Phils List of So-Closes Finally Ends

By George WhiteApril 13, 2004, 4:00 pm
Ten years after he first finished in the top three at a major, Phil Mickelson finally did it. In those 10 years, he was passed in the march to the majors victory circle by a long line of first-timers.
Lets see, starting with the Masters, there was Tiger Woods, Mark OMeara and Mike Weir. The U.S. Open saw Corey Pavin, Steve Jones, Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk in the victory celebration. Tom Lehman, Justin Leonard, Paul Lawrie and David Duval won British Opens. In the PGA, Mickelson had to look at Mark Brooks, Davis Love III, Vijay Singh, David Toms, Rich Beem and Sean Micheel march by him. The ultimate insult had to be when a rookie, Ben Curtis, won the British Open last year to get a major before Phil finally made it.
Mickelson has his major now, finally winning the Masters in a scintillating Sunday duel. He won it in a manner totally befitting a major champion, nosing out another major champion, Ernie Els, who shot a 67. Phil shot a 31 on the back nine Sunday and won it with a birdie on the final hole.
His resume is littered by almosts, as well as other entries that merely look good on paper. All, however, contributed to the legend, one that now is forgotten. He is no longer the best player never to win a major. At age 34, he has won one. And with the season hes having, he well could win another this year.
The almosts:
  • 1994 PGA (third) - Mickelsons first top-three finish, though this was the year Nick Price stormed through Southern Hills to make a shambles of the field. Price beat runner-up Corey Pavin by six, 24-year-old Mickelson by seven.
    QUOTE - Im going to take him (Price) skiing next year, said Mickelson, who was involved in a skiing mishap the preceding winter and had a metal rod inserted in his leg.
  • 1995 MASTERS (T7th)' Mickelson was in the mix all the way until the final day, starting Sunday only one shot out of lead. A double bogey at the par-3 6th scuttled his chances. He shot 73 to tie for seventh, at 24 he was the youngest to be in first place (tied for the lead after the first round) since Seve Ballesteros in 80. Final result: Mickelson loses by six.
  • 1995 U.S. OPEN (T4th) ' Now 25, he was only one shot out of the lead with three holes to play, but a double bogey at 16 was the killer yet again (he played the 16th in 6-over for the week). He went on to shoot 74 and tied for fourth, four shots behind Corey Pavin.
    QUOTE ' Im giving myself opportunities. If I give myself enough, Im going to break through.
  • 1996 MASTERS (third) ' The Nick Faldo-Greg Norman Masters when Faldo overcame Normans six-shot lead to start the final round, finally marching to the green jacket. Mickelson had opened Thursday with a 65, but Norman shot 63. In the end, Mickelson finished six back.
    QUOTE ' My heart goes out to him (Norman). I just hope it doesnt happen to me.
    QUOTE - When I had opportunities to get it going, it just stalled the last three days If I can keep putting myself in that position, the odds say Ill break through sometime.
  • 1999 U.S. OPEN (second) ' His best chance yet for a major, Phil lost this one by a single shot after Payne Stewart made a 20-footer on the final hole at Pinehurst. Stewart was putting for par after a lay-up from the rough. Mickelson was ahead by one at 16, but Stewart rolled in 25-footer at 16 for par and Mickelson missed an eight-footer for bogey. Stewart regained the lead at the par-3 17th with a tee shot to four feet, while Mickelson missed his birdie putt of eight feet.
    QUOTE - I think it will be interesting to see if Im able to break though when I get in this situation again. And it will be interesting to see how long it takes me to get back in this situation.
  • 2001 MASTERS (third) ' In the final pairing with eventual winner Woods Sunday, but he failed to get it up-and-down for par from either of the par-3s on the front. Mickelson, now 30, missed a half-dozen putts inside six feet over the final 30 holes. The 16th was the big blow ' one behind Woods, their tee shots landed just seven inches apart. But Woods shot funneled down to 25 feet, while Mickelsons stayed on top 40 feet from the flag. Mickelson three-putted and eventually lost by three.
    QUOTE - When I look back on this week, if Im going to win with Tiger in the field, I cant afford to make the mistakes Ive been making.

  • 2001 U.S. OPEN (T7th)' Just two shots behind after third round, Mickelson missed four of the first seven fairways in the final round to shoot 75 and lost by six to Retief Goosen.
    QUOTE ' Im just tired of beating myself up after each one. If I didnt have a shot at winning, I would be much more miserable than I am now.'
  • 2001 PGA (second) ' Along with the 99 Open, Mickelsons best chance to win a major. Down by a stroke, it looked like a playoff on the par-5 72nd hole when he reached the green in two while David Toms was out in the fairway after laying up. But Toms pitched to eight feet and make the putt for birdie and the win. Mickelson caught his foe three times in the last round but could never edge past him. Toms eventually squeezed ahead when Mickelson three-putted from 50 feet at the 16th.
    QUOTE - Everyone talks about me trying to win a bunch of majors, and I still cant past the first one.
  • 2002 MASTERS (third) ' Mickelson birdied the first hole Sunday to stand three shots behind Woods, but Woods birdies No. 2 and wins going away.
    QUOTE - Every tournament, every major is an opportunity, and throughout the four days I played very solid golf, but I didnt have that explosive spurt to vault me up the leaderboard.
  • 2002 U.S. OPEN (second)' Saturday, Mickelson strung together six birdies in an 11-hole stretch, culminating at the 17th, to challenge for the lead. But leader Woods birdied the 15th and 16th moments later to regain a four-shot lead and Mickelson never again seriously challenged.
  • 2003 MASTERS (third) ' Mickelson shot 68 Sunday, his best final-round score in any of his 12 Masters, but was beaten by Mike Weir and Len Mattiace. He finished just two shots out of the playoff.
    QUOTE - (after wife Amy endured a difficult delivery with their third child) You cant look at success in wins and losses. You have to look at it in your own terms.
    I feel very comfortable going into major championships. I know if I play well, Ill have a chance.
  • 2004 MASTERS ' Mickelson wins! After 46 tries at a major victory without success, Mickelson wins!
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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.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    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.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “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.”

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    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