Notes: Phil, Tiger Augusta match falls through

By Doug FergusonMarch 7, 2012, 11:48 pm

DORAL, Fla. – The last time Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were spotted together on Augusta National was in the final round of the 2009 Masters. They nearly got together this week until plans fell through.

Mickelson and Woods talked about playing a practice round this week, but something came up and Woods couldn’t make it. He said he was home the last two days, practicing in his backyard short-game area or at The Medalist.

They have been fierce rivals and rarely social over the years, though one reason a practice round was even discussed is that Woods no longer has Steve Williams as a caddie. Williams disparaged Mickelson at a dinner in New Zealand late in 2008, and they don’t get along particularly well. Just his luck, Mickelson is in the same group this week with Adam Scott, who now employs Williams.

Mickelson, never shy about delivering one-liners, saved one of them for Woods this week. 

A reporter mentioned that Ernie Els declared that “Tiger is back” after Woods closed with a 62 at the Honda Classic, and Mickelson was asked his assessment of Woods.

“Yeah, obviously he was paying attention a couple of weeks ago, which is nice to see,” Mickelson said, heavy on the sarcasm. That was a reference to Mickelson closing with a 64 to win Pebble Beach while paired with Woods, who shot 75.

The reporter didn’t get it, even though the room filled with laughter.

“At least I thought it was funny,” Mickelson said, brushing his hand over his head to suggest the reporter missed out on the line.

“It is good to see him back and playing well,” Mickelson added. “He’s always the name that you look at. He’s the first name that you look at on the leaderboard to see how he’s doing.”

BACK TO WORK: Paul Casey already has missed five tournaments this year after dislocating his shoulder while snowboarding over the holidays. It’s a bad time for an injury, especially in a Ryder Cup year, though Casey has a good reason to feel optimistic.

It could have been worse.

One of the doctors he saw in the aftermath of his injury said that surgery was a possibility, and he would be out four to six months.

“That was a little bit worrying,” Casey said Wednesday.

After getting more opinions, he was convinced that surgery was not needed. It was the first time he had dislocated the shoulder, the labrum was in good shape and there was every reason to believe he could return to 100 percent.

Casey figures he’s at about 90 percent at the Cadillac Championship at Doral, which has a 74-man field with no cut.

“It’s feeling strong,” he said. “All that work I’ve been putting into the shoulder, now I have to do a lot of work on the golf game.”

Casey said he heard a sound coming from his shoulder when he fell, felt pain and within minutes could not move his arm. When he got down the mountain and had an X-ray, he was told it was dislocated. Then, the shoulder was put back in the socket and the pain went away.

“I thought it was great,” Casey said. “I thought maybe I can be ready for Abu Dhabi or Qatar or something like that. I had absolutely no clue how long a dislocation takes to repair. Finding out that I didn’t need surgery was a relief because the surgery … basically would have wiped out the whole season. 

Now, he has some catching up to do.

Casey is at No. 41 in the European points list (based on European Tour earnings) and No. 19 in the European ranking list. The top five players are taken from each list.

At least it didn’t cost him any of the four majors, which offer the most ranking points. Casey is playing the next two weeks in Florida, taking a week off, then playing Houston and the Masters. 

“I think I’ll throw in some events as the golf game gets stronger and as the year goes on,” he said.

MASTERS PREVIEW: Mickelson wound up playing Augusta National on Tuesday with PGA champion Keegan Bradley and Dustin Johnson, giving the three-time major champion his first look ahead of the Masters.

Mickelson reports a lot of grass on the course, which is a good sign (and yes, it will be cut back severely), along with some minor changes to the greens on the par-5 eighth and the par-3 16th.

He said the eighth green was widened in the front, and the slope on the left side was softened. He said a back right hole location would be more accessible with the changes.

More interesting was the green at No. 16. One of the most dangerous locations was front right, a tiny target. Anything too strong was over the green and into a bunker, while short meant the ball would roll down the hill. That area has been slightly expanded.

Also, the bottom of the green toward the front has been built up, so that players who leave their shots on the top shelf don’t have to worry about the putts rolling down the slope and into the water.

“After looking at them, I think that some of the more challenging pin placements on those greens were softened a little bit, and made to be not quite as difficult,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson rarely gets together with Johnson and Bradley without a friendly wager. Word is that Bradley had to reach for his wallet when they finished. When asked if they kept score, Mickelson replied, “Just 1 Up, 2 up.”

That was accompanied by a big grin.

RIVALS: There was talk of a Rory McIlroy-Lee Westwood rivalry during the Match Play Championship, and now that McIlroy has gone to No. 1, some are mentioning a McIlroy-Tiger Woods rivalry.

Hunter Mahan says there are too many good players for any one rivalry, especially involving Woods.

“Tiger doesn’t have a rival.” he said. “Just look at the record. I mean, there is none. His rival is Jack Nicklaus. It’s hard to put anyone up there right now with him. I understand his last few years haven’t been his best and everything that’s going on, but that guy, he’s had numbers that no one has even thought about reaching.”

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.

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Wie takes shot at LPGA dress code in crop top

By Grill Room TeamDecember 10, 2017, 5:33 pm

The new LPGA dress code got mixed reviews when it was announced in July, and Michelle Wie is taking full advantage of her offseason with no restrictions.

The 28-year-old former U.S. Women's Open champion is keeping her game sharp while back in her home state of Hawaii, but couldn't help taking a shot at the rules while doing it, posting a photo to Instagram of her playing golf in a crop top with the caption, "Offseason = No dress code fine."

Offseason = No dress code fines #croptopdroptop

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Wie isn't the first to voice her displeasure with the rules. Lexi Thompson posted a similar photo and caption to Instagram shortly after the policy was announced.