Mickelson opens up four-shot lead at Riviera

By Associated PressFebruary 21, 2009, 5:00 pm
Northern Trust OpenLOS ANGELES ' Phil Mickelson showed up early Saturday to work with swing coach Butch Harmon, then ran off four straight birdies late in his round for a 9-under 62 to build a four-shot lead going into the final round of the Northern Trust Open.
 
Five players had at least a share of the lead at one point in the third round, but what had been shaping up as a shootout at Riviera soon turned into a showcase for Mickelson.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is all alone atop the Northern Trust leaderboard. (Getty Images)
It began with a tee shot into 4 feet on the par-3 14th for the outright lead. Mickelson followed that with an 8-foot birdie on the 15th, a 35-foot birdie on the 16th, and an up-and-down from the bunker on the par-5 17th for his fourth straight birdie. He had a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th to tie the course record, but hit the putt too hard.
 
Mickelson, the defending champion here, was at 16-under 197.
 
I didnt feel confident after yesterdays round and made a phone call to Butch right from the scorers tent, Mickelson said. He was able to come into town and fortunately, we had some good work done. I dont want to say Im back on track, but I have a direction of where I want to go. And my iron play was much better because of it.
 
Andres Romero of Argentina birdied his last three holes for a 65 and could remain the last obstacle for Mickelson. It was Romero who made 10 birdies in 16 holes during the final round at Carnoustie two years ago when he nearly won the British Open.
 
They will be joined in the last group by Fred Couples, who was poised to give himself a good chance to win only to have a familiar figure spoil the occasion. Mickelson and Couples were in the last group at the 2006 Masters when Lefty outlasted him over the final five holes.
 
Harmon was summoned from Las Vegas for a morning session with his highest-ranked client, and they worked on keeping Mickelsons lower body more still to put more feel into his game.
 
It appears to have worked ' Mickelson was 10 shots better than his second round of 72, turning a three-shot deficit into a four-shot lead, sending him on his way to ending what had been a sluggish start to his season.
 
Lefty has never finished the West Coast Swing without a top-10 since his first full season in 1993, but Mickelson missed the cut in Phoenix and failed to crack the top 20 at Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach. He had to birdie the final hole at Pebble just to make the cut.
 
Maybe thats why he wasnt ready to claim the title just yet.
 
Lets not get ahead of ourselves, Mickelson said. Ive got a big round tomorrow. I havent exactly had the performance the last three weeks that just exudes confidence heading into tomorrow. Im going to have to get some work done tonight.
 
Even so, take him out of the equation, and the leaderboard would be as bunched as always.
 
Rory Sabbatini (67), K.J. Choi (67) and Scott McCarron (70) joined Couples in the group at 11-under 202. Another shot behind was Mark Calcavecchia (64), Steve Stricker (69) and Pebble Beach winner Dustin Johnson (67).
 
Mickelsons late surge of birdies might have killed any hopes of a nostalgic weekend at Riviera.
 
Couples, at 49 and in his last full year on the PGA Tour, shot 30 on the front nine and briefly held the lead on his favorite golf course east of Augusta. He shot a 65 and walked off the 18th green only one shot out of the lead.
 
By the time he reached the media center, Mickelson had run off three straight birdies. When Couples finished his interview, Lefty already had made his fourth in a row and posted his 62.
 
This is my big day tomorrow to have a shot at winning, Couples said. I dont want these guys being 19 under. When I was coming down in the cart, I was telling the guy I thought maybe another 6 under might do it. Might need a 9 under.
 
The way Mickelson is going, even that might not be enough. This is his largest 54-hole lead since he was ahead by eight shots at the BellSouth Classic in 2006, winning by 13.
 
Calcavecchia, on the 20-year anniversary of his victory at Riviera, opened his third round with an eagle at No. 10, make birdie on all the par 5s and shot a 64 to finish at 10-under 203.
 
As if Calcavecchia needed a reminder of how long he has been playing, his 19-year-old daughter Brittany ' still in the womb when he first won at Riviera ' is now a freshman at Long Beach State and followed him along during the second round.
 
Had not really thought of that, actually, Calcavecchia, at a rare loss for words. When I was 29, you would think of someone who is 48 as being borderline ancient. Now I cant get to 50 fast enough.
 
Sabbatini, who won at Riviera three years ago, bogeyed the last hole to fall out of the final group. He was five shots behind, and after playing with Mickelson, realizes what kind of odds he is facing.
 
The way Phil played today was amazing, he said. You cant expect him to fall. The scary thing is he could have gone even lower out there. We just have to keep trying to put some pressure on him.
 
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  • Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook sank a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without making a bogey on the Plantation Course or the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    Cook was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back.

    Bubba (64) fires his lowest round of 2017

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:12 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Bubba Watson’s plan when he left the Dell Technologies Championship in September was to take a few months off and come back fresh in 2018

    Those plans changed after a few weeks.

    “What we figured out was the mental side, preparing for kindergarten - not for me, for my son - preparing for [wife] Angie's knee surgery. It's been a tough go,” Watson said.

    “Being home and being with the family and everything, I realized how much I missed the game of golf, and that's why I wanted to come and play in these tournaments.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    The plan has paid off this week at the RSM Classic, where Watson is tied for 12th place after a second-round 64 on the Seaside course moved him to 7 under par.

    Watson, who tied for 51st two weeks ago in Las Vegas, got off to a quick start on Day 2, playing the opening nine in 29. Despite a miscue at the 14th hole, when his tee shot wedged into a tree, he was solid coming in for his best individual round this year.

    The left-hander was particularly sharp with his ball-striking after what has been a difficult year.

    “I want to play golf now and right now I'm swinging at it pretty nicely,” he said.

    S.H. Park (65) builds three-shot lead at LPGA finale

    By Doug FergusonNovember 17, 2017, 9:58 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Golf felt so easy to Sung Hyun Park that only when she took out her card to catch up on her scores did she realize she had closed out the front nine with five straight birdies at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Park kept right on attacking.

    The 24-year-old from South Korea added a 30-foot eagle putt late in her second round and finished with a 7-under 65, giving her a three-shot lead going into the weekend at Tiburon Golf Club.

    Nothing seems to bother her, even the chance to cap off an amazing rookie season by sweeping all the big awards on the LPGA Tour.

    ''To be honest, I don't feel quite as nervous as I thought I would,'' Park said through an interpreter. ''After the first shot, after the first hole, I felt a lot more comfortable. I'm not feeling as nervous as I thought I might be going into today.''

    Leave that to the players chasing her.

    Even with a three-putt bogey on the final hole, Park was at 12-under 132 and was three shots clear of Caroline Masson (66) and Sarah Jane Smith (69).


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    More importantly, none of the other players in the chase for the $1 million Race to the CME Globe bonus or any other big award was within five shots of Park, who is trying to become the first rookie since Nancy Lopez in 1978 to win LPGA player of the year.

    Lexi Thompson, who leads the Race to the CME Globe and the Vare Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average, shot a 67 and wound up losing ground. She was six shots behind and must stay within 10 shots of Park to win the Vare.

    So Yeon Ryu, who leads the points-based award for player of the year, managed a 71 with her sore right shoulder but was 11 shots back.

    The other two players who need to win the tournament to collect the $1 million bonus also had their work cut out for them. Brooke Henderson had another 70 and was eight shots behind, while world No. 1 Shanshan Feng shot 73 and was 11 shots behind.

    Park was in control, only she didn't see it that way.

    ''I don't think it's quite that far of a lead,'' Park said. ''Two, three shots of a lead can change at any moment. We will have to see what's in store for this weekend.''

    Park began her big run with an 18-foot birdie on No. 5, got up-and-down for birdie from just off the green at the par-5 sixth, holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 7, and then closed out the front nine with birdie putts from 8 feet and 15 feet.

    ''I actually didn't know that I was going five birdies in a row,'' Park said. ''Come hole No. 10, I realized that I hadn't been jotting down my scores as diligently, and so I realized it a little bit later on. And it felt great.''

    That gave her the lead by one shot over Suzann Pettersen, except that Pettersen faded badly on the back nine.

    Pettersen dropped four shots in a three-hole stretch by getting out of position off the tee and she shot 39 on the back nine for a 70 to fall five shots behind.

    ''I feel like I'm playing good,'' Pettersen said. ''Three bad drives on the back nine cost me four shots. That should not be possible on this course, where the fairways are about 100 yards wide.''

    Park was honored at an awards banquet Thursday night as the LPGA rookie of the year. Now, she has more awards in her sights. A victory would give her the award for player of the year. She would capture the money title, which she leads over Ryu. And depending on how the weekend goes, she might be able to surpass Thompson in the race for the Vare Trophy.

    Thompson did well to recover from two bogeys on her opening three holes.

    ''I hit a few really erratic shots in the beginning. It wasn't a good start to the round,'' Thompson said. ''Just tried to stay positive and find something that could work for the last 14, 15 holes.''

    Lydia Ko fell six shots behind in her bid to avoid a winless season. She was one shot behind going into the second round but managed only three birdies in her round of 71.

    Park, meanwhile, had everything going her way. Even when she pulled her drive on the par-5 14th into a sandy area with a root next to her ball, she picked it clear and sent it through a goal post of trees back to the fairway. Three holes later, she blasted a drive and had only a 7-iron into the green at the par-5 17th, which she hit to 30 feet and made the long putt.

    Does anything make her nervous?

    ''I hate spiders,'' she said. ''But in terms of golf, I always get nervous to this day on the first tee. I can feel my heart pounding.''

    It's a feeling that doesn't appear to last very long.