Mickelson Prepared Ready to Move On

By Associated PressJuly 18, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship The leather-bound registry is called the 'Strangers Book,' an inch thick with weathered pages dating to 1980. The latest edition is in the clubhouse at Royal Liverpool for guests to sign when they play the storied links course.
 
Imagine what Ernie Els must have thought when he showed up to play 10 days after the U.S. Open.
 
On the line above the first empty space, dated June 26, was the signature of Phil Mickelson from San Diego.
 
'They asked me to come sign the club book, and I saw Phil's name there,' Els said Tuesday. 'And I was like, 'What's he ... is he playing today?' And they said, 'No, he was here two days ago.' And that kind of surprised me a little bit. He's played the course many times. That's the way he wants to prepare. He wants to see the course a million times.
 
Phil Mickelson and ave Pelz
Phil Mickelson and short game guru Dave Pelz have spent many hours discussing Royal Liverpool.
'That's his way right now.'
 
Mickelson was so eager to leave behind his debacle at Winged Foot - a double bogey on the 72nd hole that cost him the U.S. Open and a third straight major championship- that he showed up at Hoylake that next week to start preparing for the British Open.
 
He spent two days at Royal Liverpool, then returned last Thursday to play what amounts to a full tournament. He played four rounds, each of them taking a little more than eight hours as he studied every option off the tee, from the fairway, around the green. Mickelson played Sunday morning, then returned Sunday afternoon and played into the late twilight.
 
Asked how much they played, caddie Jim Mackay replied, 'You want rounds or hours?'
 
It is hard to argue with the results.
 
In the last 10 majors, Mickelson has won three times, was runner-up twice and has finished out of the top 10 only two times. It was in 2004, the start of his stellar streak, that he began studying courses as if he were cramming for a final exam, looking at every angle to see where he could take risks and when he should play it safe.
 
'I feel very confident in the way I've prepared for tournaments and the way I've been playing,' he said. 'I don't want to let one bad hole interfere with that, which is why I immediately altered my schedule to come over here. I know that my record hasn't been what I wanted it to be at the British Open, and I wanted to have those extra days to really work hard and see if I could bring my best golf out this week.'
 
That could be time well spent this year.
 
Royal Liverpool has not been part of the British Open rotation since 1967, before all but one player in the top 10 was born. It is a mystery that is slowly being unraveled this week, and even the conditions are somewhat foreign.
 
Britain is going through a heat wave, with the temperature pushing 90 degrees on Tuesday. The ground already is crusty and brown, and the ball is rolling forever.
 
'This is the driest links course we've ever come to on a Monday, Tuesday,' Colin Montgomerie said. 'Length, I don't think is an issue. Although it's 7,200-some yards on the card, it must be playing about 5,500 yards in real terms. It's just the control of the ball that has to be found.'
 
Tiger Woods showed up earlier than usual, arriving on the weekend, and he brought along an old friend, his 2-iron.
 
Woods recently replaced that with a 5-wood to get the ball up more quickly, but that's the last thing he needs at Hoylake. He hit 2-iron off just about every par 4 during his practice round Tuesday morning, a stinger that rolls endlessly along the brittle fairway.
 
'I like the feeling of trying to take advantage of the fast fairways and roll the ball out there,' Woods said. 'The 2-iron enables me to do that.'
 
Woods chose to navigate his way around the bunkers. Other players have thought about hammering tee shots over the bunkers, especially with the grass so dry that there isn't much rough for the ball to nestle.
 
Mickelson, naturally, has tried a little bit of everything.
 
He has found there are at least two ways, sometimes three, to play every hole. He says he has experienced wind from eight directions during his time at Hoylake, so he's not sure which one to expect. Even so, Hoylake is starting to feel like a home course.
'Part of learning the golf course is knowing where the balls will roll and funnel, and I've learned enough to know where the ball will end up, and be able to control it from there,' he said.
 
Mickelson didn't bother to see who else signed the 'Strangers Book' when he first arrived at Royal Liverpool, although flipping one page back would have revealed a certain Jack Nicklaus on May 16, playing the course as part of a corporate day for the Royal Bank of Scotland.
 
The book goes back only 26 years, too new to show names like Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen among past champions.
 
Still, Mickelson was soaking up history, walking up the stairs in the clubhouse to see a large portrait of Jones. This is where Jones won the second leg of his Grand Slam in 1930, when he won the British Amateur and British Open, then the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur.
 
'Having been part of Bobby Jones' Grand Slam is terrific and exciting, and having it be part of Peter Thomson's stretch of three British Opens in the '50s, I thought that was cool,' he said.
 
It might have caused him to wince, however.
 
Except for that double bogey at the U.S. Open, Mickelson might be going for his own version of the Grand Slam, a shot at his fourth straight.
 
But he's not about to look back.
 
Someone asked Mickelson if he felt he had anything to prove this week, and it was as close as Lefty comes to bristling.
 
'Why would you say that?' he said, his voice level.
 
The reporter mentioned how badly the U.S. Open ended, that perhaps Mickelson wanted to show that was an exception.
 
'There was a long time where I wasn't really proud of my performance in the majors,' Mickelson replied. 'But the last couple of years, I'm pretty proud of that. So again, one bad hole isn't going to change the way I look at that.'
 
Related Links:
  • Tee Times - 135th Open Championship
  • Course Tour - Royal Liverpool
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
     
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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