While arguments over “Who is Number One?” are the lifeblood of sports talk, golf is seldom privy to such discussions. Tiger Woods ruled the sport for 15 years with scarcely a murmur of protest from the greatest golfers in the world. Even as today’s golf landscape adjusts to the possibility of a “Big Three,” the main combatants are seldom in each other’s shadow. Rory McIlroy made an effortless transition to World Number One, but just as he was set to deal with his first challenge from Jordan Spieth, a bad step on the soccer pitch undid his 2015 campaign.
So Spieth assumed the mantle of World Number One. But when Jason Day became the hottest golfer on the planet, Spieth offered up little resistance with a pair of missed cuts in the FedEx Cup playoffs and tumbled to the second spot in the rankings. With the season finale on tap at the Coca Cola Tour Championship, it seemed as if a good old-fashioned brouhaha was on offer to determine who the current king of golf is.
And then Jordan Spieth’s putter got hot, and kept getting hotter. Spieth clawed into the lead on Saturday and held on to put the finishing touches on his fifth title of the year (the most by a golfer so young since 1929). Between his regular PGA Tour winnings and the $10 million bonus for the FedEx Cup, Spieth pocketed a million dollars in 2015 for each year he has been on the planet – 22. Once again golf carries on without a controversy as to the world’s top player.
Worried Looks at PGA Headquarters
For years, the PGA Tour has wrestled with a way to finish off the golf year with a bang loud enough to gain the attention of football fans for at least a fleeting moment. The FedEx Cup with its oodles of prize money has been the solution for the past decade, but the format has seldom produced much drama and, most dispiritingly to the PGA Tour, rarely crowns the year’s best player.
This year the FedEx Cup was tweaked to give any of the top five point gatherers – Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and Bubba Watson – the chance to cart home the $10 million bonus prize by winning the Coca Cola tour Championship. For two-and-one-half days, all the best laid plans of the PGA Tour were in tatters as Stenson fired a 64 on Friday and raced away to a big lead. Stenson, however, had not even won a tournament in 2015, muscling his way into the top five on the back of second- and third-place checks.
Most think the PGA wouldn’t have been too enthralled to write Henrik Stenson’s name on the season-long bonus check, especially after the transcendent years enjoyed by Spieth and Day. At least Fowler and Watson were multiple winners in 2015, and certainly could be viewed by the public as deserving of such a bounty. But as Stenson glided along on the lead, Fowler, Day and Watson muddled along in the middle of the pack.
It All Works Out Just Like It’s Written in the Script
On Saturday however, Jordan Spieth’s putter took care of any potential unsavory conclusions to the 2015 PGA golf season. His ball rolled in on the 18th green at East Lake after a 20-foot birdie putt, to send Spieth into Sunday with a one-stroke lead over Stenson. In the final round, Spieth smothered any challenges by holing long putt after long putt. Making the turn, he holed 85 feet worth of bombs on number 8, 9, and 11. For the week, the young Texan converted over 400 feet of putts, ensuring the end result is that the 2015 FedEx Cup produced exactly the winner it was designed to identify. Golf can finally head into 2016 with no debate as to who is number one. This has truly been ‘The Year of Jordan Spieth’.