Lefty Gets More Than He Bargain For

By Associated PressJune 17, 2005, 4:00 pm
PINEHURST, N.C. -- Phil Mickelson lobbied all week to make a tough golf course even tougher, stopping just short of daring the U.S. Golf Association to plop down windmills and clown's-mouth cutouts on the greens.
 
On Friday, Mother Nature took over the course setup duties from the guys in blue blazers and reminded the left-hander to be careful what you wish for.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson found plenty of trouble Friday in his 7-over 77.
'It was very fair,' Mickelson said, carefully choosing his words, 'if you played well. You could get off to a quick start, especially the front nine. I didn't quite do that.
 
'But,' he said again a moment later, 'it was right there if you hit the right shots.'
 
Suffice it to say that Mickelson didn't - not off the tees, from the fairways and especially on the greens. He hit just eight of 15 fairways, eight of 18 greens and didn't make even one putt longer than 8 feet. He started on the back nine and made back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 12 and 13, a cruel preview of the four straight Mickelson made to close out his first nine holes.
 
The 7-over 77 scorecard he signed left him eight shots out of the lead at the halfway point. It also marked Mickelson's worst round at the Open since 1994, when he shot 79 at Oakmont on the final day. It was only his second season as a pro, and back then no one would have imagined that the supremely talented kid with the easy smile was tying the first few knots in a string of major championships failures that would extend to 42 and haunt him for the next 10 years.
 
The futility ended with a victory in the Masters last year. The rash mistakes and spectacular collapses became easier to forget, and the times when Mickelson played bravely and well - only to see someone else play better - were easier to remember.
 
The process was long, painful and often too public. Mickelson vowed to play more aggressively, then less. His convictions changed several times in the course of a single season, and his character got ripped each time. But the fix was relatively simple: better preparations, better decisions and the resolve to see things through. Whether it was the result of frustration or simply maturity hardly mattered.
 
Either way, that's what made Friday's disaster tough to see coming. Mickelson has added both a swing and short-game coach and they do the scouting work before major championships with a military precision that would shame NFL teams during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.
 
Nine-hour practice rounds became par for the Pinehurst No. 2 course for Team Mickelson. Like everyone else, they knew the inverted, bowl-shaped greens would kick approach shots into some treacherous lies. But they went to the trouble of simulating just about every one.
 
Throw in long stretches on the driving range and practice green, with his coaches, Rick Smith and Dave Pelz, hovering nearby at nearly every moment, and you begin to understand why Mickelson strolled into the interview room on the eve of the Open and invited the USGA professors to get medieval with the final exam.
 
Mickelson's opening came when someone asked whether he could imagine the USGA making the same ill-advised setup choice they did for last year's Open at Shinnecock Hills, where dried-out greens turned some putting surfaces into miniature golf courses from Hell.
 
'Well, I'm a little biased because I would love to see that happen,' Mickelson said, to some laughter.
 
'It's always been my contention that if nobody can hit a green, I've got a pretty good chance,' he added, to more laughter. 'I'm not opposed to that occurring this week.'
 
He repeated it a few more times, in a few different appearances. But when he stopped to talk after his second round, all the bravado had been drained out of his face.
 
'It's a tough course because you just can't make birdies. The more you try to make birdies, the more bogeys you're going to make. I wasn't really trying to make birdies,' Mickelson said. 'I was just trying to salvage pars and had a tough time doing that. It's a tough golf course.'
 
Proof of that was collecting on every side of him. There are precious few birdies to be squeezed out of Pinehurst. The course played five strokes above par in the opening round and a slightly less grueling 4-over Friday. The total number of players under par, starting with co-leaders Olin Browne and defending champion Retief Goosen at 2-under, can be counted on one hand.
 
'You just can't play aggressive here,' Mickelson said, repeating himself almost as if he had found the mantra. 'You just can't. I think it's going to take 36 pars to have an outside shot at winning, and that's kind of what I'm going for.'
 
The days when Mickelson let one foot get too far in front of the other - only to stumble at the most inopportune moments - were supposed to be a thing of the past.
 
He might yet thrive in the even-tougher conditions expected through the weekend. But at the moment, a bad putting day midway through a tournament that Mickelson said couldn't be tough enough for his satisfaction has him looking more clownish than just about anything the USGA can do to the greens.
 
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - 105th U.S. Open
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

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    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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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.