Mickelson Wins GHO for Second Straight Year

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2002, 4:00 pm
Cromwell, Conn. -- Phil Mickelson came from five strokes down in Sunday's final round to win the Greater Hartford Open by one shot over Davis Love III and third-round leader Jonathan Kaye. Mickelson, the winner of this event last year, became the first player in the 51-year history of the tournament to successfully defend his title.
Mickelson finished at 14-under-par 266 after spinning a wedge back to three feet to set up a final birdie at the 18th. He closed with a six-under 64 and notched the 21st victory of his PGA Tour career.
'To win this tournament the last two years is a cool feeling,' said the 32- year-old lefthander, who collected the $720,000 first prize for his second win of the season.
Mickelson talks about his win.
Mickelson, who captured the Bob Hope Classic in his first start of 2002, joined Tiger Woods as the only multiple winners on the PGA Tour this year.
Mickelson, clearly a crowd favorite last week when he finished second behind Woods in the U.S. Open, received the same strong support this Sunday as he made his way toward the amphitheater surrounding the 18th green at the TPC at River Highlands.
'There's nothing greater than the feeling walking up 18 and feeling the support from the crowd and the community and everyone who is involved with this tournament,' he said. 'To be able to experience that from a player's perspective is an incredible feeling.'
Love had an opportunity to tie Mickelson but missed an 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th and posted a 67. Kaye, bidding for his first win, also had a chance to force a playoff with a birdie at the last but badly pushed his 12-foot attempt to the right of the cup. He shot an even-par 70 to tie Love for second place at 13-under 267.
Scott Verplank, tied for the lead early on the back nine, made two bogeys on the way in and finished with a one-over 71. He was alone in fourth at 11- under.
Joel Edwards' 63 was the best round of the day and lifted him into a tie for fifth place with Jim Carter (68) at minus-10.
Mickelson began the day at eight-under and broke into double-digits under par with a 15-foot birdie at the second hole and a 12-footer at the fourth. He then tied Kaye and Verplank for the lead at 12-under by holing a sand wedge from over 100 yards for eagle at the par-four seventh.
He three-putted for bogey at the par-three eighth, however, horseshoeing out a par putt from 2 1/2 feet.
After bombing a drive of over 300 yards down the fairway at the 462-yard 10th, Mickelson hit a wedge to 15 feet for a birdie to return to 12-under. He got up and down to save par from over three green at 11, then came up one revolution short on a 25-foot birdie try at the 12th.
Mickelson's vaunted short game helped produce a birdie at the par-five 13th. His three-iron second shot wound up just right of the green and he chipped up to tap-in range to seize the lead at 13-under par.
Then Kaye, who was one-over for the day through 12 holes, got into the eagle action at the 13th when he spun his third shot with a sand wedge back into the hole to leap-frog Mickelson and move to minus-14.
Mickelson made a brilliant save at the 14th, where his drive found the left rough and his approach clipped a tree. His ball came to rest in a sandy downhill lie well short of the green but he managed to chip to within five feet to set up an important par.
At the short but tricky par-four 15th, Mickelson's tee shot with a three-wood ran through the green and down a slope behind it. Another skillful chip left him with a four-foot birdie.
He quickly went from tied for the lead at 14-under to leading outright when Kaye failed to save par from four feet at the 14th.
Mickelson tightened up the leaderboard after landing in a fairway bunker off the tee at the par-four 17th. His long shot from the sand went over the green, and he chipped to eight feet and missed the putt for a bogey five.
He made up for the poor drive at 17 with a monstrous poke of over 330 yards at the 444-yard 18th. Left with 110 yards in, Mickelson knocked his wedge approach to the rear of the green and it spun back past the edge of the cup. After successfully negotiating the remaining three feet for birdie, Mickelson headed to the putting green with his family to wait out the finish.
Kaye had chances to pick up shots down the stretch. He missed a six-foot birdie putt at the 15th and an uphill 10-footer at 16, then two-putted from long range to par the 17th.
Kaye didn't give himself much of a shot when he drove into the rough between bunkers right of the 18th fairway. Though he did very well to carry a seven- iron 195 yards to the back of the green, his putt to force extra holes never had a chance.
'I had plenty of opportunities,' said the 31-year-old Kaye, who finished second for the fourth time in his career. 'I just couldn't shake a putt in when I needed to. That was the difference.'
Love, whose year started off shaky with five missed cuts in his first 10 starts, posted his best finish of the season and his third top-five showing in the last six events.
'I'm making improvements,' Love said. 'Obviously, at the beginning of the year, I wasn't playing up to my standards. But I'm pretty happy with the state of my game.'
Full-Field Scores from The Canon Greater Hartford Open
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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.