Hey Phil Whats Up
Critics remember this for now: Mickelson has won three times at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am where the golfs glitterati will gather this week down on the Monterey Peninsula, a place where the reds are redder, the blues are bluer and Clint Eastwoods squint is worth the price of admission.
But, yo Lefty. Whats up with the missed cut at FBR late last month in your season debut followed by an indifferent week at Torrey Pines?
You told us at Scottsdale you were fresh, ready and more physically fit in your lower body which was supposed to produce a stronger base and more stability in your action. Then you went out and missed your first check in a season opener since you turned pro back in 1992 when you were still wearing collars turned up.
It just didnt come together, you said, after following a horrific opening round 76 with a desultory Friday 73 to whiff the weekend by seven shots at FBR. Ill get some good work done this weekend and hopefully come out sharp and ready to play next Thursday in San Diego.
By the time Thursday at Torrey Pines rolled around you had dropped to No. 4 in the world rankings. But your putter turned Round One into a two-under 70 on the tougher South course. Your new FT-9 driver had arrived along with the official blessing of the USGA. And you told us you now had a weapon that would eliminate the wide left block off the tee that had been your undoing in too many crucial situations.
Next thing anybody knew you were slopping it around the piece-of-cake North Course at Torrey Pines and posting a Friday 72 that left tire tracks all over your back. You backed that up with a Saturday 73. And your fairways in regulation percentages the first three days were 50, 36 and 43 per cent respectively.
Sunday brought with it four bogeys in the first six holes and a big fat 75 that moved you from a T20 down to a T42 at a seaside haunt not far from where you grew up and very close to your golfing heart.
Your driving accuracy ranking for the week was T52; your corresponding greens in regulation number was T48. You needed at least 30 putts in three of the four rounds. And by Monday morning you had slipped to No. 5 in the world rankings.
We dont want this to sound like were picking on you, Phil. Lord knows, theres been enough of that over the years.
I mean, Jim Furyk still hasnt teed it up yet this year. Vijay Singh has a sore knee. Anthony Kim has a sore shoulder. Ernie Els tied for 31st at Qatar. Steve Stricker gave one away at the Hope with a Sunday 77. And J.B. Holmes, who had won two of the last FBR Opens, also failed to make it to Saturday in Scottsdale.
Its just that youre Phil and none of those other guys are.
With Tiger Woods, who became a father (healthy baby boy, Charles Axel) for the second time Sunday, still in dry dock waiting for his knee to give him the full green light, youre going to be an even bigger story than you usually are if you dont start posting red numbers in bunches some time soon.
Tiger used to be amused at all those slump stories that would begin to surface when he would go two tournaments without a win. Well, you admitted last season wasnt what you had expected even though you won twice.
Your words last Tuesday: It (2008) wasnt what I hoped the year would be.
Later that day somebody asked you this question: Have you ever played in such a way to just hit it as far as you want no matter where it goes because you know hitting on the length of the hole and the layout that with grooves and with your ability to spin it you wont be punished?
Your answer, on the official transcript, left a few people scratching their heads. Your words: Thats not why I try to hit it as hard as I can, thats just because Im stupid at times and enjoy trying to get it out there and have an ego and want to be one of the longer guys. But its not because I think that Im going to score better necessarily. Ive seen the stats. (Short game coach Dave) Pelz has shown me repeatedly the fact that you can hit the ball 10 per cent farther, which would be 20 or 30 yards, and it doesnt equate to lower scores.
Even if we write that one off to transcriber error, the context at this point in your Tuesday presser was equipment and square grooves and a lot of inside baseball on golf. And it was kind of confusing. Then Nick Faldo on Golf Channel questioned several of your strategy decisions on the first two days of the Buick Invitational. It was hard to argue with Faldos criticism when you hit a driver off the deck from a fairway when the green was unreachable.
Theres one theory floating around that the more Tiger stays away, the harder it is for the top ranked players in the world to maintain their focus. I think thats mostly hogwash but there may be a grain of truth to the notion that its more difficult to take aim at a target when that target isnt in your field of vision.
Meanwhile, more and more people are noticing youre not a kid anymore. I dont think 38 is all that old, you said last week. But I feel like Ive been out here quite a while.
We know you and your trainer, Sean Cochran, are more focused on the majors than ever before this year. And we know this could mean you will be sharper the second week of April (Augusta) and the third week of June (U.S. Open) at the expense of the California swing where you have always played so well.
'I can certainly feel some rust,' Mickelson said late Sunday.
But what you need to know is one more mediocre week or, horrors, one more missed cut, is going to ignite a blaze of second-guessing if the pilot light doesnt go on pretty damn soon.
Thats just the way it works. Like it or not, Phil, you got one more week to kick it into gear or a bunch of impatient people too shortsighted to get you major championship plan, will begin to howl. Thats why they keep score.
The beauty of the flip side of all of this is a decisive victory at Pebble will stamp you as an early favorite for The Masters.
As Warren Beatty said, with a smile on his face, before the Feds gunned him down in the movie, Bonnie and Clyde: Lifes great, aint it.
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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.
It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.
Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.
Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.
“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”
The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.
“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”
Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.
Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.
Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.
''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''
It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.
''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''
Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.
''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''
After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.
''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''
He's making his first start in the event.
''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.
Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.
''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''
Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.
''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.
The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.
''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''
Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.
''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.
Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.
Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.
Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.
John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.
Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years
Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.
He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.
How rare is his missing the cut there?
The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.
The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.
The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.
Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.
Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.