2015 Year in Review: Part Five
20. Rickie Fowler breaks through
In part four of this series, I talked about the player poll that suggested both Fowler and Ian Poulter were overrated, which was thrown out the window pretty quick when Fowler won the Players later that week. It was a long time coming for Fowler, who for far too long had to hear about how he was underachieving, despite there being very logical reasons behind it. What made things even better for Fowler was that he went on to win two huge events after the Players, taking the Scottish Open and the Deutsche Bank, which should hopefully dispel the notion that he can’t close tournaments or in the words of Johnny Miller, that Fowler has been “big hat and no cattle.”
It was a big deal to see him break out for the obvious reasons. He’s insanely popular and exceedingly likeable, and as the PGA Tour begins their transition away from Tiger, Rickie Fowler is a big part of their future and it was great to see him win some big events in 2015.
19. The caddie lawsuit
Back in February, a group of eighty caddies filed a lawsuit against the PGA Tour seeking $50 million due to the advertising they carry on their bibs during events. Over the next few months, over seventy other caddies joined the lawsuit including Steve Williams, and as Ron Sirak notes in this piece for Golf Digest, the caddies are firmly holding their ground. There have been sparse updates since and we likely won’t hear anything at all for another couple of months, but this is a very big story for the PGA Tour and I totally understand why the caddies feel like they are getting shortchanged here. Sure, you have guys like Williams and Fluff who have made and continue to make enough money, but for a lot of the caddies on tour, it’s not exactly a glamorous life that pays exceedingly well and when you know that there’s more money to be made, it makes sense to want more of the pie. Throw in the fact that they are frequently treated like second class citizens by the various tournaments and that the tour was legitimately upset at the colour of the shorts being worn, and it makes it pretty easy to pick sides if need be.
This one isn’t going away.
18. The 2015 Open Championship
I was born in 1987 and I’ve been a golf fan for as long as I can remember, and there’s definitely an argument to be made that no year in my lifetime has seen better major championships than 2015. We’ll get to the other ones later on, but think about how insane the 2015 Open was and then think about the fact that it was probably the worst of the four. Let’s go to the rundown:
- It was at the Old Course.
- We had Jordan Spieth, coming off of a win at the John Deere, attempting to win the third leg of the grand slam after taking the Masters and the U.S. Open.
- About 8912 delays due to the weather.
- Tiger was awful but guys like John Daly, Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington made runs, and amateurs Paul Dunne and Jordan Niebrugge were impressive too.
- Spieth and Jason Day both ended up missing out on the playoff by a single shot.
- Zach Johnson defeated Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman in the playoff on Monday.
The only real bummer of the whole week, minus Tiger unintentionally laying up on par-4’s, was that Rory was hurt and not able to compete. It’s difficult to believe that he wouldn’t have been a factor but even without him, it was an incredible week.
17. Ben Crenshaw says goodbye to the Masters
I’m convinced that nobody loves Augusta National and the Masters more than Ben Crenshaw, and that was incredibly evident back in April when he played his last competitive round on the iconic Georgia course. Everyone knows Crenshaw’s history at the Masters: eleven top-10 finishes with two wins, including one of the most improbable victories in tournament history back in 1995, days after hearing of the passing of his mentor Harvey Penick. Crenshaw had been playing horribly in 1995 and hadn’t broken 70 on the PGA Tour in over two months when he got to Augusta after Penick’s funeral, and it was longtime caddie Carl Jackson who suggested Crenshaw leave in the middle of his practice round and head to the range. Jackson spotted something and wanted to work on it, and sure enough, Crenshaw was a two-time Masters champion a few days later, breaking down in tears on the 18th green.
The 1995 Masters was Crenshaw’s last win as a player, and he never came close to contending again in a major after slipping on the green jacket for a second time. The last time Crenshaw made a cut at Augusta was in 2007, but watching him stroll through the course every year was always fun, even if he didn’t play nearly as well as he would have liked. I’m sure he’ll still be around come April and it was probably time to go, but it won’t be the same watching the Masters every year without Gentle Ben.
16. Tiger opens up in Q&A
It was an eventful final few weeks of 2015 for Tiger, as he hosted his own tournament in the Bahamas, he was named a vice captain for the Ryder Cup next year at Hazeltine, and most surprisingly, he actually opened up for the first time in what seems like forever to the media, giving Lorne Rubenstein an exclusive interview for Time Magazine. He’s repeated a lot of his comments in the piece over the past few weeks, namely the ones about where he’s at in his rehab and what the future holds, but he was incredibly open about his family and how things are going in his personal life. 2015 was a rough year for Tiger, but one of the things that was apparent throughout the entire year was that he was being more open and friendly on the range and the course with the other players, and now he’s done the same with at least one member of the media. No one knows what to expect out of Tiger in 2016 on the course, but his openness and honesty with the media could be something else to watch in 2016.
15. Anthony Kim lives!
The last time anyone saw Anthony Kim tee it up in a PGA Tour event was at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship. He didn’t finish that event, withdrawing for the second consecutive tournament and for two years after that, Kim was a ghost; apparently dealing with injury after injury until Alan Shipnuck wrote a story for Golf.com explaining a potential reason for Kim’s absence. Kim wasn’t quoted directly in that piece, but he was quoted in this one at the end of September by Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press and unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like we’re going to be seeing him anytime soon.
It sucks because as good as golf is right now with guys like Rory and Jordan, it would be even better if Kim, the guy who never saw a shot he thought was impossible, was around. How great would it be to see Anthony Kim tear it up again at Quail Hollow or Augusta? Or having him team up with Jordan to take on Rory and Martin Kaymer at the Ryder Cup? He’s still only 30 years old, and the fact that he actually spoke at all for the first time in four years is a massive positive, but it’s becoming harder and harder to envision a comeback.
We’ll leave the light on for you, AK.
14. Robert Allenby had one hell of a year
Robert Allenby has had a very good run as a professional golfer. He’s won over twenty tournaments around the world, including four on the PGA Tour and those four wins have helped him accumulate over $27 million in career earnings to date, but unfortunately, none of that is likely to be remembered over the next few years based on everything that happened to him in 2015. Hat tip to Kyle Porter at CBS who documented all of this as it happened.
The most obvious place to start is Hawaii, where Allenby was starting his 2015 campaign in January at the Sony Open. To the timeline!
- Allenby missed the cut after back to back rounds of 71, and on Friday night he ended up at a wine bar with his caddie where he alleges that he was beaten up and robbed, and that he may have been drugged as well. Allenby also says that a homeless woman told him that she saw him getting thrown out of a vehicle, six miles from the bar. It’s worth noting here as well that Allenby’s caddie at the time, Mick Middlemo, was not with Allenby when the alleged incident took place.
- The homeless woman was interviewed and said that it actually wasn’t six miles away from the bar that she saw Allenby, but one block. Allenby suggested that wasn’t the case and that she was probably getting paid by someone to spread this misinformation, while another homeless man had his own take on what went down that night:
For your intermission entertainment, here’s a dog sliding down a hill:
- A third homeless man stepped forward claiming that Allenby told him that he had just come from a strip club and that he injured himself after falling face first onto a rock, which was corroborated by the homeless man in the video above.
- Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard, who was in Hawaii longer than Mark Rolfing and did some quality reporting, caught up with the homeless man in the video above and he said that Allenby was “beyond drunk.” Part of Hoggard’s reporting included that Allenby spent a ton of cash at the strip club and was likely robbed, which eventually came out to be true as the Hawaiian police caught the guy using Allenby’s credit cards. It’s also worth noting that the police don’t believe that Allenby was ever at the strip club that night.
- We went a few months without hearing much on this until Allenby decided that Middlemo wasn’t doing his job well enough on the course at the Canadian Open, so he sacked him in the middle of the round and had a random from the gallery carry the bag for him the rest of the way. There’s varying stories on what was said and why he was dropped, but Middlemo isn’t the first caddie to get dumped unceremoniously by Allenby and he wanted people to know his side of the story. He also had the backing of the other caddies, who, and you’ll be shocked by this after reading the Hawaiian Hullabaloo, think that Allenby “told a whole lot of lies.”
- Back to Hawaii though. Remember when I mentioned that Middlemo wasn’t with Allenby when the alleged beating and theft took place? Well, he offered his opinion on the matter after being dumped and well, he doesn’t exactly believe Allenby. “Do I think he got mugged and bashed and absolutely robbed? No I don’t. That’s the story I told because that’s the story he told me to tell because I wasn’t there. Do I think he just fell over and cracked his head? Honestly I do. I think he fell over and someone picked up his wallet and had a great time with his credit card.”
So, what’s the takeaway here? Middlemo’s explanation probably makes the most sense, and it’s a reminder that if you have something that you’re trying to hide or if you don’t know how something happened that could affect you negatively, it’s probably best to be nice to the people that you’ve entrusted certain information with. How did the rest of his season go? Allenby played 29 events in 2015, making seven cuts and recording his best finish at the Web.com Tour Championship where he tied for 30th, but he’ll be back on the PGA Tour this year after using his top-50 in career earnings exemption to get his card back.
13. The Presidents Cup is relevant again
No one is going to confuse the Presidents Cup for the Ryder Cup in terms of importance, but coming into the 2015 version, it really seemed like there was almost no point in continuing this event every other year. For as bad as the Americans have been recently at the Ryder Cup, they’ve always dominated the Internationals at the Presidents Cup, having lost just once since the tournament’s inception back in 1994 and unlike the Ryder Cup where the two sides are usually close at the end of it, the Presidents Cup is frequently a blowout in favour of Team USA. This year though, the tournament really delivered, producing drama from beginning to end thanks to an influx of talent on the International side from players like Sang-moon Bae, Hideki Matsuyama and Anirban Lahiri.
It was really unfortunate that it was on in the middle of the night for a vast majority of fans in North America because it really was one of the best events of the year, and it gave the entire tournament a much needed shot in the arm. It’s going to be interesting to see how they capitalize in 2017 at Liberty National.
12. Rory is really, really good
I know, I know. Saying Rory McIlroy is really good at golf is like saying that Donald Trump can sometimes rub people the wrong way, but because of his injury in the middle of the year, there was a definite feeling of Rory kinda getting lost in the shuffle with what Jordan Spieth and Jason Day were doing in his absence. In a year that many would probably consider as a down year for Rory, he still won four times including his final start of the year in Dubai where he closed with 65-66 to best Andy Sullivan by one in what hopefully served as a reminder that when he’s on his game, it’s really difficult to see anyone topping him.
11. The setup at Chambers Bay
Whenever any of the tours goes to a brand new course, it’s exciting because so often we end up seeing the same courses year after year and it gets a little boring. The danger though of going to a new course is not knowing how it’s going to be set up and maintained, and man, the only way that the USGA would have been hit any harder was if they were on the bag for Bubba. The greens were hit the hardest by far and the criticism started before the tournament even got underway, with Ryan Palmer suggesting that it wasn’t a championship course because of the greens. Ian Poulter chimed in after missing the cut:
I look forward to congratulating the 2015 US Open Champion very soon, I simply didn't play well enough to be remotely close. This is not sour grapes or moaning or any of that crap. It simply the truth. Mike Davis the head of the @USGA unfortunately hasn't spoke the truth about the conditions of the greens. I feel very sorry for the hundreds of greens staff who spent countless hours leading into this week and this week doing there best to have it the best they could and I thank them for that. But look at the picture. This was the surface we had to putt on. It is disgraceful that the @USGA hasn't apologized about the greens they simply have said. "we are thrilled the course condition this week". It wasn't a bad golf course, In fact it played well and was playable. What wasn't playable were the green surfaces. If this was a regular PGA tour event lots of players would have withdrawn and gone home on Wednesday, but players won't do that for a major. They were simply the worst most disgraceful surface I have ever seen on any tour in all the years I have played. The US Open deserves better than that. And the extra money that they have earn't this year from @FoxSports, they could easily have relayed the greens so we could have had perfect surfaces. Simply not good enough and deeply disappointing for a tournament of this magnitude. I don't like it when people lie on camera to try and save face. And to all you fans that paid good money to try and watch us play golf but couldn't see anything on most holes because it wasn't possible to stand on huge slopes or see around stands, I apologize and I'm sorry you wasted your money traveling to be disappointed. I hope we all learn something moving forward to not have these problems in the future. Happy Fathers Day.
As did Billy Horschel:
And Gary Player:
For a quick example of what they’re talking about, look at the video below. It was like this all week.
Here’s the thing: I totally sympathize with the players and if I was out there trying to compete for a major championship, I would have probably voiced the same concerns, but they were the exact same for each and every player. The USGA is always going to be a target for criticism with the way they do things, but having said that, they probably should have done more with the greens to make them more playable during the week. You don’t often see players speak out like this, but I think it’s fair to say that both the players and the USGA could have done better in this regard.
The next post will be the last one, as I’ll take a look at the top 10 stories of the year.