Phil Wins But Hes Hidden By a Large Shadow

By George WhiteJune 25, 2002, 4:00 pm
Phil Mickelson is the second-best golfer on the planet. But you already knew that. You also know already who No. 1 is, so Im not going to belabor the rankings. Suffice it to say that No. 1 is quite possibly the best in history; otherwise you would also genuflect when you hear the name Mickelson.
He won again last week at the Canon Greater Hartford, this the 21st time he has prevailed. And he is only 32, which means he ought to have about 10 or 12 more productive years left him. Tiger is only 26, of course, so Mickelson will have that noose around his neck for as long as he plays. But by the time he retires, he undoubtedly will have done the job close to 40 times.
Hes already has such a torrent of criticism because he hasnt won a major, but study the list of major winners and tell me with a straight face that Mickelson isnt superior to all but one. Is he better than Fred Couples? Vijay Singh? David Duval? Nick Price? Curtis Strange? Jose Maria Olazabal? Any of the other guys who achieved nirvana for one week and won one? Doesnt it seem sorta silly to base a mans reputation on one major, when Steve Jones, Jeff Sluman, Retief Goosen, Mark Brooks, Wayne Grady, Mark Calcavecchia, Paul Lawrie ' among a boatload of others ' won one and no more?
Best player never to have won a major ' will that be Mickelsons sobriquet once he finally puts up his putter for good? And how unfair is such a label, anyway?
I dont think its unfair at all, said Mickelson at the Masters this year. I would say that if I won this week, I dont think anybody in the United States or what-have-you will look at me any differently than they have over the past 10 years.
I feel that the way Ive played over the past 10 years, and the tournaments that I have done well in, tend to show the style of player that I am. And a win in one tournament really isnt going to change that perception
But I dont think it is an unfair label. In fact, its a very complimentary label, if you think about it, because having not won one, to be considered the best out of all those players who have not is a compliment.
At 32 and with 21 victories, he has won more than Hale Irwin did in his entire regular tour career - or Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Hubert Green, Tom Weiskopf. Hes tied with Lanny Wadkins, has one less win than Ray Floyd, only three less than Johnny Miller. And Mickelson is just now entering his real victory years.
Mickelson, though, is doomed to forever toil in the shadows of Woods. He professes to enjoy it, though one might think he takes out a Tiger doll every night and fills it full of pins.
Ive heard people mention, Oh, it must be difficult being born in the same era (as Woods), Mickelson says. I dont see it that way.
I see it as a wonderful opportunity to play with him, against him, and try and beat him. Its been difficult to have success against him. Ive been fortunate the few times I have had success; its very difficult.
But what an opportunity. It pushes me in practice, pushes me in preparation for the tournaments. So I really enjoy having the chance to play with him and against him.
Hes widely criticized, even from former players who are now critics, for being too aggressive, for blindly pulling the trigger on a low-percentage shot instead of laying up to a conservative spot. People point out that he went for 18 at Pebble Beach in two shots and hit the Pacific last year, that he tried to play a miracle recovery at 16 at Bay Hill and failed this year, tried this or that shot which most people consider low percentage.
But my goodness, hes won 21 times ' 21 times. Thats more than anyone who is currently playing the regular tour, save Tiger. So how often has the incredible shot paid off? He undoubtedly has paid a high price at times with the gambling style, but Flailin Phil could never be Phil the Conservationist.
I have thought about it, he conceded. I thought about my style of play, has it been detrimental to my game, and the answer keeps coming up ' no!
It keeps coming to me that not only have I had the results I wanted but for me to play my best golf, I need to play aggressively. I need to create shots. If I lose that attacking style, then I will not play the best golf that I am capable of playing.
And so he continues to just be Phil and continues to win. But he doesnt win majors. Maybe there are worse things in life.
As I look back on it, I dont care if I never win a major, Mickelson said earlier this year. I am not going to play this game without the enjoyment, without the fun that I have right now.
But I dont believe that is the case. I believe that if I continue to play the style of golf I have been playing ' and be patient ' I will win my share of majors.
The world is still waiting for Mickelsons first major. But the world long ago saw Mickelsons first victory. Last week we saw the 21st victory after only little more than 10 years in the game. We dont realize it, but we are watching two great players. One you are aware of ' Tiger. The other is a sleeper ' but its ' shhhhh ' Mickelson.
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.