Day 9 Phil Wins THE PLAYERS

By Eric MorrisDecember 16, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editor's note; In the holiday spirit, the GolfChannel.com Team is counting down the 12 Days of Golf, the most memorable days of the 2007 season. This is Day 9. Watch Golf Central Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. ET for their Year-End Special!
 
Day 9Phil Mickelsons 2007 season was a microcosm of the way he plays golf - it had plenty of highs and plenty of lows. Lefty had seven top-3 finishes, including four victories, to go along with missing the cut four times, twice in majors. It is that go-for-broke style of play that keeps the 15-year veteran a fan favorite at any tournament he enters.
 
The gambling Mickelsons shot selection can turn him from Peoples Champ to chump faster than any putt at Oakmont this year. One doesnt need to look far to find examples of this hurting his play (Winged Foot maybe?). Thats why Mickelsons final round at THE PLAYERS Championship on May 13 of this year was so surprising. Playing the safe shot all day by hitting fairways and greens was so un-Lefty that he might as well have been playing right-handed.
 
Phil Mickelson
Butch Harmon gave Phil Mickelson a big boost in winning THE PLAYERS. (Getty Images)
The Peoples Champ fired a 3-under 69 that Sunday for a two-shot victory at THE PLAYERS. Mickelson missed only four fairways and two greens all day, and had only one bogey over his final 27 holes.
 
The mini-evolution of Mickelson was most evident at the Tournament Players Clubs terrifying 17th Island Green. It was shaping up to be classic situation for Phil the Thrill to surface: two-stroke lead on the 71st hole, difficult pin placement on an island green, why not go for it and deposit one in the drink?
 
Not this Phil.
 
Mickelson made the right decision and calmly played for the center of the green. He left the risky shot for his opponent, Sean OHair, who put two in the water for a quadruple-bogey 7.
 
What was the reason for the transformation?
Butch Harmon.
 
The swing coach extraordinaire had been critical of Mickelsons style in the past telling Britain's Golf World magazine, Phil is obsessed with distance. It's pathetic. All he thinks about is how far he hits it. He would never win a major with [that] philosophy.
 
Mickelson had to make a difficult decision in leaving his longtime swing coach, and close friend, Rick Smith. With Smith as his coach Mickelson won 30 times, including three majors.
 
After finishing a disappointing 24th at the Masters, and further inconsistencies with his driver, Lefty knew it was time for a change.
 
This has been a difficult decision for me. I feel that now is the time to go in a new direction, Mickelson said. I went to Rick Smith as a friend and asked for his understanding of this decision, and he's been very supportive of it. No one could ask for a more true or loyal friend.
 
Now teamed with Harmon, the two were able to come up with a game plan for TPC Sawgrass, a course that had given Mickelson some problems in the past. It was very straightforward: stay in the fairway.
 
It's a mind-set. It's a matter of trying to get him to play a little more conservatively, not quite as aggressively, Harmon noted. That may be a bigger problem than the swing.
 
He's got as much talent as anybody in the world. And I think if we can get him [hitting] out of the fairway, I think he can rival Tiger. He's got a short game that's as good or better than Tiger's.
 
Impressively, all this was accomplished after just three weeks of the pair working together. For most players it takes months for them to adjust to new swing instruction.
 
That's what's most exciting is, I feel like we're just getting started, Mickelson commented. This is only week No. 3. I feel like in three months how much am I going to progress? In three years where am I going to be?
 
We already know how the rest of Phils 2007 played out ' inconsistency mixed with a wrist injury can hinder any golfers progress. Mickelson, who missed the cut in two of the final three majors, clearly had his ups and downs. This, however, does not worry the swing coach.
 
'This is just the tip of the iceberg, Harmon said. He's going to get a lot better. I think he can maybe rival Tiger.
 
With the 2008 season around the corner it remains to be seen how much Harmons star pupil will improve, and if it will be enough to challenge Tiger Woods atop the summit of the golf world. Only time will tell. But after walking off the 18th green a winner at The PLAYERS Championship, Phil handed his coach a signed flag with the note, Butch: The first of many.
 
Related Links:
  • Mickelson Captures PLAYERS Championship
  • Golf Central Special: Phil's 2007 Season
  • 12 Days of Golf Countdown
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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.

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    Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

    By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

    Memo to the golf gods:

    If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

    Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

    It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

    With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

    It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

    We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

    We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

    Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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    Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

    We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

    In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

    While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

    Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

    Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

    Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

    While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

    Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

    So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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    McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

    By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

    With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

    The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

    Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

    "I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

    McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

    But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

    "I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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    What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

    Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

    Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

    Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

    Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

    Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

    Ball: Titleist Pro V1x