Lefty on the right? Phil plays Augusta with Condi

By Doug FergusonApril 7, 2013, 10:16 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Phil Mickelson has won three green jackets, and he was the one asking all the questions Sunday during a practice round at the Masters.

In his group was Augusta National's newest member – former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

''Awesome,'' Mickelson said after playing 18 holes with his agent and Augusta members Rice and Lee Styslinger. ''She's one of my favorite people to be around. She's so knowledgeable and interesting to talk to. I always learn so much. When I saw she became a member, one of the first things I did was schedule a game close to Masters time. The fact she's here, we were able to work it out. It was really cool.''

Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore made history in August when they became the first women invited to join the home of the Masters.

Moore is not expected until later in the week.

Rice had lunch with Mickelson and then donned her green jacket to meet with other members on the practice range. Even though she has been a member for more than seven months, it was no less striking to see her in the elegantly tapered jacket that for eight decades had been worn only by men.

She slipped away without taking questions, which is not unusual. Members don't typically give interviews during the week of the Masters.

Mickelson couldn't stop talking about her – especially her putting.

They played a $10 game in which they rotated partners every six holes, and it ended on a big note – Rice made what Mickelson described as a 40-foot putt with about 18 feet of break on the final hole. That gave her a net birdie.

''Perfect pace,'' Mickelson said. ''Her speed, touch, being able to read the greens. She’s one of the better members on the greens that I've seen.''

''Every once in a while,'' Rice said as Mickelson gushed.

Sunday before the Masters is the last day members have the same access to the course as the players, and they occasionally play in the same group. Tiger Woods teed off with Steve Stricker and U.S. Amateur Public Links champion T.J. Vogel as Rice was finishing.

She walked over to the first tee to greet Woods, and they spent a few minutes chatting before Woods teed off. Woods spent two years at Stanford. Rice became the first black woman to be a Stanford provost in 1993, and she now is a professor of political economy at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. She's also one of the Cardinal's biggest sports fans, along with being a member of the USGA’s nominating committee.

This day was just about golf – except for Mickelson's inquiring mind. Lefty was asked if their round ever reached a point that he hounded Rice with too many questions. Mickelson laughed and said, ''She kept asking me about the golf course, and I kept asking her about countries.''

''It was really fun,'' he said. ''And she can really putt.''

Told about what Mickelson said, Rice laughed and said, ''He's such a good friend. I've known him for years.''

Mickelson was thrilled to learn Augusta National had invited women to join, and he said it wasn't long before he called Rice to arrange a game.

''As soon as I saw she was a member, I called her to work up a game, just like I did Arnold (Palmer) back in the day as an amateur,'' Mickelson said. ''She's just one of my favorite people to be around.''

Rice on the golf course – and later in a green jacket – attracted the most attention on an otherwise lazy day before one of the biggest weeks of the year.

Zach Johnson gave his caddie, Damon Green, the treat of a lifetime by inviting him to play. Graeme McDowell played with his University of Alabama-Birmingham golf bag in a game with Brandt Snedeker and Toby Wilt, an Augusta member, who was Snedeker's winning partner at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

The club's pro was on the tee, sending out members and players, just like any other country club. Masters week officially begins Monday, with the tournament starting Thursday. Yet, some players, like Mickelson and Adam Scott, have been around all weekend getting in their preparations before it gets too busy.

''My work is done,'' Scott said. ''I've mapped out what I wanted to do. The course is the best I've ever seen it.''

Mickelson did not plan to return to the course until Tuesday. Scott said he would putt for about an hour on Monday, and perhaps play nine holes Tuesday and Wednesday. He looked across the course, empty of fans, realizing it would be packed for the rest of the week.

''The next three days will be about having fun,'' Scott said. ''And then you switch it back on for Thursday.''

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 21, 2018, 7:00 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.