What We Learned: Waste Management Phoenix Open

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 4, 2013, 12:08 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. This week, our writers weigh in on Phil Mickelson's wire-to-wire win in Phoenix and Vijay Singh's use of deer-antler spray.

I’ve been coming to the Waste Management Phoenix Open for the past six years and I always spend a decent amount of time at the famous 16th hole. I love the scene. From fans serenading players on the tee box to players handing out swag to the caddie races, it’s a fun atmosphere for one hole during one week each year. But it’s teetering on the brink. There’s a fine line between boisterous and unruly, and the festivities at 16 crossed that line at times. When the final group played the hole on Saturday, Keegan Bradley was nearly pelted by a flying banana and Phil Mickelson – yes, the same Phil Mickelson who is the crowd favorite and had just nearly made a hole-in-one – had a cup of ice hurled at him. There are rumors that Tiger Woods stopped coming to this event years ago after a similar incident and if these types of things continue, you can bet the list of elite players coming back will start dwindling. The problem is, there’s no way to police it without scaling back the full environment. The hole has become such a party that a few fans can spoil it for everyone – and it will be spoiled even further if actions such as these prevent some of the top players from returning to this tournament year after year. – Jason Sobel

Tiger may still be a TV exec’s best friend, and Rory may be tomorrow’s transcendent star, but there remains no better showman in golf than Phoenix Open winner Phil Mickelson. In a mere 96 hours in the Arizona desert, Lefty nearly shot 59, kissed his new driver, double-bogeyed the last hole to miss smashing a Tour record and came within 16 inches of making a hole-in-one on the most raucous hole on the Tour schedule, on a day that drew the biggest crowd in golf history. Along the way, he flashed more goofy grins and gave more thumbs-up than a slick-haired politician. Phil may be maddeningly inconsistent, but there is no debating that our sport is better when he excels. – Ryan Lavner

That something as comically clichéd as deer-antler spray would usher into golf the era of doping. With apologies to Doug Barron, the only player to ever be suspended for violating the PGA Tour’s anti-doping policy for taking testosterone and beta blockers that were prescribed by his doctors, it’s hard to imagine the forty-something was seeking a competitive advantage. Although it’s still dangerously early in the process for Vijay Singh, his use of the Ultimate Spray seems every bit an attempt at performance enhancement. – Rex Hoggard

Phil Mickelson isn't ready to get out of Rory McIlroy's way as the most compelling foil to Tiger Woods.

A week after Woods wins at Torrey Pines, Mickelson answers with a victory at TPC Scottsdale. It's an exciting development with the Masters just nine weeks away. Woods and Mickelson know how to win at Augusta National better than anyone playing today and this bodes well for folks who want to see a showdown there in April. If Woods is ready to win his 15th major, Mickelson looks ready to deny him. Can we speed up the clock? – Randall Mell

While a lot of talk this week has focused on Phil Mickelson’s impeccable driving with a new Callaway club in the bag, I was more impressed with Lefty’s mastery of the shortest holes at TPC Scottsdale.

Starting his week with birdies on each of the four par-3 holes Thursday en route to a sizzling round of 60, Mickelson ended up playing the par-3s this week in 9 under. When Brandt Snedeker began to put some heat on him early in Sunday’s final round, Lefty used a pair of well-timed birdies on each of the front-nine par-3s to pad his advantage and keep the rest of the field at arm’s length. His ability to make the occasional 60-footer through the fringe as he did today at No. 7 was remarkable, but my takeaway will be that most of his par-3 birdies came from iron shots that barely left the flag, as his proximity to hole stats were unrivaled all week. With the calendar turning to February and The Masters appearing ever-closer on the horizon, this week made me quickly remember that when Mickelson’s game is in a groove tee-to-green, few can keep pace –  let alone beat him. – Will Gray

Getty Images

Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

Getty Images

Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.