More Majors Loom on Leftys Horizon

By Associated PressAugust 16, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 PGA ChampionshipSPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Phil Mickelson was in no hurry to leave Baltusrol, not that he had a choice.
 
Two hours after he won the PGA Championship with a birdie on the fifth day and final hole, he found himself squeezed in every direction by nearly 100 fans who gathered around for autographs, creating a large circle of humanity that slowly moved toward the parking lot.
 
It has been that way for years. Winning doesn't change the way fans feel about their beloved Lefty.
 
But among his peers, the perception of Mickelson as a major force changed significantly.
 
His one-shot victory in the PGA Championship allowed him to break away from an underachieving class of players who finally won their first major and never captured another. And he joined an elite group of players who have won majors in consecutive years.
 
``He's not a one-major guy, he's a 10-major guy,'' Thomas Bjorn said. ``He's going to go on now and contend for majors as he's always done, but it's going to be easier and easier for him to win them now. And he deserves greatness.''
 
Mickelson still only has two majors -- same as Lee Janzen, John Daly and Mark O'Meara -- and predicting greatness is a dangerous business in golf. Who would have thought Davis Love III would still only have one major championship after his PGA victory in 1997?
 
Even so, Mickelson set himself apart from other rivals to Tiger Woods, who remains in a class by himself.
 
Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen all have multiple majors since Woods arrived in 1997, although none has been able to sustain any kind of challenge in the tournaments that matter the most.
 
Singh has been on top of his game since winning the 2002 Tour Championship at East Lake, winning 17 times over the last three years. But when Woods went into a tailspin, the 42-year-old Fijian managed to win just one major, last year at Whistling Straits in a playoff.
 
Els rarely backs up a big year in the majors with another one.
 
After winning the 2002 British Open at Muirfield, he never contended in any of the '03 majors. And while he had a good shot at all of them last year, he again was never a factor this year until his season ended with knee surgery.
 
Goosen, whose game is slowly getting the respect it deserves, lost his chance to win consecutive U.S. Open titles -- only Curtis Strange has done that in the last 50 years -- when he shot 81 in the last round at Pinehurst.
 
That's what made Mickelson's victory at Baltusrol so big.
 
He joins Woods and Nick Faldo as the only players to have won majors in consecutive years since 1990.
 
Walter Hagen went six straight years winning at least one major (four in a row at the PGA Championship), while Jack Nicklaus and Woods each went four straight years with a Grand Slam trophy. Perhaps it is no surprise that they are the top three on the career majors chart.
 
Mickelson got off to a slow start.
 
It took him a dozen years on the PGA Tour and 22 victories to capture his first major last year at the Masters, and it appeared it might take him a while before he got his next one. Mickelson failed to contend in any of them this year, but he was determined the PGA Championship would be different.
 
And he was right.
 
Mickelson went back to that controlled cut off the tee to take the right half of Baltusrol out of play. He looked confident over putts that were 4 feet or 40 feet, and made enough of them that when the hole got smaller on the weekend, he still could afford to miss a few.
 
But he has some catching up to do.
 
``At 35, I've got a number of years left -- good years left -- where my game can continue to improve,'' Mickelson said. ``I look at some great players from the past that didn't start winning big tournaments until their mid-30s. I want to try to get better and better as my career goes on.''
 
Ben Hogan won eight of his nine majors after turning 35. Sam Snead won six of his seven majors at 35 or older. Nicklaus won his 18 majors over 25 seasons, with the last six coming after he turned 35.
 
There's still time.
 
The Wanamaker Trophy at his side Monday afternoon, Mickelson wasn't ready to consider the future. For years when the season ended without a major, he dreaded having to wait seven months for his next chance.
 
``The next major isn't for another seven months,'' Mickelson said, this time with a grin. ``I just want to relish this, and enjoy the fact that for the next seven months, I'm the most recent major winner.''
 
Still, Lefty can start entertaining thoughts of a career Grand Slam, the ultimate measure of greatness.
 
Els (U.S. Open, British Open) and Singh (Masters, PGA) already are halfway there, each capable at the majors they have not won. Ditto for Mickelson, especially since Baltusrol was set up like a U.S. Open, and his two runner-up finishes at majors have come in a U.S. Open.
 
It would seem the British Open would present the stiffest test, but how to explain Mickelson finishing one shot out of a playoff at Royal Troon last year? If he's playing well, he can win anywhere.
 
``There are different challenges to winning each major, and I'm pleased to have accomplished two of those challenges,'' Mickelson said. ``But there are two more that would show the complete player.''
 
With major victories in consecutive years, it could happen sooner than some people think.
 
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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.

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    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