Jordan Spieth has matched Tiger Woods’s best but Rory McIlroy will be back in 2016

Sam Torrance
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The Masters - Final Round
Jordan Spieth enjoyed a year to compare with Tiger Woods’s landmark 2000 season (Source: Getty)

Now that the last golf ball of 2015 has been struck in anger, it’s time to reflect on a remarkable and significant season that has at times felt like a changing of the guard.

Former world No1 Tiger Woods has admitted that he may be finished as a force, and there have to be doubts about whether Phil Mickelson can again scale the heights that saw him claim five Majors.

It’s not just in America where a new generation is replacing the old. European stalwarts such as Lee Westwood face a battle to make the Ryder Cup team, while even Henrik Stenson has shown sides of fading.

That is all open to debate, but there can be no argument that the star of the season has been a clean-cut young man from Dallas who began the year as one of many good prospects but ended it a megastar.

Jordan Spieth’s rise has been nothing short of incredible, taking in no fewer than five titles between March and September – a spell in which he won back-to-back Majors, topped the PGA Tour money list and pushed ahead of Rory McIlroy in the tussle for the world No1 ranking.

What makes his achievements so special is that he is still only 22. To handle the attention and pressure that accompanies such success is fantastic and, as I’ve mentioned before in this column, I think Spieth’s 2015 deserves to be mentioned alongside Woods’s glorious 2000 season.

To top it all, the Texan sets a great example with his conduct. He’s been a blessing to the game.

Pushing Spieth much of the way in the big events, rankings and the FedEx Cup has been another of my players of the year: Jason Day.

The Australian, beset by vertigo, could not catch Spieth at the US Open and, like his rival, fell one stroke short of the play-off at the Open but finally broke his Major duck at the US PGA Championship.

Day did so a with a record low score of 20-under-par, and it was part of an extraordinary run of four wins from six tournaments that briefly lifted him to world No1.

It was the year that the 28-year-old broke through to the very top level and I feel there is much more to come from him.

Somewhat overshadowed by Spieth and Day yet firmly part of a three-way fight for supremacy in the men’s game has been my third choice: McIlroy.

The Northern Irishman suffered the disappointment of being unable to defend his Open crown due to an ankle injury, which was in itself a very difficult setback to endure.

Yet by any standards he had another fantastic year, topping the European Tour order of merit again with an imperious victory at the season finale, and winning three other titles.

McIlroy’s end to the campaign was hugely encouraging – he was made to fight to the end for the Race To Dubai title by Danny Willett but rose to the challenge – and I firmly believe he is set for a big 2016.

I have to make Bernhard Langer my fourth choice. The evergreen German topped the money list on the US Champions Tour for an incredible seventh time in eight years. It will be fascinating to see whether he continues that form now that his favoured belly putter is about to be outlawed.

Last but in no way least is Lydia Ko, whose achievements in the women’s game have been every bit as extraordinary as Spieth’s in the men’s.

The South Korea-born New Zealander was just 17 when she rose to world No1 in February, and seven months later became the youngest woman to win a Major when she triumphed at the Evian Championship – carding a women’s Major record low final round of 63 for good measure.

Honourable mentions must also go to Willett, who ended the year with two titles and second place in the race To Dubai; Andy Sullivan, who claimed his first three wins in a great year for him; and fellow emerging Englishmen Matt Fitzpatrick and Chris Wood. All look good prospects to make their Ryder Cup debuts at Hazeltine in 2016.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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