The New Guard in Golf are skilled, respectful and gentlemen. 2015 is their year.
The new year marks the start of the 2015 golf season. For golfing enthusiasts, golf season never really ends. The wrap around season ensures professional golf never really takes a break. But, for everyone else, the 2015 golf season is just starting.
2014 was a turbulent year for professional golf. Some great players did not play due to injury; there was an unexpected winner of the FedEx Cup; an expected winner of the Race to Dubai; and the collapse of the US at the Ryder Cup!
2014 was a media treasure trove of events and 2015 will likely be the same.
In 2015, the old names of golf will slowly fade and the new names will take the reins as players to watch. The media will likely try to create an air of animosity between the old guard and the new guard, but fortunately it will not stick. The new faces of golf are gentlemen; skilled and respectful of those who came before them. But make no mistake; players like Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, and Jason Day are ready, willing and able to push Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk aside. 2015 will see the changing of the guard in professional golf.
Tiger Woods will be back on the professional tour. After missing most of 2014, Woods appears ready to compete at the elite level. He has plenty of game left, but it is really unclear if he is fully recovered, both physically and mentally. He might win a tournament in 2015, but it is unlikely he will be a major factor all season.
Graeme McDowell is playing great golf. At 35 years old, many might think he is passed his prime. I suggest he is playing the best golf of his career. In 2014 McDowell finished in the “Top 10”, 14 times in his 32 starts on the PGA and European Tours. He won 3 times at the Ryder Cup. He has the experience of being a Major Champion. And finally, he is a player who will not quit! Graeme McDowell will have a fantastic 2015 golfing season and I expect he will raise the Claret Jug over his head at The Old Course in July.
Rory McIlroy is an obvious choice. He is the best player in golf. He is young, focused and hungry to win. However, 2015 will be a turning point for young McIlroy. As the pressure mounts for him to challenge Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Majors, he will be faced with dividing his time between golf and having a life off the course. The pressure of always being “focused on golf” can be an anchor around a professional athlete. McIlroy is a great player and it will be interesting to see how he handles the weight of the golfing world on his shoulders!
All eyes are on also on Rickie Fowler. His performance in the 2014 Majors was historic. He joins Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to finish in the top five at all four majors in a single season. Since joining the ranks of professional golfers in 2009, Fowler has become a better golfer. In 2014, he ran to the edge of greatness, but could not take that last step. 2015 will see him continue his rise to greatness by winning the PGA Championship!
The rookies of the PGA and European Tours will be impact players in 2015. These are not young wide-eyed players amazed and overwhelmed by all aspects of professional golf. They, by all accounts, are seasoned players who are breaking into the big time. Players such as Nick Taylor, Tony Finau, and Matthew Fitzpatrick have already made a name for themselves in the professional ranks. These players may not vie for a Major Championship this year, but they will have an impact wherever they play.
The players to watch in 2015 are numerous. The usual suspects are obvious, but the rookies may surprise many viewers. The number of quality players worldwide is encouraging for the sport, but it does pose significant challenges for the golfing pundits to choose an outright winner. Gone are the days of one dominant player that is expected to win week in and week out. In 2015, the days of uncertainty within the professional golfing ranks has arrived! Who to watch is really anyone’s guess. How exciting is that!
The Grateful Golfer – Pundit Arena
Featured image by Marie-Lan Nguyen via Wikimedia Commons