Mickelson: Mixed emotions for North, South courses

By Will GrayJanuary 22, 2014, 7:34 pm

SAN DIEGO – Phil Mickelson is in a unique position at this week’s Farmers Insurance Open: when he tees off Thursday morning in his opening round on the North Course, he’ll look to go low on a track that he will have a hand in overhauling next year.

Mickelson explained Wednesday that his work on redesigning the easier of the two courses at Torrey Pines will begin in 2015, and the five-time major champion has eyes on making the layout accessible for the average player.

“The last year, year and a half we’ve been taking a lot of input from the public and making sure that we’re on the right track to make the golf course as playable as possible,” noted Mickelson. “There was concern that after what happened to the South becoming almost unplayable for the average player and 80-plus percent of the local rounds going to the North … that the North would become too difficult in an attempt to make it more challenging.”

A key for Mickelson’s prospective design will be to remove obstacles in front of greens, ones which prove difficult for higher-handicap players to overcome with their approach shots.

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“Why so many players love links golf is that you always have the avenue to run a ball up and it’s very easy to make the parameters left and right,” he explained. “There’s no need to block the fronts of greens.”

The changes align with Mickelson’s overall thoughts on golf course design, which he reiterated Wednesday has led to courses becoming overly difficult as players increasingly watch shots carom away from their intended targets.

“So much of golf now repels balls away into trouble,” said Mickelson. “What I want to do is contain. I want to create containment where balls run up to the green. Once you get to the green, that’s where you can start repelling and making it challenging.”

He also expanded on his desire to cut back on overall maintenance and water costs by removing sections of grass that rarely are in play, and Mickelson will look to make the scenic coastline that borders the course a larger factor in the future.

“I want to bring the canyon back into the feel of the golf course,” he added. “I don’t want to move the holes to the canyon; I want to bring the canyon back into some of the holes so that you feel the natural beauty that’s here.”

While Mickelson hopes to make the North more playable for amateurs, he’s confident that the course will remain a suitable test come tournament week, when the track in its current form frequently averages two shots easier than the South, if not more.

“You can make any golf course hard by simply making the greens firm and making thick rough,” said Mickelson. “What I want to do though is make a course that is fun to play, that is playable under a variety of conditions.”

Mickelson remains upbeat about the prospect of rolling up his sleeves and getting to work on the North Course, but his attitude is somewhat frosty when discussing its counterpart at Torrey Pines. The 43-year-old has won this event three times, but his most recent victory came in 2001 – not coincidentally, the final time the event was played before Rees Jones’ redesign.

He admits that his attitude toward the course that comprises 75 percent of this week’s competitive action hasn’t exactly helped his playing record, which includes just one top-10 finish since 2009.

“My feelings of animosity toward it might be a factor as to why I haven’t played well per se on it,” said Mickelson, who tied for 51st here last year and missed the cut in 2012. “I’ve learned to play it over the years, but it is not conducive to the way I like to play, which is aggressive.

“Every shot is repelled away from the tucked pins, every green breaks away from the bunkers, every time you’re in a bunker you’ve got a downhill shot,” he continued. “It’s just monotonous to me and it doesn’t allow for great recovery and it does not allow for aggressive play. It allows for 40 feet away from the hole and try to make a putt, try to take advantage of the par 5s.”

Mickelson cedes that a bevy of positives have come to both the course and the area following the redesign, which led to the venue landing the 2008 U.S. Open, but concluded his comments Wednesday with a terse response when asked if it surprises him that the season’s second major hasn’t returned to San Diego.

“No, it doesn’t,” he noted.

For Mickelson, the South Course will wait until Friday morning. Thursday will be about making birdies on the North, and perhaps bringing with him a notebook to jot down changes to make next year when shovel meets dirt.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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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.