Mickelson avoids meltdown wins in LA

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2009, 5:00 pm
Northern Trust OpenLOS ANGELES ' On the verge of blowing the biggest lead of his career, Phil Mickelson turned his fortunes around in the final hour at Riviera with back-to-back birdies that carried him to a one-shot victory Sunday in the Northern Trust Open.
 
Mickelson went from a four-shot lead at the start of the final round to a two-shot deficit with three holes to play.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson now has 35 career wins on the PGA Tour. (Getty Images)
Determined not to get another title get away from him at Riviera, he hit 9-iron to 5 feet behind the hole for birdie on the par-3 16th, hit his biggest drive of the round on the par-5 17th to set up a two-putt birdie from 70 feet, then buried his demons on the 18th hole by making a 6-foot par to avoid a playoff with Steve Stricker.
 
Mickelson closed with a 1-over 72 to become only the fourth player to win in consecutive years at Riviera. It might have been three in a row if not for his sloppy bogey on the 18th hole two years ago, when he wound up losing in a playoff.
 
Ill take a lot out of this, Mickelson said. To make par on 18 when two years ago I didnt, that meant a lot to me.
 
Stricker closed with a 67 and was on his way to the range to get ready for a playoff when he saw Mickelson leave himself a tough par putt on the final hole, and stopped when he heard the cheer.
 
He had his chances. Stricker missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 17th that would have given him a three-shot lead at the time, then missed a 12-footer for par on the 18th.
 
It was the second time on the West Coast that Stricker had a chance to win. He had a three-shot lead at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic until he was blown away by the raging desert wind, closing with a 77.
 
Its just a little disappointing when you dont finish it off, or have the opportunity to finish it off, he said. And I didnt.
 
But the real heartache belonged to Fred Couples.
 
A two-time winner at Riviera, his favorite golf course west of Augusta National, the 49-year-old had a chance for one last victory in his final full season on the PGA Tour. Couples was one shot behind when he fanned his approach to the 18th green and watched in disgust as it struck a eucalyptus tree. He finished with a bogey for a 69 to tie for third with K.J. Choi (69) and Andres Romero (70).
 
Couples learned earlier in the week that his estranged wife, Thais Baker, died Tuesday of breast cancer. They never divorced after splitting up nearly four years ago, and Couples said he is not welcome in their home in Santa Barbara.
 
She was a nice person, he said. She did everything she could to make it another month.
 
Mickelson finished at 15-under 269 and won for the 35th time in his career. It was the first time since the 2005 PGA Championship that he won a tournament without breaking par in the final round.
 
Lefty won for the 17th time on the West Coast, and it could not have come at a better time. He had failed to break the top 20 in his first three starts, missing the cut in Phoenix and making it on the number at Pebble Beach.
 
And while a victory should take care of any talk about a slump, this was one of his wildest wins yet'63-72-62-72.
 
Mickelson had never lost a PGA Tour event when leading by more than four shots going into the final round, but what appeared to be his biggest collapse turned into a stunning recovery.
 
First, he began hitting 3-wood off the tee to gain some confidence. And when he unloaded a tee shot down the 15th fairway, the comeback was under way.
 
Mickelson led by as many as five shots when he opened with an eagle for the third straight day, although it might have been the first sign of a struggle to come. The hole was in the middle toward the back, easy to access, yet Mickelson had to make a 40-foot putt.
 
The next two holes were more obvious.
 
He had trouble with the sticky kikuya grass, muffing a chip on the second hole to make bogey, and with his driver, hooking his tee shot on the third so badly that it struck a eucalyptus tree 170 yards off the tee, leading to another bogey.
 
And yet, no one in the final group took advantage.
 
Couples opened with an eagle from 3 feet, and his wedge on the third hole checked up 3 feet from the cup. He made birdie, but it was a nervous stroke, and he badly missed a 3-foot par putt on the fourth, a 8-foot birdie on the sixth and a 6-foot birdie on the seventh.
 
Romero went at every flag, but couldnt make a putt unless it was for par ' or bogey. The 27-year-old Argentine twice made stunning par saves, on the fifth and eighth, to stay in the hunt. But he hooked his tee shot out of bounds on the 12th, ending his hopes.
 
Stricker made three birdies in a four-hole stretch around the turn, with a 6-footer at No. 12 giving him the lead for the first time all week. He never had another good look at birdie until the 17th, and that was the one he badly needed to make.
 
I didnt know what the lead was at the time, but I knew I had the lead, he said.
 

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  • Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

    By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

    Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

    Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

    What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

    Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

    Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

    Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

    Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

    Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.

    Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

    While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

    Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

    By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

    The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

    The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

    Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

    Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

    ''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''


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    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

    Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and 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.

    Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

    Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

    ''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

    The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

    Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

    ''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

    If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


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    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.