Mickelson looking for momentum at Bay Hill

By Doug FergusonMarch 24, 2011, 4:45 pm
Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. – Phil Mickelson gets to Florida and starts thinking about Georgia.

Even as he began his road to the Masters earlier this month, Mickelson already was making trips to Augusta National to start preparing for his title defense and a chance to join Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer with a fourth green jacket.

He’ll be going back again next week.

For now, Mickelson is looking for a little momentum. That’s why he decided last week to add the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill to his schedule, giving him two straight tournaments – the Houston Open next week – before the tournament that matters the most.

“I’ve probably left this as a question mark all year, just based on how I felt and so forth,” Mickelson said Wednesday afternoon after his pro-am round. “But given that I haven’t been in contention or played the way I wanted to on the West coast, I wanted to add a tournament.”

His only time in contention was at Torrey Pines, when Bubba Watson made a birdie on the 18th hole and forced Mickelson to make eagle to get into a playoff. Mickelson – as only he does – had his caddie tend the flag with his wedge shot from the fairway. He missed and finished second, and hasn’t been a serious threat since then.

Bay Hill offers up another strong test, although big changes in the world order of golf have produced an anomaly: For the first time in the history of the world ranking, none of the top three players are here.

The highest-ranked player is U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, followed by Woods and Mickelson. Lefty has yet another chance to move past Woods in the world ranking for the first time in 14 years, although far removed from No. 1, it’s not all that relevant.

The Masters? That’s relevant.

Then again, so is the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which Lefty won in 1997. There are times early in the year, and especially in Florida during the road to Augusta, that he will find himself thinking about shots he could use in April. Just not this week.

“Because there’s so much water, because there’s wind, you have to flight your ball differently than you will at Augusta,” Mickelson said. “You can’t stand on the tee and bomb away, so it will be a little different. But I’ll be working on trajectory control, distance control and this course with the wind will be a good challenge to try to get that area of my game sharp.”

Woods hasn’t been sharp, either, leading to a temporary demise of the best two players of their generation.

For both, the road to the Masters has been bumpy.

For nearly two decades – dating to 1992 – Woods or Mickelson have won at least one tournament before Augusta National. Both are winless this year, and unless something changes the next two weeks, this will be the second straight year that neither has a PGA Tour victory before the Masters.

What’s alarming about Woods is that not only has he failed to win, he’s not even coming close. He has not finished closer than five shots from the lead since the U.S. Open last summer.

He attributed that to what he calls the most dramatic swing change of his career – greater than the change under Butch Harmon after the ’97 Masters, and greater than when he went to Hank Haney in 2004.

“They are bigger changes, and it’s taken a little bit of time,” Woods said. “Then again, I’ve showed some good signs of late. The Sunday round at Doral (66) was back to what I know I can do. And then I played well at Tavistock (a two-day TV exhibition), and I’ve had good practice sessions. So I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

He can look forward to hitting first from the fairway for most of the day.

As the tour and television continue to tweak the tee times to get feature groups, they came up with a dandy at Bay Hill. Woods will spend the first two days with Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland, both of whom are on the A-list of big hitters in golf.

Woods has never seen Woodland, who won last week at Innisbrook. He needs no introduction to Johnson, and not just because they played together at the Memorial last summer.

Last December, toward the end of the round at the Chevron World Challenge, Woods was waiting to tee off on the par-3 17th when he turned behind him to watch Johnson tee off on the par-5 11th.

Johnson pounded a drive right down the middle, and Woods looked down and shook his head with a smile. Someone in the group asked Woods, “Can you hit it out there with him?”

“Are you kidding? No,” Woods replied.

That led to a conversation about athleticism, and Johnson is a model of the pure athlete starting to be seen more on tour.

“The thing is,” Woods said that day, “there are plenty others just like him. They’re not coming. They’re here.”

Woods got on Twitter later Wednesday and said about the first round Thursday, “I’ll definitely be hitting first from the fairway all day tomorrow with Dustin and Woodland in the group.”

“I’ll be the Corey Pavin of my group,” Woods said at his press conference. “Seriously. I’ll just kind of put it out there in play and put it up on the green and try and make putts. Those guys will be bombing it way out there past me. It’s a new game now. When I first came out on tour, I was second longest. There was only one guy at the time, John Daly, that was over 300 (yards).”

In a way, it’s only fitting.

When he was the reigning U.S. Amateur champion in 1996, Woods was paired with the defending champion in the U.S. Open at Oakland Hills. That was Pavin, and a USGA official with a sick sense of humor filled out that group with none other than Daly.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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