Mickelson Harrington to battle at Hogans Alley

By Doug FergusonFebruary 4, 2010, 6:02 am
Northern Trust OpenLOS ANGELES – No one is about to change the nickname to Phil’s Place or Lefty’s Lane.

Riviera has been known as “Hogan’s Alley” for more than a half-century after Ben Hogan turned this fabled course along Sunset Boulevard into his personal playground. He won the Los Angeles Open in consecutive years, and won twice in one season in 1948 when he added a U.S. Open victory.

But no one – not Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson or Fred Couples – has ever won at Riviera three straight years. That’s what Phil Mickelson will set out to do when the Northern Trust Open begins Thursday.

“I don’t have a good explanation for it,” Mickelson said.

And to think he was only a good chip away from already having won three straight years. Mickelson only needed a par on the 18th hole to win at Riviera in 2007 until he hit a chip that came out flat and missed an 18-foot putt. Charles Howell beat him in a playoff.

Mickelson won the next two years, comfortably in 2008 and with a strong finish last year to beat Steve Stricker.

Strangely enough, Mickelson used to avoid this place earlier in his career because he wasn’t getting very good results. Now, he can’t wait to get to Riviera.

The only question is what kind of game he brings.

Mickelson, who ended last year with victories in the Tour Championship and HSBC Champions in Shanghai, couldn’t wait to get started this year. Perhaps he was too excited. He felt nerves of anticipation, lost some of his timing and never seriously threatened at Torrey Pines, where he finished 19th.

He had talked about his driving going from a liability to a weapon, then walked to the tee for his pro-am and hit his tee shot on the next fairway, offering a sheepish grin. His tee shots never improved during the week, and one got stuck in a tree.

As he played the pro-am late Wednesday afternoon at Riviera, Mickelson offered one reason.

After the tournament, he pulled the head of his driver off the shaft and noticed the inside of the shaft had been cracked so badly that it was about five swings away from shattering.

Then again, after sharing that story and how he has it fixed, he sent a tee shot on the third hole into the left rough.

Even so, Mickelson is excited to get started this week, hopeful that the focus returns to his golf.

The world’s No. 2 player was in the news quite a bit last week, not over his driver but his wedge. He was among five players who have used the Ping Eye2 wedge with square grooves – which don’t conform to the new rules but are approved to play because of a settlement from two decades ago.

That prompted Scott McCarron to say it was “cheating,” and Mickelson fired back by saying he had been “publicly slandered.” Mickelson might have put the controversy to rest – at least for now – by saying he had made his point against the USGA and accepted an apology from McCarron.

The next challenge comes from Riviera, which is in pristine condition, and from the strongest field on the PGA Tour so far this year.

Stricker, who finished one shot behind last year, is back for another try, while among those making their season debut are Padraig Harrington and Anthony Kim.

The Irishman was not much of a threat last year at Riviera, or hardly any tournament. He spent the better half of the year trying to find the secret to his mechanics at impact and he wasn’t satisfied until July. By then, he was so far behind that he wound up not winning a tournament anywhere in the world.

Always tinkering, Harrington spent his offseason making more adjustments. Only now, there’s a big difference.

“Last year I came out at this stage and I wasn’t happy with the changes and what they resulted in, and I kept working on it,” Harrington said. “This year, I’m not in that mindset. I’m happy with what I’ve done, and I’m going to just play with that. It’s finished at the moment, and I’m ready to go play golf, which is what I didn’t do last year.”

The field isn’t quite as strong as a year ago, mainly because of the date change. For years, the Northern Trust Open was the final event of the West Coast Swing before the Match Play Championship, and it attracted several European Tour members who wanted to get acclimated to the time change before Match Play.

Partly because of the Winter Olympics, Riviera is being played two weeks before Match Play, so it is missing players such as Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy.

The newest face this year is the tournament director – Los Angeles Lakers great Jerry West, an icon in LA who agreed to run the tournament with hopes of boosting its charity dollars.

One other change: It is being televised by NBC Sports, because CBS Sports will show the Match Play during the Olympics. NBC executive producer Tommy Roy has erected a tower left of the 10th fairway to capture tee shots on what many consider to be the best short par 4 in golf.

Mickelson can only hope one thing stays the same: His name on the trophy.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

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?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

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

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

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.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

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.