Welcome into Devil Ball Golf’s 18 for ’15, our 18-part preview of the coming year in golf. The series will conclude in 2015 on January 9, the first day of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the first PGA Tour event of the New Year.
In Part 1 of our series, we look at some players who could take their first major title in 2015.
A fresh slate of majors at mostly familiar places await us in 2015, with the Masters at its home, the Open Championship making its every-fifth-year rotation to the Old Course at St. Andrews and the PGA Championship returning to Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, site of Dustin Johnson’s bunker quagmire in 2010. The only new major championship site this year is for the U.S. Open, when Washington’s publicly accessible Chambers Bay hosts for the first time after a stunningly rapid rise to become one of the game’s biggest stages.
You’d think, then, that experience at these venues would pay off and it might be hard for first-timers to win majors in 2015. Bolstering how important experience might be this coming year is that 2014 was the first year without a first-time major winner since 2000. However, with four 20-something players, including three without major titles, in the Official World Golf Ranking top 10, the talent is there for some new blood to win at least one major in 2015.
Here are four names that we’re looking at for a major breakthrough in 2015:
Jordan Spieth: Spieth ended his 2014 with two very impressive wins. He ended a 21-year American drought in winning the Australian Open by six shots, then flew 9,000 miles to Florida and won the Hero World Challenge by a dominating 10 shots. The 21-year-old (who doesn’t turn 22 until July) also had a lead at the Masters on the first nine of the final round until Bubba Watson came storming in to win his second green jacket in three years. Spieth said in Australia he has a long way to go to win a major. That’s being modest. He can do it now, anywhere.
Jason Day: At 27, Day already has a remarkable record in the majors for a guy who’s never won one. He has five top-four finishes in majors and seven top 10s overall. His knack is in the U.S. Open, where he’s been in the top four in three of his four appearances. Closely behind that is the Masters, where he has a second- and third-place finish.
Rickie Fowler: Fowler did something in 2014 no player has ever done in golf history, finishing in the top five in all four majors without actually winning one of them. He was just the third player in major-championship history to finish in the top five in all four majors. Under the watchful eye of Butch Harmon, Fowler has fine-tuned his swing to become more reliable and repeatable in the most nerve-racking of situations. Hard not to like his game at Chambers Bay or St. Andrews.
Henrik Stenson: The Swede clearly bucks the trend we’ve set up with our first three names. At 38 years old, Stenson is not a young gun, but he hits the ball like he’s still in his 20s. Stenson seems to have found some comfort in the majors in his late 30s, sporting top-four finishes in half of his last eight major-championship starts. He’s knocking on the door like Lee Westwood did a few years ago. The only hang-up may be the mental game because he has all the physical tools to win a slew of majors if he can notch the first.