Good Vibrations

By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2008, 5:00 pm
Northern Trust OpenLOS ANGELES -- Phil Mickelson had played 10 tournaments at Riviera dating to his first appearance 20 years ago as a teenager. Never before had he arrived with such good vibes, mostly because of a minor change that he didn't reveal until he won.
It wasn't his close call last year, when he bogeyed the final hole and lost in a playoff.
Nor was it the playoff loss two weeks ago in Phoenix, a sign that his game was on the right track.
Rather, it was a noise only Lefty could hear.
He switched golf balls this year to a softer cover for more spin, and figured he had made all the adjustments until he struggled with his speed on the greens at Pebble Beach last week, which held him back. That's when he decided to change the insert in his putter.
'When I had putted with the insert I had, it was a quieter sound when the ball was coming off and I couldn't hear it, and I was giving it a little too much,' Mickelson said. 'Consequently, my speed was going well by the hole. By putting in the firmer insert, I was able to hear it, and my speed and touch came back.
'Now I hear it and it feels great.'
The putter was key for Mickelson, who closed with a 1-under 70 for a two-shot victory over Jeff Quinney that gave him yet another PGA TOUR title on the Left Coast.
He now has 33 career victories, with 16 of them in California and Arizona.
But as much as the putter helped Mickelson, it went from a magic wand to a ball-and-chain for Quinney.
He made four straight putts, three of them for birdie, from outside 10 feet that took him from a two-shot deficit to a brief lead and ultimately to a duel alone the final seven holes. But Quinney again had trouble down the stretch.
He bogeyed three straight holes, starting with back-to-back par putts that he missed from 7 feet, that gave Mickelson a two-shot lead and some comfort as he played the final holes. Quinney lost all hope with a three-putt from 20 feet on the par-5 17th, and his 25-foot birdie on the final hole only made it look close.
He shot a 71 for his first runner-up finish in his two years on tour.
'I had two (putts) that I'd like to have back,' Quinney said. 'I just put a little too much pressure on the putter on the back nine.'
Mickelson, meanwhile, was solid throughout the week.
His putting kept momentum in his round of 64 on Friday to seize control, and in his 70 on Saturday to stay in the lead. And after a two-shot swing that gave Quinney the lead on the ninth hole Sunday -- Quinney made a 12-foot birdie, Mickelson missed the green well to the right and made bogey -- Lefty responded with clutch putts.
The first came at the 310-yard 10th hole, where Mickelson hit driver over the green and a flop shot to the skinny part of the green, the ball stopping 6 feet away. Quinney saved par with a 10-foot putt, and Mickelson made his on top of him to tie for the lead.
Mickelson pulled away when Quinney made the first of three straight bogeys, and the tournament turned on the par-3 14th.
Quinney went over the green and chipped 7 feet by the hole. Mickelson hit into a bunker and blasted out to the same distance, a few inches farther away. That meant he went first, and Mickelson poured it in for par.
Quinney missed his, the lead was two shots, the tournament effectively over.
Mickelson didn't make it a clean sweep of the West Coast Swing. He has never won in Hawaii, and only goes to Hawaii on vacation. He has never won the Accenture Match Play Championship, although he gets another shot starting Wednesday.
But he has won at every stop on the West Coast, from the ocean courses of Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach to soggy La Costa Resort to the desert tracks in Phoenix, Palm Springs and Tucson.
'I do enjoy the West Coast,' Mickelson said. 'I'm excited to play golf and I practice very hard on the West Coast when the season is coming around and I haven't played for awhile, I've got a lot of energy and I'm excited to get back out. I think all of these things, plus the fact that I grew up here and used to walk these fairways on the outside, I just have a great love for the West Coast.
'I've been fortunate to play well here.'
It should be no surprise that Riviera took so long.
Until last year, Mickelson had missed the cut four out of eight times, including the 1995 PGA Championship. He loved the look of Riviera, but was confounded by the sticky kikuya grass that could grab the ball as it was approaching the green.
There's an art to his course off Sunset Boulevard, and he was a slow learner.
'I didn't understand the nuances of this golf course, where you can and can't hit it,' he said. 'And learning those nuances and how to hit the shots into some of these greens has helped me over the years. Last year was when I started to put it together, and I'm fortunate to break through this year.'
Sweeter still is having his name on the roll call of a champions, a list that includes Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead. And it's a list that doesn't include Tiger Woods, or even Jack Nicklaus.
And now that another victory is in the bag, he's hungry for more.
'It's not quite to where I believe I can get it, but I feel like it's been much better than in the past, so I feel like I'm getting better,' Mickelson said of his game. 'I can taste where I want to get to. But I'm not quite there yet.'
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    Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

    The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

    Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

    Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

    Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

    Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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    Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

    SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

    Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

    Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

    With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

    ''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

    Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    ''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

    Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

    Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

    He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    "I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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    Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

    It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

    Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

    “I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

    “The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

    Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.