To whom would you give a mulligan in 2011?

By Jason SobelDecember 8, 2011, 9:11 pm

Everyone could use a mulligan now and again, right? A chance to replay one shot, maybe a tournament do-over, perhaps even press the reset button for the year. senior writers Jason Sobel, Randall Mell and Rex Hoggard offer up to whom they would like to extend a mulligan in 2011?


If Rory McIlroy ever needed a mulligan, it was on the 10th tee at this year’s Masters.

Now this question can be interpreted many different ways; we can issue a mulligan for the entire season or one tournament or even an off-course comment. I’m going to use my mully quite literally and let one player replace a single shot with another one.

Nobody needed a do-over more than McIlroy, who held a four-stroke lead to start Sunday and was still one up through nine at Augusta National, then hit a dastardly pull hook that landed in a place near some cabins that most observers never even knew were in play.

You know the rest of the story. The 22-year-old stumbled to triple-bogey on that hole, struggled on the next three and posted a final-round 80 – a full 10 shots behind winner Charl Schwartzel.

Two months later, McIlroy triumphed at the U.S. Open. It can be contended that he may not have found such success without first witnessing failure, but we can still wonder what might have been had he simply knocked one into the fairway on that hole. Perhaps he would have won each of the year’s first two major championships. For all the potential and accomplishments the world No. 2 has, the buzz surrounding him would be so much bigger with a green jacket in his closet.

So, yeah. That’s worth a mulligan.

Patrick Cantlay


Really wanted to give Rory McIlroy a mulligan for his tee shot at the 10th hole in the final round of the Masters last spring, but Jason Sobel beat me to the punch.

Would love to give David Toms a mulligan for missing that 3-footer in the playoff at The Players Championship with his wife and two children watching behind the green, but he came out of that just fine, rebounding to win the Crowne Plaza Invitational the following week.

Tempted to give Bobby Gates a mulligan for missing that 6-foot par putt at the final hole of the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Classic, a gut-wrenching miss that dropped him to 126th on the money list, but he rebounded to win back his Tour card at Q-School last week.

So my mulligan goes to Patrick Cantlay for his play at the 15th tee of the 33rd hole of the U.S. Amateur final at Erin Hills this summer.

That’s where Cantlay blew a chance to punctuate a brilliant amateur season by winning the crown jewel in the amateur ranks.

At that wicked little par 4, just 252 yards, Cantlay tried to make the smart play after blowing a 3-wood over that green in the morning round and making bogey. In the afternoon, he plucked an 8-iron from his bag at the tee box to lay up. But he made a head-spinning mistake. He pulled his tee shot into a fairway bunker, then blasted his approach over the green and made bogey to lose the hole and eventually the championship to Kelly Kraft.

Cantlay was 1 up stepping to the 15th tee after fighting back from 4 down. A come-from-behind victory would have been a memorable ending to a superb amateur run this year, but momentum swung so heavily after Cantlay's mistake.

With his brilliant play in PGA Tour events in 2011, with his 60 at the Travelers leading to one of four top-25 finishes, Cantlay desperately wanted the U.S. Amateur prize. Maybe Kraft would have won anyway, but a mulligan at the 15th makes Cantlay awful tough to beat there. It gives him a chance to finish off an unforgettable amateur run.

Tiger Woods


By way of excuse or explanation, depending on one’s point of view in the hyper-polarized world of Tiger Woods, if anyone rates a “do-over” for 2011 it is the former world No. 1.

To recap, Woods spent prolonged parts of the year on crutches, in a boot, on the couch and, ultimately, learning the intricacies of a new swing with a ball count and assorted deadlines hanging over his head.

When Woods lashed at his second shot from under the Eisenhower tree (above) on Saturday at Augusta National he was still clinging to thoughts of contending. When he limped off TPC Sawgrass a month later after just nine holes he was facing the very real possibility that he was done for the season.

Woods would later call his decision to play The Players a mistake and when he tied for 37th (WGC-Bridgestone Invitational) and missed the cut (PGA Championship) in his first two starts back off the “DL” it would have been easy to consider 2011 a wash.

A solid finish – third-place at the Australian Open and his first victory in two years at his Chevron World Challenge – salvaged the season, but if anyone rates a mulligan it is Woods. Maybe he attempts a safer shot from under the Eisenhower tree, maybe he doesn’t push his luck at Sawgrass, maybe things work out differently.

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.