Mickelson Down But Not Out

By Associated PressJune 19, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Phil Mickelson posed at the seventh tee, an 8-iron above his head as he followed the soaring flight of his ball.
It plopped down about 20 feet right of the flag, hopped a couple of times, then rolled.
And rolled.
And rolled.
Mickelson wound up making double bogey at Shinnecock Hill's infamous 'Redan' hole, his first major stumble in pursuit of his second straight major.
By the time Saturday was done, so was Lefty's lead.
Closing with two straight bogeys, he settled for a 72 and will go to the final round two strokes behind leader Retief Goosen.
But Mickelson never lost that aw-shucks grin. He was down but not beaten, still very much in the running for his second straight major.
'Although I bogeyed the last two, it certainly doesn't change the way I look at the round,' he said. 'I felt like I fought really hard.'
Sure, Mickelson would prefer to have the lead, but at least he didn't get swept away on moving day.
Vijay Singh, who's been playing as well as anyone in the world, fell from contention with a 77. Tiger Woods failed to make a charge, struggling to a 73.
Mickelson arrived at the seventh tied for the lead with playing partner Shigeki Maruyama and Jeff Maggert. Up ahead, Maggert and Fred Funk were still on the green, giving Lefty a chance to watch and learn.
He would have been better off looking the other way.
Funk was playing his second shot from the back left fringe, but his chip stopped far short of the flag and rolled backward a couple of feet. He wound up with bogey.
Mickelson then teed off, hitting a shot that would have worked beautifully in another time, another place. But it tumbled off the steeply sloping green at Shinnecock - not far from the spot where Funk's ball stopped.
'I struck it great,' Mickelson said. 'But I knew it wouldn't hold the green.'
Remembering Funk's chip, Mickelson got himself in trouble. He struck his too firmly, winding up 8 feet above the hole and facing a treacherous downhill putt.
'I ended up giving it a little bit extra to make sure it got up the hill,' Mickelson said. 'I think I probably could have gotten a 4 or maybe even a 3 if I hadn't watched the group in front of me.'
He barely touched the par putt, but the ball rolled past the cup and refused to stop, creeping along slowly with Mickelson right alongside.
As soon as it paused, Mickelson quickly stuck a marker in the ground and snatched up his ball, taking no chances that it would start up again. Still, he missed a tricky 12-footer coming back and took double bogey.
'You could make bogeys out here,' Mickelson said. 'It's doubles that hurt.'
Mickelson recovered, stringing together seven straight pars, then went back to the top of the leaderboard with a 20-foot birdie putt at 14.
But Shinnecock Hills got the last laugh. Mickelson buried a 5-iron in the bunker at 17, blasted out to 12 feet and missed the putt. Then came 18, where a jittery putter - Lefty's problem at past majors - made an untimely return. He missed a 4-footer to save par, the ball curling around the edge of the cup.
That knocked Mickelson out of the final group with Goosen, who will instead play with fellow South African Ernie Els. Mickelson and Funk will be in the next-to-last group, perhaps commiserating about their misfortune at No. 7.
Not that they had anything to be embarrassed about. Redan was the toughest hole on the course Saturday, giving up one birdie while doling out 27 bogeys and three double-bogeys.
Mickelson played in the last group on Sunday at the Masters, where he shot 31 on the back nine and sank an 18-foot birdie putt on the last hole for his first major championship.
Els finished one stroke back despite shooting 67.
'We won't have that here,' Mickelson said. 'What we will have is guys outlasting each other, who can make the most pars before somebody bogeys, that type of thing. That's a fun way to play, too.'
Especially when you're the fan favorite.
Lefty has a two-year love affair with the Long Island crowds, who remember him coming up short in the Open at Bethpage two years ago. They want him to finish the job at Shinnecock Hills.
'It's been very flattering,' Mickelson said. 'The people here are just so much fun to play in front of. I've been having a great time.'
Well, except at No. 7
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    Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

    By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

    “I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

    Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

    “If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

    Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

    Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

    Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

    “He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

    As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

    "I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

    Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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    McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

    The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

    McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

    And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

    “I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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    Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

    No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

    Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

    With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

    “This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

    Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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    Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

    Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

    McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.