Now that the final putt has been made and Tim Clark has claimed the title in Canada, it is time to put the passports away and return stateside for what it sure to be an exciting and eventful end to the 2014 professional golf calendar.
Three weeks of excitement in Scotland, England, and Canada now turn to a jam packed seven week stretch of big time golf to be played throughout the U.S. before the golfing world turns its focus back to Europe for the Ryder Cup at Gleaneagles in Scotland.
Before we get to ahead of ourselves though, let’s take a look at what is left on the calendar stateside.
The excitement starts this week with fourth and final World Golf Championships event of the year, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational from Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. In addition to the top 70 golfers in the world competing in the no-cut event, one of the major story lines will once again be Tiger Woods, who seems to garner the headlines every time he tees it up these days. The defending champion, the Jupiter Island resident is looking to salvage his 2014 season after a back injury kept him out for several months and he has yet to finish in the top 25, let alone get a win. If he wants a shot at making the playoffs and even having a chance to make this year’s Ryder Cup team, Woods will need an impressive performance this week. Also looking for his first win of the season and looking to make a Ryder Cup push is Phil Mickelson. This will also be the first tournament for Rory Mcllroy since he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool two weeks ago.
After the Bridgestone, it’s on to Valhalla for the PGA Championship. Once again you will have the main story lines surrounding Woods, Mickelson, and Mcllroy as well as a field of the best golfers from around the world, including defending champion Jason Dufner for the second consecutive week. One story line to look out for at this year’s PGA Championship is the play in the majors this year by Rickie Fowler. The Loxahatchee River resident finished T5 at the Masters, T2 at the U.S. Open, and T2 with Sergio Garcia at the Open Championship two weeks ago. Do the math and that’s a top 5 finish in all three of the season’s majors, all while undergoing drastic swing changes. Not flying under the radar anymore, all eyes will be on Fowler to see if his streak can continue or if he can break the trend and win his first career major.
While many of the top golfers will take off the following week after playing two big tournaments back-to-back, the Wyndham Championship has managed to maintain a strong field the week after the PGA Championship largely due to their partnership and sponsorship with many of the top golfers including Brandt Snedeker.
After the Wyndham Championship starts the 4 week stretch of the FedEX Cup Playoffs that are comprised of The Barclays, the Deutsche Bank Championship, the BMW Championship, and the Tour Championship all played in consecutive weeks. With all four tournaments awarding 2,500 FedEx Cup points, the top of the FedEx Cup points standings can sometimes change from week to week. One of the big story lines of this year;s playoffs, in addition to whether or not Woods can qualify, will be whether or not Jimmy Walker can hold onto his lead and go wire-to-wire for the 2014 season. Headed into the Bridgestone Invitational this week, Walker holds a 229 point lead over 2014 Masters winner Bubba Watson.
Given that it is a Ryder Cup year, the “season” may end after the last putt is sank at the Tour Championship, but the golfing calendar certainly won’t come to a close. That’s because two weeks after the Tour Championship. The top 9 American golfers in the Ryder Cup points standings, plus two captains picks, will venture across the pond and take on the European squad at Gleneagles Golf Club in Scotland. In addition to all the great story lines and excitement that come with the Ryder Cup every time it is held, there will be a few additional things to keep an eye on this time around.
For the Americans, the bitter taste is still in their mouths from two years ago when they blew a big lead on American soil and lost to the European’s 14.5-13.5 at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago. After being down 10-4 early on and 10-6 heading into Sunday Singles, the Europeans stormed back for the win in what will forever be known as the “Miracle at Medinah”.
The other story line is the lack of success the American side has had when the event is held in Europe. You have to go back to 1993 to find the last time an American Ryder Cup team won in Europe. This year’s American squad will look to not only get revenge from two years ago but get the first win in Europe in their last 5 tries.
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