2014: Reflections on the lost season

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos by David Vier

The 2014-15 PGA Tour season begins this week and here’s to hoping it’s a cut above the previous one. It still feels strange to have the Tour season start in October, but on balance, more golf that matters is a good thing.

It’s not that the 2013-14 season lacked merit, there just weren’t enough moments to etch it indelibly in our collective golf memories. The majors – except for the minor exception of the PGA Championship – were by and large sleepers this year.

Bubba Watson’s back nine at the Masters contained all the tense moments of… a fourth grade instrumental recital.

Ditto for the U.S. Open. Martin Kaymer’s wire-to-wire domination of the tournament was heartily impressive in the golf sense, but was it enthralling? Certainly not. It was fun seeing Pinehurst #2 in its “retro” glory, but marveling about the changes to the course wasn’t enough to carry the story for four days.

Tiger looked like he had a lot of questions in 2014.

July’s Open Championship was a little more dramatic, but in the end Rory McIlroy’s refusal to fade made the final holes more like a coronation than a sprint to the conclusion.

The “regular” tour events provided little more in terms of memorable moments. Sure, having a different winner practically every week – including a few surprises – made it somewhat interesting. It’s always nice when a new face pops on the scene. But what will we remember?

I’ll certainly think a lot about Frenchman Victor Dubuisson’s unbelievable up-and-downs every time I hit it out of play near the green, but who eventually won that tournament anyway?

Answer: Jason Day. I probably wasn’t the only one who thought winning the Match Play would jumpstart Day to a banner season… but it didn’t. We didn’t hear much from him the rest of the year.

So what are the themes heading into next season?

Jason Day looked promising in early 2014, then practically disappeared.

Tiger and Phil. Let’s face it, the reason why most people will remember 2014 at all is because of Tiger Woods’ bad back – and corresponding absence for most of the season – and Phil Mickelson’s indifferent play.

We might recall Rory McIlroy’s watch commercial repeating over and over again during the PGA Championship, but still Tiger and Phil have already carved a place in our consciousness. With no victories and only one top 10 finish between them in 2014, we’re left with nothing but questions as to whether this is the beginning of the end for their generation’s two greatest players.

It’s probably not the end for them, but let’s just say it’s the first stanza of their swansong. Tiger’s chronic injury problems aren’t likely to go away permanently, no matter how much rest he gets. He’ll come back and play brilliantly in spurts for the rest of his career – he has way too much talent to do otherwise.

But he’ll never be 100% again. The pre-2009 Tiger is long gone. The Tour will move on… but will it ever be the same?

Likewise, Phil is 44 years old and has an arthritic condition. Perhaps even more troubling are his focus lapses. It’s difficult to keep overcoming doubles and triples against the world’s best. One hole can easily ruin a tournament for Phil and that’s not a good thing.

We hope Phil shows up often -- with his game -- in 2015.

Just like Tiger, Mickelson will give us some more thrills at times, but age spares no one, not even the likeable guy from San Diego.

A final question… when will we next see them? Tiger says he’ll be at his tournament in December, but who knows after that. Phil? Somewhere in California next January is the best bet.

Will Rory be this generation’s Tiger Woods?

Maybe it’s because his first name is somewhat atypical, but McIlroy has already earned a one-name familiarity. “Rory” is a brand, just like “Tiger” or “Phil.” Say it and everyone knows who you’re talking about.

Rory’s three-win streak in July and August had everyone talking dynasty, with inevitable comparisons to Woods. And there’s chatter about McIlroy completing the career grand slam at the 2015 Masters, but are we ready to crown him as the next great one?

Photo from Nike Golf.

McIlroy got over some personal issues and his equipment change is in the past, yet his failure to wrestle the FedEx Cup from Billy Horschel in the playoffs does leave a mark. Would Tiger in his prime have let Horschel beat him?

It’s one of the few doubts that remains about McIlroy, a player who’s more than capable of tearing up the sport during his hot streaks, yet hasn’t been able to put together lasting dominance.

We’ll be looking for signs of it this season.

Europe dominates. Will the Americans respond?

Americans are still stinging from their most recent Ryder Cup defeat, but that’s only one week every two years. In case you haven’t noticed, Europeans are dominating professional golf – not bad considering three majors are played every year on America’s home turf.

Will Brandt Snedeker -- and his putter -- show up in 2015?

As noted above, Martin Kaymer stomped on the field at the very American U.S. Open – but he also captured the Player’s Championship in May, making it a virtual two-major season.

Sweden’s Henrik Stenson won last year’s FedEx Cup and continues his excellent play.

And then there’s Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose.

Together with McIlroy, that’s four out of the top six in the world (Kaymer is 12th). They come to play, too.

At current, the highest ranking American is 40-something Jim Furyk, who always shows up on leader boards but doesn’t often take home trophies. Sure, Americans need to learn how to win back the Ryder Cup, but they also need to win big at home.

The familiar Tiger stare will be a welcome addition in 2015.

Patrick Reed, Ricky Fowler and Jordan Spieth may be the next American stars, but they’re still developing.

Wait and watch

There are more themes, of course, but we have enough to think about going into the next PGA Tour season.

Sure there are questions, but there are plenty of positives to look forward to as well. The tremendous variety that professional golf offers is nothing to look down on. Every week is different, a theatrical production without a script.

It isn’t always dramatic, but it’s still a story. Can’t wait to see it.


Schedule for 2014-15 season from PGATour.com.

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