Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I apologize for the delay in posting this, as I’m sure you were all sitting on the edge of your seats on Wednesday wondering why I hadn’t written about all that we’re thankful for in golf this year. I’m also certain you’re completely over it. Good. So am I.
2015 was a thrilling, game-changing year in professional golf. There definitely wasn’t a shortage of memories and moments I’m thankful for — and that even includes the negative ones. It was definitely the most exciting season I’ve had the opportunity to cover in my budding career.
First of all, I am most thankful for your continued support of WUP and myself. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a loyal following of readers here and via my social media channels. I’ve been fortunate enough to have formed genuine friendships with some of you and I look forward to getting to know more of you. (Don’t be shy — I do my best to return all emails, but I’ll admit that I get boggled down at times.) It’s you guys who inspire me to keep hustling and find a way to keep WUP afloat, especially during the tough times when I’m not sure I can muster the energy any longer. Thank you for reading, along with your encouragement and support, which has been particularly meaningful this past year.
2015 has been a fascinating and exhilarating year in professional golf. Over the past five years or so, a new generation of players had been slowly making a name for themselves and trying to overtake the old guard, but most people wanted to hang on to the notion that it was still the “Tiger Woods” era. Well, the youth movement finally materialized and came into fruition in 2015, where the 20-somethings shined, particularly Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy. And most important, golf fans are now better acquainted with them after their names consistently showed up on the leaderboards at the majors and big tourneys this past year. I haven’t been covering the game for that long, but it was by far the most exciting season with regard to the major championships.
It’s no secret that 2015 was a rather tumultuous year for me, but in the grand scheme of things, those incidents are rather trivial and frivolous. I had a few Twitter outbursts (or “meltdowns” as some may describe them) that reminded me it’s never a good idea to tweet when you’re angry and/or emotional (even though it can be incredibly cathartic). But, as most of you probably know, I had adequate reasons to be upset.
During the first few months of the year, some demented deadbeat with way too much time on his hands formed a “parody” Twitter account, which seemed fairly harmless (though annoying) at first before it quickly spiraled into cyber-bullying (which is more exasperating and emotionally draining than it sounds).
Next, there was the whole Periscope/PGA Tour credential fiasco, but I’m still thankful that the app was created and launched this spring. I’m very thankful for the outpouring of support I received throughout the year. As a result, I feel like I was able to turn lemons into lemonade, so to speak. I’m thankful for what turned out to be a valuable learning experience that also led to some rare adventures and cool, interesting opportunities.
Thank you to the friends, family, readers, colleagues, etc. for your patience, kindness, loyalty and support. I won’t even start to get into details because I’ll probably get a little too personal and gushy, which will likely make me emotional and start choking up, and then I wouldn’t be able to finish this post and that, my friends, would be an *utter* disaster! Enough about all that, though. I could probably write a book because there were so many memorable moments in golf this past year, but I’ll try to keep it to the top 10.
Here we go!
*Rory McIlroy’s epic club throw at Doral: McIlroy’s 3-iron took a dive, so to speak, on the par-5 8th during the second round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship. It was fine form. Oh, and who could forget Donald Trump getting a diver to retrieve the club and making a whole scene over returning it to McIlroy on the range prior to the final round.
*Jordan Spieth winning the Masters: The then 21-year-old Texan completed an impressive wire-to-wire victory at Augusta National and got a bit of redemption from letting the Green Jacket slip through his fingers in 2014. He clearly learned from that experience and got the job done this time. It was simply awesome, not to mention historic.
*Ernie at Wentworth: I had the chance for a few fun adventures across the pond to cover the European Tour, where I was permitted to use Periscope during the practice round days. I am thankful that I ran into Ernie Els at Wentworth in the early evening Tuesday the week of the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event. Ernie was in a particularly good mood and when I told him about Periscope, he thought it was the coolest thing and entertained those watching the live stream by answering questions, cracking jokes and even giving swing demonstrations.
*Robert Rock and Royal County Down: I’m thankful that I had the chance to cover the Irish Open at Royal County Down, one of the most spectacular courses I’ve ever seen (pictured at very top). I’m forever grateful to Robert Rock for his time and enthusiasm for starring in countless Periscopes, answering swing-related questions on the driving range and providing viewers with his insights on tackling the course in a practice round. (The YouTube videos below don’t do the Periscope experience justice since you can’t see the user-generated comments and questions.)
For more like these, go here.
*”Overrated” Rickie Fowler overcoming a four-man playoff at TPC Sawgrass: Early in the week at The Players Championship, Golf.com unveiled the results of its anonymous players survey. The question that received the most attention and made headlines was the one where they named the most overrated player on Tour. Fowler received the most votes. He was asked for his reaction and then he let his clubs do the talking. And who could forget the massive make-out sesh/celebration that he had with his girlfriend at the time, Alexis Randock?!?
*Zach Johnson’s caddie Damon Green doing the chicken dance: Johnson holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole of the tournament to shoot a six-under 66 in the final round and get to 15-under — which turned out to be the magic number for the playoff that he eventually won to capture his first Claret Jug.
*Jordan Spieth congratulating Zach Johnson at St Andrews: Spieth came up a shot short of keeping the Grand Slam dreams alive at The Open Championship. Though he was clearly disappointed, he didn’t storm off and slam his trunk immediately after he signed his scorecard. Instead, he stuck around to watch the playoff and was among the first to give Johnson a congratulatory hug afterwards. One word: Class. Oh, I almost forgot the best part. Johnson and Spieth flew back to the States together on a private plane, where Spieth got his hands on the Claret Jug for a few moments.
*Drama at the Solheim Cup: Suzann Pettersen injected controversy on Sunday after a call that was deemed unsportsmanlike. In one of the remaining four-ball matches in the morning, Alison Lee missed a 15-footer for birdie and then scooped up the foot-long putt, thinking she heard either Pettersen or Charley Hull say it was “good.” Pettersen disputed that the putt had been conceded, which resulted in the Americans losing the hole and going 1-down into the 18th. While Lee and Brittany Lincicome lost the match, the incident fired up the Americans and triggered a phenomenal comeback in singles to reclaim the Cup.
*Jason Day getting the major monkey off his back: Day had come oh-so close at capturing his first major championship oh-so many times, not to mention he had held at least a share of the 54-hole lead at the last three majors. It was starting to get to the point where it might become a stigma for the talented Australian. I’d seen Day lose a number of 54-hole leads at various tourneys in the past five years, but he had a different look in his eyes in the final round at Whistling Straits — one that said there was no way he was leaving Wisconsin without the Wanamaker Trophy. I know this is cliche, but it’s hard not to feel like winning one will open the floodgates for many more to come.
*Lydio Ko vs. Inbee Park: The two of them led a banner year for the LPGA’s incredible season. Park won five times and continued to rack up the majors (capturing two more titles in 2015), while also qualifying for the Hall of Fame — all before her 30th birthday. Meanwhile, Ko claimed five victories, along with the LPGA Player of the Year Award, her first major, and she also became the youngest world no. 1 in history. We can’t wait to see what these women have in store for an encore in 2016!
*The final round of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay: I saved the best for last! — that was the most memorable and thrilling day of an incredible 2015 in golf. Rory McIlroy made a late charge to get into the top 10; Louis Oosthuizen was in the hunt after opening with an atrocious 77 in the first round; Adam Scott also tried to make a late charge; Jason Day had collapsed in the second round yet was still battling and lurking on the leaderboard; the list goes on. But then, it came down to just Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth.
Playing in the penultimate group, Spieth double-bogeyed the par-3 17th, following a long birdie putt on the 16th. Naturally, he was fired up and he stepped up to the 18th tee and hit a perfect drive, but the most memorable shot was his second on the par-5 with his 5-wood. Though he admitted that he didn’t hit it where he wanted, it ended up perfectly, with the wind guiding it and holding it up before it stopped 15 feet from the hole with a putt for eagle. Spieth missed and thought he had lost the tournament, but it obviously wasn’t over yet. Johnson made a clutch birdie putt on the 17th and then hit two ridiculous shots to about 12 feet on the par-5 18th. His first putt — which was for the outright win — was super slippery on the much-criticized greens at Chambers Bay and he left himself with a dangerous four-footer. Johnson, who has thrown away a couple majors himself, looked like he rushed to putt it when he should have slowed down to regroup. He pulled it (though he contends it hit something on the shoddy greens) and missed the chance to go head-to-head with Spieth in an 18-hole playoff.
It was shocking. I was kneeling to the left of the green and I was speechless for a moment as I tried to process what had just happened. Finally, I turned to my friend next to me and asked him to confirm if Spieth had won. Yep. It was a weird, surreal couple of seconds, but it was also such an adrenaline-fueling finish. IMHO, it was the most riveting major of the year, thanks to the awesome leaderboard on Sunday, which saved the tournament and new venue. I am obviously a bit biased since I grew up about an hour from Chambers Bay, so I really wanted the U.S. Open to be a massive success, but it was under a lot of heat and looked like it was going to be a disaster between the crappy, dead greens and the unfriendly spectator experience, just to name a few issues. So, THANK YOU JORDAN (AND DUSTIN)!
THANK YOU for all the memories in 2015, but I suppose there are a few silly season events left, not to mention the Australian Open, where Jordan Spieth is trying to defend his title, is taking place this week.
Special thanks to Shoshana Agus-Kleinman for contributing to this post.
What are you thankful for in golf this year?