Punch Shot: Biggest surprise of the PGA Tour season

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With the 2014-15 PGA Tour campaign in the rear-view mirror, GolfChannel.com writers offer up their pick for biggest surprise of the season. Click here for their pick for best shot and click here for most memorable moment.

By REX HOGGARD

Say what you will about Tiger Woods’ recent struggles, his injuries, his inconsistent play, even his irrelevance in recent years, but his resume in 2015 was still the year’s biggest surprise.

The same player who just 12 months earlier was coming off a five-win PGA Tour season began his ’15 campaign with his worst performance in a non-major, a second-round 82 in Phoenix to miss the cut, and followed that with a surreal withdrawal at Torrey Pines citing a lingering back ailment.

That competitive valley was followed by a self-imposed hiatus from the Tour as he tried to regain his health, fix his short game and continue his swing change. When he did return, things weren’t much better.

After tying for 17th at the Masters, he missed the cut at Chambers Bay after a first-round 80, the Open Championship (76-75) and the PGA Championship (75-73), and he added the Wyndham Championship to his schedule in an 11th-hour attempt to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs that came up short.

Whatever momentum he gained from his tie for 10th at the Wyndham, where he began the final round tied for second place, was quickly lost with news that he’d undergone his second back surgery and won’t return until early next year.

Expectations with Tiger have always been unrealistic and maybe this is the new normal, but another lost season was still a surprise.


By RANDALL MELL

Jordan Spieth’s major championship dominance: Who would have predicted at year’s start that Spieth would win the Masters and U.S. Open and come one putt short of going to the PGA Championship with a chance to become the first player to win the modern Grand Slam? Or that at 22 he would also come so close to winning the year’s last major at Whistling Straits?

The run was nearly a historic stunner. He also moved to No. 1 in the world for the first time. We knew the young man had a tremendous upside, but nobody saw dominance like this coming, not this year.


By RYAN LAVNER

The July 4 fireworks had nothing on the shock wave that Rory McIlroy sent through the sports world. Two days after the holiday, and with the Open Championship only a week away, he revealed that he had suffered a serious injury to his left ankle during a soccer game with friends. It was the worst-timed kickabout in golf history.

The busted ankle kept him out of that week’s Scottish Open, but the bigger blow was that it cost him a spot in the Open at St. Andrews, an opportunity that arises only every five years. McIlroy was 26, in the prime of his career, and riding high off two recent titles. Who knows? He might not get a better shot at the home of golf.

Worse, he could have been the perfect foil to SpiethMania, as its protagonist headed to St. Andrews looking for his third consecutive major. Instead, McIlroy returned in time for the PGA, but was too rusty to contend. He didn’t factor in any of the three playoff events he played, either.

The lesson learned here?

“Don’t play football in the middle of the season,” he said.


By WILL GRAY

At age 51, most professional golfers are either teeing it up ceremonially or raking in the cash on the Champions Tour. They’re not playing week in and week out against players half their age, and they’re certainly not leaving with any hardware.

But that’s just what Davis Love III did at the Wyndham Championship, winning a shootout at Sedgefield Country Club that gave him his first victory in nearly seven years.

When Love earned win No. 20 back in 2008, it cemented his lifetime PGA Tour membership and seemed a fitting swan song for one of the most consistent players of the 1990s. But while many of his peers departed for the over-50 circuit, Love maintained a full slate of events against the game’s rising stars – even while juggling Ryder Cup captaincies.

That dedication was rewarded in Greensboro, where the former Tar Heel and two-time champ is a fan favorite every time he steps to the tee. While Tiger Woods was the biggest story of the week, Love was the player lifting the Sam Snead Cup, proving once again that in golf, age is just a number.