Notes British Still Mystery for Mickelson

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- Despite all the preparation at Royal Troon and playing the majors better than ever, the British Open remains somewhat of a mystery to Masters champion Phil Mickelson.
 
He started with nine consecutive pars on the easier front nine, didn't make a birdie until the par-5 16th and wound up with a 2-over 73.
 
'I didn't hit the ball the way I wanted to, and I didn't putt that well,' Mickelson said. 'But I was able to keep the ball in the right spot and salvage 2 over, which I wouldn't consider a good round today.'
 
Mickelson was in the 12th group Thursday morning, when conditions were the tamest of the first round. He finished in a tie for 73rd and tees off at 1:42 p.m. when the wind is supposed to be its strongest, so making the cut might be his first priority. Then again, he's still only seven shots behind.
 
Even though Mickelson has never finished in the top 10 at a British Open, he had some history on his side. The last player to win the Masters and finish second in the U.S. Open the same year was Arnold Palmer, and the King went on to win the British that year -- at Royal Troon.
 
WHAT A TRIP
Chris DiMarco made 30-foot birdie putts on Nos. 15 and 18 to salvage a 71, not a bad start to the British Open considering how long it took him to arrive at Royal Troon.
 
DiMarco was supposed to leave Monday night from Philadelphia until a blanket that was stuffed into the toilet on the airplane caused the entire system to malfunction and eventually led to the flight being canceled. The next night, electrical problems delayed that flight, so he didn't arrive until 6:15 p.m. Wednesday.
 
And by then, the course was closed for play.
 
'They let me walk around the course,' DiMarco said. 'I actually played here about four years ago in a pro-am with Gary Player and Arnold Palmer, so I knew it a little bit. But not in conditions for a British Open.'
 
The lack of knowledge -- and a bad bounce -- cost him on the 11th.
 
DiMarco hit a drive slightly to the right, while Rod Pampling hit his drive well to the right.
 
'There's one ball in the fairway, and I figured it was mine,' DiMarco said. 'His must have kicked to the left. We looked 5 minutes for mine and never found it.'
 
He wound up with a triple bogey, but rallied down the closing holes for a hard-earned 71.
 
DiMarco was wearing rain pants on a sunny day and a white shirt with a Royal Troon logo, an indication that even getting to Scotland didn't mean his problems were over. His suitcase never arrived from Philadelphia.
 
But at least his golf clubs did.
 
UNION JACK
Ian Poulter caused quite a stir at the British Open -- not for his golf, but his pants.
 
Poulter, who often spikes and dyes his hair various colors, wore Union Jack trousers that were the rage of Royal Troon, and even outraged some.
 
The switchboard at the staid club was lit up with phone calls protesting his attire, but the 28-year-old Englishman thought it was smashing.
 
'I've had comments all around the golf course, wolf whistles and 'Love the pants.' It's just good fun,' Poulter said. 'I'm always trying to be different. I don't like the way most people dress on the golf course -- pretty bland, pretty boring. My persona is not like that.'
 
Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson told the Press Association that there is nothing in the rule book that bans players from wearing Union Jack trousers.
 
'All you can do is hope players adhere to the dress code on the European tour,' Dawson said. 'I wonder what he has in store for tomorrow?'
 
A BIG MAN IN A SMALL BUNKER
Tom Weiskopf did not make a triumphant return to Royal Troon, taking four shots to get out of a pot bunker for a quadruple-bogey 8 on the first hole.
 
A wire-to-wire winner at Royal Troon in 1973, Weiskopf now spends much of his time on course design. And he had no problems with the pot bunker that brought him down Thursday.
 
'Just big enough for an angry man with a club,' he said.
 
The 61-year-old Weiskopf has not played in the British Open since 1995, and this will his last appearance. He opened with an 80.
 
Weiskopf played with former British Open and Masters champion Sandy Lyle, who had his own take on seeing the tall American buried in a bunker.
 
'He may be 6-foot-5, but he was digging so big a hole in the sand that he was disappearing at one stage,' Lyle said.
 
LATE FILL-IN
David Griffiths was the fifth alternate from local qualifying, and he thought about going to Italy to play a Challenge Tour event. Instead, he hung around Troon with hopes someone might withdraw.
 
Within 30 minutes of the first tee shot, former British Open champion David Duval withdrew and Griffiths found himself on the first tee, playing his first Open.
 
It wasn't the best way to prepare for his first major. On the other hand, he didn't have much time to let nerves get the best of him.
 
'I didn't have time to think until (No.) 6 when I made an 8,' he said.
 
Griffiths wound up with a 75.
 
POSTAGE HISTORY
Ernie Els was not the first player to make a hole-in-one on the Postage Stamp eighth hole, nor was he the most famous. That distinction belongs to Gene Sarazen, one of five players to have won the career Grand Slam.
 
Sarazen failed to qualify for the first British Open held at Royal Troon in 1923. Fifty years later, the 71-year-old known as 'The Squire' made an ace in the first round and a birdie in the second round, although he missed the cut.
 
'Me and Gene Sarazen,' Els said with a smile. 'I don't know what he played, probably hit his 5-iron.'
 
Els hit wedge from 123 yards.
 
The last player to ace the Postage Stamp was Denis Edlund in the second round of the 1997 Open. He went on to a 77 and missed the cut at 16-over 158.
 
Related Links:
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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.


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    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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    Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

    “That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

    So was Woods.

    DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

    “His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

    Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

    “He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.


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    “The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

    Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

    “Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

    “Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

    Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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    With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


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    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.