The Lost Summer of Phil Mickelson

By Associated PressAugust 14, 2007, 4:00 pm
Beneath a blistering sun and surrounded by cheers, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson climbed the steep hill together toward the clubhouse at Southern Hills.
 
They were separated by some 30 yards. And they could not have been farther apart.
 
This was Saturday at the PGA Championship, the final major of the year. Mickelson was on the 18th green, finishing another round over par that left him in the middle of the pack. Woods was making the turn on the adjacent ninth green, on his way to winning another major.
 
The scene spoke volumes of their divergent seasons.
 
Only three months earlier, Mickelson was walking up another hill toward the sprawling clubhouse of the TPC Sawgrass, his arm draped around the shoulder of swing coach Butch Harmon after a victory at THE PLAYERS Championship.
 
It set the stage for what figured to be another run at the world's No. 1 player.
 
What followed was Lefty's lost summer.
 
'My performance in the majors has been disappointing,' Mickelson said as he sat in front of his locker, a tinge of gray hair starting to show around the ears. He is 37, still in his prime, but an age when lost years are tougher to get back.
 
An injury to his left wrist at the end of May caused him to withdraw in the middle of one tournament, pull out of two other tournaments and was a big reason why he missed the cut in three tournaments.
 
Some of the lowlights:
 
  • He finished over par in all four majors for the first time.
     
  • He failed to record a top 10 in the majors for only the second time.
     
  • Since turning pro in 1992, Mickelson had missed five cuts in the majors. This year he missed the cut in two.
     
    Most of this was out of his hands, if not his wrist.
     
    He says the injury stemmed from one of his marathon practice sessions for a major, chipping constantly out of the thick grass at Oakmont a week before the U.S. Open. Whatever the case, he couldn't play as much as he wanted or practice how he wanted.
     
    Those close to Mickelson said he could not swing without pain until a week ago. He is starting to hit balls without wincing, but what makes him shudder is the calendar. This is the time of the year when Lefty goes into hibernation.
     
    Instead, he plans to play four straight weeks during the FedExCup playoffs, the Presidents Cup, and then two weeks off before an unusually busy schedule in the fall.
     
    Mickelson said he would play the Fry's Electronics Open at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he remains a member. Even rarer is a two-week trip to Asia in early November for the Singapore Open and the HSBC Champions in China.
     
    The majors are over.
     
    Mickelson is just now starting to get his hands dirty.
     
    He is working on some new equipment from Callaway, and he feels as though he can finally resume work with Harmon that began at the end of April.
     
    'Rather than shutting it down, I want to practice and I want to be in competition,' Mickelson said. 'I want to continue to work with Butch and develop the long game. I've been prohibited from doing that the last 10 weeks.'
     
    The year has not been a total loss. Mickelson looked as good as ever when he won by five shots at Pebble Beach, and he nearly made it two in a row at Riviera until a poor chip on the 72nd hole dropped him into a playoff won by Charles Howell III.
     
    And he does not take The Players Championship lightly.
     
    'Winning the Players is the next best tournament to win, so that salvages the year,' he said. 'And I'm excited about the FedEx Cup, which I didn't expect to be.'
     
    Mickelson finished the regular season more than 14,000 points behind Woods. But when the playoffs begin next week in New York, most likely without Woods, the points will be reset and Mickelson will be only 2,000 points back as the No. 4 seed.
     
    'If I play well, I have a good chance of being the inaugural champion,' Mickelson said.
     
    Would that also salvage his year?
     
    Probably, although even Mickelson is still trying to grasp the significance of the FedEx Cup.
     
    'When Horton Smith won the first, he had no idea what the allure of the Masters would become,' Mickelson said. 'And there's a good chance the FedEx Cup will one day have that same allure. There's also a chance that in four years from now, it will be a flop. I don't know.'
     
    Given his year, there's no telling how he will fare the next four weeks. Mickelson points to a season that includes two victories and two playoff losses (Nissan Open, Scottish Open), along with three missed cuts.
     
    'There has been no middle of the road for me this year,' he said.
     
    Mickelson finished his year in the majors with 16 consecutive pars, a string broken with his birdie on the 17th hole that gave him a 69 and a tie for 32nd in the PGA Championship.
     
    So ended a streak of three straight years winning a major, which sets him apart from the other top challengers to Woods' domain. Ernie Els also has three majors, none since 2002. Vijay Singh won his third major in 2004 and hasn't sniffed one since.
     
    Woods has competition, but seemingly no serious threat.
     
    For Mickelson, the next four months might determine whether he can be one again.
     
    Related Links:
  • Mickelson's 2007 Results
     
    Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

    By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

    At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

    Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

    In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.


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    Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

    Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

    Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

    ''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

    ''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

    Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

    ''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

    ''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

    Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

    Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

    ''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

    Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

    Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

    ''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

    The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

    ''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

    The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

    ''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

    Joel Dahmen had a 64.


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    ''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

    ''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

    ''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

    ''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

    Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

    ''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

    Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

    Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

    Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

    Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

    Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

    Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

    “At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

    Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.


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    With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

    “I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

    Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

    Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

    “As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

    Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

    Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

    Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

    Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

    Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.


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    Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

    There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

    “I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

    Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

    The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.