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. GolfChannel.com senior writers Jason Sobel, Randall Mell and Rex Hoggard offer up to whom they would like to extend a mulligan in 2011?

By JASON SOBEL

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

By RANDALL MELL

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 REX HOGGARD

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.

Getty Images

Alternate shot to be used Sunday at Zurich

By Ryan LavnerApril 24, 2018, 6:41 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Tournament officials made a slight tweak to the format for this year’s Zurich Classic.

Instead of having the two-man teams compete in fourballs (best ball) during the final round, players will now play alternate shot on Sunday.

That means fewer birdies and roars, but the Tour is hoping that the move will create more volatility – teams won’t be able to run away from the pack with another round in the low-60s.

Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith teamed up to win last year’s event at 27 under, after a final-round 64. Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown fired a 60 on Sunday to force a playoff, but for much of the day it was a two-team race.

“There could be volatility,” Jim Furyk said. “It just might come in a different fashion.”

“There’ll be a lot more hold-on as opposed to catch-up,” David Duval said.

Fourballs will be played during the first and third rounds, while the alternate-shot format is used Friday and Sunday. That also eases some of the concerns from last year, because now players can ease into the flow of the tournament by playing best ball first.

“It’s a little more comfortable, with two balls in play,” Furyk said.

One of the drawbacks? The Zurich has its best field in tournament history, with 10 of the top 14 players in the world, and those stars will only hit half the shots on Sunday. That’s not ideal for either the fans at TPC Louisiana or those watching at home.

“That’s sort of a bummer,” Billy Horschel said. “They had success last year, but they’re trying to make a little tweak and see if it’s any better. If not, they can go back to the old way.”

Getty Images

Path down the not-so straight and narrow

By Brandel ChambleeApril 24, 2018, 6:30 pm

Try as I might, I can’t remember a single one of my professors at the University of Texas asking me what we would like to be tested on. What I would have given if my freshman classical lit teacher, Miss Gross (really her name), had asked if we preferred Hemingway, the master of the short story, to the Russian novelist who apparently got paid by the word, Leo Tolstoy. The innate laziness of students, individual bias and consensus, as it turns out, runs counter to the academic goals of professors and Miss Gross had the temerity to think she knew better than her students what curriculum would be appropriate for a proper education.

She was right, of course, but “consensus” has become much more en vogue, as the world via social media bows to groupthink. This has become more evident in universities, politics and even golf, where the game has become almost unrecognizable from what it once was. 

The top-five players in the world (Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose) rank 128th, 126th, 108th, 127th and 100th, respectively, in driving accuracy. The top-five players in the world are pitiful at what Ben Hogan called the single most important shot in golf. Hogan looked at his target through a scope, these players use a scattergun. Yes, I know we now have something called strokes gained: off the tee, but given the current status of the game that is just a metric to tell us who the longest, straightest, most crooked players are. 

The hardest thing to do in golf is to hit the ball long AND straight. 



Hogan not only understood this, he obsessed over the idea and spent a lifetime building a golf swing that allowed him to hit the ball as far as he could and as straight as he possibly could. His only metric was the ribbon width fairway of a U.S. Open. The reason Hogan would be sick to his stomach if he walked up and down the ranges of PGA Tour events today is because many of the golf swings are built for half of this equation, to hit the ball long. In fairness this is not the player’s fault, at least not as far as they know. 

The most popular golf course architect remains Alister MacKenzie, a man who died over 80 years ago. MacKenzie’s guiding philosophy was to build courses that brought the greatest pleasure to the greatest number and his work, aesthetic gems like Cypress Point and Augusta National, built on ocean cliffs and on a former nursery farm, have gained immense and lasting fame. 

But perhaps more enduring, and I argue more damaging to the professional game, is his philosophy of design to appeal to the greatest number. 

Wanting to imitate links golf, MacKenzie favored little rough, few fairway bunkers, the imitation of nature for aesthetic appeal and rolling greens and surrounds. Testing professional golfers was never the primary objective. Understandable given that when MacKenzie was designing golf courses the game was, besides being much harder than it is now, relatively new in the United States. Making it more popular was the goal. 

Players, professional and amateur, loved the forgiving nature of his designs, and budding architects wanting to imitate MacKenzie’s work, adopted philosophies along similar lines. To this day when having a debate with a group of Tour players or golf course architect nerds, the consensus will be to have little or graduated rough off of the tee, “to allow for the recovery” they will say, followed by “to give the greatest pleasure to the greatest number.”

The year MacKenzie died, 1934, was notable: it was the year what is now called the Masters began, it was the first year the PGA Tour began recognizing the leading money winner and, far less widely known, it was the first year of a three-and-a-half decade reign for Joseph C. Dey as executive director of the USGA.

“From the moment I met him I could tell he was in charge of the game of golf,” Jack Nicklaus once said about Dey.

Dey shepherded golf in the United States and almost single-handedly instituted a uniform code of rules for the USGA and the R&A and helped start five USGA championships and four international team competitions. Beyond that, he was the man in charge of setting up the courses for the U.S. Open. 

His course setups were not built around consensus, they were driven by one simple overriding philosophy: to find the one player who was most in control of his emotions, mind and golf shots. U.S. Opens were often punishing to the best players and unforgiving, both off of the tee and around the green. There was no thought to the recovery, which is by definition bowing to the next shot. U.S. Opens were about great execution of the shot at hand, right here and now. The demands of precision were intimidating but they made the best players think. Hogan, in particular, thought longer and harder than anyone about the demands of a U.S. Open, and conquering them. 

Hogan had a Euclidean determination to build a golf swing that would withstand the greatest pressure in the game, U.S. Open pressure. What he built was an immaculate marriage of tenacity and technique, a swing that transfigured the game and remains the single most compelling example of beauty in golf. Now try to imagine what his swing would have looked like if driving the ball straight were of very little importance.

Sure Hogan gets credit for building the golf swing, but Dey should get the assist. If the executive director of the USGA had sought a consensus and conferred with the players, it’s doubtful that his setups would have been as demanding. Necessity being the mother of invention though, Hogan invented something nobody had ever seen before or since. 



Which brings me back to the state of the game today, where players flail away with impunity off of the tee, claiming to be great drivers of the ball because of something called strokes gained: off of the tee. The implications here are far reaching, far more than just being able to scatter shots all over a course and still win. 

Because golf course setups have become far more forgiving – owing to the MacKenzie philosophy, incessant complaints and suggestions of the players and to the social media chorus that we want more birdies ­– players seek to launch shots as high as they can, with as little spin as they can, with as long of a driver as they can handle. Distance has become a means to an end so much, that many are crying for a roll back of the ball when all that needs to happen is to roll back to an era when one man had the guts and the acuity to not listen to the players, or the pervading philosophy of fairness.

Imagine if the U.S. Open and several other events returned to this demanding philosophy. Players out of necessity would choose balls that spun more, heads that were smaller so they could shape shots, shots that would start lower for more control and golf swings would evolve to find the balance of distance and accuracy. In time an athlete would come along who could solve the puzzle of how to hit the ball far and straight. 

Players are not hitting the ball so far today because that’s the way the game is going, they are doing so because the set ups of golf courses do not make them think. 

Getty Images

Finau returns to action 3 weeks after Masters injury

By Ryan LavnerApril 24, 2018, 6:22 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Nearly three weeks have passed since Tony Finau suffered a gruesome high-ankle sprain while celebrating a hole-in-one at the Masters.

And to some surprise, he’s already back on the course.

Finau was on the range at TPC Louisiana on Tuesday morning, preparing to return to competition alongside fellow Utah resident Daniel Summerhays at the Zurich Classic. After a half-hour warmup session in which he was able to shift into his left side, he walked slowly but without a limp.

“The only way we’re going to know where we’re at with the mobility is to continue to do what my foot normally does – and that’s walking and playing golf,” he said. “With this golf course and the setup of the tournament” – a flat course, with two days of alternate shot – “what better way to gauge where we’re at than by playing this tournament?”

Finau said that he mostly tried to stay off his injured ankle and foot the week after the Masters. Last week was more physical therapy and strength training, to test his limits. He’s been working with the Utah Jazz trainers, as well as the physical therapists at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center, to return to the Tour as quickly as possible.

“The journey is far from over as far as dealing with the foot,” he said. “I’ve dealt with ankle injuries before, and they can linger. I don’t think it’s going to be 100 percent for a while, but I do feel like it’s ready to go and play and compete and continue to get better as I do that.”


Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


Finau said he was shocked by the amount of support he received after his fluke injury in the Par 3 Contest – “A lot of guys who I didn’t know had my number reached out” – and that he only posted the gruesome photos of his leg after the Masters, so that fans knew what he endured to tie for 10th (including a Sunday 66) in his first start at Augusta.    

“I didn’t want anybody to think that I had excuses,” he said. “I’m there to play. I was ready to play once my tee time came around. Obviously people knew the scenario I was dealing with, but after the fact people could respect the process I had to go through throughout the week, during the round, after the round, taping it, and then seeing the condition it was in.

“Hopefully people were able to respect what I was able to do with limited action on my left side.”  

Getty Images

Longtime pals Furyk, Duval the 'rustiest' Zurich team

By Ryan LavnerApril 24, 2018, 5:58 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Jim Furyk and David Duval are the winningest two-man team here at the Zurich Classic, combining for 30 PGA Tour titles during their careers.

These days, they’re also known for something else.

“We’re probably the rustiest team in the field,” Duval said with a laugh Tuesday. “Certainly the least rounds played.”

Of the 80 teams in the field at TPC Louisiana, the Furyk-Duval partnership may have raised the most eyebrows.

Furyk, 47, has scaled back his schedule over the past few years, after dealing with a variety of injuries. As the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, he also has more on his mind than choosing clubs and reading greens. Duval, 46, has made only 11 Tour starts since 2014, transitioning instead to the broadcast booth.


Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


And yet they’re here, together, paired for just the second time in a Tour event. Furyk found that hard to believe. Of the dozens of rounds these two aging warriors have played over the past two-plus decades, they teed it up together in only one Tour event – the 2002 Invensys Classic at Las Vegas.

“I know we played a lot on Mondays and Tuesdays,” Furyk said. “So playing in a tournament, that’s going back 15 years ago. I can’t remember last week who I played with, so …”

More vivid are his memories of their time together on what was then known as the Nike Tour.

“We had a span there where I think we played eight to 10 weeks in a row and we played practice rounds together,” Furyk said.

Duval mentioned the idea of teaming up at the Zurich last year, and Furyk accepted. This is just a one-off, a chance for old friends to reconnect, even if their own expectations are low.  

“When the folks out there go play golf, their idea of golf is hanging out with their buddies, right? Folks that they love playing golf with, enjoy being around,” Furyk said. “That’s what this event gives us. To get back together is really what it’s all about.”