This is a guest post by Kevin Gannon, a freelance writer with a love for all things sports (especially golf).
With the New Year having finally arrived, golf fans will turn their attention toward a new campaign, even if the PGA’s official schedule follows a wrap-around format that connects the years. Most still judge players by how they perform in a given calendar year, and more specifically how they contend at that year’s four major tournaments. With this in mind, here are a few of the top storylines we’ll be keeping an eye on in 2015.
What Will Tiger Do?
This has been the question for a few years running now, and it’s actually a familiar trend in the greater sports world of late. We watched Derek Jeter come back from injury for a final season and saw him essentially acting as a shell of himself, despite a few magical moments; we’ve seen Roger Federer slowly decline and deal with injuries and then tease us with spectacular play that got him all the way to the world tour final championship, only to see him withdraw with injury concerns; and basketball fans have witnessed Kobe Bryant trying to defeat Father Time for several years.
At some point, we have to accept that even the greatest star athletes deal with age and injury, and maybe that’s just the reality with Tiger Woods. But then again, golf is friendlier to age than some sports, and Woods is relatively youthful at age 39. Furthermore, in an address to fans at the PGA website, Woods recently hinted he feels healthier than he has in a year and-a-half heading into 2015, though he called his back issues “downright debilitating.” Expectations are lower than usual for Tiger, but there’s always the chance he looks like something close to his old self in the year ahead.
Can Henrik Stenson Break Through?
Undoubtedly one of the greatest golfers on tour without a major championship to his name, Henrik Stenson had another strong 2014 that made fans wonder just when he’ll get his major breakthrough. A thorough analysis of win percentages at different stages posted in a 2015 preview at Betfair’s PGA page showed that he may be even more poised to break through than many already assume.
The analysis shows that Stenson is flat-out deadly (as much so as Rory McIlroy) when leading after two rounds. Stenson wins 47.1% of the time in this situation, and 52.6% when ahead after three. Given that he’s reached a level where he’s now in contention quite often, it stands to reason that this closing prowess will propel him to a major win sooner rather than later. Whether it will come in 2015 is anybody’s guess, but it’s certainly one story to keep an eye on.
Who Is Jordan Spieth?
To say we’re waiting on a major championship breakthrough would be somewhat unfair to Jordan Spieth at this point, as he’s still only 21. But when he followed up a rookie of the year season with a Masters runner-up finish in 2014 and a convincing Australian Open win, it’s fair to say that he’s become one of the most intriguing players to watch in the coming year. Reaching contention at the top can be done with great talent, and there’s no question Spieth has that.
However, staying at the top requires a discipline and competitiveness that we as fans can never be sure of a player having until said player shows it to us. The odds seem to favor Spieth sticking around as a major competitor for years to come. We’ll know more as 2015 progresses.
Is Rory McIlroy On The Verge Of History?
There’s no denying that golf has suffered without Tiger Woods dominating events and stalking across our TV screens in red on sundays. But really, the sport is lucky to have a new #1 player as gifted and promising as Rory McIlroy. As CBS Sports pointed out recently, McIlroy will enter 2015 looking to become only the sixth player in history to accomplish the Career Slam.
To do this, he’ll have to win The Masters. However, if he does accomplish the feat, he’ll not only be the sixth to do so, but the second-youngest—after Tiger Woods. If that’s not a dramatic setup to the year, try this on for size: Tiger has apparently told McIlroy he’s not letting him win the green jacket just yet.
If you’re interested in writing a golf guest post for Front9Back9 Golf Blog, please reach out to me via the contact page!