Phil Physically Mentally Ready for New Season

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Bob Hope Chrysler ClassicPALM DESERT, Calif. -- Maybe he was being a little reckless, taking too many risks, or simply found trouble at the wrong time. Whatever the case, it was a crash Phil Mickelson won't forget, and he confessed Tuesday that it left a scar.

He was talking, of course, about a skiing accident that kept him off the PGA TOUR for three months.

'A scar happened in '94 when I broke my leg and they cut it open and stuck in a rod,' Mickelson said. 'That's a scar.'

His double bogey on the 72nd hole at the U.S. Open?

That was a lesson.

'Losing the Open obviously hurt,' Mickelson said. 'But losing the PGA in 2001 hurt. Losing the Masters a number of years hurt. And losing the U.S. Open in 2004 making double (bogey) on 17 hurt. That's part of the game. And so I think it's a challenge to try to get past that, but it's also an opportunity to identify a weakness and improve it.

'And hopefully,' he added, 'improve my performances from here on out.'

Mickelson makes his 2007 debut Wednesday at the Bob Hope Classic, and he probably won't have to wait long to see what he learned. Fourteen of his 29 victories on the PGA TOUR have come on the West Coast, and he has won the Hope twice since 2002.

It will be his first time inside the ropes since the Ryder Cup, though some might argue he didn't play there, either. Mickelson looked dazed at The K Club and went 0-4-1 for an American team that got waxed.

He really hasn't shown up anywhere since that infamous meltdown on a late Sunday afternoon at Winged Foot.

Mickelson had a two-shot lead with four holes to play in the final round of the U.S. Open, an amazing feat considering he couldn't find the fairway. It caught up to him on the 18th when he hit driver so far to the left that it clattered off trees and a corporate tent, sending him to a double bogey that left him one shot behind Geoff Ogilvy.

It wasn't the worst collapse; that goes to Colin Montgomerie, who made his double bogey with a 7-iron from the fairway. But crashes seem to look more spectacular involving Phil the Thrill.

He played five more tournaments the rest of the year, his best finish a tie for 16th at the PGA Championship.

And the speculation began.

What's wrong with Phil? How will he ever recover from such an ignominious failure?

All of which was misguided thinking.

Don't use the tail end of 2006 as evidence of emotional scar tissue, because Lefty rarely plays his best golf after the U.S. Open. Since his first full season on TOUR in 1993, only one-third of his top 10s and eight of his 29 victories occurred after the second major (that includes Pebble Beach in 1998, which ended in August).

And it's not like that was the first time Mickelson has been haunted by failure. Jack Nicklaus was runner-up 19 times in the majors, and don't think he wouldn't like to have a couple of those back. Tiger Woods went bogey-bogey in the 2005 U.S. Open when he was on the verge of tracking down Michael Campbell.

The guys more affected by calamity are those who only get one crack at a major -- Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie in the 1999 British Open, Mike Reid at the 1989 PGA Championship, Ed Sneed at the 1979 Masters.

'Phil is in a different category,' Annika Sorenstam said.

Sorenstam knows what it's like to blow a major. She was a lock to make birdie at worst and join a playoff in the 2003 U.S. Women's Open when her 4-wood nearly went into a portable toilet and she made bogey. What happened? She won the Women's British Open a month later to complete the career Grand Slam.

'I'm sure Phil's going to bounce back,' she said. 'We all know he's super talented, and that (U.S. Open) hasn't crossed my mind. He's a guy who can come back and win majors.'

But even Mickelson knows better than to simply expect that to happen.

He referred to the 2001 PGA Championship at Atlanta, when he was tied for the lead with David Toms until a three-putt from 50 feet on the 16th hole cost him a shot that he never got back.

'I looked back at that event and realized my lag putting needs to improve, because I'm not going to win majors if my lag putting isn't better,' Mickelson said. 'After imploring the help of Dave Pelz, we developed drills to improve my lag putting, and it's led to two Masters wins, as well as a PGA, on some quick greens.'

The lesson from Winged Foot was to drive the ball in the short grass -- more specifically, to eliminate the tee shot that goes left.

He analyzed his swing and his equipment. Mickelson has been working with Callaway Golf on a new driver with more weight in the heel. He didn't want to talk shop on the swing, only to say he wants to get the club face square a little more quickly.

'So now, we've addressed that with equipment, we've addressed it through instruction, and I'm really excited about 2007, because I really think that shot is going to be eliminated the majority of the time,' he said.

The other lesson for Mickelson -- and this is nothing new -- was to look like he spends more time in the gym than at In-N-Out Burger.

One reason Lefty has done so well the first five months of the season is because he runs out of gas in the summer, and it doesn't help carrying excess baggage. One exception was in 2004, when he came within five shots at a chance of winning all four majors. And why did he play so well all year?

'I was in better shape,' he said.

Lefty says he has lost 20 or 25 pounds during his long offseason and put on 15 pounds of muscle by including weightlifting to his regimen for the first time. He does cardio work for an hour a day, and he started a new martial arts program.

Where this will lead is anyone's guess.

Learning from his mistakes has never been a problem for Mickelson. The question is usually how soon before he forgets.

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    Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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    Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

    John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

    The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

    That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

    He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

    Getty Images

    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.