Notes: Mickelson 'not sharp mentally' in Rd. 1 of WGC

By Associated PressAugust 1, 2013, 11:32 pm

AKRON, Ohio – He was in the Buckeye state, but his head was still in Scotland.

Phil Mickelson, yet to escape a British Open hangover, shot a 2-over 72 and was stuck in the middle of the pack Thursday after the first round of the Bridgestone Invitational.

''Today I had a hard time focusing,'' said Mickelson, who missed 3-foot par putts on the sixth and seventh holes. ''Mentally I wasn't sharp. I could tell I was a little bit tired or I just wasn't able to see the shot clearly. I just had a hard time visualizing and seeing the shot today.''

No one could really blame Mickelson for hanging on to thoughts of his last tournament. He climbed from well off the pace Sunday, birdieing four of the final six holes for a stirring victory in the British Open at Muirfield two weeks ago.

Mickelson spent time at home with his family after flying overseas after the stunning triumph, his fifth major championship, and also went to Oak Hill to prepare for next week's final major of the year, the PGA Championship. He came to Firestone Country Club saying he wanted to use his time in Ohio to concentrate on his game.

Even though he felt he was focused on the task at hand, he understood how he could be distracted after such a remarkable win.

Asked if he had found it difficult to deal with the next tournament after winning a major, he said he'd been down this road before.

''I am aware of it. I'll try to make sure I'm a bit more rested and sharp heading into the weekend,'' he said. ''But it does happen. It's a good problem to have.''


WEATHER REPORT: It rained overnight, deadening the greens just enough so that the first players off the tee could take advantage by tossing shots directly at the flags.

''It's soft,'' Ryan Moore said after a 66. ''The greens are receptive, so you can hit 5-irons and 4-irons into the greens and stop them around the hole. It (the course) was longer, but still scoreable.''

Some of those who had practiced all week on a relatively dry and fast layout said the rain didn't make things easier, but harder.

''I played quite a nice shot and it lands quite dead,'' said English pro Chris Wood, making his first appearance ever at the Bridgestone. ''It didn't release as far as I thought and it took quite a few holes to get used to that.''

Moore played in the third group off the tee. Tiger Woods, who was in the fifth twosome starting on the 10th hole, said the conditions would get more difficult as the wind blew and the moisture disappeared.

''It'll get quicker, there's no doubt,'' he said.

And it did.


OH, NO, NOT AGAIN: Tiger Woods has said repeatedly how happy he is with his swing. Well, except for one, anyway.

At the ninth hole, his last of the day in a round of 66, he didn't exactly produce a classic stroke.

''It was a high, hammered snap-hook,'' he said with a smile. ''I hit all of it. It was nice. It was beautiful.''

The ball ended up in the middle of the fairway - the 10th fairway.

''Hey, I count it as a fairway hit,'' Woods cracked.

In the second round of the 2006 Bridgestone, Woods had famously hit an overcooked 9-iron that caromed high off a cart path and ricocheted atop the clubhouse roof at Firestone Country Club. He would go on to win the fifth of his seven Bridgestone titles.

Woods was asked if his shot on Thursday was ever in jeopardy of ending up on the roof.

''No,'' he said with a laugh. ''If I hit that one from the middle of a fairway onto a roof, you could take my name off the bag.''


YOU CAN COME HOME AGAIN: Jason Dufner spent the first 11 years of his life living in and around Cleveland, not far away from where he's toiling this week.

He played Little League baseball, made lots of friends and even walked the Firestone course during his younger days. Then his parents divorced and he moved away.

After a long and circuitous trip through golf's minor leagues, Dufner has made it to the big stage. He played in the Bridgestone for the very first time a year ago, finishing seventh. In Thursday's opening round, he put up a 3-under 67 on the board.

''I have some family and relatives and friends here that come out and support (me),'' he said. ''There's probably 15 or 20 people here. I hear a lot of good support out there. People know I was born here and lived here for a while and still have some family here, so it's always good to come back to Northeast Ohio.''

Despite not spending much time in the area for more than two decades, he still feels at home at Firestone. He opened with rounds of 67 and 66 for sole possession of fourth place a year ago at the Bridgestone before shooting 73 and 68 on the weekend.

''That was about the same type of round to start the week as last year,'' Dufner, now 36 and living in Auburn, Ala., said about his first round Thursday. ''It's a good golf course for me. It feels all right with my game.''


MONSTROUS CHALLENGE: The signature hole at Firestone is the 667-yard, par-5 16th. In the days of wood woods when only the longest hitters could go 300 yards off the tee, it was a daunting task to even reach the green - with a placid but threatening pond in front - in three shots.

That's not the case anymore, although the hole Arnold Palmer dubbed ''The Monster'' - after he made a triple bogey in the 1960 PGA Championship is still a load for even the biggest hitters.

Now even those who can't play the hole can at least get a feel of what it's like to baby an approach shot to the undulating green.

Fans can hit two shots at a faux, 33-yard Monster, made out of green carpet with a mini-water hazard in front of the plastic-grass green. There's netting that prevents shanked shots from, say, decking Zach Johnson over on the 10th tee. It also eliminates the possibility of a skilled player lofting a high flop shot anywhere near the hole.

Dan Crowe, who manages the interactive site, said more than 900 people played the hole on Wednesday, with that number expected to rise each day through the weekend.

If one of your shots ends up on the green, you win a sleeve of golf balls. Hole a shot - like one lucky participant did - and you receive a $150 gift card toward either Bridgestone tires or golf equipment.

This much is certain: No one will be acing the real ''Monster.''


STARTLING STAT: Tiger Woods has won 41 percent of his World Golf Championship starts. He's 3 for 13 in the Match Play event, 7 of 13 in both the Bridgestone and the Cadillac Championship and is 0 for 2 in the HSBC. That's 17 of 41 heading into this week's Bridgestone at Firestone Country Club.

Oh, and he has finished in the top 10 in 32 of 41 of those WGC tournaments - although he's won only one of the last 11 in which he's played.


DIVOTS: For a change, Woods wasn't the most photographed player in his group. A large number of photographers, most of them on hand to detail every move made by playing partner Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, followed the twosome. ... Rickie Fowler, asked if he's flattered when he sees a lot of kids dressed like him: ''I love it. I saw it all day for 18 holes, so it's fun. Whether I'm having a good day or bad, I can look over and see the kids running around. It's an easy way to put a smile on your face.'' ... Rory McIlroy, trying to get his game untracked before defending his PGA crown at Oak Hill, shot a 70. ... Second-place Henrik Stenson got off on the right foot: birdie, eagle. He parred every other hole except for birdies at 11 and 12 in a 65.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”