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Mickelson determined to make Ryder Cup team

By Doug FergusonNovember 7, 2017, 9:19 pm

Phil Mickelson has more than just an elusive U.S. Open title on his mind for 2018. He wants desperately to be on another Ryder Cup team, and he's willing to add tournaments to his schedule if that's what it takes.

Mickelson already holds the U.S. record by qualifying for 11 consecutive teams, and he has made 23 straight appearances in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup combined. But this isn't about a streak. It's about having a chance - perhaps his last chance - to win a Ryder Cup in Europe.

''That's a big goal of mine, and if I play like I've been playing, I'll make the team,'' Mickelson said at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

Whether he speaks from confidence or hope remains to be seen.

Mickelson hasn't won since the 2013 British Open, and the last PGA Tour season was his first without recording a top-3 finish. He plans to start next year at the CareerBuilder Challenge in Southern California and play the entire West Coast from there, followed by the World Golf Championship in Mexico City.

''I'll play more tournaments if I have to,'' he said. ''I'm not sure if I have to add much. Paris is a big goal of mine, and it's important to get off to a good start.''

Mickelson has been on five losing teams in Ryder Cup matches held on European soil. There were two close calls. One was in 2002 at The Belfry, when the matches were tied at 8 going into Sunday singles. Europe won the last session, including Phillip Price defeating Mickelson. The other was in Wales, when Graeme McDowell won the final match for a one-point victory.

Mickelson, who turns 48 in June, doesn't see Paris next September as his last chance to win in Europe. Told that he would be 52 the next time the matches go to Europe, Mickelson said, ''I'm not looking that far ahead.''

''I'm expecting to have a good year,'' he said. ''I'd like to get on the team and go over there and win.''


PARK ON TOP: Sung Hyun Park brought plenty of winning experience to her rookie LPGA season.

The 24-year-old won seven times on the Korean LPGA Tour last year, and facing the best competition in the world hasn't slowed her. Park became the fourth South Korean player to reach No. 1 in the world, and the first player to get there as an LPGA rookie.

''There won't be any changes because of the ranking,'' Park said from China, where she makes her debut at No. 1. ''I believe my future play is more important that the fact that I moved up in the ranking.''

Her future play could lead to even grander feats.

Park, who won the U.S. Women's Open, leads the LPGA money list at just over $2.1 million with two tournaments remaining. She is second behind So Yeon Ryu for the points-based Player of the Year and already has clinched Rookie of the Year. Not since Nancy Lopez has a player won both awards in the same season.

Park also is No. 3 in the Race to the CME Globe and is second in the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average.


KOEPKA'S LIST: Brooks Koepka knew he had a big year from looking at that U.S. Open trophy. A look into his closet brought even more evidence.

One of Koepka's traditions at the start of every year is to go down to the beach and write a list of goals for the year on a yellow sheet of paper. He tapes it on the wall of his closet, then invariably forgets about it.

''I'm usually looking down trying to find clothes and shoes,'' he said.

A few weeks ago, he happened to look at eye level and noticed his list for the year, which had about seven items related to golf and five items off the golf course. Among the ones he ticked off was winning a major (U.S. Open), having at least a share of the first-round lead in a major (British Open) and then one of the bigger ones, having the lowest aggregate score in the majors (21 under par).

He described them as ''little goals,'' only because of the detail, such as having the solo lead after the first round. He took care of that Thursday in the HSBC Champions.

''You can make them as detailed as you want,'' he said. ''When you go into specifics, a lot of those things come true.''

He didn't get them all.

One goal was to not miss a cut. He missed the cut by one shot in his first tournament of the year at Torrey Pines. He also wanted to win multiple times, meaning he will have to either successfully defend at the Dunlop Phoenix next week in Japan or win the Hero World Challenge.

''The biggest change for me was off the golf course,'' Koepka said. ''The hardest thing for me was making sure I was in the gym five days a week when we played. Some days I've gone seven.''

Overall, Koepka was pleased with how many he got. He'll do it again this year, only at a different beach. Koepka will be on Maui for the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?: The LPGA tied a record when Stacy Lewis tied for 15th in the Toto Japan Classic. Lewis became the 15th player this year to top $1 million, equaling the number from last year.

And it's about to grow.

Women's PGA champion Danielle Kang is $647 short of $1 million and is assured of topping the $1 million mark next week at the CME Group Tour Championship. Minjee Lee is the defending champion this week in China. Lee is $3,268 short of $1 million, and provided she doesn't withdraw from Blue Bay, she will top $1 million.

Amy Yang and Mirim Lee will have to play well next week in Naples, Florida, to have a chance. Lizette Salas and Michelle Wie are further away from, but still in range of, the $1 million mark. Both are playing in China and next week at the season finale.


DIVOTS: Four of the five winners of full PGA Tour events this fall were in the Tour Championship. ... Patrick Cantlay won in Las Vegas at 9-under 275, the highest winning score by seven shots since it became a single-course event in 2008. This was just the third time the winning score has been worse than 20-under par. ... Jason Day, who started the year at No. 1, is now at No. 12. ... The PGA of America has extended the contract of chief executive Pete Bevacqua through 2024. ... Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, which has hosted U.S. Open sectional qualifying 30 of the last 31 years, has been selected to host the U.S. Women's Amateur in 2020. ... The PGA Tour Champions has a new title for its Tucson event - the Cologuard Classic. Cologuard, produced by Exact Sciences, is a colon cancer screening test used at home.


STAT OF THE WEEK: In the last two years, Shanshan Feng has three victories, two runner-up finishes and two third-place finishes during the LPGA's fall version of the Asian swing.


FINAL WORD: ''Can we just keep playing here? Can we move the CME Group Tour Championship here? Can we move the U.S. Open here?'' - Shanshan Feng on playing LPGA events in Asia.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.