Burning Questions for Remainder of 2014 Season After US Open

Mike DudurichContributor IJune 17, 2014

Burning Questions for Remainder of 2014 Season After US Open

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    Jordan Spieth is constantly listening, learning.
    Jordan Spieth is constantly listening, learning.Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Martin Kaymer established himself Sunday as an elite player after tumbling from the top spot in the world three years ago. Will he once again become the No. 1 player in the world?

    That remains to be seen as the rest of 2014 plays out.

    But there are plenty of other intriguing stories to follow as golf season heads into July.

    Will Jordan Spieth get that first major this year?

    How great would it be if Jimmy Walker hangs on and enters the FedEx Cup playoffs ranked No. 1?

    Here's a list of 10 burning questions for the rest of the year.

How Will Phil Mickelson's Season Play Out?

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    How will Phil Mickelson handle his post-U.S. Open season?
    How will Phil Mickelson handle his post-U.S. Open season?Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Phil Mickelson's dream of winning his first U.S. Open and completing his career Grand Slam ended quickly at Pinehurst.

    He shot two rounds of 70-73 while Kaymer posted 65-65. Mickelson wasn't the only one to be out of contention early, but the inconsistencies that have plagued him since winning the 2013 British Open were there again, giving him no chance at Pinehurst No. 2.

    He admitted achieving that goal was a long shot coming in, but one he was working toward.

    Mickelson has dropped to 10th in Ryder Cup points and, unless he makes a major turnaround, his participation for Team USA in the fall might depend on being a captain's choice.

    He's fallen out of the Top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, sitting at 13th this week.

    He's 79th on the PGA Tour money list, sandwiched between Brandt Snedeker and Vijay Singh.

    The question now is this: Does Mickelson have enough in the tank, enough enthusiasm to turn the year around and be some sort of factor coming down the stretch?




Does Martin Kaymer's Greatness Have Any Limits?

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    Martin Kaymer's victory in the U.S. Open is a big step for him.
    Martin Kaymer's victory in the U.S. Open is a big step for him.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Remember when Henrik Stenson tore up the European and PGA Tours in the last half of 2013?

    The tournaments he didn't win, he contended in. He won season-ending events on both sides of the ocean and won both money lists.

    And he did so without winning a major. He also accomplished all of that while Tiger Woods was in the process of winning five times—none of them majors, either.

    Is this the sort of thing we might be looking at with Kaymer? He's had six straight top-30 finishes on the PGA Tour, including wins in two of his last three starts. Those wins just happened to be the Players Championship and the U.S. Open.

    He's played just twice on the European Tour, his best finish there a T12 in the BMW Championship.

    Kaymer looks very strong, just like Stenson. He's had a great season already. Who knows what else he might accomplish?

Have We Put Too Much Pressure on Jordan Spieth?

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    Like most other players, Jordan Spieth struggled on No. 2's greens.
    Like most other players, Jordan Spieth struggled on No. 2's greens.Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

    Winning golf tournaments on the PGA Tour is hard. Winning major championships is even harder.

    The fact that there are only four majors per year makes winning them even tougher.

    It's been generally assumed that based on how Spieth played in 2013, going from no status to contending in the Tour Championship and playing on the U.S. Presidents Cup team that he'd win at least one major in 2014.

    He was in the hunt until halfway through the Masters, played well for a long time in the Players and has posted three top-20 finishes since, including a T17 at Pinehurst. His last three rounds on No. 2 were 70-72-73, not the progression you'd like to see if you're trying to win.

    Maybe it's too much to expect a 20-year-old—yes, a very talented 20-year old, but still a kid who isn't legally an adult in many places—to be able to win golf's biggest events.

    Spieth is going to go on to have a very nice season (he's won $3.4 million already), even if he doesn't win a major.

Jimmy Walker Is No Joke

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    Jimmy Walker (right) walks with Jason Day on Sunday.
    Jimmy Walker (right) walks with Jason Day on Sunday.USA TODAY Sports

    When Jimmy Walker came out of nowhere to win three times by the first week in February after 188 starts without a win, it was a great story.

    But could anyone have expected him to stay in the top position in the FedEx Cup points race through the U.S. Open? Maybe his parents and close friends, but the 34-year-old was a virtual unknown without a great deal of previous success.

    Walker, however, has kept right on rolling. He still maintains just less than a 300-point lead in the points race, thanks in no small part to nine top-25 finishes since his last win.

    Can he hang onto that top spot until the points race is over?

Tiger Woods' Return

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    Will Tiger Woods be back in time for the British Open?
    Will Tiger Woods be back in time for the British Open?USA TODAY Sports

    Tiger Woods' streak since his last major title is officially six years.

    Those who follow golf closely knew that already, but if you were watching the U.S. Open, you were reminded of the fact.

    There are plenty of folks who believe golf needs Tiger back—and quickly. Television ratings in golf's biggest events are down, understandable without the then-No. 1 player in the world and a struggling Phil Mickelson.

    Woods' return will solve some of those issues, but only if he's able to come back at something close to the level he showed last year.

    The bottom-line question is: When will that return take place?

Bubba Golf: More Whining Ahead?

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    Bubba Watson was never comfortable on Pinehurst No. 2.
    Bubba Watson was never comfortable on Pinehurst No. 2.USA TODAY Sports

    Bubba Watson has two green jackets thanks to his two victories in the Masters.

    He's the master of creativity, the guy who works the ball better than anyone else in the game.

    Watson moved the ball over, around and through those tall Georgia pines better than anybody else in the field.

    Those two wins made him a multi-major champion and, as such, would seemingly raise him above the kind of petty whining that seems to be a big part of Watson's persona.

    Last week, it was Watson calling the greens "unfriendly" and talking about how he'd be laying up off tees because of the difficulty of those greens.

    That strategy worked out really well for Watson, as he missed the cut at the U.S. Open, just as he did when he won the Masters two years ago.

    Stay tuned, there's a good chance there will be more whining ahead.

Is Jason's Day Coming?

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    Jason Day got to experience all of Pinehurst No. 2.
    Jason Day got to experience all of Pinehurst No. 2.David Cannon/Getty Images

    After a very good start, 2014 had begun to look like a lost season for Jason Day.

    The talented Australian contended a couple times last year and had great hope for 2014. When he won the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in February, those hopes seemed to be on the way to being realized.

    But the combination of wrist and thumb injuries have plagued him since then.

    That's why it had to be heartening for him to post a pair of 68s and finish in a T4 in the U.S. Open.

    Day is poised to take that next big step.


What to Make of Rory McIlroy?

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    Rory McIlroy tees off on the fourth hole on No. 2.
    Rory McIlroy tees off on the fourth hole on No. 2.Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    The pre-tournament favorite was a major disappointment.

    McIlroy was riding the high of his come-from-behind victory in the BMW Championship a few weeks ago.

    He was excited about the possibility of unleashing his driver around Pinehurst, but that didn't work out well, and the best he could do was 71-68-74-73.

    McIlroy had put together four straight PGA Tour top-10s finishes before a T15 at the Memorial.

    Was his T23 a tough week on a difficult golf course or an indication he's not quite all the way back?

    There could be something really big in his near future.


Will Drama Return to Majors This Year?

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    The scoreboard says it all: The U.S. Open was a runaway.
    The scoreboard says it all: The U.S. Open was a runaway.Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    Let's face it, the first two majors of the year have been duds in terms of theatrics and drama.

    Watson put it into cruise control on the back nine at Augusta National Golf Club and captured his second Masters championship.

    Kaymer took all the excitement out of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 by defying all logic and shooting a pair of 65s, then going on sleepy walks around Donald Ross' masterpiece both Saturday and Sunday.

    The PGA Championship is next, returning to Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky, where the PGA was held in 2000. Remember that one? Woods had to go to a playoff to beat relative unknown Bob May.

    I'm thinking that based on the history of these upcoming sites, excitement is just around the corner.


Is Rickie Fowler About to Go Big-Time?

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    Rickie Fowler hopes to some day be the other golfer in this picture.
    Rickie Fowler hopes to some day be the other golfer in this picture.David Goldman/Associated Press

    There's been something of a learning curve on the PGA Tour for Rickie Fowler.

    Armed with a golf bag filled with hype and a very good amateur career, much was expected of the tour's most flashy dresser.

    He's won once but has three top fives in 18 major championships, including a T5 at the Masters and a T2 in the U.S. Open this year.

    It sure looks and feels like this kid—yes, he's only 25—is about to do something very special. He struck very few bad shots at Pinehurst, and considering he's been working with a new coach, Butch Harmon, since December, his game and swing seem very good.