As the year ends (which is happening way too quickly), we’re taking a look at the highlights and lowlights of 2011. First, we checked out the best shots. Next, we — with most of the credit going to Intern Shoshana — review the greatest meltdowns, where the pros remind us they’re human, and the most epic choke jobs (to to use Johnny Miller’s favorite word) of 2011, another category that needs no introduction.
5. Kevin Na, Valero Texas Open. Na won his first PGA Tour event in Vegas at Justin Timberlake’s tourney, but for most sports fans, Na’s season will be remembered for taking 16 shots on the par-4 9th in the first round at TPC San Antonio. His drive found the deep woods, and from there, he proceeded to play what resembled a game of pinball, like a weekend hacker trying to thrash his way out of the trees. To his credit, he didn’t let the hole impact the rest of his round, didn’t throw a temper tantrums and instead made light out of it, faced the press and came back and played Friday, as well (rather than WD’ing or mailing it in).
4. Tiger Woods, PGA Championship. After returning to competition the week before at Firestone, Tiger entered the PGA Championship saying he was ready to win. Through the first five holes, it looked like it might not just be the same ol’ BS we’ve been hearing for nearly the last two years. Not so fast. Tiger knocked it into the drink on No. 15 and the double-bogey parade went into full gear. After visiting more sand than Stephanie will see in Hawaii, 31 holes later Tiger missed the cut and set a new record for himself — the worst major championship performance of his career. As a result, he didn’t make the FedExCup playoffs and we wouldn’t see him again on the golf course until October at the Frys.com Open, where he was “progressing.”
3. Phil Mickelson, Open Championship. Phil and links golf have always been as compatible as oil and water. This year, though, Phil vowed to change his mindset at the Open. Following a stirring front nine on Sunday, Lefty had a chance at adding his name to the Claret Jug (when you just had to shake your head in disbelief because the idea of Phil merely contending at a British Open was mind-boggling). He kicked off the back 9 nine by birdieing No. 10. But a short missed putt on No. 11 led to his fist bogey of the day, killing his momentum and marking the beginning of the end to his Open chances. Phil ended up playing the final eight holes at four-over and blew his shot at the first Open win of his career.
2. Jason Dufner, PGA Championship. Jason Dufner walked to No. 15 (the same hole that bit Tiger Woods and many, many others) at the PGA Championship with a five-stroke lead. [Ed. note: While watching Dufner pace while waiting for the group in front to clear the way, you could sense the impending disaster. –SW] Dufner dunked a five-wood into the pond guarding the green. Despite an excellent shot from the drop area, he made the first of three consecutive bogeys that probably cost him a major victory. He managed to par the difficult par-4 18th to force a playoff with eventual champ Keegan Bradley. Like the others on this list, Dufner faced the music and handled himself like a pro after it was all over. Hopefully, he has an opportunity to redeem himself next year.
1. Rory McIlroy, the Masters. Rory scrambled his way through the front nine (opening with a three-putt bogey) at Augusta, but he still held the lead as he walked to the 10th tee. What happened next will forever be remembered and go down as one of the most significant moments in golf. The 2011 Masters will always be known as the one where Rory had a meltdown of epic proportions on the 10th, instead of the one where Charl Schwartzel birdied the last four holes to win. Rory’s collapse was both so cringe-worthy and heartbreaking that it was hard to comprehend (let alone watch). Multiple pull hooks into cabins (that were so far from the fairway that we never knew they existed) and rivers, and several missed putts led to a final-day 80 and a tumble down the leaderboard. Rory, however, vowed the tournament would not break him. Two months later at the U.S. Open, he followed up on his words, showing his resiliency with his impeccable play and eight-shot victory. Later, he would call the Masters the turning point of his career.
*Dustin Johnson on No. 14 at the Open Championship. Can you say shank? Well, nearly. Dustin’s second shot with his 2-iron into the 14th was really that awful. The ball landed out of bounds and put the brakes on DJ’s back-nine charge and any chance of his winning the Open. From there Darren Clarke (almost unknowingly) strolled to victory.
*John Daly, Australian Open. When does a story overshadow a stellar opening round by Tiger Woods? Only an epic meltdown by John Daly, of course. JD made “Tin Cup” look good (especially because Tin Cup didn’t quit and eventually succeeded) when he pumped seven balls into the drink guarding the green at the par 5 11th. After “running out of balls” (you only run out of balls if you want to run out of balls), Daly stormed off the course. This doesn’t make the top five, though, because with Daly, this has become the semi-norm, while the others were more or less anomalies and don’t hold the record for most WDs in golf.
Alright, that’s all from us, it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? What do you consider the top five train wrecks of 2011?
(AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)