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Punch Shot: Returning unwanted moments from the past year

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It's that time of the year again ... to return your unwanted Christmas gifts. So that got us thinking, what moments from the past season would some of the game's biggest names want to exchange. GolfChannel.com writers offer up their suggestions.


By RYAN LAVNER

If Tiger Woods could have a mulligan in 2013, it’s a good bet he’d use it on his wedge shot Friday at Augusta National – the one that clanked off the flagstick, trundled into the water, and, in retrospect, altered the trajectory of his season.

Give him a redo, and Woods would play that zeroed-in wedge just a touch to either side of the flag. He would make that kick-in birdie. He would avoid the biggest controversy of the year, or being labeled as “a little cavalier with the rules.” He would take the lead at the Masters on his way to capturing his 15th major title.

He would play more aggressively at both Opens, knowing his major burden had been lifted, and maybe he wins one there, too. He would be named the clear-cut player of the year, no matter what Phil and Adam and Hennie Stennie all did.

That shot was a bad break for Tiger, no doubt. But it made next year even more compelling.


By RANDALL MELL

Phil Mickelson gets to return his tee shot at the 13th at Merion Sunday in this year’s U.S. Open for something he’d like better.

Mickelson lamented hitting pitching wedge over the green there on his way to his most heartbreaking loss in the championship, his sixth runner-up finish.

“I had too much club,” he said later. “I needed a gap wedge. It would have been a better fit.”

Isn’t that what most of the returns are all about on the day after Christmas? Something that fits better?

Yes, Mickelson made two double bogeys on the front nine in the final round at Merion, losing the lead he built through 54 holes, but his eagle at the 10th put him back in the driver’s seat. In the end he left heartbroken, thinking about the misses with wedges at the 13th and 15th holes, shots that led to bogeys.

“The two bad shots of the day that I’ll look back on where I let it go,” Mickelson said.


By REX HOGGARD

Pick a major, almost any major will do, and chances are Lee Westwood has regrets and a distinct desire for a cosmic mulligan. There was the Masters in 2010 (second) and 2012 (third), the Open Championship in 2009 (third) and 2010 (second) and the U.S. Open in 2011 (third).

You get the idea, but if the affable Englishman had one chance to trade in tragedy for triumph it would likely have been at this year’s Open Championship.

Westwood began the final 18 holes looking like a man poised to end a confounding Grand Slam drought. He was two strokes clear of the field and cruising. Perhaps even more telling was his confident tone on the eve of the final round at Muirfield.

“I'm not in a high-pressure situation, because I'm going to go have dinner, and I'm so good with a knife and fork now that I don't feel any pressure at all,” he joked following the third round.

Whether it was pressure or simply fate that led to a closing-round 75 and a distant tie for third doesn’t really matter. Not when eventual champion Phil Mickelson carded perhaps the round of the year (66) on his way to victory.

There were birdies to be had on Sunday on the ancient links, just none for Westwood.