As 2014 comes to an end, let’s look back and reflect on WUP’s favorite moments and memories from our year in golf. Most of them are included in the picture/video above, but the best of them deserve to be accompanied by a paragraph or two.
He won three times in the 2013-14 season (twice in 2014!) and he was a badass at the Ryder Cup (his 1-1-1 record is deceiving). We discovered that this nice, unassuming Tour pro is actually quite the silent assassin. Don’t underestimate his length of the tee, his touch around the greens and his dexterity with the putter. We hope to see Jimmy Walker hoisting more trophies in 2015!
Now, now, we all need to have a sense of humor and laugh or roll our eyes at tasteless jokes made at our expense. I was actually kind of surprised when I saw this hit Deadspin and several other publications (slow news day??), as I initially didn’t think it was *that* big of a deal at the time, but in hindsight, it was, because it was a pro golfer making an inappropriate/sexist remark at a woman who covers the sport. That’s not OK.
I know Elk pretty well, though, and I consider us to be friends, so when I saw his tweet, I was a little surprised. I remember vividly that I momentarily turned bright red, but a second later, I was over it and just rolled my eyes, kind of shrugged, and assumed he was drunk — which, it turned out he was! I also have to admit that the shirt I wore wasn’t the most flattering.
The whole thing turned out to be quite hilarious.
WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship — Victor Dubuisson
Ridiculous. Miraculous. Unbelievable. Those are just a few adjectives to describe Victor Dubuisson’s incredible up-and-downs from the desert in extra holes in the finals match against Jason Day. Dubuisson showed the world that he certainly has amazing hands and touch around the greens — and a bit of luck helped, too.
On the first extra hole, the par-4 18th, Dubuisson pulled his second shot into the desert shrubbery short left of the green. It looked like he had absolutely no shot and the match was over, but then he hacked it out and knocked it to about eight feet, made the putt to stay alive.
If that wasn’t enough, he did it AGAIN on the next extra hole, the par-4 1st. This time Dubuisson misjudged the wind and flew the green. His ball ended up in the desert and next to a dangerous jumping cholla cactus. No big deal for the Frenchmen, though, who simply stepped up and gave it his best whack. The chip ended up about eight feet from the hole and he drained the putt (of course) to extend the match against Day.
Rory McIlroy hit some insane shots this year, but Dubuisson’s magical shots in the desert might have been the most memorable ones that I witnessed in person. My mind is still blown by how he pulled off those ridiculous chips. While he still lost to Day, he certainly held his own and extended the match to way more holes than expected.
WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship — Rickie Fowler
When Fowler, who had just lost to Jason Day in the semifinals at Match Play, got out of the SUV that shuttled him back to the scoring area, he was holding and playing with Dash Day, Jason’s baby. He joked that Dash was comforting him from the loss. It was a precious moment and showed a lot about Fowler’s professionalism and character.
Shell Houston Open — Matt Jones Jones was not yet qualified for the Masters the following week and the only way for him to earn a spot in the field was to win the Shell Houston Open. He found himself in a playoff against Matt Kuchar, a formidable opponent. On the first extra hole, Jones pushed his second shot short right of the green. He was left with a 42-yard chip shot. And this is what happened…
Now that’s how you win a golf tournament!
Because it’s the Masters (though I do have a love-hate relationship with the place). It was also the first major I covered as an on-air reporter/correspondent for Fox Sports Asia, so it’ll always have a special place in my heart.
I have a slight obsession with Dash Day, and he has a major obsession with the microphone.
Post-Masters TaylorMade outing at Reynolds Plantation — Sergio Garcia
TaylorMade hosted an event to promote “Hack Golf,” where you play with 15-inch wide cups. Best part of the day? I was paired with Sergio, who was an engaging and charming playing partner/cart buddy.
Playing Pinehurst No. 2 a month prior to the U.S. Open
Ouch, Payne! #pinehurstno2 #usopen A photo posted by Stephanie Wei (@stephaniemwei) on
As I had started to read about the restoration completed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw on the famed No. 2 course, which was hosting both U.S. Opens in 2014, I became more and more curious about the new-old Pinehurst. So, I figured I’d take a little road trip while I was covering the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte and do some “field research.”
I absolutely loved the course and wrote about the memorable day here.
Big shout-out to my good pal Shane Ryan for coming along with me and being such a great friend in 2014. Shane, who writes for Grantland, spent the year on Tour to write a book called “Slaying the Tiger: How Golf’s Young Guns Took Over the Sport.” I’ve gotten a sneak peek of several chapters and it’s really, really good. It’s coming out this spring (hopefully) and you should all pre-order a copy because, trust me, it’s be a must-read.
The Players Championship — Martin Kaymer
Heading into the 17th hole on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass, Kaymer had a slim one-shot lead. He mishit his tee shot into the island green and it threatened going into the water. His ball ended up in an awkward position on the collar. He hit a poor chip shot, leaving himself with a 30-footer left-to-right slider to save par and maintain his lead. Naturally, he made the putt and went on to win The Players.
Post-Players at the airport — Martin Kaymer
This is definitely in the top 3 of my favorite moments of 2014. The day after the Players Championship, I was at the Jacksonville airport with half the Tour and I was sitting with several colleagues when I noticed Kaymer sitting on the floor and charging his phone — just like we’ve all done at some point.
By instinct, I reached for my phone to take a picture, but then I felt like it was a little creepy and wasn’t sure if I wanted to go all stalkerazzi on Kaymer. However, a few minutes later, I was still so floored by the scene that I couldn’t resist and snapped the photo. Judging by the reaction on the interwebs, I’m glad I did, and Kaymer even thanked me for it the following month when I revealed to him I was the one who took it.
U.S. Open Qualifier, Columbus Section
This is my favorite event of the year to cover (since the death of PGA Tour Q-School). You see Tour pros wearing shorts and biting their fingernails nervously as they watch the scores come in after the 36-hole qualifier. Then, you get the 6-for-3 (six players for three remaining spots) or 5-for-2 playoffs, where you basically walk up the fairways with the players — it’s just pure golf and perhaps the last bastion left. They’re not playing for money, merely trying to qualify for one of the major championships. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere, but it’s a mixture of intensity, laid-back, and pure awesomeness.
Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton was one of the players in the five-for-three playoff. You could tell he was already incredibly beat and didn’t seem too thrilled when he found out they would be playing practically in the dark for the last few spots, but he persevered through his fatigue. On the second playoff hole, Compton chipped it to six feet and drained the putt to earn the 16th and final spot in Columbus.
When we spoke to him afterward, he reached out his hand to show us that it was shaking from all the adrenaline and fatigue. It was a poignant moment.
U.S. Open — Martin Kaymer, Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton
Kaymer cruised to an eight-shot victory at the U.S. Open. Throughout the week, he charmed the media, answering our questions thoughtfully and candidly. Even though it turned out to be sort of a boring Sunday of a major, we couldn’t have been happier for the German.
Rickie Fowler secured his second top-five finish at a major championship by placing tied for second with Erik Compton, who provided the feel-good story of the week. As they passed by each other switching places on the podium, they did a little joint presser and exchanged some kind words to one another. It was a touching moment and one that still gives me goosebumps.
U.S. Women’s Open — Lucy Li
11-year-old Lucy Li qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open and she endeared the masses with her sassy, no-BS attitude throughout the week. While she didn’t make the cut, she held her own, shooting scores of 78-78. Not too shabby.
The image above of her eating a popsicle while conducting her presser will be forever lasting.
U.S. Women’s Open — Michelle Wie
I don’t remember the last time I actually felt this nervous for a golfer or wanted one to win so badly. With three holes to play on Sunday of the U.S. Women’s Open, Michelle Wie led by three shots, but a poor decision almost caused her to throw it away.
She escaped the 16th hole with a double-bogey, but her lead was down to one. Next, she faced the famed par-3 no. 17. She had a fast, sliding 25-foot putt for birdie and she drained it. She pumped her fist once it fell and then pounded her fist twice to celebrate. It was the biggest putt of her career to date. Then, she made a routine on par on no. 18 to win the biggest tournament of her career to date. And we were all so, so happy for her.
While many may say, it was a long time in the coming, it came at the perfect moment. Perhaps it made the victory taste just that much sweeter after all the close misses and mishaps in her young career.
RICOH Women’s British Open — The Buggy Incident
If you aren’t in the U.S., then you can watch the video captured by a BBC cameraman and listen to the commentary by Peter Aliss.
So, it’s tough to drive buggies on links courses in the UK. There aren’t really real cart paths, just hints of dirt roads, so it’s difficult to tell if you’re going off-course or not. My cameraman Rich (who was driving despite what it looks like in the video) and I made a wrong turn on our way to shooting b-roll for a feature and we ended up in the really tall grass. Actually, we got stuck and Rich had to get out and push, while I tried to steer us back on course. For me, it was certainly one of the most ridiculous, embarrassing yet admittedly hilarious moments of 2014.
RICOH Women’s British Open — Mo Martin
On Thursday during the first round, I suddenly looked up at the leaderboard and saw that Mo Martin had posted a three-under 69 to take the lead at that moment. I panicked. It looked like she had been done for a while and I needed to interview her because the scores were pretty high and there was a good chance that at the end of the day she’d be the first-round leader. I also knew absolutely nothing about her.
I grabbed my cameraman and raced to the scoring area, hoping that Mo had lingered. I asked some of the players and caddies if they’d seen her. One caddie said she was already finished and inside the clubhouse eating lunch. When I was about to walk away defeated, he asked me if I wanted him to go get her for me. I said, “Yes, please, that’d be amazing!” However, I was skeptical and knew there was a good chance that she wouldn’t come back outside to an interview. Which was foolish of me. A few minutes later, the caddie reappeared — this time with Mo by his side and directed her to me.
I thanked her profusely after picking my jaw up off the ground. Before we started recording, Mo asked if I could do her a favor and tell her if she had any food in her teeth because she had just been eating pasta. I told her she was all good after a quick look as she smiled for me. She patiently answered my questions and genuinely thanked me afterward. At that point, I was rooting for Mo.
It couldn’t have made me happier to see her stick the best 3W she had ever hit in her life on the 72nd hole to eight feet, and then she rolled in the putt for eagle, which turned out to hold up for the win.
This quote from her struck a chord with me…
It was just a good reminder to me that as bad as things may seem to get or as poorly as people may behave at times, it’s how we use and react to them that defines our character and experiences.
The Open Championship — Rory McIlroy
Standing on the 13th hole at Royal Liverpool in the third round, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler were tied for the lead. Fowler had birdied seven of the first 12 holes. But the way McIlroy played the last three holes of Saturday may have clinched the Claret Jug for him on Sunday.
McIlroy eagled both par-5s, nos. 16 and 18. He hit this incredible 4-iron to about 12 feet on the last hole.
Just six holes later, after Fowler had made a few mistakes coming in and McIlroy had capitalized on several good shots, McIlroy held a six-shot lead heading into the final round.
Loved it when McIlroy dedicated the win to his mother, Rosie.
The Open Championship
Just everything about it is brilliant. It’s my favorite major.
PGA Championship — the ending
This was always Rory McIlroy’s tournament to win — the course was long and soft, which couldn’t suit his game any better, and he was just playing so well after winning his last two starts, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the Open Championship. Turned out it was the most thrilling Sunday at the majors in 2014 and McIlroy did indeed capture his third major, but not without a bizarre ending.
There were weather delays due to heavy rain and inclement weather on Sunday, which had been forecast, but the PGA of America decided to keep the tee times as they were instead of moving them up earlier to avoid the situation that they got themselves into. McIlroy lost the lead briefly, thanks to a charging Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson, who took turns giving Rory a run for the Wanamaker Trophy. In the near pitch-black dark, McIlroy safely made par. But, in order to make sure they finished, Rory asked Phil and Rickie, who were playing in the penultimate group, if he and his playing partner Bernd Wiesberger could play up on the 18th hole. Phil and Rickie thought Rory just meant their drives and looked surprised when they saw McIlroy and Wiesberger’s second shots land near the green before they had putted out. Phil allegedly was not thrilled with how the PGA of America handled the whole situation.
Anyhow, what’s more exciting is that McIlroy is now headed to Augusta National in April as he tries to win the Masters and complete the career grand slam — a feat that only two golfers have achieved in history, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. We’re also already counting down the days!
This was a tough one — the fourth and most difficult “almost” at a major for Rickie Fowler in 2014. At one point during Fowler’s presser, my friend turned to me and asked, “Is it just me or does he look like he’s about to cry.” I took a closer look and said, “No, you’re right, it does look like that.” This near miss was the most painful one for Fowler to stomach, but hey, 2015 is a whole new year with four more majors!
Here’s a list of my #2014Faves at Gleneagles…
Congrats Jamie Donaldson for clinching the #RyderCup — and to Team Europe on their commanding victory. A photo posted by Stephanie Wei (@stephaniemwei) on
*Jamie Donaldson knocking a wedge to kick-in distance to clinch the Cup for Europe (even though he had no idea at the time)
*Justin Rose finishing with the best record for Europe (I placed a bet)
Nothing made me happier to see Christina Kim win the Lorena Ochoa Invitational on the second playoff hole. It was her first win in nine years and it was also the feel-good story of the year. I still have goosebumps picturing Christina celebrate as she cried on the 18th green. It was also poignant when her good friend Michelle Wie ran out to congratulate her and the two embraced.
Christina is one of the most generous and giving people that I know, so it is always a joy to see her prosper.
Big Island of Hawaii Press Trip
Thanks to Ross, Nathan, Jason and Randy — the guys on the trip — for putting up with me, along with their patience. I appreciate that you guys embraced me and your company made the experience and golf all the more wonderful. This was most likely the most fun I’ve had on a press trip, mainly because you guys were so great. (Usually on these things, there’s at least one person you want to kick off the “island” because he’s annoying or a downer, or just someone you could do without — that wasn’t the case this week.)
Fox Sports Asia
Many thanks to Fox Sports International Channels for giving me the opportunity to do what I’ve always wanted to do in 2014 and work as an on-air reporter during the WGCs and the majors. Appreciate the patience and faith that my producers had in my rookie self.
I don’t know if I’ve ever written or revealed this, but the whole reason for all of “this” — starting the site and getting into the golf industry — is because I wanted to be an on-air reporter/correspondent. I got a whole lot closer to achieving that dream in 2014 when Fox Sports Asia took a chance with me and gave me the opportunity to learn this craft (because, trust me, it’s not as easy as the pros make it look).
Hopefully I’ll be returning to work with them in 2015 and more opportunities will also arise.
Here are a few of my favorite moments from the coverage this year…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!