Another close call at a major for Westwood

By Associated PressApril 12, 2010, 4:04 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – When Lee Westwood headed to the scoring hut to sign off on another close call in a major championship, he got a bit of advice from someone who’s done that many times.

Phil Mickelson was once known as the best player without a major title on his resume. Now, he’s got four of themand he’s sure Westwood will win one, too.

“I’ve been in that position, and it sucks,” Mickelson said. “But I also told him he is playing some of the best golf of anybody in the world, he’s an incredible player and I pull for him. I want him to win his first major soon, because he is that kind of talent, that type of player and a quality guy.”

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Lee Westwood entered the final round with a one-shot lead, and left with this third-straight close call in a major. (Getty Images)
Westwood was runner-up to Mickelson at the Masters on Sunday, after settling for third-place finishes at the previous two majors. The Englishman went into the final round with a one-stroke lead, but a mediocre front side held him to a 1-under 71 as Mickelson pulled away for a three-stroke win.

What’s next?

More of the same as Westwood doesn’t plan any changes to his game.

“You can’t get lured into the thought that you have to do something drastic,” Westwood said. “I just have to keep working on what I’m working on. … The law of averages says the door is going to open one day.”

He was third in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, the tournament that Tiger Woods won on a shredded knee, and third again at the last two majors of 2009. Westwood just missed out on the British Open playoff between Stewart Cink and Tom Watson and finished behind Y.E. Yang and Woods at the PGA Championship.

Now, Westwood has his best showing yet in a major.

“The closer I get to winning these major championships, the more I want the next one to come around,” he said. “Obviously, when you’ve come close, there’s a tinge of disappointment straight off. I was disappointed walking up to the last green, obviously. But once that’s passed, I didn’t do too much wrong today. I can walk away with a lot of positive thoughts and memories from this Masters.”

Westwood’s biggest miscues came on the front side. He hooked his opening tee shot into the trees and wound up taking bogey. He made another at the fourth, then three-putted at No. 9 to make the turn with a 1-over 37 his worst showing of the week on the front side. The first three days, he was a cumulative 8 under on that stretch of the course.

“I didn’t get off to a fast start like I would have wished today, being one shot in the lead,” Westwood said. “If I got to 2 or 3 under through seven or eight holes, and maybe it would have been a different result. But I didn’t drive the ball quite as well over the first few holes.”

His game came around on the back side. Westwood got safely through Amen Corner and made a birdie at the par-5 13th. But he failed to take advantage of the other par-5 hole, No. 15, despite hitting his second shot just over the green. His chip down the ridge checked up short, and his birdie putt caught a tiny spike mark and skidded off line.

Mickelson made his birdie for a three-stroke lead with three holes left. Westwood bounced back with a 6-foot birdie at 17 to put some pressure on Mickelson, but Lefty rolled in his par-saving putt to take a two-stroke lead to the final hole. That allowed him to hit a nice, safe 3-wood off the tee, and when his second shot nuzzled up 8 feet from the hole, Westwood was done.

The Englishman settled for par. Mickelson rolled in the birdie.

“I shot a 71, which at the end of the day is not a terrible score around Augusta when you’re in the lead,” Westwood said. “Phil shot 67, which generally wins major championships when people are (in the lead) or thereabouts going into the last round. He hit good shots when he needed to around the back nine.

“I think Phil won that one fair and square.”

Westwood can’t wait to get to the next major: the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June.

“If you sat me down at the start of the year and asked me to rate which ones suit me, I would probably put the Masters last,” he said. “To finish second is obviously a massive boost for the rest of the year. I’ve just got to keep doing the things I’m doing. I think my short game can still improve, even though it’s a lot better.”

He noted how well Mickelson played around the greens, especially at the ninth and 10th holes to save par after wild tee shots.

“It was master class from Phil out there,” Westwood said. “That’s the sort of standard you’ve got to be up to.”

In the scoring hut behind the 18th green, Mickelson delivered those words of encouragement to his playing partner.

“He’d been that man who kept knocking on the door, finishing second and third and wondering if it ever does,” Westwood said. “Suddenly it does, and winning majors becomes easier in your own mind. He said I’ve been playing some of the best golf of anybody out there recently, and just keep plugging away and eventually it will happen.”

 

Even sweeter than Phil Mickelson slipping into another green jacket was seeing his wife waiting for him behind the 18th green Sunday at Augusta National with tears streaming down her face.

She had not been at a golf tournament since being diagnosed with breast cancer 11 months ago.

He had not looked the same ever since.

A shattered world seemed at peace in the fading sunlight Sunday at the Masters, where Mickelson made one last birdie for a 5-under 67 and a three-shot victory over Lee Westwood.

The conclusion was far more emotional than anyone expected.

“To win this tournament, it’s the most amazing feeling,” Mickelson said from Butler Cabin. “This has been a special day. I’ll look back on this day as very memorable, something I’ll always cherish.”

Determined to win one for his family, Mickelson made two remarkable par saves from the trees, then made a gutsy play off the pine straw and over Rae’s Creek on the par-5 13th hole. It was the kind of shot that has brought Mickelson so much criticism for taking too many risks. This time, nothing was going to stop him.

His final birdie only mattered on the scorecard, 16-under 272, the lowest by a Masters champion since Tiger Woods in 2001. Mickelson had this won as he walked up the 18th fairway to a massive ovation. He raised both arms when the putt fell, had a long embrace with caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay then walked toward the scoring hut and into Amy Mickelson’s arms.

Standing behind them was Mary Mickelson, his mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in July.
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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.