s getting harder and harder to picture that happening after what we witnessed in 2015.
41. Steve Williams’ definition of slavery
I already wrote a full post on this when it happened, so I’ll keep it brief here. The idea that Steve Williams wrote in his new book that he felt like he was Tiger’s slave while making millions of dollars to perform the duties of a caddie, which he completely agreed to doing, is completely asinine. Throw in the fact that he used the most tone deaf term possible to describe his situation and then doubled down on it when questioned and you have what sounds like the plot to a golf movie featuring Donald Trump as the lead.
Next up, we’ll take a look at stories 40-31.