Notes Eagle putt awaits Lefty Zingers strong view

By Associated PressAugust 9, 2008, 4:00 pm
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2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' Phil Mickelson wasnt the best lefty in his twosome.
 
Steve Flesch was 2 under through five holes, and moved into a tie for fifth at 1 over on Saturday when thunderstorms forced suspension of play for the day at the PGA Championship.
 
Mickelson was even par through the same stretch and remained at 3 over, four shots behind second-round leader J.B. Holmes.
 
I dont know if either one of us has a lot to be proud of today, Flesch said. I think both of us will be looking to get some momentum in the morning, hoping it will carry us through on whats going to be a long day.
 
The suspension meant the two left-handers faced 31 holes on Sunday.
 
Mickelson is in the midst of his longest stretch with one top-10 finish at a major, going nine starts with only a tie for fifth in April at the Masters.
 
Lefty shed the label of being the best player without a major championship in 2004 at Augusta, won the PGA Championship in 2005 and earned another green jacket in 2006.
 
Mickelson was tied for 18th and 19th in the U.S. Open and British Open, respectively, this year. He missed two cuts at majors last season, finishing no better than 24th, and finished outside of the top 15 in the final two majors of 2006.
 
The worlds second-ranked player got off to a great start Saturday with a drive that landed in the fairway, just 72 yards from the green at 435-yard first hole.
 
But Mickelson didnt take advantage, finessing an approach that went in a bunker short. He came up short again but had a good chip out of the rough on the short side of the green to set up a short putt for bogey.
 
Mickelson drove down the middle of the fairway on No. 5 and hit a beautiful shot that trickled toward the cup and left him with about a 5-foot birdie putt. But he barely caught the left side of the cup. After tapping in for par, he shook his head as he walked off the green.
 
Mickelson gave himself a chance, though, to make up ground with an 8-foot eagle putt at No. 6 only to have the horn blow. He marked his ball and took a look at the line hed have before getting in an SUV to evacuate the course.
 
It took 17 minutes to get Mickelson and Flesch back to the clubhouse as a caravan slowly made its way from the far end of the course to the clubhouse.
 
After a 4-hour delay, Mickelson left the course without talking to reporters.
 
DOESNT COUNT
 
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger played in the PGA Championship, so he knows how difficult it is to play Oakland Hills.
 
Its the hardest course Ive ever played, Azinger said after his third-round 76 left him at 14-over 224.
 
That speaks volumes considering the source, who is playing in his 66th major and has competed in five Ryder Cups and two Presidents Cups.
 
The top eight players in the Ryder Cup standings after Sundays final round will get automatic berths for next months event at Valhalla. Azinger will fill out the rest of the side with four captains picks to be announced Sept. 2 in New York City.
 
Players who struggled at Oakland Hills this week have not doomed their chances, Azinger insisted.
 
Doesnt mean anything, he said. This isnt the Ryder Cup week. We have three weeks to go. I want a guy who is confident and if the guys confidence is shattered when he left here, join the club.
 
FUN AT THE TURN
 
Rocco Mediate and Mark Calcavecchia both birdied the par-3 ninth in the third round, the first time in the tournament all the players in a group left the green with scores under par.
 
That coupled with a midmorning tee time put them in a good mood on the 10th tee, knowing they would get their round in before the expected storms rolled into the Motor City area.
 
Have fun at 9 oclock! Calcavecchia shouted to D.J. Trahan, who had a 1:20 p.m. starting time and managed to play four holes before play was suspended for the day.
 
After Mediate hit his drive, he walked over to Trahan on the practice green to shake his hand and say a few words.
 
Mediate (72) is 9 over for the tournament and Calcavecchia (76) is 13-over 223.
 
The ninth hole, which was 220 yards with the forward tee used, was the 14th-toughest hole when play was suspended Saturday after being among the most difficult in the first two rounds.
 
With wind whipping around the course so hard that a sports section flew out of somebodys hands near the green, some players struggled at the hole Saturday.
 
John Mallinger sent a 3-wood tee shot that was headed for the middle of the green only to sail into the right rough because of a gust of wind. Japans Hiroyuki Fujita, playing in the same group, used a hybrid only to be disappointed when the wind knocked down his tee shot into the fairway. Both ended up bogeying the hole.
 
KILLIN TIME
 
While play was suspended for over 4 hours, players found anything they could to wait out the weather.
 
Tom Lehman, who got in seven holes before play was called, said he tried a little bit of everything.
 
I spent a lot of time in the fitness trailer; Ive got an elbow issue, he said. So I was warming it up and then Id go practice, then re-warming it up and then going to practice again. And I was eating, and watching the Olympics, and talking and taking a nap ' I just kind of covered all the bases.
 
U.S. PRIDE
 
If an international player wins the PGA Championship, it will the first time Americans didnt win at least half of the majors since 1994.
 
Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open in June but had knee surgery soon after and didnt play in the British Open, won by Irelands Padraig Harrington, or the PGA. South Africas Trevor Immelman won the Masters.
 
In 1994, South African Nick Price won two majors (PGA and British) and Spains Jose Maria Olazabal (Masters) and South Africas Ernie Els (U.S. Open) each won one.
 
DIVOTS
 
Ernie Els has won the most money in PGA Championships (nearly $1.4 million) without winning the major. He has made the cut in 13 of 16 starts and finished among the top five in three of the last four. Detroit Pistons coach Michael Curry and assistant Pat Sullivan were among the faces in the crowd Saturday. Houston Rockets forward Shane Battier, who was a prep star at nearby Detroit Country Day High, was in the gallery during the first round. Battier hadnt watched a major in person since the final round of the 2001 Masters, when he and Mike Dunleavy were coming off a national championship at Duke and Tiger Woods became the first player to hold all the major titles at the same time.
 

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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.”