Mickelson Shares 36-Hole Nissan Lead

By Associated PressFebruary 16, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 Nissan OpenLOS ANGELES -- Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington spent Friday afternoon on opposite sides of Riviera as they played vastly different styles. All they had in common when the second round ended was a share of the lead at the Nissan Open.
 
Mickelson got hot with his irons on the back nine with back-to-back birdies inside 5 feet and a mammoth 3-wood from 287 yards that set up an eagle on the 17th hole, sending him to a 6-under 65 and a chance to win for the second straight week.
 
Padriag Harrington in action during the second round of the PGA TOUR
Padraig Harrington shares the lead heading into the weekend at Riviera. (Wire Images)
Harrington only made two pars on his first 10 holes, a round filled with brilliance and bogeys, until he finally settled down in the twilight hours off Sunset Boulevard to polish off a 68.
 
They were at 11-under 131, three shots clear of Charles Howell III.
 
Mickelson hasn't played Riviera since 2001, and he only added this tournament to his schedule at the last minute to test the newfound confidence in his driver. Two rounds has sent it soaring.
 
He reached all three par 5s in two, none more impressive than the 17th. Coming off his only bogey of the tournament, when he pulled his tee shot into a back bunker on the par-3 16th, Mickelson hit a bullet of a tee shot down the left side of the fairway some 310 yards. He followed that with a hard 3-wood that drew slightly and found the middle of the green, rolling to 15 feet.
 
'I just flushed it,' Mickelson said. 'It was a nice way to finish.'
 
It was another command performance, similar to last week at Pebble Beach when he won by five shots. He only missed four fairways, but none of them were off the fairway by much, and he never had a problem going after the flag.
 
He finished his round with an approach that sailed right of the green, but a flop shot landed softly and trickled 4 feet below the hole, allowing him to save par and go into another weekend in the final group. The next quiz comes on the weekend, for Mickelson has made the cut only five times in nine tries at the Nissan Open, and he has never finished in the top 10.
 
'It's a good start for two rounds,' Mickelson said. 'But one of the best players in the world, Padraig Harrington, is tied for the lead. The greens are going to be firm. It's going to be hard to get the ball close to the hole. It's going to be a challenge.'
 
Harrington found himself scrambling from the start, three-putting for bogey on No. 10 when he missed a 4-foot putt. But every mistake was followed by birdies on par 3s and good wedge play.
 
Howell was in the first group off and matched Mickelson for the best score of the day, playing bogey-free for a 65 to finish at 134. Howell made four straight birdies around the turn, two of them par 5s.
 
Sergio Garcia chipped in for birdie on the 17th on his way to a 68 and was in the group at 135 that included David Howell (68) and Pat Perez (69). Ernie Els didn't hit a fairway on the back nine until the 18th hole, and missed birdie putts inside 12 feet on his final two holes for a 68 that left him at 5-under 137, along with Jim Furyk (70) and Rich Beem (68).
 
Charles Howell III, the 27-year-old American, hasn't won in five years, but he took another step toward ending that drought. He already has two runner-up finishes this year, at the Sony Open and Buick Invitational.
 
'The best thing I can do is keep giving myself chances,' said Howell, who was at 8-under 134.
 
He gave himself plenty of chances around the turn, facing a three-hole stretch of two par 5s. Howell not only took care of the par 5s, he threw in birdies on the 18th with an 8-iron into 15 feet, and on No. 2 with an 8-iron into 10 feet.
 
'Riviera is an interesting golf course,' he said. 'There's a few birdie holes out here, and then all of a sudden you have a run of a few holes were par is a good score. So playing holes No. 17 and No. 1, you really have to make birdie on those holes.'
 
Garcia, among several international players making his PGA Tour debut at Riviera, finished strong. He traded birdies and bogeys most of the round until sticking his tee shot within 2 feet on the par-3 14th, holing a 10-foot birdie on the par-3 16th and chipping in on the 17th with a shot that quickly changed his mood.
 
He laid up on the par 5, but hung out his wedge to the right rough. But when the chip banged off the pin and disappeared into the hole, the Spaniard was all smiles.
 
'I just thought, 'What the hell? Why don't you just chip this in?'' he said. 'And it worked out.'
 
U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and former British Open champion Ben Curtis were among those at 4-under 138, while former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman finally showed signs of life with a 66 that put him at 139.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Full Coverage - Nissan Open
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

    Getty Images

    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

    Getty Images

    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

    Getty Images

    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.