You know it’s been a big year in golf if these stories were left on the cutting-room floor.
There was the man at the center of the year’s biggest tournament, the best major of the season and the man who left the field in his dust at Pinehurst – and that’s just some on our list of near-misses.
Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers ranked the top 10 Newsmakers of 2014. The list will be revealed, one by one, day by day, beginning Thursday. For now, let’s take a look at the honorable mentions from this year:
Tom Watson: Watson was hand-picked to return the U.S. side to glory at the Ryder Cup, but instead he piloted the team into the ground. Watson’s pedigree couldn’t overcome his lack of rapport with the top American players. His captain’s picks drew immediate scrutiny and things only got worse from there. He failed to adjust once the team landed at Gleneagles, and then watched as the final news conference turned into a finger-pointing session between he and Phil Mickelson. Watson is still the last American captain to win on European soil, but that triumph at The Belfry 21 years ago will now be largely overshadowed by the chaotic loss under his watch in Scotland this year.
Martin Kaymer: The German hadn’t done much to stand out since winning the 2010 PGA Championship and clinching the Ryder Cup in 2012, but Kaymer had a summer to remember. He won wire-to-wire at The Players Championship, opening with a 63 and holding on for victory after holing a dramatic par putt on the 17th green. That proved to be just an appetizer, though, as Kaymer cruised to another wire-to-wire victory at Pinehurst No. 2, winning the U.S. Open by eight shots.
PGA Championship: After three consecutive majors that lacked drama in the final hours, the PGA Championship more than made up for any shortfall. The week began with an eye on the parking lot to see if Tiger Woods would tee it up. He did, but missed the cut. That’s when the tournament really took off as Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson squared off in an epic final-round duel that pushed the limits of daylight. Following a rain delay, the last groups finished at Valhalla in darkness as Mickelson and Fowler allowed McIlroy to hit up on the 72nd hole. That gave them a front-row seat as McIlroy held on for a one-shot win to clinch his second straight major title.
Phil Mickelson: He remains one of the game’s most popular players, but 2014 was a year to forget. Lefty missed out on his first crack at the career Grand Slam at Pinehurst and went 0-for-the-year for the first time since 2003. His mid-tournament withdrawals (three) outnumbered his worldwide top-10 finishes (two). While his game didn’t do much talking, Mickelson made waves elsewhere: He was, and then wasn’t the subject of an insider-trade probe; he criticized the FedEx Cup playoff format; and he openly challenged captain Tom Watson following the disastrous U.S. Ryder Cup effort at Gleneagles.
Rickie Fowler: It’s hard to make a Newsmakers list without winning a tournament, but Fowler nearly pulled it off after a season of high-profile near-misses. Fowler joined Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to notch top-five finishes in each of the four majors in the same calendar year (though Woods and Nicklaus both won in their campaigns). Fowler, under the guide of coach Butch Harmon, followed his T-5 finish at the Masters with two straight runner-ups and a T-3 showing at the PGA Championship. After beginning the year outside the OWGR top 50, Fowler cracked the top 10 by season’s end. Not a bad run for a guy who hasn’t touched a trophy since 2012.
Jordan Spieth: Spieth’s start to 2014 was surpassed only by his finish. The 21-year-old quickly put to bed any questions of a sophomore slump, with a runner-up finish at the Masters followed by another close call at The Players Championship, where he played his first 58 holes without a bogey. After a sluggish summer, Spieth closed with an impressive cross-continental double: first capturing the Australian Open by six shots for his second professional win, then adding a 10-shot romp at the Hero World Challenge in Florida the next week.