2015 Year in Review: Part Six
10. David Feherty leaves CBS for NBC
At the end of July, I saw David Feherty on stage in Toronto and he was amazing. If you like his show and his brand of humour, it’s definitely something you should check out if he happens to be near your town, and when he was done, he took some questions from the audience. I can’t recall exactly what the question was, but it got Feherty to talk about his contract status with CBS and he mentioned that it was coming up at the end of the year, but that he had no worries about getting it resolved and that he figured he’d be back with CBS for 2016. Five weeks after that show, Feherty and CBS broke off negotiations, officially ending a nineteen year relationship and opening the door for the Northern Irishman turned American to head to NBC. Dottie Pepper has since been brought on to replace Feherty, and she’s going to do a fantastic job but Feherty brings so much to the broadcast that you can’t help but think that CBS is going to struggle greatly in his absence. He’s a one of a kind talent who not only makes you laugh, but also understands the game and the players about as well as anyone out there today and I know that the Masters just won’t be the same without him.
For NBC though, this is a great move and one that should lend a lot more to their broadcasts. Feherty sparring with Johnny Miller on the air is something to look forward to, not to mention that we now get to hear Feherty doing things that he’s never done before, like broadcasting from the Players, the Open Championship and the Ryder Cup. As much as it sucks to lose him from the Masters, I’m actually looking forward to seeing him offer a fresh perspective at these other events, but it’s hard to see how CBS doesn’t regret this in a few months.
9. Controversy at the Solheim Cup
The idea of gimme putts in match play can be a touchy subject, even if the players involved are trying to do what they feel is the right thing, and there’s no better example of that than what happened at the Solheim Cup earlier this year. American Alison Lee missed a putt to win the 17th hole in her match alongside Brittany Lincicome against Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull, leaving it a short distance from the cup. Lee thought she heard someone say that it was good and when she saw Hull walking to the next tee, she assumed that she could pick up her ball and head to the 18th, except that both Pettersen and Hull said that they didn’t grant the concession and after a rules official was brought in, it was determined that since Lee had picked up the ball, it was going down as a won hole for the Europeans. The final hole was halved, giving the Europeans the victory in the match, but the Americans came away with the victory overall, taking the cup by a single point.
It was a massive story because it involved the one thing that everyone clings to when it comes to golf: sportsmanship. Once it was decided that the Americans had lost the hole, should Pettersen and Hull have conceded the 18th in a show of faith that Lee would have hit the putt that was less than a foot away? Should the rules official have shown some lenience? Should Pettersen have been more sympathetic?
I’ve gone back and forth on this topic more times than Vijay has changed his putting grip, and ultimately, I think what we’re dealing with is this: The Solheim Cup is a very big deal and when you’re playing for your country, emotions are always going to be at an all-time high, especially when you know how much this event means to everyone who’s playing. Pettersen is one of the most intense players you’ll see in either the men’s or women’s game, and when you combine that with the stakes, I totally understand why her attitude at the time would be “You know, no one gave you the putt, so I’m not going to concede anything.” If she had time to think about it, away from the moment and the intensity of the situation, I’m sure she would have changed her tune but that’s not what she was given and in the case of Lee, I’m sure she’ll never pick a ball up again without being 100% certain that she’s good to do it.
It all got resolved and Pettersen apologized after the event, but for a little while, it was the only thing people were talking about.
8. The youth movement is officially here
For the last few years, it definitely seemed like golf had no real exit strategy for when Tiger and Phil started to fade away because younger talent either weren’t emerging, or they were fading away quickly (see Kim, Anthony). However, 2015 seemed to signal a big shift in that idea, with the new big three of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy leading a group of impressive young players that golf fans should be very excited to watch over the next decade. Five of the top ten players in the world are under the age of 30 and guys like Branden Grace, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Matthew Fitzpatrick seem ready to make the leap as well. Throw in the fact that you still have super compelling veterans like Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia in the mix, and it’s easy to see how spoiled golf fans are right now with the top players in the world. Seriously, if you can look at the top 50 players in the world right now and tell me that you’re not excited, you’re either not a golf fan or you’re not paying enough attention:
No one is expecting anyone to be the next Tiger or Phil, but with this group of players, golf is in great hands.
7. Jason Day wins five times and gets his first major at the PGA
Coming into 2016, I had one question about Jason Day: Could he stay healthy? Over the past few years, Day missed a lot of tournaments because of injury or decided to play through them, and at least to me, that was the big reason why we hadn’t seen him have a truly great year. There was no reason for him to not win a bunch of tournaments because not only is he talented, but he has the rare quality that based on the way he plays, he can win on any type of course that he goes to and in 2015, that’s exactly what happened. He won Torrey in a playoff and prevented Bubba from taking the Canadian Open before going on a run that cemented his place alongside Rory and Jordan at the top of the game. His win at the PGA Championship felt like a long time coming after so many gut punches in prior majors, and he did it by torching Whistling Straits while holding off a field of great competitors before crying in his caddie’s arms after the final putt dropped on 18.
That win meant so much to Day, but he didn’t stop there. He won the Barclays two weeks later and the BMW Championship in September, each by six shots, and actually had people questioning whether or not he was the rightful owner of the Player of the Year and not Jordan Spieth. 2015 was the year that we had been waiting for from Jason Day, and he’s a big reason to be excited for what’s to come in 2016.
6. The Masters really delivered
Every year, this tournament manages to deliver the goods and 2015 was no different. Think about everything that happened:
- The game’s next mega star carried a six shot lead into Sunday, and ended up equalling the tournament scoring record with an 18-under par total.
- Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose each shot 14-under par, totals which would have at least gotten them to a playoff seventeen times in the last two decades and they lost by four.
- Some random dressed as Tiger Woods ended up in one of the final few groups on Sunday.
- Rory was awful for the first 27 holes of the tournament and still finished tied for fourth.
5. Lydia Ko had an incredible year
Over the last twelve months, Lydia Ko has dominated the women’s game:
- Six wins, including her first major championship at the Evian in September.
- 17 top-10 finishes.
- Topped the money list.
- Ranked number one in the world.
- Rolex Player of the Year.
Not bad for someone who hasn’t even turned 19 yet, right? I’ll absolutely take my share of the blame on this because I haven’t done enough of it either, but we really need to start paying more attention to how good Ko is. I fully understand that the women’s game typically gets less attention than the men’s, but what we’re seeing with Ko isn’t unlike what Tiger did in the late 90’s, and it seems like so much of the world is missing out on something that is so special. Let’s all do better with this in 2016.
4. So did Jordan Spieth
Five wins. Two majors. Came closer to the Grand Slam than anyone ever should. FedEx Cup champion.
Life is pretty great right now if you’re Jordan Spieth, and just like Ko, it’s obvious that we’re witnessing something pretty special. He’s reached that level where rounds where he doesn’t break par are newsworthy, and then they become irrelevant because he almost always erases them with a 65 in the next round. In the tournaments that mattered the most in 2015, Spieth was there and destroyed everything in his path.
- Tied the scoring record at the Masters.
- Was somehow under par in three of the four rounds at Chambers Bay, leading to the U.S. Open win.
- Missed the playoff by one at the Open Championship.
- Shot 17-under par at the PGA and ended up losing by three.
All of that equals the following graphic, which shows that Spieth beat Day and Rose by a Humana Challenge level winning score:
On top of that, he won the Tour Championship at the end of September, securing the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus, which pushed him over the Finchem line in earnings for 2015.
Golden Child, indeed.
3. Rory’s injury
As good as 2015 was, there were two giant clouds that hung above the entire year and the first one was the news that Rory McIlroy was going to be sidelined for an undetermined amount of time with a severe ankle injury. The fact that he only missed two months was amazing and coming back to finish tied for 17th at Whistling Straits in his first tournament back was incredible, but even though he won four times, I can’t help but think that we’d be talking about five time major winner Rory McIlroy if he had been healthy enough to play at the Open Championship. A wet and wind swept Old Course is basically just asking for Rory to come in and shoot 30-under par, but we didn’t get it and even though the Open was great to watch, it just wasn’t the same without having Rory around. A healthy Rory in 2016 doing battle against not only Jason and Jordan but the new crop of young talent has me itching for the year to get underway.
2. The U.S. Open was amazing
Considering the shape of the greens and the complaints from the players, not to mention the quality of the broadcast, it’s amazing that the U.S. Open was as great as it was. Spieth was obviously the story after winning his second consecutive major, but it’s impossible to forget Dustin Johnson three putting the 72nd hole or Branden Grace having a chance to win on Sunday and sending his ball onto the train tracks on the 16th.
NBC wasn’t broadcasting the event at the time, but if you listened closely, you could actually hear Johnny Miller yelling “NERVES” into his television set. How about Cameron Smith earning his PGA Tour card on 18 after this insane shot?
Or the fact that Louis Oosthuizen finished one shot out of a playoff with Spieth despite being 6-over par after the first round? Jason Day collapsed on the course because of vertigo and he still finished in the top-10. Rory finished in the top-10 too despite never really seeming to have anything resembling his A game all week.
It was fitting that the best player in 2015 won the best tournament of the year. Oakmont has a lot to live up to in 2016.
1. Tiger was really bad
So, this was the other cloud that I was referring to above…
Look, I will be the first to tell you that the youth movement is the best thing to happen to golf in years and I truly believe that. The creation of a new big three, whether you believe it’s valid or not, is exciting and puts the game in a fantastic position heading into 2016, but there was no bigger story in my mind in 2015 than how bad Tiger Woods looked over the past twelve months. Part of it was definitely related to his injuries and I’m sure that once he gets to a spot where he’s a little healthier, we won’t be seeing the kinds of things that we saw in 2015, but it’s impossible to scrub these memories from my mind.
He failed to break 80 three times, including an 85 at the Memorial where he’s won approximately 30912 times. We saw things like the shot above, and he appeared to battle the yips around the greens:
He was made fun of by fans:
He got clowned on Twitter by the AARP:
And yesterday, as he celebrated his 40th birthday, Twitter appeared to be giving him a funeral. All of this happened to the best player that I’ve ever seen and if you want to know why it really matters, all you need to do is look back at the reactions to when he actually played well to see how much of a hold he still has over all of us. He was ten shots back heading into Sunday at the Masters in one of the final groups, and a lot of people, myself included were thinking “You know, if he starts hot…”, and he made the Wyndham Championship appointment viewing after he held a share of the 36-hole lead before finishing tied for tenth.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen the careers of Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant appear to enter their twilight phase and it’s depressing, but their gradual decline has at least given us some time to prepare for the inevitable. With Tiger, he won five tournaments on the PGA Tour two years ago and even though I don’t feel like this is the end, the possibility that we never see him win another tournament is very real and I don’t think that’s something that any of us can say we were prepared for. We may not have expected the sheer amount of great play from guys like Rory, Jordan and Jason this year, but the expectation was there that they would be great and they didn’t disappoint.
The expectation for Tiger wasn’t that he was going to be the Tiger of old, but it certainly wasn’t this either. The fact that he failed to even look like a run of the mill tour player for the vast majority of 2015 is a shock to the system and something that none of us ever expected to see, which is why he has, unfortunately, earned the top spot on the year in review.