Mickelson Off to a Good Start

By Associated PressFebruary 25, 2004, 5:00 pm
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson is off to the hottest start of his professional career, and the odds were certainly in his favor Wednesday against Lee Westwood on the opening day of the Match Play Championship at La Costa.
 
Mickelson was playing 10 minutes from home, had won at La Costa when the Mercedes Championships tournament used to be held here and he's been playing brilliantly following a winless 2003.
 
Then again, match play is a free-for-all, with the exit always just a bad round away. After just one day of the five-day tournament, 32 of the world's best golfers are heading home. Two years ago, top seed Tiger Woods, No. 2 Mickelson and No. 3 David Duval were knocked out on the first day.
 
So first-round winners breathe a heck of a lot easier than they do if they, say, take the lead after the first round of a stroke-play tournament.
 
'I was fortunate enough to win my match,' a relaxed Mickelson said after beating Westwood, 3 and 1, to stay in the running for the $1.2 million winner's share. 'It's a tournament I really want to do well at.
 
'I have not played as well as I would have liked in the years past, and I certainly hope that this is a good sign for the rest of the event. I played very well today, tee to green.'
 
Mickelson, the No. 6 seed, struggled with his putter, but his driving and short game kept him in the match.
 
'My speed was off the entire day,' said Mickelson, who played a practice round here on Sunday, then didn't come back until Wednesday and found the greens were faster. 'But because I hit the ball in the fairway, hit a lot of greens and was fairly close, I didn't put myself in a bad spot.'
 
The left-hander jump-started his round with a short birdie putt on the ninth hole to square the match. He then made birdies on the next two holes, both of which Westwood conceded.
 
Mickelson has started the season with four straight finishes in the top 10, the first time he has done that in his 12-year PGA Tour career. He won the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic on Jan. 25 to end an 18-month winless streak.
 
Mickelson has made it to the third round twice in the Match Play Championship, losing both times.
 
'I think that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, because we have so many more matches, that they seem to be the most exciting days,' he said.
 
Mickelson plays Thursday against No. 38 Ben Curtis, who beat No. 27 Charles Howell III 2-up.
 
DOWNHILL ALL THE WAY: Mickelson took last week off to go skiing with his wife, Amy.
 
'I found that I needed some high-altitude physical training, so I went up to the mountains in Utah and found some snow and went at it,' he said. 'It's a nice escape from golf because you're dressed up in a ski outfit, nobody recognizes you, and you're skiing down the slope, nobody comes up and interrupts. It's a wonderful way to spend a few days.'
 
FITNESS FANATIC: Darren Clarke lost 30 pounds after going on a health kick that included giving up Guinness in the pub and cigarettes on the course. That might have helped the 35-year-old player from Northern Ireland survive an epic 25-hole match against Eduardo Romero of Argentina.
 
'I would like to think so,' said Clarke, who won the match with a birdie-3 on the seventh extra hole. 'I feel fine now. I'm going back to the range to hit balls and then I'm going back to the gym.'
 
Clarke beat Tiger Woods in the championship match here in 2000. Against Romero, he was two down with three holes to play. It was hardly an insurmountable lead for Romero, especially after Clarke birdied No. 16.
 
'I got one back, so now I'm back one with two to go,' he said. 'One hole makes a huge change mentally, so two down and three to go, no, you're never out of it, not in match play.'
 
Clarke birdied two of those holes -- including an eagle chip from just short of the 18th green -- to keep the match going. He won it on the 25th hole when Romero made bogey.
 
NO AIRPORT YET FOR MONTY: No. 52 Colin Montgomerie rallied from two down with three left to beat No. 13 Nick Price in 20 holes. It was just the second time in five Match Play Championship appearances that Monty won his first-round match.
 
'I was beating myself again, and I'm good at that at this tournament,' the Scot said.
 
He then sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th to right himself.
 
'You hole a putt and the whole world seems a different place,' he said.
 
Montgomerie's second-round opponent is No. 45 Stewart Cink, who beat K.J. Choi 4 and 2.
 
'My record here is pretty poor, to be honest, bloody awful, in fact, and to get
through round one is a start,' Montgomerie said.
 
Related Links:
  • Scoring - WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
     
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.