A big finish for Phil sets up high expectations

By Associated PressNovember 9, 2009, 7:54 pm

SHANGHAI (AP)—No one can use a long winter’s break quite like Phil Mickelson .

No one should be more excited to get back.

The last three tournaments that featured Mickelson and Tiger Woods wereenough to get anyone excited about 2010, which very well could turn into acolossal battle between the world’s best two players, one that has been longoverdue.

They shared the stage at the Tour Championship, where Mickelson won thetournament and Woods captured the FedEx Cup. They shared a trophy at thePresidents Cup as the best two American players. Both were unbeaten, and whileWoods had the perfect record, Mickelson might have been more impressive forwinning with three struggling partners.

With only one trophy available Sunday in Shanghai, Mickelson stole the show.

Even though his clutch putting over the final three holes gave him aone-shot victory over Ernie Els , what caused such a frenzy at SheshanInternational was Mickelson playing in the final group with Woods.

Mickelson had never won a tournament when playing in the last group withWoods.

This time, it was Woods who flinched.

“Anything that could go wrong went wrong for me today,” he said.

Woods three-putted twice, hit two balls in the water, and closed with a 72to finish five shots behind Lefty, who did enough right to post a 69 and matchhis career-high of four victories in one year.

Woods headed south for the Australian Masters and a $3 million appearancefee. Mickelson headed for home in San Diego, where he will have 11 weeks offbefore returning to the San Diego Invitational at Torrey Pines.

Most years, Mickelson stashes the clubs away until the calendar turns. Thiswon’t be one of them. He said he would continue to work on his swing with ButchHarmon and his putting with Dave Stockton.

“I’m excited about 2010 because I’m starting to play the best golf of mycareer,” said Mickelson, who turns 40 in June. “Everything is starting to cometogether as far as my driving. Since working with Butch Harmon, my ball-strikinghas been much better. My short game is better than it’s ever been. Going into2010, not only am I excited about it, but I have very high expectations.”

This is one year Mickelson is not likely to ever forget.

His life went into a tailspin in May when his wife, Amy, was diagnosed withbreast cancer. No sooner had she gone through surgery to determine the scope ofthe disease, his mother was diagnosed, too.

Mickelson skipped the British Open, and when he returned in August after hiswife and mother received favorable outlooks, he did not crack the top 25 untilhe won the Tour Championship.

The turnaround began when Mickelson asked longtime caddie Jim Mackay forsuggestions. Mackay fired off a series of text messages in a desperate searchfor the phone number of Stockton, considered one of the best teachers with theputter. They hooked up in San Diego that weekend, and Mickelson believes hefound the missing link to his game.

Off the course is looking up, too.

Mickelson said his wife is doing well enough that she might come to moretournaments next year. He called her from the scoring trailer Sunday at the HSBCChampions—it was approaching midnight Saturday in San Diego—and wassurprised to hear how she coped watching the tournament on television.

“She said she was so nervous that she was cleaning out cupboards and stuff,which caught me off guard,” Mickelson said with a grin. “It’s been a fun wayfor us to end the year, and she’s doing much better. We are looking forward tothese next eight to 10 weeks off, where we can spend some time together. And wehave a few family trips lined up, too.”

On the course, the anticipation already is building toward Torrey Pines,with perhaps more clashes against Woods along the way at places like PebbleBeach, Doral and, ideally, Augusta National.

This is not the first time Mickelson has been poised to make a run at Woods.

The last time they played together in the final round of a major was 2005 atDoral. Mickelson had been atop the leaderboard for 10 consecutive weeks and hada two-shot lead over Woods going into the final round. Woods rallied with a30-foot birdie on the 17th and 66 to win by a shot, and by the end of the year,he was entrenched anew at No. 1.

What makes next year so tantalizing is that Woods hasn’t been challengedlike this in 10 years.

Sure, Vijay Singh won nine times and dominated the PGA Tour in 2004, butWoods spent the entire season overhauling his swing. That’s simply a fact, notan excuse.

Woods has recovered from reconstructive knee surgery, or so it would suggestwith six victories this year. He might have lost some of his mystique when Y.E.Yang became the first player to topple Woods in the final round of a major. Andit is worth noting that the last four times Woods has played in the final group,he failed to win three times.

Mickelson still knows the score. When a Chinese reporter asked Mickelson,who now has won the HSBC Champions twice, if he would share the winning formulawith his rival, Lefty just laughed.

“He has won many majors,” Mickelson said. “He has won the U.S. Open, hehas won the British Open. I have not. Although it feels great to win thistournament, he has won a lot of events.”

Even so, one final nugget from Shanghai shows what could be in store fornext year.

Woods and Mickelson have played together 25 times over the last dozen years.Woods’ advantage in posting the lower score: 11-10-4.

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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.