PGA Winners and Losers for 2015
By Paul Laubach
With the completion of the Tour Championship, the official 2014-15 PGA season has come to a satisfying conclusion. Jordan Spieth, who “lapped the field” in accruing FedEx points during the regular season was the popular winner, despite two missed cuts during the four playoff events. Jason Day and Ricky Fowler added their names, along with Rory McIlroy, to the growing list of great young players that look to give the thirtysomethings a run for their money. It looks like 2016 could be even better. Here are the winners and losers from this year.
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With the completion of the Tour Championship, the official 2014-15 PGA season has come to a satisfying conclusion.
Jordan Spieth, who “lapped the field” in accruing FedEx points during the regular season was the popular winner, despite two missed cuts during the four playoff events. Jason Day and Ricky Fowler added their names, along with Rory McIlroy, to the growing list of great young players that look to give the thirtysomethings a run for their money. It looks like 2016 could be even better. Here are the winners and losers from this year:
The Perfect Shot
Jordan Spieth put an exclamation point on the most amazing year since Tiger Woods took the tour by storm. This 22 year old showed incredible poise, mental toughness and resiliency as he earned over $22,000,000. (His caddie, Michael Greller earned over $2,000,000, which would have placed him 39th on the tour money list.) Two majors and three other wins would be a great career for most golfers.
Jordan does not have the impressive tee to green game of Day or McIlroy, but constantly delivered in the clutch, like the dagger than ended Henrik Stenson’s dream of another FedEx Cup link. His amazing personal appeal is expected to push his endorsement income beyond Tiger Woods, making him the highest paid golfer. I have no idea how he can duplicate 2015.
Jason Day got the monkey of his back by winning a major championship, in addition to four other events. No one was hotter at the end of the season than the Aussie, who finished top 12 in his final 10 events, with four wins. With his FedEx bonus, Day earned nearly $12,000,000 for the year. This despite dropping a cool $1,000,000 when Henrik Stenson dropped the bomb on 18 at the Tour Championship. (More on this later).
Ricky Fowler was identified early in the year as the most overrated golfer on tour (tied with Ian Poulter). To prove them wrong, Ricky went out and won the Players Championship, with one of the most amazing comebacks ever. Additional wins at the Scottish Open and The Deutsche Bank Championship, vaulted the popular young player to Number 5 in the world…I think he is rated just about right. The jury is still out, but no one will be surprised if he challenges the big 3 (Spieth, Day and McIlroy) for supremacy next year.
Zach Johnson picked up another major when he won the British Open. I cannot figure out how he hangs with the young guns, but his name seems to pop up on the leaderboard every week. He is easily one of the mentally toughest players on tour.
The PGA Tour has found their replacement for Tiger Woods.
Notably, the highly popular, well-spoken Jordan Spieth should help build interest in the sport. The equally popular Ricky Fowler is finally delivering on his promise. Jason Day and Rory McIlroy are not only great players, but each of these foreigners seem to be great guys for whom we all can root. Rising stars such as Robert Streb, Kevin Kisner, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau and Justin Thomas, amongst others, could also challenge next season. For now, the future of the PGA looks very bright.
Rory McIlroy is probably still the most talented golfer on the planet. In his 12 PGA starts he had two wins and seven top 10’s, and is now ranked third in the world. However, what type of idiot sprains his ankle playing soccer in the middle of the season. This caused him to miss the British Open, where he would have been a prohibitive favorite, as well as being out of shape for the PGA Championship. I hope the rise of Spieth, Day and Fowler will incentivize Rory to take his game to the next level.
Dustin Johnson has too much talent to keep floundering around. Eleven top 10s in 21 starts is great, but I need to see him “finish”. The collapse at the U.S. Open is a recurring theme for the “best player never to win a major”. I always pick Dustin in my pools, but am getting frustrated. I expect to see more out of him in 2016, but then I expected more this year.
Tiger Woods saw his golf season begin with chipping woes, followed by uninspired putting and poor driving. Only one top ten in his eleven events, and a world ranking of 299 are testimony to how far things have fallen. The swagger is gone as the injury prone former superstar fell off the radar in 2015…except to the adoring media. I saw nothing to indicate that 2016 will not be more of the same. The chase for Nicklaus’ “major” record now appears to be a distant memory. It would be great to see Tiger at his best playing against the young stars.
The Long Putter guys were dominant several years ago. Now that these “tools” are being banned the players are having issues. Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson all seemed to have subpar years. I like each of these guys and hope they can find a stroke that can bring them back into contention.
The established stars are going to have to step up. Justin Rose still seems relevant, Zach Johnson won a major, Louis Oosthuizen had a solid year and Henrik Stenson spent a lot of time on the leaderboard, however, other players such as Kuchar, Snedeker, Dufner, Haas, Poulter, Westwood, Schwartzel and Donald may have seen their best days.
The Million Dollar Putt
Speaking of Stenson, check out the crazy putt he made at 18 in the Tour Championship. He seemed so demoralized by Spieth’s putting prowess and the shank at 17 that I think he was just lagging the ball in the hopes of getting out of there. His reaction upon sinking the putt suggests he was not aware that he had just earned additional $1.3MM with his tie for 2nd.
President’s Cup starts next week. The U.S. is heavily favored, but I expect things to be much closer.
I would love to see Spieth and Day head-to-head in the final match, with the trophy on the line. This will probably not happen, but I can dream.
Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his thoughts. He has recently released Confessions of a Golfaholic: A Guide to Playing America’s Top 100 Public Golf Courses; now available in hardcover, kindle and Nook editions. Please visit tophundredgolf.com regularly for more (im)practical information.