Fowler leads youthful charge as top seeds fall
“Sophia has some shoes like that,” Mickelson said, referring to his 9-year-old daughter. “She wears them to her dance class.”
Mickelson has become somewhat of a mentor to Fowler, so the kid knew what was coming.
Fowler was 8 under par when their match ended on the 13th hole, a 6-and-5 win that sent Mickelson to his worst loss ever in this fickle tournament.
“I love guys like Phil. In a way, he’s taken me under his wing a bit,” Fowler said. “I love watching him play. I love playing with him. And obviously, it was huge for me going out there and getting the job done today.”
Fowler was 5 under over the last four holes, which included a chip-in for birdie from behind the 10th green and a pair of eagles, the last one with a 4-iron from 232 yards that landed just beyond a ridge and rolled so close that Mickelson conceded the putt.
“He doesn’t really have a weakness,” Mickelson said. “He really is a complete player, and he put it together today.”
Fowler had plenty of company.
Equally impressive was Italy’s teen sensation, 17-year-old Matteo Manassero, who hit a 6-iron to 4 feet on the 17th hole and closed out Charl Schwartzel of South Africa to advance. Jason Day, a 23-year-old Australian, played like a veteran of match play the way he toyed with Paul Casey in a 4-and-2 victory.
Of the final 16 players left at the Accenture Match Play Championship, eight are under 30.
That includes Nick Watney, who steadied his emotions over the last three holes to knock out top-ranked Lee Westwood – the third straight year the No. 1 seed did not make it out of the second round. The highest seed remaining after two wild days was PGA champion Martin Kaymer, the 25-year-old “Germanator” who had to go 20 holes to beat Justin Rose.
It hasn’t been a bad week for the Americans at this World Golf Championship. They have eight players in the round of 16, the most in five years. The surprise is the list of players.
Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk were gone after the first round. Mickelson joined them on Thursday.
Leading the way is a new cast of emerging stars, from Fowler and Watney, to Hunter Mahan, who won three of the last five holes to rally against Robert Karlsson.
But this youth movement isn’t about the Americans.
Manassero keeps setting age records wherever he goes – the youngest to win the British Amateur, the youngest to be low amateur at the British Open and the Masters, the youngest to win on the European Tour.
“It’s a big sense of achievement for me,” Manassero said.
He was in control for much of his match against Schwartzel until nearly giving it away. His tee shot on the 16th bounced off the corporate tents and into a cactus, and the Italian felt as though he might have moved the ball while trying to remove a loose branch. So he conceded the hole to Schwartzel, and put it behind him quickly.
His 6-iron on the 17th set up birdie, and Manassero closed it out with a par on the 18th.
One youngster not invited to the party was 21-year-old Rory McIlroy, the No. 7 seed. He ran into Ben Crane, who played perhaps his quickest round ever – the match ended on the 11th hole, an 8-and-7 victory.
Crane has the reputation for slow play, although that wasn’t an issue.
“We played quick out there because he was making birdies,” McIlroy said.
U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell had no trouble with Ross Fisher in a 4-and-2 victory, which assured he will move ahead of Woods in the next world ranking.
“I’m perhaps a better golfer than him in the last 12 months, but he’s definitely the greatest player that’s ever lived, I think,” McDowell said. “Of course, if someone told me at some point in my career I would be No. 3 in the world, I’d be proud of that fact.”
Kaymer, meanwhile, kept alive his chances of going to No. 1 when he held on to beat Rose and Westwood was beaten. The German will have to reach the championship match to go to No. 1.
Watney and Westwood halved the last three holes, although it wasn’t that simple.
The turning point came on the par-3 16th, when Watney hit into a bunker, left it in the bunker and blasted out to 5 feet. Westwood had two putts from 20 feet to square the match, but knocked his first putt 3 1/2 feet by the hole. Watney made his putt for bogey, and Westwood’s par putt barely touched the hole.
Then, Watney had a 5-foot birdie putt to win the match on the 17th and missed, giving life to Westwood. The Englishman had a 15-foot birdie putt to go into overtime, but it wasn’t close.
Westwood took solace in going 18 holes “considering how badly I putted.”
He has yet to record a top-10 finish in four starts this year.
With so much emphasis on youth, the oldest player in the field is still alive. That would be Miguel Angel Jimenez, the 47-year-old Spaniard with his love of cigars and red wine. Next up is Crane, who has never made it past the third round in this tournament.
“I don’t think anyone is going, ‘Wow, Ben Crane is really coming through this bracket. Look out! Gosh, sorry you’ve got to play Ben Crane. Boy, tough draw there,”’ Crane said. “Rory didn’t have his best day and things were going in my favor.”
Things are going well for J.B. Holmes, too. He wasn’t in the field until Tim Clark withdrew, and he beat Ernie Els on the 18th hole.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.
There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.
It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.
“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.
In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.
Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”
Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.
“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.
Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.
If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.
For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.
Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.
Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.
While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.
When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?
Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.
After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.
The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.
That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.
The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.
While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.
Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.
Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.
That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.
Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.
Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.
Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain
The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.
Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.
"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."
Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.
Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.
Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.