What we'll remember about 2015
Some things are obvious -- but some things are personal when we look back at the year in golf
November 24, 2015
Some things are obvious -- but some things are personal when we look back at the year in golf
Maybe 2015 goes down as the best year in golf in your book. Or maybe it's top five. Obviously, it depends on your perspective (and perhaps your age).
No matter what, it was some kind of memorable year on the PGA TOUR, led by a few youngsters named Jordan, Jason, Rickie and Rory.
We asked five PGATOUR.COM staff writers what they'll remember the most about 2015. They went beyond the obvious, instead taking a personal approach.
We'd love to hear your thoughts, what you'll remember about 2015, what memories will stick with you the most. Join the discussion below or hit us up on our Facebook page.
TIGER'S DEBUT AT WYNDHAM
By Helen Ross
It was in July when Tiger Woods first mentioned the possibility of playing the Wyndham Championship. Asked about his upcoming schedule, Woods still had hopes of qualifying for the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational before teeing it up at the PGA Championship.
“And then we’ll see about Wyndham after that,” he said – uttering words many golf fans in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina never expected to hear.
After all, he’s played the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte six times, as well as the first two U.S. Opens in Pinehurst. But since turning pro in 1996, he had never teed it up in my hometown of Greensboro.
And Woods is nothing if not a creature of habit when it comes to his schedule. But when he didn’t qualify for Bridgestone, then missed the cut at the PGA, Woods decided to take one last stab at making the FedExCup Playoffs.
Woods’ Friday-night commitment was front-page news in Greensboro. But it came with a caveat, as he wanted to take the weekend to think it over.
On that Monday before the tournament, Woods made it official. Tournament director Mark Brazil’s last-minute decision to print nearly 50,000 extra tickets for the 75th anniversary Wyndham Championship turned out to be a good one.
Word spread quickly once Woods arrived Tuesday. About 4 p.m., he made his way to the Nike trailer behind the practice range, unusually crowded for that time of day. Fans were delighted when he hit balls next to Davis Love III, North Carolina’s popular native son.
Shortly afterward, the two friends played nine holes. When they were done, Woods spent nearly 20 minutes signing autographs.
The next day brought even bigger crowds for Tiger’s pro-am round with Chris Paul, the NBA All-Star who played at nearby Wake Forest. I was one of them.
Walking inside the ropes and listening to the crowd reactions, it was clear many of the fans lined 7 and 8 deep were making their first appearance at a TOUR event. While they didn’t know a birdie from a bogey, they knew Tiger Woods.
My dad used to take me to the Wyndham Championship, then known as the Greater Greensboro Open, when I was a kid. Then I covered the tournament for 18 years when I worked at the local newspaper, and many more times while employed by PGATOUR.COM.
In those 40 years or so, I’ve never seen galleries as large as the ones who came out to see Tiger. Their energy and excitement was palpable as Woods looked like his old self, moving into contention and even grabbing a share of the 36-hole lead. He was still just a shot behind Sunday, but a final-round 70 dropped him into a tie for 10th.
He didn’t complete the storybook ending (as it turned out, it was Love who supplied that), but as we came to know, Tiger still had physical struggles, eventually needing two back surgeries within the next two months.
I’d like to think the massive show of love and support at Sedgefield energized Tiger just a little bit. I know it was good for the game and the city I love.
CHASING THE GRAND SLAM
By Sean Martin
It was a great 2015. I went to Korea for The Presidents Cup and attended The Open Championship in St. Andrews. The travel is an amazing perk for which I’m very grateful, but the most memorable moments are the times you get a peek behind the curtain while history is being made.
My best glimpse came at the U.S. Open. I was sitting near the scoring area while the Spieth family waited with great anticipation to see if Jordan’s march toward history would continue at the U.S. Open. The family was gathered around a cart, using the crowd noise and radio earpieces to keep them apprised of what was happening. The 18th hole was obstructed by one of Chambers Bay’s large dunes.
We all know what happened next, but at the time, the unfathomable, the Grand Slam, was becoming a possibility for a player who was just 21 years old.
Emotional hugs followed when Jordan emerged from the scoring area. Dustin Johnson had yet to complete the final hole, but Jordan’s performance already was worth celebrating. He’d given his all during a week that was important to him and his caddie Michael Greller, who had caddied at Chambers Bay before becoming Jordan’s bag man. It’s hard to remember now that this also was his first tournament as a major champion.
Of course, he did more than contend. He was impervious to the pressure. This was different than the Masters, where he was firing on all cylinders. He grinded his way to victory at Chambers Bay. There were tearful hugs as Jordan made it to the halfway mark of the Grand Slam. The family walked down a dusty trail toward the 18th green, where the trophy ceremony would be held. The setting sun and Puget Sound provided a peaceful backdrop after such a stressful day.
The Grand Slam chase ended in the most agonizing way possible, with Jordan finishing a shot out of the playoff won by Zach Johnson. The mood was somber, but Jordan was at the 18th green to celebrate with Johnson when the playoff was over.
Jordan has been special since he was a teenager. Even then, he carried himself like a professional. He almost seemed destined for PGA TOUR titles and major victories, but there are no guarantees in life and golf. Jordan delivered in 2015, though
FIRST VISIT TO THE HOME OF GOLF
By D.J. Piehowski
When you arrive in St. Andrews, you realize it’s exactly what you thought it would be, but it somehow exceeds your expectations. There aren’t many places that do that.
It’s easy to explain how it looks, because the obvious descriptors are all there. It’s gray. It’s old. It’s not tough to find a pint.
What’s much more difficult is trying to explain how it feels.
It feels historic and it feels intimate. It’s easy to look at photos of the cobblestone streets, but what they don’t show are the players, caddies, fans and media all walking around, together. Everyone stays in the same hotels and walks the same streets and visit the same restaurants.
I knew before I arrived that traveling to Scotland, staying and working in the village of St. Andrews for the first time, would be one of the highlights of my career. I’ve seen enough photos and Open Championships to know that would be true.
The major itinerary points were obvious, but it was filling in the gaps that made the entire trip. What I’ll remember most isn’t seeing the Swilcan Bridge or the Old Course Hotel. It will be hearing Ivor Robson through the first tee loudspeakers and walking home from the pubs as the sun came up.
I’ll remember how dark it was as players let Tom Watson play through in order to finish his last round at St. Andrews and how many of them stuck around to take photos and shake hands with Watson off the 18th green. I’ll remember how passionate and authentic the locals are about the game of golf and how the layout of the Old Course’s 18 holes is one of the most confusing things I’ve ever seen.
And, of course, I’ll remember speed walking through the streets to Ladbroke’s on Wednesday night to put a wager on Zach Johnson at 100-to-1. And I’ll remember that they closed 5 minutes before I got there.
That’s just one more reason to go back next time.
A GRASP ON HISTORY
By Mike McAllister
The Claret Jug was in my hands. Yes, the same jug once cradled by Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods, among other Open Championship winners. The same jug that’s arguably golf’s most recognizable trophy. The same jug first presented to 1928 winner Walter Hagen so he could have something to take home for a year. (Yeah, it’s a copy; the original stays in St. Andrews).
So what the flip was it doing in my possession?
Blame Zach Johnson. He’s too nice.
Having won The Open a few days earlier, Johnson was working through a round of media requests at the Sea Island clubhouse near his home in St. Simons Island, Georgia. I had the chance to hang out with him, ask a few questions when the opportunity presented itself.
And he had brought the Claret Jug.
After his last interview wrapped up and after I asked my final question, I went over to shake Zach’s hand and thank him for his time. The Claret Jug was next to him on a table. He saw the shift in my gaze.
A smile crossed his face. “You want to hold it?”
A smile then crossed my face. “Definitely.”
Not the most memorable of responses, but at least it was succinct.
The jug was a little heavier than I thought. The names seemed extremely small and hard to read (or maybe my eyesight is going).
It then hit me. This was golf's Holy Grail ... and I was Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade.
Alas, much to my chagrin, the Claret Jug does not have magical powers. I did not acquire the ability to hit a 300-yard drive, or land my approach shots within 10 feet. It did not unlock the mystery of reading a green, or hitting out of a sand trap.
But there was something about the Claret Jug, having all that golf history in one small shiny piece of hardware, that caused me to pause. All the joy it has brought to its winners – and all the heartache suffered by those who fell just short.
A shiver went down my spine. Perhaps it was magical.
“Very cool,” I said to Zach while handing back his prize. He nodded. He enjoys sharing the Claret Jug, seeing moments like this, his act of kindness producing a memorable payoff.
It’s a worthy trait to have. Certainly worthy of being Champion Golfer of the Year.
SMALL THINGS WORTH REMEMBERING
By Brian Wacker
What will I remember from 2015? Eat your heart out.
Twenty-four interviews in 24 hours in New York City for Jordan Spieth after he won the Masters by tying the scoring record set by Tiger Woods and becoming the second-youngest player (behind Woods) to slip on a Green Jacket.
Standing atop the Empire State Building with Spieth as he soaked in the city below in a rare moment of quiet. He then took the selfie of the year.
Hearing someone whisper, “Are you with Jordan? Would he like to meet Bill Clinton?” and then all of us being whisked up to the 41st floor of the Time & Life Building to meet the 42nd President (who naturally also has offices on the 42nd floor).
Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey playing until dark at TPC Harding Park, and McIlroy sticking around the media center to watch the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight and buying everyone pizza and soda.
The look in Rickie Fowler’s eyes when he was asked about a magazine poll in which his peers had voted him the most overrated player in the game (along with Ian Poulter). A couple days later Fowler was signing PLAYERS flags and posing for pictures with the crystal trophy with a certain I-told-you-so boost of confidence.
Spieth’s 3-wood on the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, Dustin Johnson’s missed 4-footer, and those trains.
Rickie Fowler buying the media beer for his hole-in-one during the Quicken Loans National.
Tiger Woods missing the cut in a third straight major (every legend’s time comes) and Jason Day with a dominant performance at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits to win his first career major and the tears he shed afterward.
Brian Harman making TWO aces at The Barclays and buying the media beer.
Fenway Park with Spieth, who threw out a pretty mediocre first pitch considering all the other things he accomplished this year. Guess he chose the right sport.
Champagne Rickie winning the Deutsche Bank Championship and sending over bottles of bubbly to the media (these guys know their audience).
Ellie Spieth and the hug she got from her big brother after he won the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola and FedExCup.
Remembering that I get to do this and get paid for it. Thanks, boss!