Mickelson Prepping for Masters at BellSouth

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 27, 2006, 5:00 pm
BellSouth ClassicWhen Phil Mickelson won last years BellSouth Classic it established him as the man to beat at the Masters Tournament.
 
Heading into the seasons first major championship, Mickelson had already procured a PGA TOUR-leading three victories. He was tops on the money list, as well as in scoring average. And, he just happened to be the defending champion.
 
Phil Mickelson
The BellSouth marked Phil Mickelson's third pre-Masters victory in 2005.
This time around, Tiger Woods will be the defending champion. And he will be the man to beat.
 
Mickelson hopes to be the one to beat him.
 
At the moment, Mickelson is still winless on the 2006 season; though, he does have four top-10 finishes in seven starts. He tied for 14th at The Players Championship, hitting three balls in the water on the par-3 17th for the week to seal his fate.
 
The Players was Mickelsons first tournament since the Ford Championship at Doral. He was tied with Woods for the lead entering weekend play. Woods closed in 68-69 and repeated as champion. Mickelson shot 72-73 and tied for 12th.
 
But in the two weeks in between Doral and Sawgrass, Mickelson said that he got together with his team ' Dave Pelz and Rick Smith ' and began in earnest his run towards Augusta.
 
We focused in on the areas that looked a little deficient, Mickelson said prior to the start of The Players. We spent a lot of time on bunker play; by far that was the worst area of my game at the start of this year. Whereas last year it was very good, so we spent a lot of time there. We spent a lot of time on the greens, spent a lot of time finding ways to practice short irons and so forth to bring it out when I go on the course. It's one thing to practice a lot or hit a lot of balls. It's another to have it actually carry over into my play on the course, and that's what we've been working on.
 
As far as his conversion rate from the sand, Mickelson was 21st on TOUR entering the 05 Masters; hes currently outside the top 180.
 
But thats really the only area that shows a great discrepancy between this time a year ago and now. Hes still inside the top 25 in driving distance, still outside the top 130 in driving accuracy, and inside the top 5 in putting. He even ranks higher this season in greens hit in regulation.
 
There is almost a stroke difference in his scoring average, but hes only once finished within five strokes of the eventual champion, so that may be the difference of only one additional victory.
 
That additional victory, however, could make a huge difference in relation to both confidence and momentum. Mickelson would like to repeat as champion this week to gain a little bit of both, but he doesnt seem too concerned if he doesnt.
 
Well, I think that you want to have a win to have some momentum and to have a little confidence in how you're playing, but I don't think it's critical, he said.
 
But I think that obviously it helps and it could also hurt in that it builds up expectations and you can't go in under the radar, if you will, and be able to get a lot of work done without a lot of scrutiny, if you will. But certainly, I would have liked to have won, but I'm not entering these tournaments with any less confidence because I haven't.
 
Mickelson plays this tournament each year as preparation for Augusta National. That wont be the case next season. Though he will likely still compete at the TPC at Sugarloaf ' he won here in 2000 as well ' the tournament will be contested May 17-20. It will remain the week after The Players Championship, which will also be transitioned, but will be played the week before the Colonial.
 
As the defending champion, Mickelson is obviously among the favorites on the 7,293-yard, par-72 venue. Here are five others possible contenders.
 
Retief Goosen
Goosen has a history of winning both big events and the week prior to big events on the PGA TOUR. He has won six times on TOUR, including two U.S. Opens and one TOUR Championship title. He has also won the 2002 BellSouth Classic, the week before the Masters; the 2003 Chrysler Championship, the week before the TOUR Championship; and the 2005 International, the week before the PGA Championship. Though he would much rather win next week, he is definitely among the favorites to do so this week. He has played this tournament five times and has a tie for third (2003) in addition to his victory.
 
Stewart Cink
Cink lives in Duluth and played collegiate golf at nearby Georgia Tech. He has competed in this tournament 10 times in his career and has the best record of anyone in the field who has never finished first. Cink has six top-10s, including a runner-up in 1999. He is in search of his first TOUR victory since the 2004 WGC-NEC Invitational.
 
Ben Crane
Crane missed the tournament last year due to back problems, which forced him to re-work his swing. The TOURs turtle, however, has fared quite well in his last two trips around Sugarloaf. After barely making the cut, he shot 63-64 over the weekend to earn his first TOUR title here in 2003. He then tied for sixth in his title defense. Crane added to his resume by winning last years U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee upon his return to action. Hes played only five times this year, and will be looking for his first top-10 finish this week.
 
Lucas Glover
Glover has only twice before played this event, but he managed to tie for 10th last year. The South Carolina native is having a great start to the season, though he has yet to win. He has four top-10 finishes in nine starts and finished tied for 17th at Bay Hill after holding the 36-hole lead.
 
Brandt Jobe
Jobe was one of the quintet of players in last year's playoff. He birdied the final hole of regulation to earn a spot in the extra session, but found water on the first hole of sudden death to tie for second. Jobe is still in search of that elusive maiden TOUR title. He has a couple of top-20s this year and has a decent record at Sugarloaf. In addition to his runner-up finish, he has two other top-25s.
 
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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."