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Year in Review: Jordan Spieth is top PGA story for 2015

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The PGA Tour crowned a new champion in 2015 and by all indications, this will not be his last. Jordan Spieth won two major tournaments, the first two of his career, and had a chance to win all four.

Spieth’s victory at the Masters in April, vaulted him to international prominence. The golfing world pays attention when anyone puts on the victor’s Green Jacket. Tampa Bay area fans, however, got a look at a budding superstar four weeks earlier.

At the Valspar Championship, played at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Spieth shot a 10-under 274 at the par 71 Copperhead Course. That was good enough for a three-way tie with Sean O’Hair and Patrick Reed.

Spieth won the tournament on the third playoff hole. While celebrating his victory, he provided a glimpse into his long term goal.

“Our ultimate goal is to eventually be the best in the world and this is a great stepping stone,” said Spieth following his victory. “But going into the four majors of the year, to close this one out in this kind of fashion is going to give me a lot of confidence.”

Spieth set his sights on catching the world’s top-ranked player, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland. The gap got even closer with Spieth’s wire-to-wire, four-stroke victory in the Masters on April 12. He tied the all-time scoring record with an 18-under par 270.

Between the Masters and the U.S. Open, McIlroy won the World Match Play Championship and the Wells Fargo Classic in Charlotte, North Carolina. On May 10, Rickie Fowler won Florida’s most prestigious event, The Players’ Championship, at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra.

The U.S. Open teed off on June 18 at the controversial Chambers Bay Golf Club near Tacoma, Wash. A converted rock quarry, this course presented numerous challenges to the best golfers in the world.

In the end, Spieth battled Dustin Johnson to the final hole. Johnson had an eagle putt to win and then a birdie to tie and send the tournament to an 18-hole playoff on Monday. He missed both and Spieth had his second major.

Four weeks later, the world gathered at The Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland for The (British) Open Championship minus McIlroy, who injured his ankle days before playing soccer.  Spieth set out to win his third straight major.

Severe winds halted play in the second and third rounds, forcing the tournament to carry over into Monday. With Spieth needing a birdie on the easy 18th hole to get into a playoff, he left his approach shot short, settling for a par and finishing fourth. American Zach Johnson won a four-hole playoff over Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman.

Australian Jason Day won the Canadian Open the following week, launching a solid string of performances that led him to the year’s fourth major, the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin.

Day and Spieth battled toe-to-toe over the final two rounds, with Day eventually coming out on top by three strokes. Despite finishing second, Spieth took over the number one ranking in the world.

Two weeks later, the four-round Fed Ex Cup Playoffs began. Day won two of the first three events (and 4 of 6 overall) to take over the top ranking, but Spieth earned enough points to qualify for the final tournament, the Tour Championship to be played in Atlanta.

Spieth left the field in his wake and won the championship by four strokes. The victory gave him the Fed Ex Cup and $11 million in prize money.

Presidents’ Cup

In early October, the best American players squared off with players from around the world (other than Europe) for the biennial President’s Cup matches in South Korea. The matches went down to the final hole, the final two players to the final shot.

In the end, the U.S. came away with the victory, 15 ½ to 14 ½. South Korea’s Bae Sang-moon flubbed a pitch to the green on the final hole to allow Bill Haas to escape with a victory for the U.S.

In 2016, the key questions are will Spieth become a dominant player now that he is a year older? Can McIlroy regain his form after the injury?

Other questions include Is Jason Day for real? Can Tiger Woods ever again be the Tiger of old? With the Ryder Cup coming in the fall to Minneapolis, can the U.S. end the domination of the Europeans?

More new stories and new faces are sure to come front and center.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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