Punch Shot: What will Phil do in 2016?

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2016, 11:15 pm

Phil Mickelson is making his 2016 debut at this week's CareerBuilder Challenge. The 45-year-old Hall of Famer faces some big questions this year. Our writers offer some answers:

By REX HOGGARD

Phil Mickelson will turn 46 the day he tees off for the first round of this year’s U.S. Open, a milestone that he seemed to sense with a touch of unease when he said earlier this month on "Morning Drive" he was optimistic but “also nervous.” It’s always difficult to predict what Lefty will do, particularly during such a crucial year, but here goes:

Win a Tour event? Mickelson will win a PGA Tour event in 2016, his first since hoisting the claret jug in 2013, and it’s likely that triumph will come on the West Coast, where he has won 19 of his 42 Tour titles (the Northern Trust Open, where he’s won twice, would be the most obvious place).

Win the U.S. Open? As for the greater goal, which would be to finally win the U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam, it’s starting to feel as if that ship has sailed. After six runner-up finishes in his national championship the odds simply aren’t in Mickelson’s favor at Oakmont.

Play for the U.S. Ryder Cup team? He will, however, don the red, white and blue for the 11th time in October at the Ryder Cup. Whether he qualifies, which he would with a victory, or is one of captain Davis Love III’s picks, there is no way Mickelson will miss this year’s matches.


By RANDALL MELL

Win a Tour event? Yes. He’s motivated. He’s right about his swing. It doesn’t seem to put the kind of pressure on his body that other players feel. Mickelson has always been unpredictably good, turning it on when we don’t expect it. He was off his game in a winless year in 2015, but he still tied for second at the Masters, tied for third at the FedEx St. Jude and tied fourth at Wells Fargo. His putting wasn’t terrible (41st in putts per GIR), but he was terrible in the lack of birdie chances he gave himself. He was 177th in hitting greens in regulation, the worst statistical finish of his 24-year PGA Tour career. He won’t be that bad again this year. 

Win the U.S. Open? No. The window has closed. He’ll be 46 by the time he tees it up at Oakmont. Hale Irwin remains the oldest U.S. Open winner at 45 for a reason.

Play for the U.S. Ryder Cup team? He’ll be worth a captain’s pick again, but he isn’t among the 10 best Americans in the game anymore and won’t make it on points.


By RYAN LAVNER

Win a Tour event? I predict we’ll see a rejuvenated Mickelson in contention a bunch this year – at Augusta and Quail Hollow and Baltusrol, among others – but also going winless for the third consecutive season. With the depth of talent on the Tour these days, it’s asking a lot for a 45-year-old to hold it together for all four rounds, especially with the putter.  

Win the U.S. Open? What a story it’d be, but Chambers Bay was Lefty’s last great chance.

Play for the U.S. Ryder Cup team? Yes, but that’s assuming he plays well in at least a few majors. As great as he is in the team room, he still needs to post a few top finishes to warrant consideration over some of the young, hungry players who likely will have better seasons. 

Mickelson has too much talent to fade away completely, and the combination of his new swing changes and this being a Ryder Cup year should keep him engaged. As always, his year is best approached without expectation – it’s what makes his throwback performances (like the ’15 Masters) even more thrilling.


By WILL GRAY

Win a Tour event? Lefty will give himself a couple of chances, but I don’t see it happening. A new swing coach could take some getting used to, and Mickelson’s stat line last season left plenty to be desired: 114th in par-4 scoring, 144th in ball-striking and 177th in GIR percentage. Don’t be surprised if he ends the year without a trophy.

Win the U.S. Open? Well, it will be hard for my first prediction to come true if Mickelson wins at Oakmont, so I’ll say no. On top of that, I’ll echo a belief I have shared in this space for the past two years: Mickelson will never win the one remaining trophy that he covets the most. 

Play for the U.S. Ryder Cup team? This, I can see. Even if Mickelson has a mediocre season, and even if he doesn’t win an event, I can see Davis Love III adding Mickelson as a pick. His veteran leadership and team room presence are clearly viewed as benefits, and he played surprisingly well as a pick at the Presidents Cup. If it happens, hopefully for everyone’s sake we can avoid another benching controversy.

When Mickelson left Muirfield with the claret jug three years ago, the discussion centered around just how high his new career trajectory would take him. But if he remains winless in 2016, the talk could easily shift to whether or not Mickelson – who turns 46 in June – will ever win again on the PGA Tour.

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''


DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon: