Phil hopes for grueling test in seeking Grand Slam

By Ryan LavnerJune 15, 2016, 9:10 pm

OAKMONT, Pa. – No player has been tempted, teased and tortured at the U.S. Open more than Phil Mickelson. Over the past 25 years, he’s racked up a record six runners-up just about every way imaginable – mis-clubs, missed fairways, missed putts – and the Open oh-fer is all that’s kept him from joining the all-time greats who have completed the career Grand Slam.

And so it was curious to hear Mickelson on Wednesday say that he wants Oakmont – by many accounts, the most difficult course in the United States – to cross the line between brutal and unplayable, as if he were welcoming even more torment.

“I feel like I’ve learned how to play that style of golf,” he said.

Mickelson has been bucking trends his entire career, of course. The usual recipe for success in the U.S. Open is to find the fairway, play the high-percentage shot into the green, take your medicine when out of position and hole 10-footers. There are many enviable aspects of Mickelson’s game, but frankly, that isn’t his style. He’s never been particularly accurate off the tee. He’s prone to taking unnecessary risks. His putter occasionally betrays him in big moments. And yet his high-wire act has produced 42 wins, including five majors, and he’s been close, agonizingly close, to breaking through at the major he covets most.

“When that line is on the edge or crossed,” he said, “I feel like I have one of my better chances to come out on top.”

Lefty doesn’t have fond memories of Oakmont. In the weeks leading up to the 2007 Open, he took too many hacks out of the thick, gnarly rough and injured his left wrist. By the time the Open rolled around, he had no chance, shooting 11 over and missing the cut for just the second time in his career. He battled a bone bruise for the next three months.

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This time, Mickelson hasn’t even attempted a shot out of the rough – “I’d rather wait to get hurt during the tournament than before it,” he joked – nor has he practiced out of the fairway bunkers, which are so deep and fluffy that they’re basically a blast-out.

Mickelson has also reversed his pre-tournament routine. After practicing Monday (typically an off-day during major weeks), he flew home to San Diego to attend daughter Sophia’s eighth-grade graduation. He didn’t touch a club Tuesday because of the ceremony and long trip back, but he spent a few hours on the course late Wednesday afternoon in advance of his 2:09 p.m. ET tee time Thursday.

He said the challenge here, as it’s been ever since his surprising victory at Muirfield, is shifting his focus away from the result (the career Grand Slam!) and more into the process. So far, it’s proved to be just talk. Whether it was his self-imposed pressure or his game simply wasn’t there, the last two Opens haven’t gone well, with no finish better than 28th.

“I could BS you and tell you I didn’t think about it,” he said of the Slam. “But no, I think about it all the time.”

Though he remains relatively healthy on the eve of his 46th birthday, this Open might prove to be his last real opportunity to snag that elusive Open. His putter is no longer a liability – he’s ranked third on Tour in putting – and he’s recorded more top-10s this season (five) than in his last two listless years combined.

But Mickelson is in a vastly different position than any of the other 155 players in this week’s field. Each year he is asked, repeatedly, to reopen old wounds, to discuss the most crushing disappointments of an otherwise legendary career. Alas, there are plenty for him to sort through – most notably, the three-putt from 5 feet on 17 at Shinnecock; the wayward drive and 3-iron that nailed a tree on the 18th at Winged Foot; the airmailed wedge on 13 at Merion – but Mickelson maintains that he has the necessary experience and game plan to win. After all of the close calls, his self-belief hasn’t wavered.

“My career is built on failure,” he said with a wry smile, “and that has been a big motivator for me, because I think how you handle failure is a huge element to becoming successful.”

And so he’s here at Oakmont, embracing a potentially brutal U.S. Open, hoping for carnage and a setup that borders on unfair. Maybe his rationale isn’t so complicated, after all. Mentally, he’s already dealt with much worse.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.