Goosen Grabs BellSouth Lead
The South African, whose only victory on American soil came in last year's U.S. Open, shot a 4-under-par 68 in the third round of the BellSouth Classic to take a two-stroke lead over Mickelson.
Goosen launched a streak of five birdies in six holes by sinking a 20-foot putt at No. 9, one of the toughest tests on the TPC at Sugarloaf. He signed for the lowest score of the day, one of just 10 players who broke into the 60s.
Three days of sunny skies and steady breezes turned the greens rock-hard, mimicking conditions that will be the norm at Augusta National next weekend.
Mickelson found out just how tricky those greens can be, four-putting the 13th to rekindle memories of a similar debacle at The Players Championship.
'If you get on the wrong side of the flag, anything can happen - no matter how good your short game is,' said Goosen, who knows a thing or two about missing short putts. 'I'm a little surprised he's not higher.'
Still, Mickelson was in contention for the 21st victory of his career, more than any active player except Tiger Woods.
Goosen had bogeys at 16 and 18, finishing with a 14-under 202. Mickelson was at 204 after shooting a third-round 71.
'The greens are very difficult,' Lefty said. 'I made countless 4- to 6-footers for par. Obviously, I missed one at 13, but I hit a lot of good shots. For the most part, I thought I played well.'
After making the turn with a two-stroke lead over Goosen, Mickelson found himself tied when he walked away from the par-5 10th.
Goosen birdied the hole, while Mickelson came up a club short with his second shot - winding up in the front bunker.
Mickelson chunked his sand wedge - barely clearing the lip of the bunker - and left the ensuing chip 12 feet from the flag. He missed the putt for just his third bogey of the tournament, knowing this was a hole where he should have done no worse that par.
Then came the meltdown at 13, the shortest par-4 on the course at 310 yards. Playing in the group ahead of Mickelson, Goosen came through with another birdie, leaving his tee shot just off the green, chipping to 19 feet and sinking the putt.
Mickelson drove onto the green for the second time in three days, but it did him no good. His first putt, downhill from about 50 feet away, stopped short and left a testy 3-footer.
The birdie attempt slid 6 feet past the hole, and the comebacker missed, too. Mickelson finally tapped in and walked off the green shaking his head.
Flash back to The Players two weeks ago. Mickelson knocked himself out of contention by five-putting the 10th green for a quadruple-bogey 8. The middle three putts were from 5 feet - and two of those were rush jobs.
Mickelson said this situation was different.
'I don't think this did nearly as much damage as the Players,' he said. 'People are going to make bogeys out there. I'm still right there atop the leaderboard. To be 12 under, I think that's some pretty good playing.'
Goosen has made a bunch of long putts - just as he did last year at the U.S. Open before his infamous 18-inch miss on the 72nd hole left him tied with Mark Brooks.
Goosen recovered to win an 18-hole playoff the following day, the biggest victory of his career.
The somber South African began his surge to the BellSouth lead at No. 9, a 465-yard hole that surrendered only 10 birdies all day. He sank a 25-footer for birdie at the 12th, then another 20-footer at 13.
'I'm pretty happy where I am,' Goosen said. 'I've not been playing well this week at all. But I've been putting great, and that's why I am where I am.'
Steve Elkington, who led after the first round and was tied with Mickelson heading into Saturday, struggled to a 73 in the difficult conditions.
The Australian was still in contention for his first victory since 1999, four strokes back at 206 in a tie with Mike Weir.
Thomas Bjorn, who entered the BellSouth hoping to improve his game for the Masters, shot a 69 and was alone in third at 205.
News, Notes and Numbers
*Colin Montgomerie had the second hole-in-one of the tournament, using an 8-iron to sink his tee shot on the 172-yard 16th.
*Jesper Parnevik made a hole-in-one Friday on the eighth, but not much has gone right for the Swede since then. He's 7-over since holing out, including a third-round 76 that knocked him out of contention.
*The most surprising player in the field? That's easy. Zach Johnson, a regular on the Hooters Tour, was at 208 - tied for eighth - playing in just his second PGA Tour event. Johnson had to qualify on Monday just to earn a spot in the field.
Full-field scores from the BellSouth Classic
McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.
The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.
McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.
McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.
''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''
Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.
''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''
McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.
''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.
''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''
The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.
Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel
If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.
Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:
When in the Middle East... pic.twitter.com/lNv1Lh79E0— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 16, 2018
If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:
Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."
Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."
I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H
And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.
Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational
Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.
The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.
Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.
“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”
Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews
Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.
Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.