With a new year just a few weeks away, it's time to look ahead to some storylines we'll be following in 2015.
Here are five that are on the top of my mind:
1. Who will be the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup captain?
We think this question will be the first we have answered out of the five. Tom Watson, the 2014 U.S. Captain, was appointed on December 13, 2012. The PGA of America has said it will not announce its new captain before the new year.
Here's what we know based on some tweets/leaks after the first meeting of the 11-member Ryder Cup Task Force: Fred Couples is the early favorite.
Couples confirmed to Golf.com last week that he has been contacted by the Task Force. It seems to be more "a call" than "the official 'will you be our captain' call."
Couples has been the winning captain of the last three U.S. Presidents Cup teams.
2. Can Rory McIlroy complete the career grand slam at the Masters?
It's hard to believe, but McIlroy -- at 25 years old -- could become the second youngest player to win a career grand slam if he's victorious this April at the Masters. Tiger Woods is the youngest. He turned the trick at age 24.
It would also be McIlroy's third consecutive major championship win. The last player to win three straight majors was Woods in 2000 (Woods would make it four straight with a win at the 2001 Masters to complete "The Tiger-Slam").
To add a little more perspective, only five players in history have achieved the modern-day career grand slam (Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship). Here is the list, along with the player's respective age at the tournament in which he accomplished the feat:
- Gene Sarazen, age 33, at the 1935 Masters
- Ben Hogan, age 40, at the 1953 British Open
- Gary Player, age 29, at the 1965 U.S. Open
- Jack Nicklaus, age 26, at the 1966 British Open
- Tiger Woods, age 24, at the 2000 British Open
McIlroy's best finish in the Masters was a T8 in 2014. He had a four-shot, 54-hole lead in the 2011 Masters before fading to a T15 with a final-round 80. He famously bounced back at the very next major -- the U.S. Open -- with a commanding eight-shot romp.
3. Will Rickie Fowler or Henrik Stenson (or both) win a major?
Let's start out with Rickie Fowler. Considering how often this guy is in contention, it's preposterous that he has just one PGA Tour victory to his name (the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship).
So why is it that a one-time PGA Tour winner deserves to be in the "will he win a major?" discussion for 2015? Easy. Look no further than his 2014 major record:
- T5 in the Masters
- T2 in the U.S. Open
- T2 in the British Open
- T3 in the PGA Championship
That's an incredible major record... but, it also makes Fowler the only player in the game's history to finish among the top 5 in all four majors during a single season without a win.
And now, the case for Henrik Stenson.
The Swede -- currently ranked No. 2 in the world -- has nine top-10 finishes in the majors and a game that travels exceptionally well. He's won four times on the PGA Tour and nine times on the European Tour (which isn't limited to Europe despite its name).
In 2013, Stenson became the first player to win the FedExCup and the Race to Dubai (the European Tour's "FedExCup" equivalent) in the same season. He has also won a World Golf Championships event (the 2007 Accenture Match Play), the 2009 Players Championship and two FedExCup playoffs events (2013 Deutsche Bank Championship and Tour Championship).
The only thing left for Stenson is a major.
4. Can Jordan Spieth establish himself as a closer?
It's hard to believe there's been any kind of a knock on this 21-year-old stud, but that's the life of a prodigy.
Spieth, who went from no status at all at the start of 2013 to full status and rookie of the year by the end of that season, has one win on the PGA Tour. That came at the 2013 John Deere Classic.
He also has five runner-up finishes in the last two years, including the 2014 Masters where he had a legitimate chance to become the tournament's youngest winner. A 74 in the final round of the Players Championship this year dropped Spieth to a disappointing T4 and there are a handful of other events where weekend rounds in the mid-70s cost him.
However, if recent history is any indication, it looks as though Spieth has worked out some kinks, and that could be scary for his fellow competitors.
At the end of November, Spieth won the Australian Open by six shots, thanks largely to an incredible final-round 63.
He followed that up by crushing the field a week later in the exclusive Hero World Challenge at Isleworth in Windermere, Fla., by 10 shots (Stenson was the runner up).
That's some great closing mojo heading into 2015.
5. How will Tiger Woods bounce back from an injury-plagued 2014?
In 2014, Woods was limited to just seven starts on the PGA Tour due to back/neck problems that required surgery.
It led to the only season of his career without a top-10 finish.
So, how will Woods come back in 2015?
Because of his unfortunate history with injuries, we do have a sample.
Limited to six PGA Tour starts in 2008 due to knee surgery that ended his season after a win at the 2008 U.S. Open, Woods made 17 starts in 2009, winning six times and finishing runner-up three times (By the way, he won four times in six starts in '08 and finished in the top 10 all six times).
Another knee injury limited Woods to just nine PGA Tour events in 2011. The following season, he registered three wins, a runner up and two third-place showings in 19 starts. He was even better in 2013 with five wins and a runner-up finish in 16 starts.
Woods will be 39 years old when the calendar flips to 2015. Will age, wear and tear show that it's taken its toll? Or, can we anticipate yet another strong return to form by the 14-time major winner?
I, for one, look forward to seeing what's in store.