Big finish sets Mickelson up for high 2010 expectations

By Doug FergusonNovember 10, 2009, 2:55 am
No one can use a long winter’s break quite like Phil Mickelson.

No one should be more excited to get back.

The last three tournaments that featured Mickelson and Tiger Woods were enough to get anyone excited about 2010, which very well could turn into a colossal battle between the world’s best two players, one that has been long overdue.

They shared the stage at the Tour Championship, where Mickelson won the tournament and Woods captured the FedEx Cup. They shared a trophy at the Presidents Cup as the best two American players. Both were unbeaten, and while Woods had the perfect record, Mickelson might have been more impressive for winning with three struggling partners.

With only one trophy available Sunday in Shanghai, Mickelson stole the show.

Even though his clutch putting over the final three holes gave him a one-shot victory over Ernie Els, what caused such a frenzy at Sheshan International was Mickelson playing in the final group with Woods.

Mickelson had never won a tournament when playing in the last group with Woods.

This time, it was Woods who flinched.

“Anything that could go wrong went wrong for me today,” he said.

Woods three-putted twice, hit two balls in the water, and closed with a 72 to finish five shots behind Lefty, who did enough right to post a 69 and match his career-high of four victories in one year.

Woods headed south for the Australian Masters and a $3 million appearance fee. Mickelson headed for home in San Diego, where he will have 11 weeks off before returning to the San Diego Invitational at Torrey Pines.

Most years, Mickelson stashes the clubs away until the calendar turns. This won’t be one of them. He said he would continue to work on his swing with Butch Harmon and his putting with Dave Stockton.

“I’m excited about 2010 because I’m starting to play the best golf of my career,” said Mickelson, who turns 40 in June. “Everything is starting to come together as far as my driving. Since working with Butch Harmon, my ball-striking has been much better. My short game is better than it’s ever been. Going into 2010, not only am I excited about it, but I have very high expectations.”

This is one year Mickelson is not likely to ever forget.

His life went into a tailspin in May when his wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. No sooner had she gone through surgery to determine the scope of the disease, his mother was diagnosed, too.

Mickelson skipped the British Open, and when he returned in August after his wife and mother received favorable outlooks, he did not crack the top 25 until he won the Tour Championship.

The turnaround began when Mickelson asked longtime caddie Jim Mackay for suggestions. Mackay fired off a series of text messages in a desperate search for the phone number of Stockton, considered one of the best teachers with the putter. They hooked up in San Diego that weekend, and Mickelson believes he found the missing link to his game.

Off the course is looking up, too.

Mickelson said his wife is doing well enough that she might come to more tournaments next year. He called her from the scoring trailer Sunday at the HSBC Champions – it was approaching midnight Saturday in San Diego – and was surprised to hear how she coped watching the tournament on television.

“She said she was so nervous that she was cleaning out cupboards and stuff, which caught me off guard,” Mickelson said with a grin. “It’s been a fun way for us to end the year, and she’s doing much better. We are looking forward to these next eight to 10 weeks off, where we can spend some time together. And we have a few family trips lined up, too.”

On the course, the anticipation already is building toward Torrey Pines, with perhaps more clashes against Woods along the way at places like Pebble Beach, Doral and, ideally, Augusta National.

This is not the first time Mickelson has been poised to make a run at Woods.

The last time they played together in the final round of a major was 2005 at Doral. Mickelson had been atop the leaderboard for 10 consecutive weeks and had a two-shot lead over Woods going into the final round. Woods rallied with a 30-foot birdie on the 17th and 66 to win by a shot, and by the end of the year, he was entrenched anew at No. 1.

What makes next year so tantalizing is that Woods hasn’t been challenged like this in 10 years.

Sure, Vijay Singh won nine times and dominated the PGA Tour in 2004, but Woods spent the entire season overhauling his swing. That’s simply a fact, not an excuse.

Woods has recovered from reconstructive knee surgery, or so it would suggest with six victories this year. He might have lost some of his mystique when Y.E. Yang became the first player to topple Woods in the final round of a major. And it is worth noting that the last four times Woods has played in the final group, he failed to win three times.

Mickelson still knows the score. When a Chinese reporter asked Mickelson, who now has won the HSBC Champions twice, if he would share the winning formula with his rival, Lefty just laughed.

“He has won many majors,” Mickelson said. “He has won the U.S. Open, he has won the British Open. I have not. Although it feels great to win this tournament, he has won a lot of events.”

Even so, one final nugget from Shanghai shows what could be in store for next year.

Woods and Mickelson have played together 25 times over the last dozen years. Woods’ advantage in posting the lower score: 11-10-4.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Woods goes from unsure of his pro golf future to resuming full golf activities

Article: Doctor clears Woods for full golf activity six months after back surgery

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Article: Hero comeback a success for healthy Woods

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Woods out and about in 2017

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm