The Social: Turning the page

By Jason CrookJune 27, 2017, 6:00 pm

Jordan Spieth momentarily saved golf from the epidemic of bad celebrations, Phil Mickelson competes without longtime caddie "Bones" for the first time, and we have some golf suggestions for ESPN the Magazine's "Body Issue." All that and more in The Social.

It may be two days later, but we can't stop talking about that epic ending to the Travelers Championship, where Jordan Spieth won his 10th PGA Tour title with a playoff hole-out from a greenside bunker.

The shot was something out of a Hollywood movie, but it was actually just the undercard to one of the great celebrations in golf history.

Lets take another look, in slow motion, because everything is better in slow motion.

History. This guy is good.

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Spieth's club throw. Michael Greller's rake launch. The impromptu jump into each other. It was a beautiful thing.

So appreciate this moment for as long as you want, because considering most professional golfers' inability to land a simple high-five, it won't be long before we have another celebration fail on our hands.

Mickelson's first event since splitting with longtime caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay was a mixed bag. While he did nab his first win in almost four years, he also got a little too cocky and screwed up his signature shot.

Somewhere, Dave Pelz is breathing a sigh of relief.

Lefty, who on Monday opened up a little bit about the breakup that rattled the golf world last week, took on some of the LPGA's best in a skills competition before the KPMG PGA Championship.

Watch the whole competition below, in which Mickelson rebounded to claim a victory in the glass-breaking competition.

Justin Thomas had a pretty big week on social media.

Not only did he look into his crystal ball and call Jordan Spieth's hole-out before it happened, but he was fresh off demolishing a Twitter troll.

It started out innocently enough, when JT tweeted this after missing the Travelers cut a week after shooting a record 63 and contending at the U.S. Open.

One tweeter didn't appreciate that "excuse" and he made sure to let Thomas know about it.

What a stat line: Sunburnt.10 beers. Five over par through three holes ... and still finding time to chirp at random athletes on Twitter.

You sir, Mr. @hockeyfoamer, are a regular jack-of-all-trades. Must be a real hit with your fellow playing partners.

JT wasn't having it.

Needless to say, the Internets sided with Thomas on this one.

If this gorilla doesn't put a smile on your face today, just pack it in. Nothing will.

The list of athletes who will be stripping their clothes off for this year's ESPN the Magazine's "Body Issue" has been released, and while it is certainly an impressive group, headlined by Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot, who will grace the cover, we couldn't help but notice there were no golfers included.

So we decided to get a head start on next year's edition, just throwing some ideas out there, spit-balling, putting the wheels in motion, however you want to put it. Here's some golfers who would make a fine edition to the cast and don't mind showing a little skin.

Paige Spiranac:

Happy first day of summer! It's only 117 degrees here in AZ...but it's a dry heat

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Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky:

I got 99 problems but you won't be one @djohnsonpga

A post shared by Paulina Gretzky (@paulinagretzky) on

Rory McIlroy:

Delighted to be on the cover of @menshealthmag! Check out behind-the-scenes footage from my shoot.

A post shared by Rory McIlroy (@rorymcilroy) on

Lexi Thompson:

Morning cardio done time to chill by the pool for a bit

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

Belen Mozo:


Got asked for a photo and this guy said lift ur top up so I said yeah y not

A post shared by Andrew 'Beef' Johnston (@beefgolf) on

This list could go on forever, but that last visual seems like a good place to end.

If you thought Donald Trump driving a golf cart on or near the green was bad etiquette, and it was, despite what Billy Horschel says, that's got nothing on what's been going on at the Golf Club of Houston, home of the Shell Houston Open.

Vandals returned for a third time since last year and used ATVs to tear up the greens.

This time, at least, they were caught on camera, sort of. Hopefully, this will be one of those rare instances where something good comes from the power of social media, and these vandals will be brought to justice.

Well, there you have it. "Jordon" Spieth, officially not exciting.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

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.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

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.