Mickelson fails to seize moment again

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' Six feet. Six little feet. A testy putt, to be sure, but one that defines the legacy of a player such as Phil Mickelson.
 
Besides, this is what Lefty had longed for: a chance to seize the moment at the Ryder Cup, a chance to give the Americans a crucial boost going to the final day of an event they havent won since 1999.
 
This is surely what U.S. captain Paul Azinger had in mind when he sent Mickelson back to the course in the afternoon, even after his dream pairing with Anthony Kim squandered the closest thing to a sure win in the morning.
 
So, Mickelson studied the putt at the 17th hole from every angle, took a couple of swings just for practice, then settled over the ball.
 
He drew his club back, and swung it forward. The ball was on its way.
 
Right by the cup.
 
After a day of seeming redemption, Mickelsons shaky Ryder Cup history bubbled back to the surface Saturday. He and Kim, probably the most talented American tandem, tossed away a 4-up lead after six holes in an alternate-shot match against Henrik Stenson and unheralded Oliver Wilson, whom the Europeans didnt even bother to use on the opening day.
 
Then, Mickelson missed that short birdie putt, which would have broken a tie going to the final hole. He wasnt much help on the 18th, either, knocking his tee shot into a bunker, putting his second shot on the side of a hill and then making a tentative chip.
 
It was left to Hunter Mahan to bail the Americans out. He made the birdie at No. 18 and the Americans escaped with a half-point in their match against Stenson and Robert Karlsson. The home team goes to the final day with a 9-7 lead, but it might have been bigger with more of a contribution from Mickelson.
 
It was a very emotional and up-and-down day, Lefty conceded. But we fought hard all day, and Hunter and I hung in there. Obviously we wanted to win. We had opportunities for that.
 
Paired with Kim for an alternate-shot match, Mickelson sure had plenty of chances to win. Heck, it looked over when a par at No. 6 gave the Americans a commanding four-hole cushion.
 
But Mickelson and Kim quickly handed it back, losing four of the next six holes. Then, after another errant drive by Lefty at No. 15 and an unnecessarily bold shot by Kim around a tree, off a European official and into a creek, the Europeans were ahead to stay.
 
Wilson sank a 30-foot birdie at No. 17 to put the pressure on Mickelson. He missed a 20-footer to keep the match going. Kim, watching with his hands on his knee, nearly crumpled to the ground.
 
We had some momentum, Mickelson said. Unfortunately, a couple of bad shots by us, and we ended up squandering a lead. We still fought hard. It looked like we were going to bring that thing down to the end until that long putt.
 
And what about Mickelsons putt at that same hole a few hours later, after U.S. captain Paul Azinger shook up his pairings to put his highest-ranked player with Hunter Mahan?
 
I kept reading more and more break as I got over it, Mickelson said. I didnt want to jam it in, and I just overplayed the break. It wasnt that hard, but it was about three or four inches out, and I overplayed it just a touch.
 
In all fairness, the Americans ran into an extremely hot player. Karlsson made six birdies in seven holes, including four in a row, to erase a 2-up lead for Mickelson and Mahan. Fortunately for the U.S., the Swede missed a downhill 12-footer for eagle at the 18th that would have given Europe a full point.
 
Both sides settled for a hard-earned halve.
 
Mickelson, who was 1-7-1 in the two previous Ryder Cups, is now 1-1-2 at Valhalla, accounting for more points in the bluegrass state than he managed at Oakland Hills and the K Club combined.
 
Still, there are doubts about his state of mind heading into singles play on Sunday. Mickelson will be in the fourth group out, facing Justin Rose and seeking his first singles win since 1999.
 
In 2002, he lost a pivotal match to Phillip Price, ranked 119th in the world at the time, at the Belfry. He was beaten by a pair of Spaniards, Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal, in the European routs of 04 and 06.
 
Azinger insisted theres no concern about Mickelson falling short again.
 
Im not worried about Mickelsons mind-set at all, the captain told reporters late Saturday. My message all week long to you guys is anything that happened in the past is in the past and has no bearing on whats going on.
 
Azingers only advice to Mickelson will be of a dietary nature. Lefty apparently went through quite a spread before his loss to Price six years ago.
 
I hope its not three waffles, two eggs and a Diet Coke, Azinger said. I heckled him about that already.
 
Mickelson was paired with Kim for two matches Friday ' at Leftys request ' and the duo worked beautifully together, high-fiving each other all the way around the course. Twice, they rallied from three-hole deficits, pulling out a halve against Padraig Harrington and Karlsson and winning 2-up over Harrington and Graeme McDowell.
 
Saturday morning, the tables turned.
 
Naturally, Mickelson was eager to get back on the course, and Azinger obliged. Justin Leonard, who putted brilliantly in his match to help earn a half-point, might have been the better choice. But he, too, knew Lefty was eager for redemption after helping blow such a big lead.
 
You certainly wouldnt think those guys would lose that match, Leonard said. I think thats one of the reasons Phil wanted to go back out, because thats going to leave a bad taste is his mouth.
 
He can only hope its not there Sunday night.
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
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    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry