Hard Work Destiny for Masters Champ

By Associated PressApril 4, 2005, 4:00 pm
Destiny always seems to be the 15th club in the bag of a Masters champion.
No one can explain how a tuft of grass kept Fred Couples' ball from rolling into Rae's Creek on the par-3 12th in the final round of 1992. Ben Crenshaw felt the hand of Harvey Penick, who died the week before, guiding him around the back nine when he won the 1995 Masters. Tom Kite still doesn't understand how his birdie putt stayed out of the cup in 1986, allowing Jack Nicklaus a record sixth green jacket.
Phil Mickelson felt destiny was on his side last year at the Masters.
With 18 feet separating him from that elusive major championship, Mickelson's birdie putt on the 18th hole last year looked good until the final few feet, when it started to turn left to the corner of the cup.
The final few inches are still a blur. The ball caught the left lip of the cup, slid quickly around to the right side and suddenly disappeared, setting off an explosion of cheers for a Masters victory that was long overdue.
Most people will never forget the leap, such as it was.
With both arms in the air, Mickelson jumped for joy, an estimated 13 inches off the ground. President Bush poked fun at his vertical leap, and Lefty jokingly says the cameras didn't do him justice.
'I will take to my grave my belief that the cameras just did not catch me at the apex of my jump,' he said.
But as he looks back on a putt heard 'round the world, Mickelson believes he had some help.
For each of his first 21 victories on the PGA Tour, Mickelson gave his grandfather, Al Santos, the flag from the 18th hole. But after the 2002 Greater Hartford Open, Santos lost interest.
'Don't bring me any more flags unless it's for a major,' his grandfather told him. 'I want the Masters up there.'
Santos died three months before his grandson finally won a major.
'In the first split-second of that moment, I really believe that my grandfather nudged my ball back to the right just in the nick of time,' Mickelson writes in his book, 'One Magical Sunday (But Winning Isn't Everything).'
There were other factors at work.
Mickelson got the perfect read from Chris DiMarco, whose Masters hopes already had faded. He took two shots to get out of the bunker on No. 18, and the second one trickled an inch beyond Mickelson's marker.
They are good friends, and some wondered if DiMarco hit it there on purpose.
'Yeah, right,' DiMarco says. 'If I could have put it that close to his mark, why didn't I hit it that close to the hole?'
As he lined up his putt, Mickelson told him, 'Show me the way.'
'That was the only putt I really felt nervous on all day -- I mean really, really nervous,' DiMarco said. 'Because I knew if I didn't put a good putt on it, it was not going to show him anything. I knew he was going to make it. I might have been the only one. But I knew it was his time.
'He did it, and it was awesome.'
Mike Weir, the defending champion who slipped the size 43-long green jacket over Mickelson's shoulders at the award ceremony, offered a telling comment about destiny in an interview with Golf World magazine.
'At Augusta, your putts have to go in the center of the hole if you expect to make them,' Weir said. 'You don't see many putts catch the lip and go in, especially on the low side. This one lipped back and went in, and that never happens.
'Low side, breaking away -- you're meant to win when those things happen.'
Destiny? Maybe.
But no Masters champion ever stumbles into a green jacket without awesome skill and hard work. And that's why Mickelson believes he'll get plenty more chances to win the Masters over the next several years.
The guy who went 12 years without a major -- and with only three close calls during that pursuit -- found a routine last year that not only brought him the Masters, but nearly the Grand Slam.
Only a three-putt double bogey on the 71st hole kept him from the U.S. Open title. Playing for par when everyone around him was making birdies left him one shot out of a playoff at the British Open. And he was poised to win the PGA Championship until he couldn't make enough putts on the back nine at Whistling Straits.
To see Mickelson prepare for major events is exhausting.
He already has spent three days at Augusta National heading into this year's Masters, studying every conceivable angle around the greens, every blade of grass to understand where a putt might break.
At the Ryder Cup last year, it took Mickelson nearly nine hours to get through a practice round at Oakland Hills. Arriving at each hole, his caddie placed tiny flags around the green and Mickelson methodically made his way to each one of them, chipping out of the rough to imaginary holes on the green.
The man known as 'Genius' on tour is thinking overtime about his major preparation.
Mickelson is on a similar path as last year, starting strong to build momentum into the Masters. He won the FBR Open in Phoenix with a 60 in the second round. He went wire-to-wire at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, starting with a course-record 62 on Spyglass Hill, one of the toughest tracks in Northern California.
He was poised for a huge victory at Doral until Tiger Woods caught him on the back nine Sunday, winning only after Mickelson's chip from just off the green somehow grazed the edge instead of falling for birdie.
He looks forward to driving down Magnolia Lane as the defending champion, knowing he can return for the Masters the rest of his life. He won't have to sit through the same questions -- 'Is this the year you win a major?' -- at his news conference. He knows he is capable of winning every major he plays.
And he can't wait to get started.
'I have committed myself for the next six years, until I'm 40, to unquestioningly play as hard and practice as hard as I can, and try to get as much out of this game and my career as I possibly can,' Mickelson said.
And having destiny on his side never hurts.
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.