Editor’s note: This is part one of a four part series previewing the 2015 PGA Championship by Matt Craig and Torey Fox. Torey will be on-site at Whistling Straights for the week and Matt as always will be glued to his TV.
Day 1: The 2015 PGA Championship is the most important major in years
Allow me to set Sunday’s scene. A major sporting event was taking place in Akron, Ohio that didn’t involve Lebron James. Forty-eight of the top fifty golfers in the world were competing on a course that is so manicured and gorgeous, it rivals a certain course in Augusta, Georgia. The setting was nearly perfect, and yet something was missing.
To be honest, the casual sports fan doesn’t care too much about the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. To you all, you really only care about golf four weekends per year during the major championships. I don’t blame you, I don’t start watching baseball until the World Series, and that doesn’t make me a bad person.
But WGC (World Golf Championship) tournaments are some of the most important tournaments of the year, and really serve as the “majors” for the nerds and fanatics who watch the PGA Tour every week. More money, better players, nicer courses. Only we (yes I am one of them) can appreciate the potbellies of Shane Lowry and Steven Bowditch in the second to last grouping on a Sunday. But this particular WGC is important because it comes one week before the final major of the year, the PGA Championship, and was a high stakes tournament on a major championship-caliber course.
In the past few years, golf fans have become all too familiar with watching tournament that didn’t involve the greatest player that ever lived (yeah I said it), Tiger Woods. But he was never far from the conversation. Whether it was injury (after injury after injury), controversy, the yips, or any other excuse he came up with, Tiger always had a reason why he wasn’t playing, and more importantly winning, and we always believed him.
Golf fans were just as excited to see him struggle and fail, as they were to see him dominate and be untouchable. “Did you see Tiger this week? He looked TERRIBLE!” made for great conversation. This week however marked something different. The tournament was one that Tiger had won EIGHT times, and not just won but dominated, and a place that gave us one of my favorite Tiger Woods moments of all time.
As Jim Nance says in the video, “No, you can’t do that! I don’t believe it.”
But this week Tiger wasn’t just gone, he was forgotten. He wasn’t in the tournament, but now because he didn’t qualify, his world ranking wasn’t high enough, simply not good enough. And in watching the TV coverage of all four days, I don’t think I heard his name mentioned one time. That’s the ultimate death of Tiger Woods, not through ridicule but rather total obscurity.
That’s the ultimate death of Tiger Woods, not through ridicule but rather total obscurity.
Whether he wins again or not, the “Tiger Woods Era” is over. He will never be the top dog, #1 player in the world again. And no matter how he chooses to fade into the night, and I’m expecting a train wreck on replay over and over similar to what the NBA world is seeing with Kobe Bryant, he’s on his way out.
This leaves a huge void in the golf world. Golf is a sport that needs a superstar, and more importantly it needs a lightning rod that is so compelling to watch that it makes any time he is between the ropes must-watch television. That being said, dominating in golf is probably one of the hardest things to do in the sports world. The competition is stiff, the courses are unforgiving, and the game in inconsistent, not to mention the measure of luck it takes.
The obvious choice at the moment is the twenty-two year old Jordan Spieth, the owner of the year’s first two major championships and someone who seems like he hasn’t finished outside of the top ten since his hairline started receding. Despite his white-washed public profile, Spieth is impossible to cheer against. Everyone loves him because there’s literally nothing that can be said against the guy. He’s hardly the controversial figure that Woods was in the late 90’s, but there is a drama in his game that stems from the magic of his shots and the serenity of his demeanor.
Spieth was in a position this week where if he won the tournament, he would move to #1 in the world and the coronation could really begin. However, the man who sits there now? Rory McIlroy, a man who when he is playing his best golf is practically unbeatable, and who is known worldwide by his first name. After dominating last summer with two majors and a WGC title, he won twice this year early before injuring his ankle a week before The (British) Open playing futbol with his friends.
In the days leading up to this week’s tournament, Spieth was asked in every interview about his chance to take over number one. In the most passive aggressive and indirect way possible, Rory would respond almost on queue. These are subtweets that your ex-girlfriend would be proud of.
“Jordan, how do you feel about your opportunity to become the number one player in the world with a win this week?”
“Jordan, does it add pressure knowing a win this week could move you to number one?”
By the way, the noise that he makes with his driver, that’s barely human. As Spieth climbed up the leaderboard on Friday, Rory appropriately stole headlines by announcing that he would be playing in the PGA Championship. The stakes were raised through the roof.
The truth is, there’s an “era” tag up for grabs at this week’s PGA Championship, a title that hasn’t been up for grabs since Tiger said “Hello World” in 1996. Tiger will be playing, but don’t expect him to make any noise when the weekend rolls around. Though close to two hundred people will be teeing it up on Thursday, the tournament comes down to two men, looking to become something more than that.
In a stroke of genius by the PGA, McIlroy and Spieth were paired in the same grouping for the first two days of competition. Hopefully with a stroke of luck and by a couple of strokes of each of their putters, they will be paired together late on Sunday as well.
I’ll get into more details about the course and conditions for the tournament in my next piece, and look at who has a really good chance to win it, but for the sake of golf I really hope we get our dream matchup.
Oh, and FREAKIN GO JORDAN SPIETH!!! This is not a week for me to repress my crazy fandom. Who’s side are you on? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @MrMattCraig I could talk golf all day!
By Matt Craig
As always post comments, thoughts below!