For Phil There is Hope

By Brian HewittJanuary 20, 2007, 5:00 pm
What had Phil done last?
He had stubbed all 10 toes and jammed all 10 fingers. He had coughed up the U.S. Open at Winged Foot with an instantly infamous double bogey on the 72d hole to miss a playoff by one shot. A simple par would have won his national championship.
Then Mickelson wandered, with no significant result, through the rest of the season until he got to the Ryder Cup where he played all five matches and managed to contribute just half a point to the badly-beaten American side.
And that was that. Mickelson retreated. He didnt play, officially, again until this weeks Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
As usual, the rumor mill was working overtime. The most delicious among them was that Mickelson had lost 50 pounds during his hiatus.
Fifty pounds!
Lefty Hefty No More. The headline writers had their knives out and were poised.
Fortunately for Phil, a cooler head prevailed. And that head was his.
He showed up at a Tuesday press conference this week saying he had, indeed, been reshaping his body through diet and exercise. He had lost 20-25 pounds, he said, and then gained back 10 to 15 pounds of muscle.
To be sure, Phil looked Phitter. But not sphelvte.
I had two immediate questions:
Would a differently-shaped body change his swing? And had Phil been in better physical shape late Sunday at Winged Foot would he have made better mental decisions in the heat of battle.
Mickelson answered them. Sort of.
My performance at the Ryder Cup was every bit as disappointing as my finish at the U.S. Open, Mickelson began. .I feel like the Ryder Cup performance was more'as opposed to a game problem'more of a physical problem.I dont feel as though I stood up physically throughout the nine months and to playing 36 holes a day. And I needed to address that.
Specifically, Mickelson has been doing 45-90 minutes of cardio regularly with trainer Sean Cochran. They also have continued to work on core conditioning.
Im hoping that this will improve stamina so that the latter part of the year I have a better performance, Mickelson said. I dont expect to see much (improvement) in the start of the year because I usually play well in the start of the year. I expect to see the improvement the latter part of the year. Im hoping to continue or sustain that level of play throughout the whole year now.
Mickelsons got the right idea. His body hasnt visibly changed the way David Duvals did when Duval went on a fitness kick in the late 90s. And his swing doesnt look noticeably different.
In his first round of the season, played Wednesday, Mickelson birdied his first hole at La Quinta and then promptly made two straight bogeys followed by a double bogey followed by two straight birdies. It was as if Phil The Thrill had never gone too far away.
By the end of Wednesday his total was 70. He posted that same number in Thursdays second round of this 90-hole marathon. There was more of the same Friday'two birdies, a bogey and an eagle in his first eight holes, and then he traded a birdie for a bogey on the back nine..
So many people have wanted to write Mickelson off since Winged Foot. My take is that he wont go easily in the good night. I will be surprised if he doesnt play well again in April at Augusta National where he has finished first, 10th, first, third, third, third, T7 and T6, respectively, in his last eight Masters starts.
And lets not forget that the PGA Championship he won in 2005. That was the last major of that year, played during the period of the season in which hes now concerned about conserving his energy.
Dealing with failure is part of the game, Mickelson said Tuesday. I deal with it 90 per cent of the time.
Bottom line: Willpower and discipline will factor largely into whether Mickelson will come all the way back from that final round at Winged Foot after which he called himself an idiot.
There is golf genius in Mickelsons bones. And genius is a strong word. There are only two male players alive (and under the age of 45) to whom I would attach that adjective. And we know who the other one is.
Dont think he wont be watching Mickelson this year along with all the rest of us.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
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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.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.