A look back at the golf season that was

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By JIM O'SHEA
College Contributor Network

In the past, this week would mark the beginning of the fall season of the PGA Tour. But starting last year, the Tour moved to a year-round schedule that begins in October with the Frys.com Open. This week, Napa, Calif. (a.k.a Wine Country) hosts the season opener once again.

With that, let's take a look back at some of the things that we learned during the 2013-14 year.

A new era has begun

After Rory McIlroy hoisted the Wannamaker Trophy at The PGA Championship, everyone was saying that a new era was underway. McIlroy had won three straight tournaments, the first to do so since none other than Tiger Woods. And the tournaments he won were even more impressive: two majors, The Open Championship and The PGA Championship, and a World Golf Championship, which only invites the best of the best.

But what McIlroy did next was why I believe that a new era has truly begun in the world of golf. He finished in the top-22 at every FedEx Cup Playoffs event and was in the top-eight of the last three. He showed that even when he does not win, he will still be in the hunt. Just like Tiger Woods has done for so long.

A trio of young stars are here to stay

Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, and Jimmy Walker each came into the season in different ways, but all three ended it in a similar way: with a great finish that bares fair warning to the rest of the Tour to watch out for the young guns.

Spieth won his first tournament as a 19-year-old last July at the John Deere Classic, but he had his coming-out party this April at the Masters. Spieth held the lead going into Sunday but, after faltering a little down the stretch, he only managed a runner-up finish. He then went on to tie for fourth at the Players Championship, a tournament most consider to be the fifth major. He only missed one cut the rest of the year and gave the U.S. a spark in the Ryder Cup, going 2-0-1 on Friday and Saturday.

The man who teamed up with Spieth in the Ryder Cup, and won the duo's first two matches before the 17th hole, is the man in the middle of this young trio. Patrick Reed also entered the year coming off of his first win on the Tour in 2013. The 24-year-old backed it up with a stellar campaign this season that included two wins, with one coming at a World Golf Championship event (the Cadillac Championship in March). Tack that onto a top-five finish at another WGC event and a top-10 finish at a Playoffs event and Reed showed that he is one to watch out for.

The last of the trio is the one who had the best year of the three. Jimmy Walker started off the season with a bang, coming out on top at the Frys.com Open in the season opener -- and he didn't stop there. Walker won two more tournaments before Valentine's Day, coming out on top at the Sony Open in January and at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. He also made the cut at all four majors and finished in the top-10 at three of them.

Other notes

Rickie Fowler finally lived up to the hype, finishing in the top-five in every major. He came into the year with only one win in his career, yet was already one of the most popular faces in the game. Fowler still only has one win, but proved that he can contend in the biggest tournaments out there.

The last legs of some great careers are underway. Phil Mickelson, at 44-years-old, did not win a single tournament and did not even make the season-ending TOUR Championship. Another 44-year-old, Jim Furyk, did not come out on top once in 2014 and had five runner-up finishes to make matters worse. Steve Stricker also did not finish atop a leaderboard and only played in 11 Tour tournaments all year.

And how could we not include Tiger Woods? The 14-time major winner played in even fewer events than Stricker. Woods hurt his back early in the season and was forced to withdraw from the Honda Classic in March. He had surgery, then came back too early, as he admitted, in July. Overall on the season, he had two top-25 finishes, two withdraws, and two missed cuts. Not the year anyone expected from him after winning six tournaments last year.

If 2013-2014 taught us anything, it's that there is turnover in sports, and golf saw a new beginning this past season. Expect the young stars to continue dominating and the old stars to still be in it, just not as much as in the previous era.


Jim O'Shea is a junior at Syracuse University studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism. Born and raised in Houston, TX. He's an avid Texans and Texas Rangers fan. Also golf is his favorite sport. Follow him on Twitter: @JimOShea4
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