Mickelson hoping to find form in title defense

By Associated PressAugust 28, 2008, 4:00 pm
DeutscheBank Logo 2007NORTON, Mass. ' Phil Mickelsons star presence at the Deutsche Bank Championship was evident Thursday by the company he kept at the TPC Boston.
 
He played the pro-am with tournament host Seth Waugh, the CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas; New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft. Such is the VIP treatment typically afforded the highest-ranked player in the field.
 
FedExCup playoff standings aside, that honor still falls to Mickelson.
 
He is No. 2 in the world ranking, although its easy to forget that. Because while Tiger Woods has been out of sight for two months after his season-ending knee surgery, Mickelson at times has been MIA.
 
Some thought he would take advantage of Woods absence by piling up victories, perhaps another major or two, and giving himself a chance to win the money title or PGA TOUR player of the year for the first time in his career.
 
But it hasnt worked out that way.
 
Mickelson has played four times with only one serious chance at winning, when he had a one-shot lead until bogeys on three of the last four holes at Firestone to tie for fourth. He had to rally to make the weekend at the British Open, was steady but not spectacular in his tie for seventh at the PGA Championship and opened the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup last week with a tie for 19th.
 
Ive played the same way Ive played throughout the year, Mickelson said. I just havent been scoring the way I would like. Even though I feel like Im playing better, the little shots around the greens have cost me. But Im starting to get that turned around, and I expect to have a much better week.
 
By most standards, Mickelson has had a good year. He won at Riviera and Colonial, and he is third on the money list, a little more than $1 million behind Woods. With three more $7 million events, a money title is not out of reach.
 
This would be a good place to turn it around, even if the cast of characters has changed.
 
A year ago, Mickelson surged into FedExCup contention with perhaps the most exciting playoff event at the Deutsche Bank Championship. He played the first two rounds with Woods and Vijay Singh, then hooked up with Woods in the final round and closed with a 66 and beat Woods and two others by two shots.
 
Asked how he remembered last year, Mickelson broke up the room by saying only, Very fondly.
 
It was a fun tournament last year, and I loved the opportunity to have won the tournament, he said. But I also love the way it happened, with the opportunity to play three rounds with Tiger.
 
Woods hasnt played since winning the U.S. Open in a playoff, and the tour has had a taste of life without the worlds most famous athletes. Attendance has been noticeably down in recent events, and television ratings have plunged, as to be expected.
 
Someone asked Mickelson if he wondered what golf would be like if Woods wasnt around. He figured he would be No. 1 in the world and Id be making half as much as I am now.
 
That was a reference to Woods being responsible for such big purses on tour.
 
Im very thankful hes in our sport, and hes had the success and the charisma and the lure to attract corporate America, as well as fans, to the game, he said.
 
Interest now is driven by a slow elimination amid volatile change in the standings as the FedExCup heads to a conclusion next month with $10 million going to the winner.
 
Singh took over the lead with a victory at The Barclays last week, while the two guys he beat in the playoff at Ridgewood ' Sergio Garcia and Kevin Sutherland ' are right behind.
 
Mickelson is at No. 4, and feeling good vibes from the TPC Boston, is hopeful of making a move.
 
There was a fun moment on the practice range after the pro-am that showed where his priorities are. His caddie, Jim Bones Mackay was looking for the perfect spot on the range for Lefty to practice, off to the side at an angle where the light wind was directly into them.
 
This OK? Mackay said when Mickelson arrived.
 
Oh, yeah. Hanging lie. Sidehill. Yeah, thats perfect, Mickelson said in mock sarcasm.
 
Youre left-handed, Mackay replied. You know that, right? You are playing left-handed this week, arent you?
 
Mickelson ended the good-natured exchange by saying, Im going to go chip a few.
 
He spent the next several minutes chipping from various points around a practice green, feeling as though that element of his game ' even Woods believes he has the best short game in golf ' has been hurting him.
 
I feel like Im hitting the ball pretty good, Mickelson said. The key is going to be ' again ' scoring, getting up-and-down around the greens that I miss and getting those birdie putts to drop.
 
As much focus as there is at the top, equally important this week is the bottom. The second round of the playoffs is for the top 120 players, with only 70 advancing to the third round next week in St. Louis for the BMW Championship.
 
Lee Janzen is in a familiar spot.
 
He started these playoffs in the last position, at No. 144, and again is essentially in last place at No. 119 because Alex Cejka withdrew with injury.
 
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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “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. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “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.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”