For me, the lingering memory of golf’s 2015 edition will be Jason Day’s young son walking up behind his dad, unnoticed, and tapping him on the leg to get his attention. Day’s surprise at seeing his son melted quickly into joyful tears. I’ll leave my description of Sunday at that; you saw it all as it happened.
Day’s win at Whistling Straits was a wonderful final chapter of a superlative book. While readers’ hearts might be brimming with joy, they are also sad they have reached the end.
Jordan Spieth, one of the main characters in the book, drove the point home afterward when he spoke wistfully of the long wait for the sequel, which will hit the shelves in April of 2016.
Despite the “playoffs” and the attempt to redefine the the “season” as October to October, the golf year runs from the Masters to the PGA Championship. Or, alternatively, the Tournament of Champions in January until the PGA Championship. Take your pick, or come up with your own variation.
The playoffs are a nice diversion from football, as are the fall Tour events, and I will certainly follow both to some extent. However, it’s time for a break; there’s a reason people have said for ages, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
Of course, depending on your local climate, fall can be the best time of the year for playing yourself. The weather is cooler, dryer, and finishing a round on a Saturday just as the college football games kick off… well, I have a lot of fond memories of those Saturdays. The same for Sundays and the NFL; I remember rushing through the final hole of a Sunday morning round, so a member of the foursome could get a bet in before kickoff.
Or maybe your team doesn’t play until night, so you play in the afternoon, when game updates for other teams are passed by word of mouth among the clubhouse staff, the starter, players, marshals, the beverage cart girl.
No doubt, there is a touch of melancholy in the air right now, but it was one heck of a golf season. Think back a year and recall the mindset of the golf world. Jordan Spieth had lost much of the luster of his teenage win at the Deere and his close call at Augusta. He started showing sparks of what was to come near the end of 2014 when he had a good showing in Japan, won in Australia, and then won again at the Hero Challenge in Florida. That resurgence carried over into 2015, and we all know the rest of the story.
A year ago, Rory was untouchable. This year, he showed the world that he has reached the point where he can have a great year — and yet have it labeled “disappointing.” The injury was unfortunate; hopefully it will be only a minor footnote in McIlroy’s career. Who, though, would have thought Rory would win three times and fall to second in the world?
Don’t forget Rickie Fowler, who had a breakout year. From “overrated” to winning the second-strongest tournament of the year, with a nice Scottish Open win to top things off. Personally, I was never much impressed with his 2014 “four top fives in majors.” It was a nice rear view mirror accomplishment, sure, but I bet Rickie rates this season lightyears ahead of the last one.
As for Jason Day, the memories of Whistling Straits are fresh, but recall also that he won the Canadian Open, as well as the San Diego Open at Torrey Pines. And, oh yeah, he got a handle on the vertigo that had been interfering with his play the past couple of years.
It was a magical year. As good as Shane Ryan’s book about the 2014 season was, and as good as that year’s events were, I wonder if he wishes he had waited until 2015.
But this is not meant to be a Year in Review piece. It’s about the end of the golf year. The Fed Ex Cup tournaments offer up strong fields, but there is a touch of the Skins Game or the Shark Shootout about them. Or even, forgive me, a slight made-for-TV Big Break vibe. They offer big money and big OWGR points, but they are devoid of the meat and potatoes of golf, devoid of golf’s heart.
If you win the Phoenix Open, you are rounding into shape for Augusta. If you win the Byron Nelson or Memorial, you are peaking in time for the U.S. Open. If you win a Fed Ex event, you are peaking just in time for the Twelve Weeks of Christmas.
Also, I believe the Fed Ex tournaments are robbing Peter to pay Paul. Players continue playing a month longer — during football season — at the expense of playing more events early the following year. Again, a player wins the Hawaiian Open, or the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and you wonder if he made a breakthrough working on his game during the winter — and wonder about his chances at Augusta. There is preparation, building, a new beginning, spring. Now there is a winding down.
The fall events, to me, are more worthwhile, but they are primarily for the “unknowns” or journeymen or up-and-comers who are hoping to stake a claim for permanent residence on the PGA Tour. Or strike gold with a victory.
Then there is the Presidents Cup. I don’t even care about the Ryder Cup, so the Presidents Cup doesn’t make much of a blip on my radar. The only story for me is whether or not Sang Moon Bae will get to play.
It’s time to take a break. A break is healthy. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, remember. It will be fun to follow the Fed Ex events and then the fall events, but it’s golf in no man’s land. It’s not the golf of Arnie and Jack, or Hogan and Nelson, or Bobby Jones. And, odd as it might sound, it’s not even the golf of Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Either would trade all four of the Fed Ex events for last July’s British Open. (Unless they were looking at things strictly from a financial point-of-view, which reinforces the point that Fed Ex is a money grab.)
I’m not going anywhere. I’ll still post. But it’s time for college football and Tim Tebow, the SEC and the Big Ten, ESPN Gameday, the Cowboys and Seahawks and Packers, point spreads and falling leaves, Thanksgiving games, bowl games and real playoffs. Or, to put it in shorthand, the Twelve Weeks of Christmas.
Then real golf will return. Hawaiian winds. Black-and-white photos of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Drunks in Phoenix. Blimp shots of Torrey Pines. All taken in while knowing the azalea buds in Georgia are losing their patience.