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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    Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


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    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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    Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

    After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

    With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.


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    “Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

    “I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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    Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    “I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

    “I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”


    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


    On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

    Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

    Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

    “We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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    Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

    The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

    Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.


    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

    Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

    • Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

    • Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

    • Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1