Mickelson Tops Tiger - Then Fires Shot at Finchem

By Associated PressSeptember 3, 2007, 4:00 pm
DeutscheBank Logo 2007NORTON, Mass. -- As soon as Phil Mickelson shrugged off Tiger Woods and the rest of the field at the Deutsche Bank Championship, he decided to take on golf's powers-that-be.
 
Complaining that the PGA TOUR Playoffs are too much of a commitment for players already tired from a long season, Mickelson threatened to skip next week's BMW Championship.
 
'My frustration from this past year came from asking for a couple of things in the FedExCup that weren't done, and not feeling all that bad now if I happen to miss,' he said Monday. 'So I'm not really sure how it's going to play out.'
 
Mickelson would not elaborate on his complaints, but he did say that with his kids starting school on Wednesday he was torn between spending time with his family and fighting for points in Chicago. He has brought up his issues with PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem, to no avail.
 
'It's just that I'm conflicted,' Mickelson said, noting that it wasn't just the playoffs but a hectic season overall. 'I certainly feel the obligation to support the FedExCup, to support the PGA TOUR, and support the game of golf. And I also want to have a balance in my life, and my family has sacrificed a lot this year because it's been a very difficult schedule.'
 
Mickelson shot 5-under-par 66 on Monday in the final round of the Deutsche Bank to finish two strokes ahead of Woods, Brett Wetterich and Arron Oberholser. The victory was worth $1.26 million and 9,000 points in the playoffs, moving him to the top of the standings.
 
Wetterich shot 70, making a birdie on the final hole to earn enough points to move up 29 spots in the standings to No. 22 and giving him an excellent shot at making the TOUR Championship.
 
Oberholser was within one shot of Mickelson most of the back nine, but he needed an eagle on the final hole to force a playoff. Instead, he missed a 10-foot birdie putt when the tournament was sealed and improved to No. 29 in the standings; had he made the birdie putt, he would have gone to No. 20 and clinched a spot at East Lake for the Tour Championship.
 
John Mallinger and Bo Van Pelt moved into the top 70 to advance to the third round next week in Chicago.
 
Even if Mickelson does skip the next event, he long ago locked up a spot in the TOUR Championship.
 
But that would make it three consecutive weeks that a top 5 player in the world rankings has sat out one of the playoff events. Tiger Woods sat out Week 1, and Ernie Els sat out the Deutsche Bank to be with his kids as they started school.
 
Even missing Els, the TPC was not lacking in star power.
 
After playing in a threesome with Vijay Singh for the first two rounds, Mickelson and Woods paired up again in Monday's final round. Thousands of fans stood six-deep behind the greens and watched Mickelson move to a five-stroke lead before Woods made a move.
 
'For 10 years I've struggled against Tiger,' Mickelson said. 'The way I was able to answer with a couple birdies when Tiger was making his charge -- it felt pretty good. As we all know, he finishes better than anybody else. He certainly tried to do that today. I was able to hold him off.'
 
It was Mickelson's first victory since THE PLAYERS Championship in May. Then he injured his left wrist that cost him his summer, and only recently has Mickelson been able to swing without flinching.
 
But Woods was the one who was struggling this week.
 
He missed 11 putts from inside 10 feet over the weekend -- four of them from inside 7 feet. He three-putted three times. In the final round, he made just one putt from outside of 13 feet.
 
'It's very frustrating,' Woods said. 'That many three-putts, and I'm still right there, which means I'm hitting the ball well. I just need to clean up my greens for next week.'
 
Woods missed makable putts on three straight holes, including a 15-footer on No. 12 after Mickelson hit his second shot into a hazard and wound up with a double bogey.
 
'He made a mistake there,' Woods said. 'I felt that I should have -- if I could have made that putt, I could have gotten a big chunk back.'
 
Trailing by two strokes, Wood hit his tee shot on the 161-yard, par-3 16th to the back of the green and rolled it just 10 feet from the pin. But then Mickelson went straight at the flag, and left just 6 feet for birdie.
 
Woods sank his putt to get within one stroke -- but just for a matter of seconds. Mickelson also made birdie to move to 15 under and restore the two-stroke lead.
 
'To be able to stand up on 16 after he knocked it close and follow it with a birdie of my own, knock it inside of him and finish with a couple birdies of my own, it feels terrific,' said Mickelson, who improved to 3-2-1 against Woods in heads-up, final-round play.
 
'Now the next step is to try to hopefully go head-to-head in a major. We don't get paired very often in majors, and hopefully next year we'll have a chance to do that.'
 
Woods gave himself a chance for an eagle on No. 18 from 33 feet. But Mickelson ended it when, after going over the green with his second shot, he chipped from out of a downhill lie to within 5 feet -- an easy birdie.
 
For Lefty, it was the cap to a fun week in New England -- his first trip to the Boston area since he celebrated a stunning U.S. victory in the Ryder Cup at Brookline.
 
This time, Mickelson spent some time in Kennebunkport, Maine, for some golf and fishing with former President Bush. After Saturday's round, Mickelson headed over to Fenway Park and saw Red Sox rookie Clay Buchholz throw a no-hitter.
 
'It made for a very special, memorable week,' Mickelson said. 'I'm just so excited with the way it finished.'
 
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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.”