Punch Shot: New Year's resolutions for pro golfers

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It's 2015. Time to hit the gym, shed some pounds, drink less beer or whatever resolution you want to tell yourself you're going to commit to this year. Just for fun, we asked our writers to give their New Year's resolutions for professional golfers this season. Here are their answers:

By JASON SOBEL

Maybe I'm still stuck in the giving spirit of the holiday season. Maybe this is going to sound corny and cheesy and all sorts of Pollyannaish. Naïve, even. But here is my New Year's resolution for professional golfers.

Be more accessible. Acknowledge the crowd. Hand out an extra ball or two every round - at least for the kids. Smile for fan selfies. Personalize some autographs. You don't have to be Phil Mickelson, but it wouldn't kill you to make a little eye contact and give a few fist-bumps every once in a while.

Follow a couple of fans on social media. Not because they're rich or famous or a potential sponsor. Just because.

When you're being interviewed, especially on live television, be yourself. You don't have to sound like a robot. Saying you were really surprised by your performance because you spent the last two weeks fishing instead of grinding makes you sound more real than reciting the old adage about hard work paying off.

That's not to suggest the majority of players aren't already personable. They are. But hey, in a game that can use help growing in any way possible, a little more is never a bad thing.


By RYAN LAVNER

For Rory McIlroy, the man who seemingly has everything – fame, fortune and his pick of female acquaintances – here's hoping that he can do his best to avoid distractions in 2015.

They will be plentiful, no doubt. That’s what happens when you’re the new No. 1 player in the game, but this year in particular will provide unique challenges for one of golf’s biggest stars.  

Let’s start with the court case against his former management company, slated for February. Rory won’t yet have made an appearance on the PGA Tour, but the case could affect his early-season schedule on the European circuit. Add in the fact that the trial could include some unsavory details about both his buddy Graeme McDowell and his ex-fiance Caroline Wozniacki, and this figures to be a massive headache.

The run-up to the Masters will be insufferable as well, with the 25-year-old looking to become just the sixth player to win all four major championships. Rory and Tiger will be the biggest stories at Augusta, where McIlroy doesn’t have the best of histories, with just one top 10 in six tries and a collapse for the ages in 2011.

That figures to be a wild two-month stretch.

From a writer’s prospective, how Rory handles the most intense spotlight of his career will be one of the two most fascinating stories of the year.


By REX HOGGARD

Like joining a gym or vowing to cut back on adult beverages, New Year’s resolutions are more about the call to action than the actual result.

While Rory McIlroy is a more polished player today than he was in 2013 when Superman clocked more time as Clark Kent, the basic elements were the same – nuclear driver, pinpoint iron shots, serviceable short game.

The difference between that 2013 campaign, when he failed to win on the PGA Tour and didn’t contend in any of that year’s majors, and his ’14 masterpiece was the subtle advantage of unbridled confidence.

In ’14 when the world No. 1 won two of four majors, moved within an Augusta National green jacket of the career grand slam and added a World Golf Championships undercard to his resume, he arrived at the first tee each Thursday confident in the knowledge that he could win with or without his best stuff.

At his current ebb-and-flow clip, collecting the odd major every other year, McIlroy is destined to be remembered as one of the game’s greatest alongside the likes of Nicklaus, Woods and Palmer. Just imagine how good he could be if his New Year’s resolution was to avoid another mental lapse like the one he endured 2013.


By RANDALL MELL

I’d like to see Adam Scott resolve to put a standard putter in his bag before this season’s final major championship. 

Scott’s major championship fortunes changed after he put a long putter into play early in 2011. He didn’t have a top 10 in a major in the four years before he made the switch to a long putter. In the 16 majors since switching, he has nine top 10s, including his Masters victory in ’13. He has been T-5 or better in five of his last 10.

With the rule against anchoring going into effect in 2016, Scott has this year to figure out whether he will modify his stroke with an unanchored motion with the long putter or go back to a standard putter. Scott says he doesn’t believe going back to a standard putter will be a major issue. If that’s the case, getting one in his bag before a major in ’16 shouldn’t be an issue, either. The longer he waits, the more we’ll all wonder if it will be a major issue.


By WILL GRAY

Patrick Reed, embrace the dark side. Golf has plenty of room for heels – just ask Ian Poulter – and based on his performance in 2014, Reed clearly thrives in a me-against-the-world scenario. He took some criticism for his top-five comment in March, sure, but he also made those comments after dusting a field that included most of the game’s best players.

The line between confidence and arrogance is thin, but it’s not a delineation that should concern Reed. He wasn’t thinking about that when he enthusiastically quieted the crowd during his singles match at the Ryder Cup, one he went on to win to cap a weekend during which he earned more points than any other American. He shouldn’t lose sleep over image, or what fans or players think of him from one week to the next.

Reed should focus instead on what it takes to put his name near the top of the leaderboard. Based on 2014, that means keeping the earbuds in, tuning the competition out, and letting the results speak for themselves.