Several candidates for midseason story of year


AVONDALE, La. – We’ve already motored past the midway point of the PGA Tour season – this is No. 24 in the 41-event slate – and no one is really quite sure what to make of it.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s midway,” Rickie Fowler said Wednesday at the Zurich Classic. “It feels like we’re just getting into it.”

Maybe so, but we’ve already experienced a year’s worth of oddities in this 2013-14 wraparound season:

• The FedEx Cup leader is a player who went eight years on Tour without a victory, then rattled off three wins in four months.

• There have been as many top-10 winners (two) as those outside the top 125.

• Players who trailed entering the final round have enjoyed more success than those who led (10 of 22).

• Only two countries have been represented in the winner’s circle: the U.S. and Australia.

• The most discussed player at the Masters was a guy who wasn’t even there.

Matt Kuchar has earned more money in the past four weeks ($2.35 million) than Arnold Palmer did during his entire playing career.

At this juncture, drawing conclusions is as difficult – and as foolish – as trying to pick a winner.

Maybe this is just one of those wacky, unpredictable years.

It’s possible, too, that the newfound parity is the result of the wraparound schedule, with the Tour’s middle class duking it out, for real, in the fall. Superstars Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia have combined to make only 16 starts this season. To Fowler’s point, some players really are just getting into it.

Zurich Classic: Articles, videos and photos

So far we’ve seen winners of all kinds – young and old, in-form and slumping, blowouts and white-knucklers. It’s the Tour’s new normal.

“With Tiger being hurt and not winning every other tournament, and Phil hasn’t played as well as he would like, it’s giving opportunities to the other guys to win,” Brendan Steele said. “That’s the difference between the top players and the next level. It’s so small that if they’re not on top of their game, you’re going to have new guys come in and win events.”

Said Patrick Reed, the 23-year-old who has won three times since August: “Whoever is playing the best that week has a chance of winning. It just seems like it brings everyone into play.”

Well, maybe not everyone. The usual suspects – Tiger, Phil, Rory and Adam – all have been shut out so far in 2014. An odd year, indeed.

Because we’re already halfway through the season, we asked a few players Wednesday for their Midseason Story of the Year.

For dimpleheads, there were plenty of reasonable options: Jimmy Walker winning three times, leading the FedEx Cup race and becoming a virtual lock for his first Ryder Cup team; Jordan Spieth backing up his incredible rookie season with a strong sophomore campaign; Bubba Watson slipping on a second green jacket.

Billy Horschel, though, as is his wont, offered a different answer.

“I know that we’ve had a lot of young guys win, so that’s a cool thing, but I just am always shocked when someone is injured because we do such a great job of taking care of our bodies,” he said.

“Some of these guys that are injured, they drive our sport, and we need them back out here soon because as much as we have the young guys and all these up-and-coming golfers playing so well, there’s a couple certain guys that we need to play well to help drive it a little bit more.”

Horschel needn’t identify the players by name. Woods is on the shelf indefinitely because of back surgery. Mickelson has had more injuries (two) than top 10s (zero). Reigning U.S. Open champion Justin Rose has battled shoulder tendinitis. Day, the world No. 5, won the Match Play and has made only one start since because of an achy thumb.

“Injuries,” Steele agreed, when asked his Midseason Story of the Year. “Sad as that is, because there’s been a lot of great golf and great stories, but that’s really the biggest thing. It’s too bad it can’t be a story that’s on the course.”

Of course, there’s still plenty of time – 17 events – for that storyline to change. This wild and unpredictable season will take shape, eventually.