Mickelson Leads Going to the Weekend

By Associated PressFebruary 15, 2008, 5:00 pm
Northern Trust OpenPACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson seems determined to add Los Angeles to his collection of West Coast trophies.
 
A year after losing at Riviera in a playoff, Mickelson played golf as spectacular as the weather Friday in the Northern Trust Open, finishing with a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 7-under 64 and a four-shot lead.
 
Even after starting with a 68, Mickelson felt he was close to putting his game together. It started with a 3-iron to 12 feet on the par-5 first for a simple birdie, and built momentum with a 60-foot birdie on the fifth and never slowed.
 
When he finished his best score ever at Riviera, he was at 10-under 132 and in firm command going into the weekend.
 
This is a tournament that has eluded me, Mickelson said of the only city in the West Coast Swing where he hasnt won. The West Coast means a lot to me.
 
Robert Allenby, who won at Riviera in 2001 in the cold and rain, did OK in warm sunshine with a 66 that put him at 136 with Jeff Quinney, who made bogey on the final hole for a 67.
 
Mickelson and the top dozen players atop the leaderboard got one big break with the draw by playing early Thursday and in the afternoon Friday, essentially avoiding the strongest of the wind that gusted along the eucalyptus trees lining the fairways.
 
For those who faced a cold wind Thursday afternoon and more swirling breezes Friday morning, the best anyone could muster was David Toms (68) and Kevin Sutherland (69), each at 3-under 139.
 
It was interesting, the last 27 holes that Ive played with the wind and everything, Toms said. You certainly had to think about it on your club selection. It made a lot of the holes play very difficult. Overall, Ill take the two rounds Ive put on the board.
 
For the second straight day, not everyone finished the round.
 
So there will be a Saturday cut, quipped Rory Sabbatini on his way to the 18th tee as the sun began to dip behind the hill, and players were still just making the turn.
 
The Players Advisory Council recommended another change in policy to a Saturday cut if the field is more than 78 players. If approved, that wouldnt happen until Florida at the earliest. Otherwise, when the cut is more than 78 players, only the closest to 60 can play on the weekend, and the notorious Rule 78 looked as though it could happen for the third time in five events.
 
The cut wont be made until six players finish the second round Saturday morning.
 
Scott McCarron, a UCLA alum who nearly won this tournament in 2002, had a 65 and was part of a large group at 5-under 137 that included Scott Verplank, Chad Campbell and Vaughn Taylor.
 
Mickelson wasnt about to practice posing with the trophy, and no one was conceding anything with 36 holes left to play on a course that was playing fast with the firm conditions.
 
If Phil is at 10 under, thats fine, Allenby said. Theres a long way to go. Theres still 36 holes to go and a lot of birdies out there. Ive made plenty of birdies here before, so theres no reason why I cant do it on the weekend.
 
Quinney will join Mickelson and Allenby in the final group. Quinney made a late surge up the leaderboard, including birdies on the 12th and 15th hole, but ran into trouble on the last hole.
 
Four shots behind the second-ranked player in golf can be daunting, but so is Riviera.
 
You dont have to shoot 8 under on Saturday, Quinney said about the deficit. If you get firm greens and the wind blows a little bit, a couple under can move you a long way.
 
Even so, Mickelson appears to be hitting his stride.
 
He began pulling away after a three-putt bogey on the sixth hole, hitting wedge to 2 feet on No. 7 and a gap wedge with the breeze at his back on No. 9 to 12 feet. After going well left of the par-4 10th, he chipped to a 3 feet for birdie, then got up-and-down for his fourth birdie in five holes at the par-5 11th.
 
Even stronger was his finish, which began with a par.
 
Mickelson went long on the par-3 16th, leaving himself a downhill chip that went some 12 feet by the hole. He made that for his par, which kept momentum on his side for the closing holes.
 
The biggest shot that set up those two birdies in the par putt on 16, Mickelson said. It kept momentum of the round going and it didnt let the round kind of slip away.
 
Mickelson didnt have an answer for why is playing so well on a course that was rarely part of his rotation. He has won 15 times in California and Arizona during his career, but never on the course off Sunset Boulevard. Until last year, Mickelson only played this tournament eight times, missing the cut in half of them and never faring better than a tie for 15th.
 
He had a 54-hole lead last year and was on the verge of winning until a bogey on the 18th, then losing to Charles Howell III in extra holes. Now, hes right back in the picture.
 
Mickelson has said this is one tournament he want to win, but kept that in perspective.
 
I havent won the U.S. or British Open, either, and I really want to win those, he said. Lets not get ahead of ourselves. ^Divots: The field featured 17 of the top 20 players in the world, but five of them missed the cut, and Sergio Garcia at 3 over was on the verge of going home under Rule 78. John Daly shot a 74 to finish at 1 over, but made his first cut of the year.
 
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”