Lefty Feels So Right

By Associated PressApril 10, 2004, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Trying to figure out which Phil Mickelson would show up has been a plot line at every major since he turned pro in 1992, a year after creating unreasonably high expectations by winning a PGA Tour event while still a junior in college.
Counting this latest reincarnation, we've been treated to at least a handful of different ones: Aggressive Phil, Conservative Phil, Fit Phil, Fat Phil, Family Phil.
The only one we haven't seen is Finally Phil, the one who wins a major. And the wait for him could be over in a matter of hours.
'I think that heading into the final round, I'm much more at ease than I have been in the past,' Mickelson said late Saturday.
'I don't feel that anxiety. I haven't felt it all year. I feel very confident that I'm able to drive the ball in play, that I'm able to hit my irons the proper distance. I feel very confident in my putting and have all year. So,' he added, 'it's been a nice change.'

Mickelson has more of just about everything than when he left Arizona State a dozen years ago with a psychology degree - family, money, fame and game - except major championships. One other thing he never had was the lead, or even a share of it, heading into the final round of a major.
That changed Saturday, and the reasons why could lead to the defining change in his career.
It was never hard to figure out why the galleries love Mickelson so. He rarely took the easy route to the flag when something tougher was available. He made spectacular birdies and sometimes, even more spectacular bogeys, and every round was an adventure.
But when Mickelson hit town at the start of this week, he said he'd had enough. Flying a plane or laying down a big bet against long odds - those things still didn't scare him. What did haunt him, though, was the thought of coming back here after his competitive days were past and knowing he hadn't won it.
And so, besides the usual preparations, Mickelson said he had steeled himself by doing some math.
'What I found the last three years,' he said, talking about three straight third-place finishes, 'is that if I could have saved a shot a round, I would have had two wins and a tie.'
Mickelson IS different, but the crowds at Augusta National have yet to notice. They still try to carry him along, hardly recognizing he needs less help. All those promises to play the smart shot at the right time are finally being fulfilled.
Mickelson hasn't made a bogey in his last 32 holes. He's done that by making par-saving putts, both short and long. On Saturday, he made five ranging from 6 feet to 25 feet. Mostly, though, he spared himself a lot of heartache by staying out of trouble in the first place.
At the par-5 13th, Mickelson was just behind the green in two shots, facing a short chip to a flag on a putting surface that sloped severely downhill. To make birdie, he needed to get his third shot close. But rather than risk leaving the ball short, and facing an even riskier downhill putt on his next shot, Mickelson chose safe over sorry. The result was a chip shot that ran 40-feet past the hole, followed by a two-putt par.
Two holes later, the choice was even more stark. Leaving a birdie on the table at 13 made a birdie at the par-5 15th seem even more important. But an errant drive there left Mickelson in the left rough, in both a figurative and literal jail. A stand of pine trees stood between him and the green like iron bars.
Even with all that, Aggressive Phil would have favored the circus shot and fired at the pin. Instead, Mickelson punched out with a wedge on his second shot, wound up making par and moved on.
'I've always been trying to hit the ball hard and make as many birdies as possible. It's a much easier game just keeping it in play. I wish somebody would have told me this earlier,' he said, waiting for the laughter in the interview room to die down. 'It's just so much easier.'
Sometimes, there's no other way to learn things but the hard way. Mickelson was blessed with so much talent, the temptation was always there to use every drop of it. What Finally Phil may have figured out is that sometimes less can be more.
Related links:
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    Watch: Tiger highlights from Round 2 at Honda

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

    Tiger Woods started at even par in Round 2 of the Honda Classic. Friday began with a bogey at the par-4 second, but Woods got that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:

    Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.

    At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. And the crowd was loving it.

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    Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.

    Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.

    It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.  

    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    “I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”

    After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.

    Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.

    “It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”

    Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”  

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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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    Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

    In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

    Made Cut

    Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

    U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

    Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

    “What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

    Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

    #MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

    Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

    Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

    Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

    “I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told PGATour.com. “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

    The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

    During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

    “Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

    The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Web.com Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

    Stay tuned.

    Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

    The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

    On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

    That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.

    Missed Cut

    West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

    J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

    Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

    But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

    Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

    It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.