Lefty Still Lovin the Long Ball

By Associated PressFebruary 8, 2005, 5:00 pm
PGA TourPhil Mickelson keeps everyone guessing. Three years ago, he defiantly said he would never change his risk-taking, jaw-dropping style on the golf course, even if that meant never winning a major.
Last year, he was so determined to keep his tee shots in the short grass that he went to a controlled fade off the tee, although that meant giving up distance. He couldn't argue with the results. Mickelson won his first major at the Masters, and was five shots away from a chance to win the Grand Slam.
What will Phil do next?
He won the FBR Open by a career-high five shots on Sunday, making birdies from the desert and saving par after hitting into the water. When it was over, someone asked him if hitting fairways was overrated.
'No, it's certainly important. Don't get me wrong,' he said. 'It's not overrated, but I think distance is underrated right now. I think that you've got to move the ball out there.'
His short game was as phenomenal as ever, but what made Phoenix such a fun week for Mickelson was the long ball.
'I drove the ball a lot longer than I think I have in years, and was able to have a lot of short irons in,' he said.
Mickelson went with a 3-wood off the tee on the par-5 13th because he was belting his driver in the 340-yard range, and he needed something less to land in the fat part of the fairway. Never mind that he pulled it into the desert; he still had a shot to the green and wound up with a birdie.
Then on the 14th, he felt he needed to 'chip a driver.'
'I just want to take 40, 50 yards off of it and get it out there about 290,' Mickelson said.
That sounds a lot like the Mickelson of old, like the time he talked about taking '8 yards off a stock driver' on the par-4 eighth hole at Bay Hill.
But that's one thing that makes Mickelson so fascinating - and at times so hard to figure out.
A year ago, the focus was on fairways.
'Because I've kept it in play, the course seems to be so much easier,' Mickelson said last year when he was in contention every Sunday leading to his Masters victory. 'I think after 33 years, I've figured it out.'
How quickly he forgets.
Mickelson was looking at the statistics from last year when he noticed he had a higher percentage of fairways hit than the three guys he was chasing - Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.
But he trailed all of them in distance.
'When I had sacrificed 15 yards last year, I knew that I needed to make a change,' Mickelson said after winning in Phoenix. 'Ultimately, you saw the change in September. But I knew that I had to do that if I wanted to get back to being able to play at this level.'
In some respects, the statistics bear that out.
Mickelson hit 63.6 percent of his fairways last year through the PGA Championship, when he won twice and had a chance to win all four majors. By the end of the year, he had dipped to 59.9 percent. And from the PGA Championship in August through the FBR Open last week, he has hit 58.5 percent of the fairways.
Mickelson has been testing his new Callaway equipment since September to find which driver-ball combination allows him to hit it straight without sacrificing distance. He believes he has figured it out, and his victory Sunday - after starting the year with two finishes out of the top 10 - gave him good vibes heading to Pebble Beach.
'I can't wait for next week,' he said. 'I can't wait to get out to the course and practice. I'm loving playing and ecstatic about the way things are set up in my bag.'
If the emphasis has returned to distance, that wouldn't be such a bad thing.
Singh smashes driver off just about every tee, figuring that if he lands in the rough, he can still make par at worst by being that much closer to the green. Woods is longer off the tee than he has been the past several years; his swing coach, Hank Haney, said power is important for Woods to regain his dominance.
As for the go-for-broke style that Mickelson adores?
He's right. That will never change. Mickelson has such supreme confidence that he only sees possibilities, not consequences. Some people blame his bad shots on poor decisions. Mickelson attributes them to poor execution.
One such occasion was Pebble Beach four years ago.
Mickelson was one shot behind on the par-5 18th and 257 yards from the green. Instead of relying on his wedge game - the best on tour - he hit driver off the deck with hopes of making an eagle, or at least a simple birdie. Instead, he put it in the Pacific Ocean and made double bogey.
There are three things about Mickelson that fall into the category of death and taxes.
His wedge game is among the best. Even when he was missing fairways in Phoenix, Mickelson knew that he only had to get it around the green to save par, or even make birdie.
Another constant is winning. Mickelson has gone only three years without a PGA Tour victory dating to his junior year at Arizona State - one of those was his rookie season, the other two in years his wife had an uneasy pregnancy. His 24 tour victories are second only to Woods (41) and Singh (25) among his peers.
And the third sure thing about Mickelson?
He always makes the game entertaining.
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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.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.