Is This Man Houdini

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.

AND....EXHALE....: Phil Mickelson rolled in a 9-foot birdie putt on the final hole to edge Tim Clark and Rod Pampling to win the Crowne Plaza Invitational. Mickelson has now won at both of Hogan's Alley's - Riviera and Colonial ' this season.
Backspin It might be a stretch to say this was Phil's wildest win ever, but not by much. And only watching the event live on TV can do it justice - Phil standing on the 18th tied for the lead; Phil going all 'Winged Foot' on everybody and blasting his tee shot waaaaay left; Phil standing practically in a forest trying to figure out if he even had a chance to advance his approach shot toward the green; Phil going into full 'Phil the Thrill' mode and hitting a near miracle shot to within 10 feet of the cup; Phil draining the birdie putt to close out the tournament in a fashion that would make Houdini proud; a Phil-fanatic going nuts with excitement jumping into the 18th's greenside pond. In just one hole, Mickelson summed up his golfing career. It was even better than those Mickelson Crowne Plaza commercials.
SEE YOU AT TORREY: Tiger Woods will not return to action until the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Woods, still rehabilitating after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, will return to action for the second major of the year after an eight-week break..
BackspinThe last time Tiger had such a layoff was two years ago when he sat out nine weeks while dealing with the death of his father Earl. Woods went on to miss the cut in a major for the first time as a professional in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. We dont mean to suggest that Tiger will miss the cut, but to play your first competitive golf in two months at a U.S. Open is going to be tough. Then again, its not like Woods hasnt surprised us before.

B-R-U-T-A-L: Jay Haas won the Senior PGA Championship by a stroke over Bernhard Langer to win the Champions Tour's first major of the season. Haas' four-round 7-over total marked one of the highest winning scores in the history of the tour.
Backspin Talk about brutal. Although the media guide will forever state Haas as the victor, it was famed Oak Hill that seemed to come out on top. The 36-hole cut line was a staggering 12 over. And by the end of the tournament not only didnt a single player come close to even breaking par, but only a handful were able to keep it to single digits over par. So hats off to Haas who - how shall we say this? - got beat up less than the rest of the field.

DOES ANYONE HAVE A LIGHTER?: Miguel Angel Jimenez emerged from a two-hole playoff with Oliver Wilson to win the BMW PGA Championship in England. It was the Spaniard's 15th career European Tour title and makes him almost a lock for this year's Ryder Cup team.
Backspin Jimenez, perhaps known better for that famous ponytail and his cigar chomping, should also be recognized as a model of consistency. Only once in the past 10 years has he not finished in the top-20 in the European Tour's Order of Merit list. And with his big win at Wentworth, he now sits atop the money list, ahead of the likes of Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson and Trevor Immelman. Enjoy that victory cigar Miguel!

FEEL THE PRESSURE: Leta Lindley birdied the first playoff hole Sunday to defeat Jeong Jang and win the Corning Classic. Lindley shot a 5-under 67 in the final round to grab her first career victory in 296 starts.
Backspin The story, however, may have been what happened to 54-hole leader Erica Blasberg, who had put herself into position to scoop up her first win, only to collapse in the final round with a 7-over 79 to finish in a tie for 37th. Blasberg, who was listed on GOLF CHANNELs show of Top 10 sexiest golfers, will now still have to fight off the style-over-substance arguments, fair or not. Maybe she can start asking Natalie Gulbis how to deal with ' and overcome ' such questions.

RULES ARE RULES?: Lorena Ochoa was fined $25,000 for not being in the field for this past week's Corning Classic in New York. The LPGA Tour has what they call the 1-in-4 rule, in which each player must compete in every event on the tour's schedule at least once every four years.
Backspin Ochoa, who last played in the Corning in 2004, was a victim of a good rule gone bad. Simply put, Ochoa became the victim because of her own incredible play and winning percentage. The world No. 1 not only has eight title defenses on her schedule this year, but the four majors and two events in Mexico as well. There are only so many places Ochoa can be throughout the year without her game suffering from burnout and fatigue.

STAGE FRIGHT: The European Tour announced last week that they will start random drug testing beginning in July. The R&A wont, however, have testing at this years British Open at Royal Birkdale.
Backspin In an era in which sports have been forced to go down this road, it is methodically starting to include the world of golf. Often trumpeted as a gentleman's game - a game where players call penalties on themselves - a not so gentlemanly pee cup will become part of the process. Almost all players have stated that they believe the sport is still squeaky clean; it is now becoming just a matter of time to see if their beliefs will be backed up by the drug testing. And one can just imagine the glare Tiger will give the guy who first hands him a cup.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Southern California won the NCAA womens golf championship, edging cross-town rival UCLA by six strokes, while Arizona States Azahara Munoz won the individual honors; Jeff Klauk birdied the 72nd hole in regulation to win the Nationwide Tour's Melwood Prince George's County Open in Maryland.
Backspin USC's victory snapped an incredible run by the Duke Lady Blue Devils, who had won three straight NCAA women's titles; Klauk, whose victory all but assures him of earning his PGA TOUR card for the 2009 season, summed up the thought succinctly, 'It's been a dream my whole life.'

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Crowne Plaza Inviational
  • Full Coverage - BMW PGA Championship
  • Full Coverage - Sr. PGA Championship
  • Full Coverage - Corning Classic
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    Watch: Fathauer dunks one off flagstick for eagle

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 17, 2018, 7:45 pm

    The NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest will take place Saturday night in Los Angeles, but Derek Fathauer kicked things off a little early with this eagle in the third round of the Genesis Open.

    Playing his second shot on the par-4 third hole at Riviera Country Club, Fathauer dunked one off the flagstick and into the hole for an eagle-2:

    The shot got the the 32-year-old, in search of his first PGA Tour victory, under par for the round and into the mix early on Moving Day.

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    Luiten in three-way tie at Oman Open

    By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 4:17 pm

    MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten showed a return to form after a mediocre 2017 as he moved into a three-way tie for the lead in the Oman Open on Saturday.

    The Dutchman shot a second straight 6-under 66 - the joint best score of the day - to move to 12-under 204. He was joined at the top by Matthew Southgate (69) and Frenchman Julien Guerrier (66) after the third round at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf Club.

    England's Chris Wood (69), another man on the comeback trail, was in fourth place at 11 under, but it could have been a lot better if not for a bogey-bogey finish. Adrian Otaegui (66) was a shot behind Wood while pre-tournament favorite, France's Alexander Levy (67), was at 9 under.

    The 90th-ranked Luiten credited some hot iron play for his success after a cracked driver set him back last year when he had just two top-10 finishes the whole season.

    Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

    ''I cracked my driver in my first tournament of the year in Abu Dhabi and it took me almost six months to get another one that I really liked. Once you are not driving the ball well, it puts pressure on other parts of your game,'' said the 32-year-old Luiten. ''My iron play did not get me into trouble at all today.''

    Southgate was quick off the block with three birdies in his first three holes. But the Englishman then made two bogeys and a double bogey in his next four holes, and a birdie on the ninth saw him make the turn at even-par.

    That forced him to think differently for the back nine and he was rewarded with three birdies.

    ''It was quite funny really,'' Southgate said. ''We birdied the ninth and I walked off and said to my caddie Gary ... 'We've just shot level par, so let's just pretend that we've made nine solid pars and that we haven't holed a putt and haven't made a birdie. Let's just start again on the 10th'.''

    The 32-year-old Guerrier started his round with a monster 48-foot birdie putt and had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys.

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    J.Y. Ko increases lead; Lydia focuses on positives

    By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 3:33 pm

    ADELAIDE, Australia - Jin Young Ko continued her domination of the Women's Australian Open, shooting a 1-under 71 Saturday to increase her lead to four strokes after three rounds.

    The South Korean, who led after each of the opening two rounds of the LPGA tournament, had a three-round total of 11-under 205 at Kooyonga Golf Club.

    Australian golfer Hannah Green moved into second place after the round of the day, a 66.

    Green, 21, is seeking to become the first Australian to claim her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014. Webb, who is playing a part-time schedule in 2018, missed the cut Friday by one stroke.

    Green birdied her first three holes on Saturday and then added two more on the eighth and ninth. Two more birdies followed on the back nine with her only dropped shot a bogey on the 17th.

    Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

    "I was very pleased with my ball striking," Green said. "I have put myself in contention so I'm very happy with how things are panning out.

    "It was a real shame about Karrie missing the cut, but I know she has got different plans."

    South Korea's Hyejin Choi (70), was tied for third, five strokes behind. Australia's top-ranked golfer Minjee Lee was tied for fifth after a 69, six off the lead.

    Former No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 71 and was eight strokes behind.

    "It's always nice to be able to start the season on a good note, and I've obviously got tomorrow," Lydia Ko said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to finish off on a high note."

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    Cantlay, McDowell, Saunders share lead at Riviera

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 17, 2018, 3:51 am

    LOS ANGELES - Tiger Woods waited 12 years to get back to Riviera and lasted only two days.

    Woods had three straight bogeys early on the back nine Friday and didn't play well enough to make up for his misses. He had a 5-over 76 and missed the cut in the Genesis Open for the first time in nine appearances as a pro.

    He was at 6-over 148, one shot worse than his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old at Riviera.

    ''I missed every tee shot left and I did not putt well, didn't feel very good on the greens,'' Woods said. ''And consequently, never made a run. I knew I had to make a run on that back nine, and I went the other way.''

    Patrick Cantlay ran off three straight birdies toward the end of his morning round, starting with a tap-in on the par-3 sixth when he missed a hole-in-one by a fraction of an inch, and shot a 69. He was tied with Graeme McDowell (66), the former U.S. Open champion who is trying to work his way back from a two-year slump.

    They were at 7-under 135.

    Sam Saunders also was at 7 under, making back-to-back birdies until it was too dark to continue. He had three holes remaining in his second round. Ryan Moore bogeyed his final hole for a 68 and was one shot behind at 136.

    Rory McIlroy overcame a few short misses on the front nine for a 69 and was at 2-under 140.

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Cantlay was coming off a three-putt bogey when his tee shot at the par-3 sixth - the hole with a bunker in the middle of the green - landed above the flag and to the right, and then rolled back down the slope just over the right edge of the cup.

    ''I actually missed a little to the right, but it's a bowl back there so as long as you get the number right, it should be pretty close,'' Cantlay said.

    He followed with a short iron into 5 feet for birdie, a 15-foot birdie on the next hole and then a wild drive that led to a bogey on his final hole.

    McDowell has gone 59 starts worldwide since his last victory and has fallen out of the top 200 in the world. He had missed four straight cuts dating to late last year, though he felt he was hitting it well in practice. What helped was seeing some good scores.

    ''All I'm missing is a couple little numbers and a little bit of confidence,'' McDowell said.

    Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a 69 and gets to stick around for the weekend. He was at 1-over 143. Bubba Watson, who won in 2014 and 2016, has fallen out of the top 200 in the world after a two-year drought. He shot a 70 and was at 4-under 138, and then headed for the NBA All-Star weekend to play in the celebrity game.