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.

By JASON SOBEL

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.


By JAY COFFIN

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.


By REX HOGGARD

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.


By RANDALL MELL

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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Like a tattoo: Ko shares early Mediheal lead

By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 10:45 pm

Lydia Ko put herself in early position Thursday to try to extend her birthday celebration through Sunday at the LPGA Mediheal Championship.

Ko, who turned 21 on Tuesday, is off to a strong start at Lake Merced Golf Club, where she has a lot of good memories to draw upon as she seeks to regain the winning form that made her the greatest teen phenom in the history of the women’s game.

With a 4-under-par 68, Ko moved into a four-way tie for the lead among the morning wave in the first round. I.K. Kim, Jessica Korda and Caroline Hedwall also opened with 68s.

All Ko has to do is look at her right wrist to feel good about returning to San Francisco. That’s where she tattooed the date April 27, 2014, in Roman numerals. That’s how she commemorated her Swinging Skirts victory at Lake Merced, her first title as an LPGA member. She won there again the following year.

“This is a golf course where I've played well,” Ko said. “The fans have been amazing. They’ve been super supportive every single time I've come here, even since I played the U.S. Juniors here.”


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Ko made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced in 2012.

“It just brings back a lot of great memories,” she said.

Ko got this week off to a good start with friends from South Korea and New Zealand flying to California to surprise her on her birthday. She was born in South Korea and grew up in New Zealand.

“Turning 21 is a huge thing in the United States,” Ko cracked. “I’m legal now, and I can do some fun things.”

Ko is looking to claim her 15th LPGA title and end a 21-month winless spell. Her ball striking was sharp Thursday, as she continues to work on improvements under her swing coach, Ted Oh. She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation.

“My ball striking's been getting better these last few weeks, which has been really nice,” Ko said at week’s start. “But then I've been struggling with putting, which was the aspect of the game that was going really well. I feel like the pieces are there, and just, sometimes, the hardest thing is to kind of put all those pieces together. Just have to stay patient, I know there are a lot of good things happening.”

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Watch: Rose drops trou despite gator danger

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 10:12 pm

We all know how fashion-conscious pro golfers are, and sometimes that even trumps modesty.

Take Justin Rose, whose tee shot on the par-3 third hole in Thursday's opening round of the Zurich Classic found the water. But the ball was close enough to shore for Rose to try to play it. Not wanting to get his light-colored pants dirty - what is up with all the white pants on Tour these days, anyway? - he took them off to play the shot.

If there were any gators in the water hazard - and this being Louisiana, there almost certainly were - they showed no interest in the Englishman.

It was only appropriate that Rose should strip down for a shot, as his partner, Henrik Stenson, famously did the same thing (to an even greater degree) at Doral in 2009.

Finally, just to provide some closure, Rose failed to get up and down.

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Like father like son: Bring Your Child to Work Day

By Jay CoffinApril 26, 2018, 7:51 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Today is Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day at Golf Channel, where everything is fun and games until your child promptly says something that embarrasses you beyond belief. It’s only happened six times today. So far.

My daughter, 12, is in middle school and feels like she’s too big for this sort of shindig. But my son Brady, 11, was all in. The deal was that he could spend the day with me, I’d take him to McDonald’s for lunch, but he had to write a golf story of some sort for GolfChannel.com.

Here is his unedited work, in all its glory:

By BRADY COFFIN

My name is Brady Coffin and I play golf. I started at the age of 4 years old. My two favorite golfers are Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods. They are really good golfers and every time I watch them they always give me tips.

My dad Jay Coffin is the best editor of Golf Channel and always gave me tips when I first put the golf club in my hand. I had my very first par in Hilton Head when I was 7 years old. I am on the Drive, Chip and Putt commercial and I was in a movie where I played a young Ben Hogan. My favorite golf course is Royal Blue in the Bahamas.

I have won many golf tournaments and I am going to play in another tournament next month. I have made a couple of birdies. I am going to play in the PGA Junior League this summer.

At the Golf Channel I get to meet new people and play many games. One of the amazing people I met was Mr. Damon Hack. He is on the Morning Drive show and was very nice to me. Damon has been playing golf for 25 years and his favorite golfer growing up was Tiger Woods.

He loves working at Golf Channel.

“It gives me the opportunity to talk and write about the sport that I love. It’s a sport that I can play with my boys. It’s a sport that I can watch on television. It’s a sport that teaches great life lessons. I couldn’t ask for a better job,” Damon said to me.

(P.S. I will be better than Jordan Spieth.)

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Not the 'prettiest' 65, but Duval, Furyk will take it

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 7:44 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Wearing a polo instead of a dress shirt, working with a caddie and not a producer, David Duval exited the scoring tent, walked toward the group of reporters waiting for him after their 65 and grumbled to teammate Jim Furyk, “The damn media.”

Duval was joking – we think – since he now is one of us on the dark side, a successful and respected TV analyst, after an injury-shortened career in which he battled Tiger Woods, rose to world No. 1, won a major and then experienced such a miserable slump that it drove him into an entirely new line of work.

Now 46, Duval doesn’t play much anymore, only 11 events in the past four years. His last made cut was in July 2015. Earlier this year, he teed it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but only because he and his wife, Susie, enjoy the vibe there. Competitively, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He had moved back to Colorado, worked two out of the three weeks, and then couldn’t practice the other week because the weather didn’t cooperate. Not surprisingly, he shot three consecutive rounds of 76 or worse.

And that could have been the extent of his season (save for his annual appearance at The Open), but he was drawn to the idea of the team format at the Zurich, to the idea of playing with Jim Furyk, with whom he’s been friends for the past 32 years, dating to their days in junior golf. So Duval reached out, asking the U.S. Ryder Cup captain if he wanted to team up, for old times’ sake.

“This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days,” said Duval, who estimated that he’s played more than 100 practice rounds with Furyk over the years. “Expectation-wise, I don’t know what they are for me. I don’t get to participate out here and compete.”


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But Duval took this start seriously. He almost never travels with his clubs, but he brought them to the Masters, working with his old coach, Puggy Blackmon, between TV appearances and bouncing between Augusta Country Club and Augusta University’s practice facility.

Without any on-camera work since then, he’s spent the past two weeks grinding, even bringing Blackmon to New Orleans for a range session, just like most of the other pros in the field.

“It’s like a normal preparation,” he said. “Maybe not as much as it would be for a typical player, but a lot more than I’ve been able to do in the past.”

Duval has no intentions of diving back into competitive golf full-time, but working as an analyst has given him a new perspective on the game he loves.

“When you don’t play a lot and you don’t have that opportunity, you feel like you have to play perfectly,” he said. “Being on the other side of the desk, you see how many crappy golf shots really, truly get hit, and it’s like, look, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to hit more good ones than bad ones and go from there.”

That also sums up his and Furyk’s opening round here at the Zurich.

Furyk joked before the event that they’re the rustiest team in the field, but playing best ball, they remained steady in a driving rainstorm, then ran off seven birdies to shoot 65 and sit in the top 10 when they finished their round.

“It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest,” Duval said, “but it was solid. It wasn’t like we had 36 looks at birdie.”

“We ham-and-egged it really good today,” Furyk added. “We got pretty much one of the best scores we could have out of the round.”

The second round could be a different story, of course, with alternate shot. It’s a more nerve-wracking format – especially for two aging warriors without many competitive reps this year – and they figure to find some unusual parts of TPC Louisiana.

But that’s a worry for Friday, because Duval was in the mood to savor his four birdies, his team score of 65 and his ideal start to a work week with his longtime friend.

“I think it was good,” he said, breaking into a wry smile, “especially for me.”