Newsmakers of 2014: Honorable mentions

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2014, 11:00 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:08 pm

As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.

Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.

Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.

Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.

With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.

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Pavin's season nearly ends after slow-play penalty

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 1:50 pm

Corey Pavin's season on the PGA Tour Champions nearly came to an end because of a slow-play penalty.

Penalties for pace are often discussed or threatened, but rarely doled out on either the PGA Tour or the over-50 circuit. But that changed Sunday during the final round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, where Pavin was told by a rules official after completing his round that he would receive a 1-stroke penalty for slow play.

The penalty was on the surface rather harmless, turning an even-par 72 into a 1-over 73 and dropping Pavin into a tie for 15th. But this was the first event of a three-tournament postseason for PGA Tour Champions players, and only the top 54 in points advanced to this week's Invesco QQQ Championship.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

Pavin, who has two top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season, barely held on at 53rd place after the penalty was enforced.

Slow-play discussions came up earlier this season surrounding Bernhard Langer at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, but Golf Channel analyst Lanny Wadkins expressed his surprise on the telecast that it was Pavin who got a shot added to his score.

"Of all the things to happen with all the times I have played - I can't even count the number of rounds - I never thought Corey Pavin was a slow player," Wadkins said. "All the guys we know are slow players have never been penalized out here. Where has this been for the last 15 years?"

The subject of the penalty also raised an eyebrow from Stephen Ames, who finished alongside Pavin in 15th place while Langer finished second behind Woody Austin:

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Azinger 'lobbied' to captain Ryder Cup team a second time

By Rex HoggardOctober 22, 2018, 1:47 pm

In 2008, Paul Azinger became the first U.S. Ryder Cup captain in nearly a decade to lead a team to victory, doing so at Valhalla with his innovative “pod” system and a player-driven approach to leadership.

In the wake of that victory there were many, including the vast majority of his players, who said Azinger deserved a second chance to captain, but at the time the 12-time PGA Tour winner appeared to be undecided and the PGA of America named Corey Pavin the 2010 captain.

On Monday, Azinger was named NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst starting next year and among many revelations during an extended interview on “Morning Drive” he explained how much he wanted a second chance to captain.

“I wanted to do it again, I lobbied to do it again after we won in ’08, but I think I waited a little too long and they had already made a decision,” Azinger said. “The excuse I got was that there are more captains than there are Ryder Cups and I thought that was fair, but then they asked [Tom] Watson to do it again shortly afterward and I was like, ‘What, huh?’”

Watson was named captain of the 2014 U.S. team, which lost by five points and led to the creation of the Ryder Cup task force, which adopted many of Azinger’s ideas including his use of four-player pods.

It’s even more curious that Azinger was never given a second chance considering that Davis Love III was also named a captain twice, first in 2012 and again in ’16.

“I didn’t do it again, I didn’t carry the flag to Europe in 2010, which is fine, and now I’m never going to get to do it again,” he said.

As for who may be named the next U.S. captain after another loss to the Europeans last month in France Azinger could only speculate. “Looks like Wisconsin [site of the 2020 matches at Whistling Straits] and Steve Stricker are going to be a perfect match,” he said.