Whose 2011 season would you rather have?

By Jason SobelOctober 27, 2011, 5:00 pm

A handful of players had seasons that were terrific – although certainly nothing Tiger-like. Nonetheless, a year that they can tell their grandkids about someday. Golf Channel.com senior writers Jason Sobel, Randall Mell and Rex Hoggard, along with editorial director Jay Coffin, all jump into the mix with their choices of whose year they would most want.


I’ll begin my opening argument with a statistic: The top 5 players on the Official World Golf Ranking – Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson – have combined to win 10 titles worldwide this season. That’s an average of two wins per player. Not a bad clip.

Until you compare it with the No. 1 player on the Rolex Ranking. That player, of course, is Yani Tseng – and she owns just as many titles this season as the top 5 in the men’s game combined.

I don’t know if it’s fatigue due to recent domination by players such as Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa or a perceived lack of depth on the LPGA, but Tseng’s season has been largely taken for granted. Of those 10 wins, seven have come in LPGA-sanctioned events and two were major championships. I shouldn’t need to remind you that all of the four major winners on the men’s side failed to win multiple majors this year or that the no-doubt-about-it global player of the year in Donald has yet to claim his first.

In fact, in glorifying Tseng, I’ll even invoke another T name: Tiger Woods. In his most successful seasons, Woods won 10 times worldwide in 1999 and 2000, but never more than that. Yani still has three remaining starts in which to surpass that total.

No, she won’t make as much bank as Donald, nor will she garner as many headlines as McIlroy. But if you’re looking for the best golfer of 2011 and the one whose season you’d most like to emulate, I don’t see how Tseng can be overlooked.


This year belonged to Rory McIlroy and everyone else was just along for the ride. A case can be made for several other players, but I would love to have had McIlroy’s roller-coaster season more than anyone else’s.

Think about it, in the span of seven months McIlroy has been labeled a major choker; called the heir apparent to Tiger Woods; said he didn’t like the elements of a British Open; injured his wrist badly at the PGA Championship; began dating the No. 1 women’s tennis player in the world; dumped his agent and got into a Twitter spat with a television reporter who was critical of him and his caddie. He remains adored by nearly everyone in his homeland on the Emerald Isle, and many fans in the United States can’t wait to see what he’s made of next year as a full-time player on the PGA Tour. Other than that …

Luke Donald was a better player, Yani Tseng won more tournaments, Bill Haas won more money and Keegan Bradley won a major, plus another PGA Tour event, but McIlroy was in the news more than anyone not named Tiger Woods. Sometimes it was not for the best of reasons, but often it was for reasons that most of the golf world would kill for.

The U.S. Open romp alone is enough to give McIlroy the nod in this debate; all the other elements combined make it a season to remember.


A Grand Slam may be the pinnacle of the game, but it is consistency over the long haul that defines greatness and why, whether they admit it or not, most PGA Tour players would covet Luke Donald’s 2011 calendar over all others.

Even Jack Nicklaus’ major mark, the benchmark by which all others are graded, comes with a compelling caveat to this truth. We remember the Golden Bear’s 18 majors, but it’s Nicklaus’ 19 runner-up finishes in majors that show how dominant he really was. He didn’t have a great decade, he had an unbelievable career.

Similarly, Donald didn’t catch fire in the fall. The Englishman posted four worldwide victories in 2011, missed just two cuts around the globe in 24 events and finished inside the top 10 in 75 percent of all his starts.

Donald also collected style points along the way, winning the BMW PGA Championship – a marquee European Tour stop – in May to unseat Lee Westwood atop the World Golf Ranking; birdied six of his last nine holes on Sunday at Disney to win his second Tour title of the season and clip Webb Simpson for the cash crown; and won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February without ever being pushed to the 18th hole.

Majors may be what the public remembers, but memorable seasons are what every player wants.


Luke Donald would be my choice as PGA Tour player of the year, but if you’re asking me whose season I would most like to have this year, it’s a completely different question.

In fact, Donald’s a distant third on my short list of answers to that question.

Bill Haas’ season is tempting, even though it's a one-win season. I’d take his year over Donald’s just to have Haas’ week at the Tour Championship, where he won the $10 million FedEx Cup jackpot and the $1.44 million first-place tournament check. Haas won almost twice as much money in one week in Atlanta as Donald won this entire PGA Tour season.

But, hey, money isn’t how this game measures greatness. Player-of-the-year awards aren’t really, either. And for that reason, I’m taking Keegan Bradley’s year, because he won a major championship. I have to believe that Donald and Webb Simpson, the other logical choices as player of the year, would trade their years for the Wanamaker Trophy that Bradley won at the PGA Championship. A major secures a more revered and prominent place in the game’s history than any award voted upon by players.

Apologies here to Yani Tseng, who is easily enjoying the best year in golf with 10 worldwide titles, seven of them LPGA victories, two of them major championships, but I wouldn’t be very comfortable in the women’s locker room or wearing skirts, so I’m taking with Bradley’s year.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.