By Matt Cohen
It’s finally Christmas week – a time for family, friends, presents, ugly sweaters, the Griswold’s and of course, reflection. For some on the PGA Tour, 2014 was a remarkable year. Many in fact saw their careers reach new heights. For others, well, 2014 was a year to forget.
So sit back, sip a cup of hot chocolate, and enjoy Click On Golf’s naughty or nice list 2014 edition:
The new year can’t come soon enough for Luke Donald. The former Wold Number One had a dismal showing in 2014, not winning a single tournament. The 37-year-old missed the cut at the Masters and the U.S. Open, and finished T64 and T40 at The Open Championship and PGA Championship respectively. Furthermore, he failed to make the European Ryder Cup team after losing out on a wild card pick from captain Paul McGinley.
Financially, it wasn’t a banner year for Donald either. His $1,451,440 ranked 72nd on the PGA Tour, and was his lowest career earnings total since 2003.
In November Donald announced that he had switched back to his old coach, Pat Goss as he believed that he was not making any progress under new coach Chuck Cook after facing disappointment after missing the Ryder Cup.
Still ranked 33rd in the world, the England native will look to bounce back in 2015.
Just 29-years-old, the Charlotte, North Carolina native looked poised for a big season, after capturing the Shriners Hospital for Children’s Open last October. But 2014 turned into a lackluster season for the 2012 U.S. Open Champion. Simpson missed the cut at The Masters, The Open Championship and The PGA Championship. He made the cut at the U.S. Open, but was not in contention and finished T45.
Simpson was selected by Tom Watson as one of his three captain’s picks for the 2014 Ryder Cup team, but finished with a record of 0–1–1 in the two matches he participated in as the United States went on to lose its third straight to Europe.
Simpson did earn more than $3.5 million this season, which was good enough to finish in the top 20 on tour. And it wasn’t an entirely down year for Webb, who along with his wife Taylor, welcomed in his third child, a daughter Wyndham Rose.
Ranked 43rd in the world, Simpson will look to come out firing in the new year. He does get some credit though for being able to pull off the cardigan look better than anyone else on tour. Cheers to that Webb.
3. Dustin Johnson
This one is sort of self explanatory. At 30-years-old, Johnson has all the talent in the world, and has long been seen as part of the next generation of golf’s young stars. Fresh off his first World Golf Championship, a win in last fall’s HSBC Champions, Johnson had high expectations heading into 2014. How quickly things change.
On July 31st, Johnson announced he was taking the rest of the season off to seek professional help for personal challenges. On August 1, conflicting reports surfaced regarding the circumstances of Johnson’s announcement from the previous day. Golf Magazine reported that Johnson had been suspended from the PGA Tour for six months after testing positive for cocaine. The magazine indicated that this was his third positive drug test, after a 2009 positive for marijuana and 2012 positive for cocaine. However, PGA Tour officials indicated that Johnson was taking a voluntary leave and was not under suspension.
Amazingly, Johnson is still ranked 19th in the world. Despite being on the naughty list, did we mention he’s engaged to Paulina Gretzky, daughter of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky? The two announced in September that she is pregnant with the couple’s first child, due next winter.
1. Rickie Fowler
What more can be said about Rickie Fowler’s 2014 that hasn’t been said already? The charismatic Californian had a breakout 2014. Fowler became only the third player behind Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to have finished in the top 5 in all four Majors in one calendar year.
Fowler will be 26 at the start of 2015, and still hasn’t hit his prime. A scary thought for someone already ranked in the world top 10.
“There’s a bunch of young guys that could break through and become legends of this game – Rickie Fowler being one of them,” said Rory McIlroy a few months ago after adding his second straight major. “You just have to look at how he’s played the Majors this year.”
Congratulations Rickie, you’re on the nice list for 2014.
2. Martin Kaymer
Martin Kaymer was in full beastmode in 2014.
In May, the German native earned a wire-to-wire win at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, finishing −13 for a one-shot victory over runner-up Jim Furyk. In June, Kaymer started the U.S. Open at Pinehurst with consecutive rounds of 65 (−5) to set a U.S. Open record for 36 holes (130). He finished at 271 (−9), eight strokes ahead of runners-up Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton, and became the first player in history to win those two championships back to back. Kaymer ended the year with a bang too, helping lead Europe to a Ryder cup victory and winning the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in October, the annual 36-hole event featuring the year’s four Major Champions.
Ranked 12th in the world, 2014 was arguably Kaymer’s best year on tour, even better than 2010 when he won the PGA Championship. Kaymer turns 30 on December 28th. He’ll have lots to celebrate this year.
3. Rory McIlroy
Big shock, right? Not really.
At 25, McIlroy has already accomplished more than most golfers dream in a career. The World Number One has four Major Championships to his name, is a two-time PGA Player of the Year and has helped lead Europe to three consecutive Ryder Cup victories.
After capturing two Major Championships this year (The Open Championship and the PGA Championship), McIlroy has his sights on something far greater in 2015:
“Green jacket,” he said after capturing his second Race to Dubai trophy last month. “That’s the only one left to complete the collection. I’ve got a chance to complete the career Grand Slam at 25, something I never thought would be possible. So I’m going to work really hard and make sure I’m ready to go for April.”
What else do you need to know about Rory’s 2014 season? He earned $8,280,096 which was the most on tour. He helped lead Europe to their Ryder Cup victory. He won virtually every award in golf and was named golfer of the year by numerous publications.
It’s pretty good being Rory McIlroy these days. It must be nice, very nice.