Notes: Chubby's clients continue the run; Tiger's brilliant texts

By Doug FergusonJuly 18, 2011, 1:34 am

SANDWICH, England – Phil Mickelson had to settle for his seventh runner-up finish in a major, although there was some consolation in seeing Darren Clarke on his way to his first major championship.

Clarke’s wife, Heather, died of breast cancer in August 2006, just a month before The Ryder Cup in Ireland. Nearly three years later, Mickelson’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“He was one of the first people that called us, Amy and I, a couple years ago,” Mickelson said. “He’s been through this and couldn’t have been a better person to talk to. We talked for a few hours a couple of times. He’s a tremendous person and a very good friend, and I couldn’t be happier for him. It was fun to try to make a run at him.”

Mickelson’s wife is doing better. She walked with him at Torrey Pines this year, then at The Masters, and after a quick vacation to Paris with the kids, came to the final round at Royal St. George’s.

Mickelson said Clarke essentially told him what to expect during his wife’s recovery process.

“I mean, he’s been through it all, and so I was very appreciative of the time we spent,” Mickelson said.

Clarke likes to keep private conversations just that, although he made clear how much the Mickelsons have meant to him. At the 2006 Ryder Cup, when Clarke walked into the opening and closing ceremonies without an escort, Amy Mickelson walked between Mickelson and Clarke to be with both of them so that Clarke wouldn’t walk alone.

“Phil has been through an awful lot with Amy, and we have spoken quite a lot,” Clarke said. “He has turned into a very good friend of mine through thick and thin, and he said some very, very kind words to me there after the thing, which is great. And Amy is looking fantastic, as well.”


CHUBBY’S CHASERS: Chubby Chandler of International Sports Management is having quite a run when it comes to major championship winners. He got one at the U.S. Open in Rory McIlroy and added another when Darren Clarke won the British Open.

Clarke has been with Chandler since turning pro more than two decades ago, so the major was a long time coming.

“He’s had to work hard for his money looking after me,” said Clarke, who turned to Chandler at the trophy ceremony and said, “I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me through thick and thin.”

None of Chandler’s clients had won a major championship until Louis Oosthuizen won the British Open last year. Then Charl Schwartzel followed with a win at the Masters and McIlroy won the U.S. Open.

In all, Chandler clients have won four of the last five majors.


CLARKE’S TEXTS: Tiger Woods reached out and offered some advice to Darren Clarke on how to handle the pressure chasing his first major championship.

Clarke called the texts sent after Saturday’s third round brilliant, though he wasn’t saying what they said.

“That’s personal and private between the two of us,” Clarke said. “I’m not going down that road at all.”

Clarke was a bit more open about the texts he got from Rory McIlroy. They, he said, were similar to the texts he sent McIlroy as he went after the U.S. Open title last month at Congressional Country Club.

“Sort of “be patient” with Rory and ‘keep doing what you’re doing, keep playing the way you’re playing,”’ Clarke said. “He was sort of telling me the same things I said back to him. As opposed to me being the old wise one and he was trying to give me all the information. So it was different.”

The advice apparently worked, as Clarke won the British Open by three shots.


SERGIO’S SUMMER: And to think that six weeks ago, Sergio Garcia wasn’t even eligible for the U.S. Open or British Open.

The 31-year-old Spaniard changed his mind and entered the 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier, not only getting into the field at Congressional but finishing in a tie for seventh.

Then he got into the British Open at the last minute, when he lost a playoff in the BMW International Open in Germany. His earnings in Germany, along with what he won in the U.S. Open, was enough to finish among the top two on a special money list for players not already exempt. He put that to good use Sunday, closing with a 68 to finish among the top 10.

That should be enough to make him eligible for his first World Golf Championship of the year next month at Firestone.

It’s safe to say his fortunes are changing.

“It’s great,” Garcia said. “I think the U.S. Open and Munich were very, very important because that was my last chance to get here. I’ve said it over and over again, this is my favorite championship of the year.”


CASHING IN: Thomas Bjorn, Anthony Kim and Simon Dyson needed a few breaks just to get into the British Open. Once there, they made the best of their good fortune.

All three players were alternates, needing other players to withdraw before they could get in. In Bjorn’s case that didn’t happen until Monday night, when Vijay Singh withdrew.

Bjorn got in only one practice round, but promptly went out to shoot 65 and share the first round lead. He finished the tournament in fourth place, four shots back, and cashed a check for $419,416.

Kim was in contention in the final round, too, finishing tied for fifth for a $293,054 payday. And Dyson finished tied for ninth, pocketing $168,304.


LONG TIME COMING: Darren Clark went 54 starts in the majors – and 20 in the British Open – before finally winning one.

That wasn’t the longest stretch of futility, though.

Tom Kite holds the record by playing in 72 majors before winning his first one in 1992 at the U.S. Open. Mark O’Meara played in 59 majors until winning the Masters in 1998 at age 41. O’Meara then won the British Open that summer, and he remains the oldest player to win two majors in one year.

Maybe that will be Clarke’s next target.

“Can I say that’s it? I’m going to retire now? I can’t,” Clarke said. “I don’t just want to rest on this. I want to keep on going, keep on working on what I’m working on because my golf was obviously very good this week, albeit it was links and links does suit me. But I still feel as if I can compete with the best players in the world, and that’s what I want to do.”


MAJOR EXEMPTIONS: Thomas Bjorn didn’t get his full redemption at Royal St. George’s. But at least he got in as an alternate. And he played well enough to finish in fourth place. That not only is enough to make him exempt for the British Open next year, the top four get into the Masters.

It will be his first time to the Masters in five years.

The top 15 return to the British Open next year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

That will be good news for Chad Campbell and Davis Love III, who had to go through a qualifier near Dallas that was reduced to 18 holes this year because of weather. It also helps Simon Dyson, who was an alternate, and George Coetzee, who played in his first British Open after winning the last spot in the England-based qualifier.

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.