Plenty Have Won the 71-Hole Open

By George WhiteJune 20, 2006, 4:00 pm
Oh, the anatomy of a loss, a last-hole debacle in a major golf championship
 
Phil Mickelson will remember this one vividly when he is 90. The vision of a tree standing between him and the green, then the sight of his ball lying plugged in a bunker. Colin Montgomerie will remember it, too. Unfortunately, they will go down in history with a couple of other great players ' Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer.
 
More on that pair in a moment. But first, about 2006, and Montgomerie making double from the fairway on the 72nd hole; and then, even more excruciating, Mickelson scoring the same when a par would have won it, a bogey would have given him a playoff.
 
Dottie Pepper gently reminded everyone a couple of hours after the carnage ended what everyone should probably have realized when he came to the 18th - that Mickelson was unbelievably fortunate to have been in that position in the first place. If he had somehow weaseled out a par on the final hole and won, THAT would have been the upset, considering the way he had slashed the ball around on closing day. Geoff Ogilvy was the deserving winner considering the way he played the last couple of holes, and a Mickelson victory would have been an upset.
 
That, however, will be the subject for debate for many years to come. For now, hear what Mickelson said about the final hole:
 
Firstly, he chose driver for his tee shot because he thought he could get it in the fairway with his bread and butter shot, a baby carve slice on 18. He didnt carry a 3-wood. He did have a 4-wood, but I felt like if I hit 4-wood and missed the fairway, I'd be too far back to do any good, to be able to chase one down there (to the green). Mickelson had, in effect, lost confidence that he could hit the sliver of a fairway with any club.
 
The fairways, remember, were baked out and extremely hard and fast ' Mickelson had tried to hit a 4-iron off the tee on No. 15, had hit what he described as the perfect shot, and watched it bound into the rough. Factoring in all this information, he decided to go with the driver, even though he knew that it had been uncontrollable all day. He felt that his best chance at par, though, was his bread and butter shot. And he decided if he was going to miss, at least he would miss it further down the fairway than if he had hit the 4-wood.
 
He knew immediately, of course, that he had overcut the drive, and fortunately it bounced off the hospitality tent to leave him a shot back to the fairway. Heres the point where I really fault him, not so much in his club selection off the tee.
 
He may have been suckered into going for the green from his distance of 201 yards because the ball was sitting up so nicely. I had a good lie, he said. I had to hit a big carving slice around the tree and overcut it, just like I overcut the tee shot and some of the other shots.
 
It didnt work, his shot plunking the tree. Visibly shaken now, he played his third shot from just 25 yards ahead. Forget it ' it would have taken Houdini himself to scrape out something resembling a bogey at this point. Lets see ' off the tent, off a tree, then plugging in the bunker, in the rough across the green, finally a chip and a putt ' six strokes and bye-bye U.S. Open.
 
Montgomerie did his bit of unpleasantry from 172 yards away, after he had already achieved the difficult ' placing the tee shot in the middle. After wavering back and forth, however, he chose a 7-iron instead of a 6, and the shot came up way short. I thought adrenaline would kick in, he said. I usually hit the ball ten yards further in that circumstance. I caught it slightly heavy and it went slightly right. It was a poor shot, no question about that.
 
Palmer is acutely aware of the difficulties ' he led the 1966 U.S. Open by seven strokes with only nine holes remaining. With such an imposing lead, Arnold let his thoughts drift to Ben Hogan and the Open record of 276. And he wanted to set the record there in the San Francisco bay area where his good friend lived ' Ed Douglas, who was an executive with Pennzoil.
 
It, of course, was a huge mistake ' understandable since he had such an overwhelming lead, but a mistake nonetheless. Billy Casper was playing strictly for second place, even admitted same to Palmer on the 10th tee. And with only four holes to play, Arnold still was five shots ahead.
 
Then it happened. Palmer, the record still playing in his mind, tried to hit the perfect shot on the par-3 15th instead of the safe shot. He went straight for a pin cut near a bunker, missed, and made another bogey, while Casper was running in a long putt for birdie. And on 16, Palmer played his driver on the par-5 when a 1-iron would have served him better. The result ' he ended up in the rough and made another bogey, while Casper made another birdie.
 
One shot was all that separated the two now, and when Palmer bogeyed the 17th, the advantage was completely gone. Now, the two DID go into a Monday playoff, but Casper won that by four strokes.
 
Snead, though, had only a par-5 left and needed just a par to win the U.S. Open in 1939. Like Mickelson, a bogey would still have gotten him into a playoff.
 
Alas, it never happened. Snead snap-hooked his drive, topped his second into a bunker 100 yards from of the green, couldnt get out of the bunker with his third, then blasted the ball into a greenside bunker with his fourth.
 
Now, needing to get up-and-down to get into a playoff with three others, he got onto the green but 30 feet away. He missed the 30-footer (knocking him out of a playoff), then missed a three-foot comeback putt. It took him eight strokes to finish the hole, and he never did win a U.S. Open.
 
Those are pretty good names to cough up the U.S. Open when they had it practically gift-wrapped. But that wont sooth the feelings of Phil Mickelson ' just like it never did sooth the feelings of Palmer or Snead. There are an awfully lot of people who have won the 71-hole U.S. Open. But unfortunately they have to play one more to make it an official win. Hole No. 72 will live forever in Phil and Montys minds.
 
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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


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After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – 

Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.


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Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.

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Mickelson 'displeased' with iron play; 10 back

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:18 am

All of Phil Mickelson’s offseason work on his driver has paid off through two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

His iron play? Not as sharp, and it’s the reason why he heads into the weekend 10 shots off the lead.

“I’ve been pretty pleased, overall, with the way I’ve been driving the ball, and very displeased with the way my iron game has been,” said Mickelson, who shot 68 Friday on PGA West’s Nicklaus course. He has hit only 21 of 36 greens so far this week. “Usually my iron play is a lot better than what it’s been. So I’ll go work on it and hopefully improve each round in this tournament and build a solid foundation for the upcoming West Coast events.


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“I feel like if I continue to drive the ball the way I am, and if I got my iron play back to my normal standard, I should have the results that I’ve been expecting.”

Mickelson, of course, is always bullish this time of year, but he has been able to find 10 of 14 fairways each of the past two rounds, including at narrower La Quinta Country Club, which doesn’t always fit his eye.

“This is actually the best I’ve driven it in a lot of years,” he said.

Currently in a tie for 67th, Mickelson will need a solid round on the more difficult Stadium course Saturday to ensure that he makes the 54-hole cut. He hasn’t missed a cut in his first West Coast event of the new year since 2009.