When you sit in front of a computer looking back at the past year, it always seems a bit hazy.
It starts in Hawaii, moves to the West Coast, on to Florida, then to the Masters and then it’s already the middle of April. Time flies after that, with three majors in a short three-month span, the FedEx Cup playoffs, Ryder Cup and then the season is over.
I covered more than 20 events on the PGA, LPGA and European tours in 2014. I also added a regular-season college event, an NCAA regional and the U.S. Amateur.
Looking back, the year was interesting, to say the least.
I can remember Jordan Spieth doing his first interview of the year at Kapalua. He had won the John Deere Classic the year before, which got him into the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Spieth expressed his desire to play four rounds and finish off a golf tournament, and he almost did it that first week. He fell one shot short of Zach Johnson.
The former Texas Longhorn had a good 2014 PGA Tour campaign, despite never winning. He had his chances, specifically at the Masters.
Of course, when the Tour clock turned to 2015, Spieth turned the page as well with two victories: one in Australia over Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott and then back to the U.S. for a resounding victory at Tiger Woods’ event.
In looking ahead to the 2016 Ryder Cup, many in Europe asked where the U.S. youngsters were. Spieth at least has provided some of the answer. He has a very bright 2015 ahead of him, even though he won’t be in Hawaii.
• • •
Jimmy Walker winning early and seemingly dominating the West Coast was the story in the early part of the season.
Bubba Watson’s Northern Trust Open win at Riviera was special, and then Patrick Reed’s victories in the desert at Humana and at Doral for the WGC-Cadillac Championship put Reed on the map.
I never had a problem with his comments about being a “top 5” player. I think we now know that’s who Patrick Reed is, and as he showed at Gleneagles, he can pretty much back it up.
For me, the Florida Swing was about Matt Every. While not quite a journeyman, Every seems, at times, like one of the forgotten on the PGA Tour.
The former Florida Gator’s first claim to fame on the PGA Tour was from a 2010 suspension, but Every was always more than that. He was a solid player, and like many, just needed a little luck to break out.
Every played well at Bay Hill, and he was a funny and interesting interview – no filter, just refreshing candor.
Watching him sit up on the stage with Arnold Palmer after Every’s first victory on Tour, talking about that win was what I remember most leading up to the Masters.
Majors are always big, and for many, the Masters is the biggest of them all.
Unfortunately, I never get to see much of the final round. Instead, I spend my time talking with players about what happened to them on Sunday, and then all of a sudden it’s over.
Watson’s win was not a surprise. If there was a golf course built for the long left-hander, Augusta National was it.
What was interesting was the fact that the man from Bagdad, Fla., had won twice on the PGA Tour in two months, and the way he was playing, it seemed he would earn a trip to the Hall of Fame if he kept it up.
As it turned out, he slowed a bit, but had a nice start to the 2015 season in China. Like Spieth, Watson appears to have a limitless future, especially at Augusta.
• • •
At the beginning of the year, Patrick Rodgers was just a name to me, and not a very important one. Because I mostly cover the PGA Tour, I’ve never paid much attention to what’s happening in college golf.
Covering the NCAA regional in Eugene, Ore., was a bit of a culture shock.
It was not the PGA Tour, but at the same time it was the PGA Tour. The players were very accessible, and so were the coaches. I got a lot of time with Rodgers, and met his dad and coach.
I also walked 20 or so holes with a player who clearly has the talent to play at the next level. Again, when the Europeans ask about our young guys, Rodgers could be one of that new breed.
I got the magazine’s cover story that week, which was a first for me, but I didn’t get the cover photo. My photo was used inside. One for two isn’t bad.
Of course, because I was all the way on the West Coast, I needed to make a stop at Bandon Dunes.
Most of my colleagues who cover the Tour know that Bandon is one of my favorite places in the world to play. With four great courses and a 13-hole par-3 track, Bandon cannot be topped.
In mid-May, the weather was terrific, and the courses, as usual, were in excellent shape. I also was there for the opening of the Punch Bowl, the massive putting course that Mike Keiser added.
It likely will be the last course at Bandon proper, but as with everything at the resort, it fits very nicely.
• • •
For Phil Mickelson, 2014 was more about what happened off the golf course than on it. Right before the Memorial, a news report linked Mickelson to an insider-trading investigation that included investor Carl Icahn.
I was one of the journalists who got to hear Mickelson explain what he knew about the situation and his involvement in the investigation. Mickelson was great. The interview never got heated, and Lefty was as forthcoming as a monk, but it was fun.
Unfortunately, Tour officials, at times, don’t handle controversy well, and that Thursday afternoon was yet another example.
It was nothing big, but it happens from time to time, and of course I’m usually in the middle of it.
• • •
The U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open played back-to-back at Pinehurst amounted to a huge success, and none of the predicted problems came to pass.
There were two things that I will take away from those two weeks, and both happened on Sunday of the U.S. Open.
The first was when Michelle Wie came to Pinehurst for the final round. Just like a spectator, Wie watched the leaders come to the flash area while also taking pictures and signing autographs for fans.
Just a week later, she would go on to win her first major.
The second was an interview with Johnny Miller. It wasn’t my idea, but my editor, Jeff Babineau, came up with it.
So along with David Dusek, who was armed with a GoPro camera, we waited for Miller to come out of the tower at 18.
It took an hour of waiting, but Miller was great, and the finished product was worth the time.
• • •
Tom Watson had been named the Ryder Cup captain more than a year ago. I’d seen him at different times during the year, but my most memorable moment was on the Saturday before the Open Championship, at Gleneagles.
I was invited to play a practice round with Keegan Bradley, PGA president Ted Bishop and Watson.
While standing over my shot on the first tee, Watson asked whether I was nervous, obviously just to make me nervous.
I said that no, I wasn’t, and then blistered a drive down the right side of the fairway and past the fairway bunker. It was the beginning of a solid round, punctuated with a 10-pound note from Bishop.
Afterward, it was time for lunch with the four of them, plus Kerry Haigh, chief championships officer of the PGA of America. Bradley had to leave early, but afterward we sat around for two hours, talking Ryder Cup.
Of course in the end, the Ryder Cup result was not what Watson had hoped for, but that day will be one of the most memorable of my career.
Rory McIlroy dominated the second half of the 2014 season. In fact, the Northern Irishman’s run was Tiger-esque.
Even with the odd finish in the dark at the PGA Championship, McIlroy clearly was the hottest golfer of 2014.
The Ryder Cup also dominated the remainder of the season. Even with the FedEx Cup in full swing, most post-round interviews included questions about the Ryder Cup.
Much was made of the selection of the captain’s picks, and then what happened at Gleneagles was not exactly the U.S. blueprint.
Failure in foursomes, public discontent by Mickelson and a task force is the short version of the aftermath of Gleneagles.
The fissions of what happened in Scotland are still being felt going into the 2015 calendar year.
So that’s it, a very short version of the 2014 season, from my viewpoint. Now I’m looking ahead to next year, and as usual, the Masters is at the top of my list.