Chills and Spills with Phil the Thrill

By Brian HewittNovember 12, 2007, 5:00 pm
Phil Mickelson is Scary Movie, Theater of the Absurd and Greek Tragicomedy all wrapped up into a dream shared by Tarantino, Fellini, Hitchcock and the Coen Brothers.
 
The best part is the unpredictability.
 
For that matter, throw in a little Edgar Allan Poe. At any given moment on any given Sunday any one of his pendulum swings can leave a pit in your stomach.
 
Prior to Sunday, perhaps you could argue the point. But not any more. Of the top players in the world today, Phil Mickelson is the one from whom you can never quite be sure what youre going to get.
 
John Daly, you say? Wrong.
 
Daly is certainly unpredictable. But golfs Paul Bunyan'even though hes still the stuff of legends'simply isnt among the worlds best players any more. Among other things, he doesnt have his card to play on the PGA TOUR. And his world rank had plummeted to No. 492 prior to last week.
 
Phil, on the other hand, is still the goods and The Thrill
 
Sunday in China he squandered a five-shot lead during the final round of the HSBC Champions. Then, trailing by one, he hit a ball in the water on the 72nd hole. Yet he still managed to worm his way into a playoff with Ross Fisher and Lee Westwood.
 
Two holes later he converted a short birdie putt to win his fourth tournament of the year. Phil has always been an American brand and rarely ventures from our mainland. So it seems extra strange that, because of co-sanctioning, the HSBC was the first official event of the 2008 European Tour schedule.
 
Which means, yes, at the moment, Phil Mickelson, if he were a member of the European Tour, would lead the Order of Merit.
 
Anyway, Mickelson himself is acutely aware of the fact that there are more wild rides in his golf history than there are at Disney World. It feels amazing, Mickelson said. The whole day was a whirlwind.
 
How about the whole last four years for Lefty.
 
Lets see: Two Masters victories; one PGA Championship; one blown U.S. Open in 2006; a widely-scrutinized coaching switch from Rick Smith to Butch Harmon; a wrist injury that ruined his chances at Oakmont where he had hoped to win his first U.S. Open and make up for the debacle on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot.
 
Its a funny game, golf, Mickelson said after the China playoff and moments before boarding a plane back to the States that signaled the beginning a two and a half month layoff from competitive golf. We say that a lot.
 
What Mickelsons plan also revealed, indirectly, was he will not be playing in the Mercedes-Benz Championship in early January. As recently as last week, Mercedes-Benz officials were still holding out hope for a Mickelson appearance at Kapalua even though he hasnt played there since 2001.
 
Mickelson is still No. 2 in the world rankings behind Woods. But, to repeat, no one at golfs highest level takes a back seat to Phil when it comes to finding himself in the middle of all kinds of dramas.
 
Last week in Singapore Mickelson posted a 79 and finished 16 shots behind winner Angel Cabrera. A throat malady (more on that in the next paragraph) had reduced his voice to little more than a whisper and sent him, along with his caddie, to the doctors office.
 
Phils pretty sure he picked up the bug breathing the ash-choked air during the wild fires that raged through Southern California before he departed to Asia. More drama: Houses in Phils Rancho Santa Fe neighborhood burned to the ground during the fires. Mickelsons is still standing.
 
Meanwhile, back in China, Phils final-round total of 76 included six penalty shots. Thats the bad news. The good news is that his first foray to the Far East'with wife and three young children in tow'gave him two tournament weeks to test new Callaway equipment under the gun and get another fortnight of tournament reps under his belt with the changes Harmon has been instituting in his swing.
 
Is Mickelson better theater than Woods?
 
The answer is hes a different kind of theater.
 
Tigers plots run more toward John Wayne. They are compelling but more straightforward.
 
Phils scripts?
 
Lets put it this way. If they ever published an unauthorized book on the pitches and yaws of his high-flying career, the writer for the job would be Stephen King.

Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - HSBC Champions
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.