New Yorkers Know Its Phil Time

By Golf Channel NewsroomJune 13, 2006, 4:00 pm
U.S. OpenMAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Theyre tough as nails, they like grit more than polish and they pull for players who grind it out and can take whatever the back pages of the tabloids throw at them.
Hes marshmallow soft, all smiles and shrugs, and lives a life of leisure with his picture-perfect family on the Left Coast.
New Yorkers and Phil Mickelson: Common sense says they shouldnt love each other, but for some reason, they do. And never more so than when the U.S. Open, which happens to coincide each year with Mickelsons birthday, comes back to the Big Apple.
They sang Happy Birthday to him at Bethpage. They chanted his name at Shinnecock. This year, the course is Winged Foot, just a quick train ride from Manhattan. The lovefest begins Thursday.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is a fan favorite no matter where he tees it up.
How to explain this strange dichotomy'the warm-and-fuzzy teddy bear being embraced in the birthplace of the Bronx Cheer? There are, it seems, as many theories as there are FOPs'Fans of Phil.
Hes an average guy, said John Mulvaney of Washington Township, N.J., who spent some time Tuesday watching Phils nine holes of practice. He gambles. He hangs out. Hes a good guy, a cool guy. For a while there, he always choked. Hes just a good guy to root for.
Some of his biggest chok... um, disappointments came in two U.S. Opens held outside the city. Who can forget the scene at Bethpage in 2002 when Phil, schvitzing in the hot, humid weather and looking particularly doughy and out of shape, missed an excruciating 8-footer on 16 to end his run at Tiger Woods?
He was the peoples choice that day, even though he finished second for the second time at the U.S. Open and fell to 0-for-40 in the majors.
I have never seen a crowd behind a player the way they were today with Phil, Mickelsons playing partner, Jeff Maggert, said that day.
Mickelson promised to get in better shape after that one, acknowledging that fitness could have played a factor in his inability to break through under brutal conditions. Since then, he has firmed things up a bit and, more importantly, figured out a way to win in the biggest tournaments.
But still not at the U.S. Open.
So, it wasnt surprising that when he charged into the lead, only to come in an excruciating second to Retief Goosen at Shinnecock in 2004, he was every bit the peoples choice.
Its very flattering, he said that day, after losing the tournament with a three-putt from 5 feet on the 17th hole. I dont know what to say. People have been terrific to me and my family.
Another theory for why the act plays so well in and around Manhattan: He is not Tiger Woods.
He responds to questions the way he feels, said Gavin Blainey, a salesman at a golf shop in midtown Manhattan. I think people here pick up on the fact that Phil comes off as real. With Tiger, it seems more robotic. Its like the answers he gives today are the same as the ones he gave five years ago.
This week, though, it is Tiger who comes to Winged Foot as the more sympathetic of the two characters. How often can that be said?
During an engaging, 40-minute news conference Tuesday, it was Woods who let the people in, talking about the effect of the nine-week layoff necessitated by the recent death of his father, Earl, and how difficult it has been to return to his sport.
I had no desire to play the game of golf, Woods conceded.
Mickelson, meanwhile, spent most of his news conference, held right after Woods left the room, discussing which driver'or drivers'he would put in his bag. Hes the winner of two straight majors, no longer quite as sad-sack as he used to be.
Mickelson has never been able to really explain his peculiar bond with New Yorkers. One thing he does know'no matter how chubby he looked or how badly he wilted, he cant remember being razzed at a major in New York.
A lot of times when youre playing, you dont hear it, he said. Even though they might be yelling it, you dont hear it because your mind might be somewhere else. I think its important, whether its positive feedback or negative feedback, you have to let it go in one ear and out the other and enjoy the moment and enjoy the atmosphere of it.
When Mickelson is on the course in New York, the atmosphere is always electric, even if it doesnt quite make sense.
This is, after all, a city that loved Joe Namath for his glitz and his guarantee, Willis Reed for hobbling out there on one leg, Derek Jeter for always coming through in the clutch and leading the Yankees back to greatness.
And then, theres Phil.
Hes always been a good guy, he always does the right thing, he does a lot of charity work, hes always smiling, said Gary Lishnoff of Norwalk, Conn. Hes got the great-looking family. People like that no matter where they come from. And all those years without winning a major helped, too.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.