They really saved the best for last, didn’t they? Following a couple majors that were over, for all intents and purposes, by Saturday, some heavyweights of the golf world gave us the best tournament of the year, one that we’re sure to remember for decades.
In these optimistic parts, we hope that was only the beginning. Sure, the 2013-14 season is not yet over – some noise will be made in the FedExCup playoffs and Ryder Cup – but we’re already giddy with the possibilities that could make the 2015 majors season the greatest of all time. If only these few things were to happen …
2015 Masters – Augusta National
Coming off the Open Championship, the PGA Championship, the FedExCup title, the Race to Dubai title, an undefeated record in leading the Europeans to Ryder Cup victory, and every single player of the year award imaginable, they hype machine is hyperventilating as Rory McIlroy arrives at the Masters. It’s the only major he has yet to claim, and his only top-10 result at Augusta was one of the back-door top-10s he was so good at attaining early in 2014 (playing well late after starting poorly).
You may remember he held a four-shot lead entering Sunday in 2011, and then bombed for an 80. So really, he’s been one bad round away from contending twice, and he’s never been as confident as he is after 2014. Instead of gallivanting across the globe watching tennis tournaments and spending New Year’s Day in some exotic location, McIlroy hunkers down at his old pad in Northern Ireland, where he built a golf course to replicate some of the conditions at Augusta.
Thus, the tournament is never really in question. McIlroy sets a new course record of 62 on Thursday, then goes on to obliterate the tournament scoring record. At 25 years old, he becomes the second youngest golfer to win each of golf’s four majors, after Tiger Woods accomplished the feat at 24 in 2000. The Augusta members aren’t thrilled when they see McIlroy spill Jagermeister on his green jacket while celebrating with car bombs out of his claret jug, but what can they do?
2015 U.S. Open – Chambers Bay
McIlroy can really do no wrong at this point, so the odds makers have him down as the 2/1 favorite to complete the Rory Slam – holding all four majors at once. And sure enough, he scorches the links course on Puget Sound in Washington, going 10-under through two rounds.
But as is common in the Pacific Northwest, it starts to rain considerably. On the weekend, McIlroy’s drives are running only 300 yards long (instead of 320) and the man who nearly caught him on a rain-soaked Sunday at the 2014 PGA Championship is creeping once again. Phil Mickelson loves the rain, as evidenced by this quote prior to the 2014 U.S. Open: “If it rains, I have really good action there. I’ll probably end up winning my first Open. And if it doesn’t, I might have to wait until Chambers Bay next year.”
It didn’t rain, and Mickelson tied for 28th. But his premonition comes to fruition at Chambers Bay, as he posts a third-round 64 to trail McIlroy by two going into Sunday. The course is still soggy when Mickelson and McIlroy tee off in the final group. At stake is the Rory Slam vs. Phil’s career grand slam.
An unimaginable seventh U.S. Open runner-up finish seems inevitable when Mickelson pulls a Mickelson and finds the only tree on the entire course by crushing a 9-iron on the 139-yard par-3 15th. He hadn’t out-drove McIlroy all day, so he figured this was his chance. Mickelson makes bogey on the hole and drops three strokes back of McIlroy with three left to play.
Yet, after Bones, Mickelson’s caddie, slaps Phil in the face on the way to the 16th tee, Mickelson wakes up and birdies the next two holes. McIlroy bogeyed 17, so they’re tied on 18, a par 5. Twitter is exploding with excitement. Rickie Fowler and Graeme McDowell, playing in the group ahead, stand off to the side of the green to watch their pals finish this final hole. FOX is breaking all kinds of viewership records with its first golf broadcast ever.
Feeling the pressure, McIlroy goes for the green in two, but comes up short in a bunker. Mickelson surprisingly plays it safe, and sticks his third-shot approach five feet from the pin. McIlroy gets out of the sand trap, but has 20 feet for birdie. He misses right, settling for par. It’s all on Phil. Drenched, exhausted and nervous, Mickelson stands over his putt, draws back the putter, and sneaks in the putt. He jumps three inches in the air before Bones tackles him.
2015 Open Championship – St. Andrews
With the U.S. Open being hailed as the tournament of the century – yes, not even two decades in – people almost seem to forget that the upcoming Open Championship is returning to the home of golf. Tiger Woods didn’t forget, however. It’s his favorite course in the world, and to avoid the incessant talk of Mickelson and McIlroy in the States, Woods moves to Scotland for the month of July.
Despite still being hampered by occasional back issues, Woods shows signs of progress early in 2014, but remains a non-factor at majors. He failed to get inside the top 25 at either the Masters or U.S. Open, but he made the cut. So he plays the Old Course at St. Andrews every day for nearly two weeks before the rest of his competitors arrive.
Woods is paired with, of course, McIlroy and Mickelson for Thursday and Friday, and in a stunning turn of events, he smokes both of them. Golf being the cruel game that it is, McIlroy finally finds it challenging again. And after finally winning the U.S. Open, Mickelson spends more time in media appearances with that trophy than with his golf clubs. Mickelson misses the cut and McIlroy sneaks in on the number.
Woods, meanwhile, is three shots off Rickie Fowler’s lead entering Sunday. Tiger is playing with Sergio Garcia, who’s still looking for his first major, while Fowler is playing with Lee Westwood, both of whom are still looking for their first major. Tiger twirls his clubs all day long and shows no signs of back pain. He posts a final-round 64.
Fowler and Westwood can tie Tiger with birdies on the 72nd hole, but Fowler is distracted when Westwood starts crying. The Englishman snap-hooked his drive out of bounds, quickly realizing there went his best chance to ever win a major, let alone The Open. So when Fowler’s 38-foot birdie attempt stops short, Woods cries tears of joy after winning his 15th major, and his third at St. Andrews.
2015 PGA Championship – Whistling Straits
Woods is so relieved after ending his six-year major drought that he’s starts playing like the Tiger of the 2000s. He jumps out to a two-shot lead at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, followed by McIlroy, who decided he needed to cut back on the partying, and Fowler, who’s so uptight after seven consecutive top-five finishes at majors that he stopped responding to Red Bull’s requests to film him sky diving.
Woods still holds the lead entering Sunday, when he’s joined in the final group by McIlroy. The hyperbole goes into overdrive. The general consensus: If Tiger wins his 16th major, he’ll easily surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18, but if Rory can claim his sixth by the age of 26 – and beat Tiger in the process – Tiger’s major days are done and it’s only a matter of time before McIlroy passes them both.
That’s all for naught when Fowler cards a final-round 66 as Woods and McIlroy post 71s – they struggle with all the distractions that come with playing together in the final round of a major. That gives Fowler a two-shot victory for his first career major. He celebrates by taking the Wanamaker Trophy sky diving, and using the lid as his helmet.
The voting for 2015 PGA Tour Player of the Year is the closest it’s ever been. Yet in the end, the two career grand slams and 15th career major were deemed inferior to the first time a player ever recorded eight consecutive top-five finishes at majors. Jack had never done it; neither had Tiger. With three runners-up and a PGA Championship in the 2015 majors, Rickie Fowler is your player of the year – a season in which McIlroy, Mickelson and Woods also won majors.
What an incredible year. We can always dream.
Related Link: What If Rory & Caroline Didn’t Break Up?
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