Mickelson hoping for strong finish in Shanghai

By Doug FergusonOctober 30, 2013, 3:39 pm

SHANGHAI – Phil Mickelson was hard at work Wednesday morning on the practice range at Sheshan International, and not just on his golf swing. He was trying to learn a Chinese phrase, and he rehearsed it over and over to make sure he got the pronunciation just right.

The phrase: ''After the round.''

For all the autographs he gives, Mickelson never signs during his round, even if it's a practice round when the course is closed to the public. He was looking for a way to explain that to the Chinese gallery without coming across as aloof. The first option was ''Not now, later,'' except he figured ''later'' might translate to five minutes.

Mickelson is just as popular in China as he is at home. He engages the crowd. He has fun with the staged photo calls, such as Tuesday night in the Bund district when he dressed in a traditional robe and acted the part of a war hero returning home.

One year, he was sitting across from Tiger Woods in a game of Chinese checkers. The idea was to photograph golf's two biggest stars, and the best rivalry of their generation. But at the last minute, Mickelson spontaneously threw both arms in the air to make it look as though he had won.

As for the robe, the sword and a dance routine he tried (with limited success) to follow?

''Part of my enjoyment for participating in this tournament is some of the cultural experiences we've had, from Tai Chi two years ago to Chinese checkers, where I beat Tiger in that game,'' Mickelson said as the room erupted in laughter.

The golf hasn't been too bad, either.

Mickelson is a two-time winner of the HSBC, including 2009 when it was the first year with World Golf Championship status. He played in the final group with Tiger Woods that year and put him away early.

The HSBC is full-fledged WGC for the first time this year, attracting one of its stronger fields. Though it is missing Nos. 1 and 2 in the world – Tiger Woods is doing corporate outings in the region, Adam Scott is resting up for the hero's welcome he is sure to receive in Australia with his green jacket from the Masters – it has 40 of the top 50 players in the world.

For Mickelson, it's the end of a long and fruitful year.

He started at No. 17 in the world and has a chance this week to go to No. 2 if he were to win. He added the third leg of the career Grand Slam with his popular win at Muirfield in the British Open. He came within a fraction of an inch of 59 in the Phoenix Open, which he won. He added another international title at the Scottish Open.

''I would love to finish strong,'' Mickelson said.

Last week in Malaysia, he would love to have known where the ball was going. Mickelson said he rarely felt as hopeless as he did at Kuala Lumpur, coping with a two-way miss and realizing that his swing hasn't been reliable for some time. A few days later, optimism returned.

''The last two days, my game started to come around,'' he said. ''And as I enter this tournament, I enter with a lot more confidence than I've had in a while. Sheshan is a golf course that I feel very comfortable on. I feel like I know how to play this course successfully, and I'm looking forward to the week.''

The field includes Rory McIlroy, defending champion Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, four prominent players from Europe's winning Ryder Cup team, all of them still looking for their first win of the year. McIlroy gets the most attention because he started the year at No. 1 in the world and has fallen to No. 6. He is starting to swing the club beautifully though, and he beat Woods in their exhibition match Monday for the second straight year.

Mickelson, meanwhile, has shown that coming to Asia can pay off in more than just trophies. He has invested plenty of time, particularly in China, and already has at least three golf projects in the works. He spent Monday at Mickelson International Golf Club in the Shanghai area, which will open in the spring.

He has two other courses, one that includes a massive practice facility.

''I believe China and other parts of Asia are the biggest growth opportunity in the game of golf,'' he said. ''And I feel as though we should all help expose the greatness of the game of golf to these parts of the world, and see the game flourish.''

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.