By Paul Gueorgieff
Editor, Golfer Pacific NZ
The year is nearly done. And for the sport of golf, another memorable one.
A barometer of the year is the sport’s four majors — the Masters, the US Open, The Open Championship and the US PGA Championship.
The first two majors, the Masters and the US Open, were both won by the same person. That was Jordan Spieth who rightfully was being hailed as golf’s new star.
In the Masters, at Augusta National, he led from start to finish and scored a record-equalling total of 270, or 18 under par. His nearest rivals were four strokes in arrears and all this was achieved at the age of 21. That made Spieth the second-youngest winner of the tournament at 21 years and eight months. The youngest winner is Tiger Woods who was 21 years and three months when he won in 1997 and when he also scored 18 under par.
The Masters is held in April and Spieth confirmed his star status when taking out the US Open in June. Once again it was his age that was a talking point. He became the youngest to win the Masters and the US Open in the same year. The previous youngest, once again, had been Tiger Woods who was 26 when he won both events in 2002.
Spieth was not the dominant force in the US Open as he was in the Masters. Dustin Johnson took most of the early headlines, being the leader after the first round and an equal leader after the third round. Even at the last of the 72 holes Johnson looked the winner.
Johnson had a 12-foot putt for victory on the last green but missed. But he also missed the putt coming back and ended up with a three-putt to finish in a tie for second. It was heartbreak for Johnson who avoided the news media tent afterwards.
The US Open was played for the first time at Chambers Bay in Washington. This was a relatively new course and the course’s greens came in for much criticism by many of the players. The greens were very fast but also very unpredictable. The greens certainly did not help Johnson’s cause on the last hole.
Johnson was back in the headlines for the year’s third major, The Open Championship. This event is golf’s most historic and the fact that this year’s event was being held at St Andrews (considered the home of golf), in Scotland, the anticipation was heightened.
Johnson was the leader after each of the first two rounds. Commentators were saying the tournament was his for the taking because of his prodigious length off the tee which carried him beyond the treacherous pot bunkers on the fairways.
But the tournament was beset with bad weather and Johnson was amongst many to succumb to the rain and high winds. The weather delays resulted in a Monday finish, the first time for 27 years.
At the end of the 72 regulation holes there was a three-way tie for the lead between Zach Johnson (USA), Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa) and Marc Leishman (Australia).
They went out to play four holes to decide the winner and it was Johnson who prevailed by one shot over Oosthuizen. Leishman was two shots further back. It was Johnson’s second win a major following his victory in the 2007 Masters.
From a New Zealand point of view, the story of The Open was the performance of Ryan Fox. The Kiwi golfer went through a qualifying series to gain a start and ended up finishing 49th – equal with Dustin Johnson — and a cheque of $US29,000.
The final major, the US PGA Championship held in August, was staged at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin and no one would have begrudged the winner, Jason Day.
He had collapsed on his final hole in the US Open at Chambers Bay after suffering a bout of vertigo and missed the three-way play-off in The Open at St Andrews by one shot. In the US PGA Championship he had taken the lead after the third round which he maintained to win with a score of 20 under par, a record for any major.
Another great year, indeed.