Phil Mickelson Nick Watney tied at WGC-CA

By Associated PressMarch 14, 2009, 4:00 pm
2007 WGC CA ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. ' Phil Mickelson learned a little about Nick Watney during his trips to Las Vegas in the offseason while working with Butch Harmon, the swing coach for both of them.
 
He got to know Watney a lot better Saturday in the WGC-CA Championship and was even more impressed.
 
Watney overcame a two-shot deficit with three straight birdies early in the third round and had three strong par saves on the back nine for a 5-under 67. Mickelson answered with three straight birdies late in the afternoon during a splendid display of driving and irons and shot 69. They wound up tied for the lead at Doral.
 
Nick Watney
Like Mickelson, Watney is seeking his second win of the season. (Getty Images)
Even though Mickelson longed for another duel with Tiger Woods, he realizes he still has his hands full with Watney.
 
Theres really not any weaknesses in his game, Mickelson said. Hes already won this year and played tough down the stretch in that win, and hes a tough competitor.
 
They were at 16-under 200, four shots clear of anyone else.
 
Watney, who birdied two his last three holes to win at Torrey Pines last month, ended his streak of bogey-free golf on the Blue Monster after 46 holes and still has made only one in the tournament.
 
I just wanted to go out there today and really get into my round and not worry too much about the scoreboard or playing against Phil directly, Watney said. So Im pleased with the way I handled it.
 
Watney has not played in a final group before so many fans, but he has seen what it is like. He was a rookie in 2005 when Doral resembled a rock concert with Woods and Mickelson in the last group, and Woods rallying to win.
 
I would love to have that opportunity, Watney said. Maybe Ill get that shot tomorrow.
 
Woods wont be part of the equation.
 
In his first stroke-play event since winning the U.S. Open in June a week before knee surgery, Woods was thrilled with how he hit the ball, disgusted with how he putted. He managed only a 68 and was nine shots behind.
 
The best Ive hit it in a long time, Woods said. Granted, I havent played in a long time, but still.
 
Mickelson, the best player to have never won a World Golf Championship, is not ready to consider Sunday another duel at Doral. Jeev Milkha Singh (68) and Camilo Villegas (69) were at 12-under 204, while the group another shot behind included former Doral winner Jim Furyk (69), Kenny Perry (71) and Alvaro Quiros (69), a big hitter from Spain.
 
Nick and I need to play well to separate ourselves from the rest of the field, Mickelson said.
 
Lefty worried he might fall behind when he made the turn in only 35 on another good day for scoring. But he hit his stride, going eight consecutive holes with birdie putts inside 12 feet. He converted only three of them.
 
The easiest came at the par-3 13th, when Mickelson hit 5-iron to the green and watched it roll toward the cup. The glare kept him from seeing the ball bounce lightly off the middle of the pin and stop a foot away, but the wild cheer filled him in.
 
I thought after the first bounce it was going to be pretty good, he said.
 
Watney made a terrific par save from an awkward stance in the bunker on the the 13th, and he made another solid bunker save on the par-3 15th when Mickelson hit his tee shot to 6 feet. It looked as though Lefty would go three shots ahead until he missed the putt, and Watney caught him two holes later ' his birdie on the 16th, Mickelsons one wild drive on the 17th leading to bogey.
 
Watney finished with another solid par save after an approach flirted with the water on the 18th. From deep rough, he popped it out to 3 feet and stayed tied for the lead when Mickelson missed a 15-foot birdie.
 
Rory McIlroy, the 19-year-old from Northern Ireland who is down to his last week with a chance at becoming the youngest winner in PGA Tour history, was in the mix until struggling from the rough and making three bogeys over his last five holes.
 
He was at 10-under 206, six shots behind.
 
It looks like its going to be a bit of a two-horse race, McIlroy said. But if I can go out and shoot in the mid-60s and get myself as high up the leaderboard as possible, then it will have been another good week.
 
Woods feels hes making progress, too.
 
It was his best round since his return to competition, at least until he got on the green. He missed three putts inside 10 feet, and his final birdie came on the 16th when he holed out from a back bunker.
 
But it was the finish that lifted his mood.
 
From the edge of the water, with the ball above his feet and the wind in his face, Woods hit a sweeping draw with a 3-iron from 207 yards away that caught the ridge and rolled just past the cup, settling 12 feet away.
 
He missed the birdie putt.
 
I have not controlled the golf ball that well in a very long time, Woods said. And that was fun. I was hitting shots that I had not been able to hit before, which was such a great feeling. Unfortunately, Im just not making any putts.
 
Mickelson, who won two weeks ago at Riviera, can close in on No. 1 in the world ranking by capturing his first World Golf Championship title. It will be his first time in the final group at Doral since 2005, when Woods overcame a two-shot deficit to beat him.
 
Woods, in a tie for 19th, is out of the picture.
 
But the way Saturday went along the back nine, Mickelson still doesnt expect anything to come easily.
 
Related Links:
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  • Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

    The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

    The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

    In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

    Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

    Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

    Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

    Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

    Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

    Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

    Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


    FALLING

    J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

    Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

    Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

    DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

    LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

    Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

    Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

    In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

    "Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

    Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

    "The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

    The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

    "Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

    Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

    Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

    By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

    We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

    God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

    We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

    Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

    There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

    It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

    Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

    Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

    BORN IN 1912

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
    May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
    Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

    Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


    BORN IN 1949

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
    Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
    Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

    Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


    BORN IN 1955

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
    Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
    Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

    Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

    Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
    Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
    Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
    Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
    Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

    A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


    EUROPE'S BIG 5

    Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
    April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
    July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
    Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
    Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
    March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

    The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
    Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
    May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
    May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
    June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

    Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


    BORN IN 1980

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
    July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
    July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

    Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

    Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.