Mickelson concludes wild week with satisfying win

By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2009, 5:00 pm
Northern Trust OpenLOS ANGELES ' Riviera felt like a roller coaster to Phil Mickelson to the very end.
Never mind the four scores he put together at the Northern Trust Open to successfully defend his title on Sunday. He opened with a personal-best 63 and was nine shots worse the next day. Butch Harmon arrived Saturday morning to help stabilize his swing, and Lefty went even lower with a 62 to take command.
Then came another 1-over 72, and it was just enough to avoid the biggest collapse of his career.
Mickelson rolled in a 6-foot par putt on the 18th hole for a one-shot victory over Steve Stricker, and while it wasnt the most memorable of his 35 career victories on the PGA Tour, it was no less satisfying.
It gives me confidence and something to build on for the rest of the year, Mickelson said. Even when I didnt have my best stuff, I was able to fight through it. That meant a lot to me. I certainly have some work to do. But at least Im on the right path, the right direction. And Im having some success now, even without maybe my best stuff.
Stricker closed with a 67, making bogey on the 18th hole that he knew would cost him.
Another stroke back was the real heartbreak of Riviera ' Fred Couples, 49 and in his last full season on the PGA Tour, rejuvenated on a course where he has won twice and considers his favorite this side of Augusta National. Couples missed two birdies inside 8 feet on the front nine, and trailing by only one shot on the 18th, fanned a shot into the eucalyptus trees and made bogey for a 69.
He tied for third with Andres Romero (70) and K.J. Choi (69).
Mickelson joined Ben Hogan, Corey Pavin and Mike Weir as the only repeat winners at Riviera, and he felt a sense of relief and satisfaction as he hoisted the trophy beneath the fabled clubhouse off Sunset Boulevard.
He was in a position he had never been in during his 17 years on tour, then in a spot that was all too familiar.
Starting the final round with a four-shot lead, Mickelson watched his tee shots fly all over Riviera ' into the trees and a barranca on the right, into trees and the thick rough to the right, and it didnt take long for his cushion to get deflated.
He has never blown a lead that large in his career, but when Stricker made three birdies in a four-hole stretch around the turn, he suddenly had a one-shot lead. Mickelson fell two shots behind when he found the bunker on the par-3 14th and missed a 7-foot par putt, and remained two behind with three holes to play.
I had a five-shot lead, and I let it slide, Mickelson said, alluding to his 40-foot eagle at the start of the round.
The recovery was swift and impressive.
Mickelson hit a strong 9-iron at the flag on the par-3 16th and saw it land 5 feet behind the hole. He made the tricky birdie putt, then hammered his best tee shot of the round on the par-5 17th, allowing him to reach the green with a 3-wood. He two-putted from 70 feet, again making a tough 6-footer down the slope.
That allowed him to regain the lead when Stricker missed out on two opportunities.
Coming off a blown three-shot lead of his own at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, when high wind sent him to a devastating quadruple bogey on the 10th hole in the desert, Stricker was poised to deliver a knockout punch until missing a 12-foot birdie on the 17th.
Then came a hooked tee shot that kept him from reaching the green, and a pedestrian chip that left him 12 feet from the hole for par. He missed that, and suspected it would cost him.
I had a good putt at it, he said of the 18th. But I was really looking to make that one at 17. Its just a little disappointing when you dont finish it off, or have the opportunity to finish it off. And I didnt do it.
Mickelson took a one-shot lead with his birdie on the 17th, but the work was just beginning.
It was only two years ago when he thought he had the tournament wrapped up, leading by one shot on the 18th tee. But he hit his tee shot well left of the fairway, missed the green, made a sloppy bogey and wound up in a playoff that he ended up losing.
Another thing that was important to me was standing on the 18th tee, when two years ago I had a one-shot lead, drove in the rough and made a bogey, Mickelson said. That meant a lot to be able to put that tee shot on the fairway.
It still wasnt easy from there. His 6-iron was just off the green, 60 feet away, and the putt came up 6 feet short.
Stricker was standing on the steps of the clubhouse when he saw what Mickelson had to do for his winning par, and only then did he head for the range. But he wasnt there long. Stricker has been around long enough to know what a big cheer means from around the 18th green, and he put his clubs away.
It was exciting to get into the thick of things, he said.
Couples wasnt sure what to make of his chances. The last time he played in a final group was the 2006 Masters, where Mickelson pulled away late in the round. Adding to the complexity of the week was that his estranged wife, Thais, died Tuesday of breast cancer.
They had been in divorce proceedings for more than three years, and Couples said he is not welcome in their Santa Barbara home. It was hard to detect how emotional the week was; only Couples knows that.
For Mickelson, it was important to get on track before the tour left the West Coast, where he now has won 17 times.
He finished at 15-under 269, moves up to No. 3 in the world ranking and head to Arizona for the Accenture Match Play Championship, where Tiger Woods will return from knee surgery after eight months.
Strangely enough, that was Mickelsons first victory since Woods left.
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  • 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.

    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

    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.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''