Mickelson Enters Masters on Major High

By Associated PressApril 7, 2004, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The man in the green jacket raved about Phil Mickelson's record at the Masters - seven times in the top 10, no worse than seventh since 1999.
Mickelson saw what was coming and beat everyone to the punch.
'But no wins,' he said.
Then, he reached over and playfully tugged at the sleeve of the Augusta National member sitting next to him.
'I want what you have,' he said. 'I want one of these. Those are nice.'
Getting one has proved to be a major challenge for Mickelson, who comes into the Masters riding a streak - 0-for-42 in the majors - that has come to define an otherwise impeccable career.
No one questions his awesome ability. Mickelson has won 22 times on the PGA Tour, more than any other active player besides Tiger Woods. He is long off the tee and has a short game that even Woods says is the best in golf.
But his lack of a major became even more glaring last year when another Lefty - Mike Weir of Canada - showed the mettle of major champions by making clutch putts down the stretch to win the Masters.
What about Phil?
'I think he's going to win a major championship,' Mark O'Meara said. 'And I think it's going to happen soon.'
Mickelson's hopes are higher than ever this year, and for good reason.
Coming off his worst season on the PGA Tour - so bad that one golf publication failed to list him among the top 30 players going into the year - Mickelson looks stronger than ever.
He refused to start practicing until Jan. 1 to emphasize that last year was behind him, then came out of the blocks by winning the Bob Hope Classic and getting into Sunday contention every time he has played.
He has toned down his swing, costing him some 15 yards off the tee that he could afford to lose in exchange for playing out of the fairway. He is controlling his irons with three-quarter shots instead of swinging from the heels.
'Phil, he's probably played the best out of the whole lot,' Ernie Els said.
This might be the place for Mickelson to prove it.
Mickelson is so serious about this year's Masters that he came to Augusta National last week for two practice rounds. He identified his problems the last three years - all of them third-place finishes - by working with coaches Rick Smith and Dave Pelz to figure out where he can save a shot per round.
'I certainly feel like I have a very good chance,' Mickelson said. 'I've played very consistently, which is something I didn't do last year. I have a lot more confidence that I'll be there come the weekend. I'm playing well enough to get into contention without having to do anything extraordinary.'
It all starts to unfold Thursday in a Masters that is far different from a year ago.
The storms have passed - not only the rain that turned the course into a soft and soggy mess, but the cloud of controversy over the all-male membership at Augusta National.
'I really think the American public is ready for us to talk about golf,' club chairman Hootie Johnson said Wednesday when asked about Martha Burk's campaign to get a woman into the club.
The course has never been this firm and fast since officials beefed it up two years ago by adding some 300 yards. The last time it was this crusty and dry was in 1999. Legend has it the sun used to shine under players' feet because their spikes couldn't penetrate the turf.
'This is what we've been looking for,' Johnson said. 'I couldn't predict a score, but I think it will be pretty tough out there if the course stays in the same condition.'
One reason so many people consider Mickelson a strong favorite is because Woods, a three-time champion, doesn't appear to be on top of his game.
'I don't know if he's not playing well now or he just is waiting for the majors,' Vijay Singh said. 'I just speak for the rest of the guys. I think our play has gone a step higher, and that's closed the gap - if there was one.'
Mickelson looks poised to close the gaping hole in his resume.
Only two other players in PGA Tour history have won more than Mickelson without capturing a major - Harry 'Lighthorse' Cooper (31 victories) and MacDonald Smith (24).
Mickelson is undeniably the best player to have never won a major, but there is some question whether he can be considered a great player without one.
'A guy like Mickelson, you would like to think he's a great player,' said Els, a two-time U.S. Open and British Open champion. 'At the end of the day, you look at major championships. That's how you really gauge yourself.'
The gap between Mickelson and Woods was made clear by the work of their publicists.
Woods' camp puts out a package of his career results, with a cover photo of Woods posing with an array of major championship trophies and a headline that says, 'How He Did It.'
Mickelson's people put out two pages of his major results that showed how he hasn't.
There is no shame in Mickelson having not won a major. He is only 33, just coming into this prime. Woods once noted that Ben Hogan was 35 when he won his first major. Hogan ended his career with nine majors, 'and he had an accident in there somewhere,' Woods said.
The surprise is that Mickelson has never even led after three rounds in a major. His two closest calls were the 1999 U.S. Open, when Payne Stewart made a 15-foot par on the last hole; and 2001 PGA Championship, when David Toms made a 12-footer for par on the 18th.
'I don't judge myself harshly in the fact I haven't won one,' Mickelson said. 'If I thought it was a negative that I had not won, I think I would dread those events more than I would look forward to them. I just get so excited to be here. I can't wait for Thursday to start, and hopefully have another chance at breaking through.'
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters Tournament
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  • Arnold Palmers 50th Masters
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    Watch: Tiger throws dart, pours in birdie at 8

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 7:31 pm

    Starting Sunday five off the lead, Tiger Woods teed off his final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

    Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which we walked in.

    A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

    A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

    Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

    Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

    (More coming...)

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    Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

    By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

    Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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    McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

    McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    “I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

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    “I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

    This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

    A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

    McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

    “It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

    As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

    “It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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    Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

    By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

    PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

    She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

    Her confidence is high.

    “Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

    Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

    Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

    “One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

    “I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

    Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

    “I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

    That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.