Press Pass Phil Firestorm Holes in One

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 2, 2007, 4:00 pm
Press PassEach week, GOLF CHANNEL experts and analysts offer their thoughts and opinions on hot topics in the world of golf with the Press Pass.
Hot Topic
Should Phil Mickelson, who missed his Wednesday pro-am, have been able to compete in last weeks EDS Byron Nelson Championship?
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Columnist,
A lot of people think he shouldn't have. Certain players think others get preferential treatment. In this case, I'll take Phil and the PGA TOUR at their word.
Kraig Kann Kraig Kann- Reporter, GOLF CHANNEL:
Yes. When weather circumstances like they faced (heavy storms and tornadoes) get in the way leaving no chance to fly in, I have no problem with it. Couldnt they have given Mickelson an afternoon tee-time in the pro-am on Wednesday? Players werent happy ' citing star treatment. Perhaps one free pass per year would be in order.
Mark Rolfing Mark Rolfing - Analyst, GOLF CHANNEL:
Yes, absolutely yes! There were extenuating circumstances because of weather issues. Even commissioner Tim Finchem could not arrive because of this problem.
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer,
No. I understand why the PGA TOUR let him play, but given how strict they have been with other players - and they have been very, very strict - they should have held Mickelson to the same standard. What they need to do is relax the rule a little, allowing players at least one excused absence a year. Plus, given that Mickelson was traveling in a private jet, he could have made it on time if he really wanted.
Hot Topic
With Tigers old coach, will Mickelson ever be able to pass Woods for No. 1 in the world?
It's a long shot. Phil will get better under Butch. But, as Phil says, it's Tiger's world and he's just living in it. Only way Phil gets to No. 1 is if Tiger gets injured or takes an extended leave from competitive golf.
Theres a chance. But Phil will need some serious help. Not just from Butch Harmon, but from Tiger Woods. Mickelson is the most talented player outside of Tiger ... now we see if a change in coaching philosophy can get more out of him.
No. Tiger is too far ahead of Phil and too many venues fit Tigers game better than Phils.
Looking at the current top 10 in the world, Mickelson is probably the only player capable of doing it, but, all in all, I'd say he will not. It's hard to imagine anyone overtaking Tiger unless he decides to make a swing change. Even as well as Vijay played a few years ago, he would not have passed Woods if he hadn't undergone a swing overhaul.
Hot Topic
This weeks Wachovia Championship is contested at well-liked Quail Hollow. What is the best regular tournament course on the PGA TOUR?
TPC Sawgrass is No. 1, hands down. Quail Hollow, Muirfield Village and Cog Hill No. 4 are way up there. The Copperhead course (PODS) is a real sleeper. Pebble Beach also belongs on any list as does Riviera.
In my opinion it is Muirfield Village. Looks great on television, always manicured beyond perfect. There will be plenty of votes for Riviera or Pebble Beach. I like Muirfield.
Pebble Beach.
Of the ones that I have been to, I would go with Muirfield Village. The course just always looks pristine. You can't beat the visuals at Pebble or Kapalua, but Muirfield always impresses with the course itself.
Hot Topic
A lady in Arizona is said to have made eight holes in one in the last 14 weeks. What is your most memorable hole-in-one moment?
True story. I was working, just out of college, at a golf course in Illinois. Was standing behind the 13th green of a long par-3, when I saw a man and his wife approach the tee. The man promptly aced the hole. But he and his wife immediately began arguing. He didn't think the ball had gone in the hole. She did. The bickering continued all the way up to the green. When he finally pulled the ball out of the cup, he was greeted with a loud, 'I told you so,' from his wife. He marched off in stony silence to the next tee. Somehow, I don't think they'd been having a very good time the first 12 holes.
Ive only had one: 166 yards with a breeze at Dorals White (Greg Norman designed) Course. Hit a 6-iron two bounces and in. Couldnt believe it. Neither could Brian Hewitt. The rest of the round was forgettable, and I had no time to buy drinks. We had a 'Post Game' show to do that afternoon at the old Ford Championship, which was won by Craig Parry.
My most memorable hole in one was my first at the third at the Bay Course at Kapalua. But Ive never seen one like Fred Couples' at the 17th hole at THE PLAYERS. He hit the ball in the water then re-teed it and made a hole in one.
I've never made one and I blame my father. He has made in the neighborhood of 20, which means the odds are against anyone else in the rest of the Baggs family of ever making one. I did, however, have the greatest near hole-in-one of all time. Playing with my brother a few years ago, I stepped on the tee box with a 7-iron and guaranteed an ace. Guaranteed it. I struck it perfectly, posed for all the imaginary cameras, and watched as the ball took one bounce, hit the flagstick and came to rest inches from the hole. It would have gone in -- if not for my father.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Wachovia Championship
  • Full Coverage - EDS Byron Nelson Championship
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    G-Mac has Ryder Cup on mind with Genesis in grasp

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 2:12 am

    LOS ANGELES – Graeme McDowell is four years removed from his last start in a Ryder Cup and golf is more than seven months away from this year’s matches, but then it’s never too early to start daydreaming.

    Following a third-round 70 that left him tied for third place and just two strokes off the lead at the Genesis Open, McDowell was asked if the matches are on his mind.

    “I feel like I've got a lot of things to do between now and getting on that team,” he said. “Standing here right now it's probably not a realistic goal, but if I continue to play the way I'm playing for the next few months, it may start to become a realistic goal.”

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    McDowell began his week at Riviera Country Club fresh off four consecutive missed cuts and has drifted to 219th in the Official World Golf Ranking. But his play this week has been encouraging and the Northern Irishman has always relished the opportunity to play for Europe.

    “Deep down I know I'm good enough, but I've got to show, I've got to put some results on the board, I've got to take care of my business,” he said. “The greatest experience of my career bar none, and I would love to play another couple Ryder Cup matches before it's all said and done.”

    McDowell does have a potential advantage this year having won the French Open twice at Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches.

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    Bubba on McGrady block: 'Just trying not to get hurt'

    By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2018, 1:56 am

    LOS ANGELES – A detour to the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game didn’t keep Bubba Watson from leading this week’s Genesis Open, although an on-court brush with Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady nearly derailed his chances for a third tournament win.

    Watson enters the final round at Riviera with a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay after firing a 6-under 65 in the third round. The day before, the southpaw left the course around lunch time and headed across town to participate in the All-Star festivities, where during the celebrity game he tried to score 1-on-1 over McGrady.

    Watson’s move into the lane went about as well as you’d expect given their five-inch height disparity, with McGrady easily blocking the ball into the stands. According to Watson, he had only one thought as McGrady came barreling towards him across the lane.

    “When I saw him, all I saw was, ‘This is my moment to get hurt,’” Watson said. “This big tank is about to hit me, and I was like, ‘Just knock it into the stands. Just don’t touch me.’ So it worked out, he didn’t touch me so it was good.”

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Watson’s attempt went against his wife Angie’s advice to avoid the paint area, but it provided a fun moment for a player used to carving up fairways and greens – not to mention the guy who played 15 seasons in the NBA.

    “Well, he’s got like just under 800 blocks for his career, so I gave him one more, you know?” Watson said. “It was just, it was a blast. I wanted to see how good he was, see if he could miss it. He hasn’t played in a while.”

    Watson took some heat on Twitter from his PGA Tour peers for the rejection, but few were still laughing as he rocketed up the leaderboard Saturday with five birdies and an eagle. Now he has a chance to win this event for the third time since 2014 – even if he doesn’t plan to go toe-to-toe with McGrady again anytime soon.

    “Some guys wanted to try to win MVP, so I was trying to pass it and let them have their fun and their moment,” Watson said. “I was just trying not to get hurt.”

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    Spieth on third-round 69: 'Putter saved me'

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:37 am

    LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth has spent the last few weeks talking about his putting for all the wrong reasons.

    Two weeks ago when he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open he lost 3.76 shots to the field in strokes-gained putting, and last week he wasn’t much better.

    It looked like more of the same at the Genesis Open when he lost about a half stroke to the field on Day 1 with 29 putts, but since then his fortunes on the greens have gotten progressively better.

    “I thought each day last week I progressed,” said Spieth, who needed just 24 putts on Friday and moved into a tie for 20th after taking 26 putts on Day 3.

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Spieth said he started to feel things turn around at Pebble Beach after working with his swing coach Cameron McCormick and Steve Stricker, who has become something of a putting sounding board for players on Tour.

    “I got set up really nice. I got really comfortable on the greens even though they were very difficult to putt last week and this week,” said Spieth, who rolled in a birdie putt of 14 feet at No. 12 and a par putt of 35 feet at No. 14. “Any putt, I either made it or I left it just short today. It was one of those days that with the way I struck the ball, it was an off day, but that putter saved me and allowed me to shoot the lowest score so far this week.”

    Spieth’s third-round 69 is his best of the week and moved him to within seven strokes of the lead, which is held by Bubba Watson.

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    Bouncing back: Watson seeks a third Riviera win

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:25 am

    LOS ANGELES – Yeah, but can Tracy McGrady smoke a 7-iron from 203 yards to kick-in range for eagle on Riviera Country Club’s opening hole?

    The way Bubba Watson’s mind drifts there’s no telling if, as he began his day at the Genesis Open, he revisited his play from Friday night at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. If he did, it would have been an apropos conclusion after McGrady sent his weak floater into the cheap seats midway through the second quarter.

    Either way, Watson made it clear playtime was over on Saturday. The eagle at the opening par 4 ½ sent Watson on his way to a third-round 65 and the outright lead at the Left Coast event that’s starting to feel like a second home for the lefthander.

    In 11 starts at Riviera, Watson already has two victories. A third on Sunday could get folks talking about renaming the layout Bubba’s Alley. Or not.

    What is certain is that Watson has emerged from a funk that sent him tumbling outside the top 100 in the world ranking and he’s done it in quintessential Bubba style.

    If Friday’s detour to the celebrity game received worldwide attention it was only a snapshot of Watson’s Tinseltown itinerary. He taped a segment for Jay Leno’s Garage show, visited with Ellen DeGeneres and watched a taping of The Big Bang Theory. You know, L.A. stuff.

    Oh, and he’s curved and carved his way around Riviera with signature abandon.

    “You've got to hit shots from every different angle, you've got to move it right to left and left to right, so it's just fun,” said Watson, who also led by one stroke when he won here in 2016, his last victory on the PGA Tour. “Then the greens are the equalizer so it makes me look like I putt as good as the other guys.”

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    He “hammered” a 7-iron from 203 yards at the first to 1 ½ feet for his opening eagle, chipped in at the sixth to begin a run of four birdies in five holes and played the three par 5s in 3 under to move into a familiar spot after enduring his worst season on Tour in 2017 when he failed to advance past the second playoff event.

    That he’s turned the tide in Los Angeles is as predictable as it is peculiar. Despite Watson’s record at the Genesis Open, Riviera wouldn’t seem to be the tonic for all that ails Bubba.

    Ask a player - any player will do - the keys to playing Riviera and the answers range wildly from it being a bomber’s course to the need for ball-striking precision. But the word that comes up with regularity is "patience."

    “Patience and pretty much just not being stupid, to be honest,” Justin Thomas said when asked the key to his third-round 67 that left him tied for eighth place. “Just stop trying to hit at pins with 5-irons and 6-irons, and when I hit in the rough, realize just try to make a par. When I get in places, when I'm out of position, realize that sometimes even bogey is what I need to make.”

    While that thought dovetails with conventional wisdom, Watson’s not exactly known for his patience.

    “Oh, for sure I do. Haven't you seen me in the last 12 years?” Watson laughed when asked if he had patience on the course. “The tougher the golf course, the more focus I have. The tougher the shot, I've been able to focus better. When I get my mind on something, I can focus and do pretty well at the game of golf.”

    While Bubba drifts between artist and antagonist with ease, both on and off the golf course, his primary challenge on Sunday is the picture of thoughtful composure.

    Patrick Cantlay, who returned to the Tour last season after struggling with back issues for years, began the third round with a share of the lead but quickly faded on the front nine. He rallied on the closing loop with birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 18, where he capped his day with a 54-footer that assured him a spot in Sunday’s final threesome. Although he’s just 25 and playing his first full season on Tour, Cantlay’s approach to the game is patently different from Watson’s.

    “I feel like if I can just engage and not worry about where I am on a particular hole or what's going on and I just engage and stay present in whatever I'm doing at that particular time, it all turns out better than what you would expect,” explained Cantlay, who attended nearby UCLA and played dozens of practice rounds at Riviera. “Making sure you stay present and having that confidence in yourself that if you just click in and focus, it all will be good and that's kind of the head space I'm in.”

    It will be a clash of wildly contrasting styles on Sunday – Watson, who admitted he “(doesn’t) focus very well,” and Cantlay, whose approach to the mental side of the game borders on the clinical.

    One player relishes the challenge of hyper-focus, the other is Bubba, but that’s not to say Watson is void of patience, only that he needs to be properly motivated.

    “Like last night when Tracy McGrady was coming at me, I was focused on not getting hurt and I didn't, so it worked out,” Watson smiled.

    And besides, T-Mac can’t bomb it like Bubba.