Punch Shot: Expectations for Mickelson in 2015

Phil Mickelson will make his 2015 PGA Tour debut at this week's Humana Challenge. Coming off a winless 2014, and at age 44, what should we expect from Mickelson this year? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in.


We should continue to expect the unexpected.

We should continue to expect the spectacular when we least expect it.

We should continue to expect bursts of excellence ... but we should expect to see less of all of the above.

With Mickelson coming off his first winless season in a decade, with his 45th birthday coming in June, it will be an upset if his best golf isn’t behind him.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t something special still to behold this year. In fact, Mickelson could reach the pinnacle of his career if he wins the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay to complete the career Grand Slam.

Don’t bet on it, though. Mickelson’s modus operandi is wowing us when we don’t expect it. So that probably means he completes the Grand Slam after we’ve all completely written him off, in a few years or so.

Still, Kenny Perry won seven times after turning 44, Vijay Singh four times after turning 44 and Steve Stricker three times after turning 44. Expect Mickelson to win again this year and compete with those numbers before he’s done.


He’s another year older and his motivation might be waning, but I’d expect Phil Mickelson to produce a better 2015 than ’14 – if only because it couldn’t get much worse.

Peruse the stats, and no part of his game was particularly sharp. He was 138th in total driving. He was 108th in ball-striking. He was uncharacteristically poor from 50-125 yards (102nd) and 125-150 yards (156th). He was 50th in putting.

And yet, even in a down year, he nearly stole the PGA Championship.

Phil hasn’t played a stroke-play event since he was bounced early from the FedEx Cup playoffs, which is plenty of time to examine what went wrong. Improved driving and wedge play are a priority, and early reports from his camp are that he’s addressed those issues and even improved his physical conditioning.

Mickelson turns 45 in June, but it’d be a surprise if he didn’t win an event this season and contend in at least one major.


Phil Mickelson will get back into the winner’s circle in 2015, but his week-to-week struggles are hardly a thing of the past.

Mickelson’s goals remain tied to the majors, specifically the U.S. Open, but as he showed in 2014 sometimes the game doesn’t always peak on command. The hardships of age have begun to take their toll on Mickelson, now 44, and he isn’t getting any younger.

His confidence remains intact, and his short game is still one of the best in the business. Those skills alone are enough to turn bad weeks into decent ones, and good weeks into potentially great ones. But consistency has always been an issue with Mickelson, and that will continue in 2015, which will become his fourth straight season with at least three missed cuts.

He’ll end the victory drought at some point this year, but it might be time to recalibrate our expectations for an aging superstar.


As a general rule 44-year-old professional golfers don’t have terribly high expectations.

Although the twilight is still at bay, there are many more tournaments behind a forty-something than there are ahead, but in the case of Phil Mickelson it would be foolish to believe he plans to sail quietly into his golden years.

Despite enduring his worst year as a professional last season – 21 events, no wins and just a single top-10 finish (PGA Championship) – Lefty embraced this offseason like a player half his age.

From Mickelson’s swing coach Butch Harmon to his trainer Sean Cochran, they will tell you their man is healthier and more motivated than he has been in years in part because of that pedestrian card in 2014 and partly because he knows the good night of retirement is calling.

He may not be able to finally clear that U.S. Open hurdle that has eluded him his entire career, he may not even add to his major total, but when it comes to the game’s most high-profile southpaw, expectations should not dovetail with his age. 

Mickelson also has history on his side. The last time he failed to win a Tour event in a single year (2003) he rebounded by winning his first major (2004 Masters).

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Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

“I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.

Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

“It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

“There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

“You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

“It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

“It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

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Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

"As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.