Mickelson looking to make U.S. Open history

By Damon HackJune 11, 2013, 6:47 pm

ARDMORE, Pa. - Phil Mickelson scaled the old stairs of the old clubhouse and ducked into the small room above the library.

His second practice round at Merion was behind him and he was looking to wrap his arms around history.

A stack of Ben Hogan ashtrays – with the Hawk wielding his 1-iron – sat on a shelf to his left. In front of Mickelson an array of vintage clubs, their once shiny faces gone dull.

And behind him, on a large table, a guest registry book for those who take the time to visit the Merion Golf Club archives.

Mickelson, right-handed in everything but golf, grabbed a pen and signed his name: “Phil Mickelson, Rancho Santa Fe, California.”

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Mickelson took in one last look at the memorabilia and disappeared down the stairs, where an onlooker wished him luck at the 113th United States Open, one of the few pieces of golf history he has been unable to wrap his arms around.

“Thank you,” said Mickelson, and then he was gone.

Like Sam Snead before him, Mickelson has never won the U.S. Open, but he is as much a part of its fabric as many of its winners.

He has finished runner-up five times, the first in 1999 when Payne Stewart held Mickelson’s head in his hands and told the soon-to-be-father that nothing would beat the feeling of being a dad.

In 2002, at Bethpage Black, the Cult of Mickelson was born as New York’s faithful put Phil on its shoulders as it tried – and nearly succeeded – in lifting him above Tiger Woods.

There was the three-putt on the 71st hole of the 2004 Open at Shinnecock Hills that ended his chase of Retief Goosen.

There was another mad dash at Bethpage in 2009, where Phil tried to bring the trophy home to his wife, Amy, who was in the throes of her battle with breast cancer.

And, of course, there was Winged Foot, in 2006, the one that stung him the most, shocked the golf world and stilled another New York gallery.

The sight of Mickelson crouched low on Winged Foot’s final green graced the cover of several magazines and at least one book.

The sound bite heard ’round the world – “I am such an idiot” – became a part of the game’s lexicon.

Phil recovered well enough, with another green jacket in 2010 plus 11 more PGA Tour victories besides.

But the U.S. Open has gone wanting, a championship that would elevate him from a Hall of Famer to an immortal.

During his two-day sojourn to Merion last week, Mickelson looked loose and happy.

Between the practice days, he attended a large dinner that included Matt Kuchar, Baltusrol head pro Doug Steffen and a number of movers and shakers of the Philadelphia golf scene.

Mickelson commands a room the way he commands a greenside bunker, ever confident in word and in deed, comfortable throwing some jabs and parrying them, too.

He was born in San Diego, but Mickelson has always been a better fit back east, where chattiness, a love of sports and a sharp wit make you a welcome guest in any home.

Mickelson once said that the greatest thing about being a Masters champion is the knowledge that every spring Augusta National’s doors will be open to you. It’s a lifetime ticket to golf’s most exclusive club, a locker upstairs, and a seat at the Champions Dinner, no reservation required.

Mickelson has sometimes awakened long before his Masters’ Thursday tee time, just to be present for the dawn tee shots of Arnie, Jack and Gary.

But the perks of winning a United States Open are no less important, the survival of golf’s most rigorous examination, the claiming of our national championship, the knowledge that you have walked where Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer have, where Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino have, where Tom Watson and Woods have.

Mickelson will celebrate his 43rd birthday on Father’s Day, a happy coincidence of the calendar that makes his chase of a U.S. Open all the more poignant.

His first of three children was born the day after Payne Stewart gave him that sage advice. His swing remains long and fluid, his nose for a golf hole as attuned as it has ever been.

And Mickelson’s yearning for golf history is endless, which is why he lingered in Merion’s archives, knowing that a little piece of Hogan and Bobby Jones lives in that room, and that if things go right this week, he will have left more than a signature in a guest book. 

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry