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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.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”

Amen.


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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.


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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).