Mickelson Preps for Masters Plays BellSouth

By Associated PressMarch 30, 2005, 5:00 pm
DULUTH, Ga. -- Phil Mickelson's performance in the BellSouth Classic might not be as important as what he does off the course in preparation for defense of his Masters title.
But don't expect him to lose focus here simply because the first of this year's golf majors is a week away.
'I don't think so,' he said when asked about that Wednesday. 'This tournament has great practice facilities. It gives me a great opportunity to work on my game and get sharp and to not worry about what's coming up next week.'
But Mickelson isn't entirely putting the Masters on the back burner. He spent about 10 hours at Augusta National on Tuesday before heading back to this Atlanta suburb and shooting a 3-under 69 in Wednesday's pro-am.
'It went really well yesterday,' Mickelson said. 'It was fun to get down there and see the course in such great shape.'
Mickelson, the only one of the game's top four players in the BellSouth, had to wait to tee off Thursday along the rest of the field because rain delayed the start of the first round.
The other top players in the world -- Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els -- are passing on this tournament to get more practice time at Augusta.
But the BellSouth field is hardly weak, starting with defending champion Zach Johnson, third in his last three starts this year.
Also playing on the 7,293-yard, par-72 TPC at Sugarloaf are No. 5 Retief Goosen, No. 10 Stewart Cink, No. 13 Stuart Appleby and No. 15 Chris DiMarco.
But the spotlight will be on Mickelson, who finally won his first major last year at Augusta. He thinks he ironed out some kinks in his game after a tie for 40th place in the just-completed Players Championship.
'Well, I'll have a better idea after this week, I think,' the left-handed player said. 'I'm starting to play a little better and addressed an issue yesterday with the way I was driving it last week.
'This will be a big week for me to get momentum and get confidence in the way I've been playing. I've put a lot of time in. Now, it's time to start having it pay off.'
Mickelson has two wins and a second in seven starts this years and is the leading money winner at $2,753,456.
He also doesn't consider the field to be watered down despite the absence of Singh, Woods and Els.
'We have so many quality players on the tour that we have a competitive field every week no matter who plays,' Mickelson said. 'The field here is very strong,'
Johnson, whose only victory last year as a rookie was here, has been playing very well. His third-place finishes came at Doral, Bay Hill and in the Players Championship.

He earned $652,000 in those three events and has made $902,000 overall in nine starts this year. He'll be making his Masters debut.
'I feel good with where my game is at,' said Johnson, whose thoughts also are on next week. 'Just kind of a stretch where you want to get things rolling.
'I enjoy this course, and it's a very good one to prepare for Augusta. Although I haven't seen Augusta, I can see the resemblances. So it should be a good stepping stone to next week.'
Ben Crane, a former BellSouth winner, withdrew due to injury. ... The field includes 22 players entered in next week's Masters as well as previous Masters champions Mickelson, Larry Mize and Ian Woosnam, and two-time winner Jose Maria Olazabal. ... 'I look forward to it every year. I'll just be happy to make the cut,' said European Ryder Cup captain Woosnam, who hopes to play 20-22 events this year if his back holds up.
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    Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

    By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

    “I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

    Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

    “If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

    Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

    Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

    Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

    “He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

    As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

    "I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

    Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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    McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

    The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

    McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

    “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, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

    And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

    “I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

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

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    Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

    No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

    Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

    With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

    “This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

    Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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    Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

    Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

    McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.