Injured Lefty still weighing odds of playing WMPO

By Jason SobelJanuary 29, 2014, 12:10 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – High noon under this desert sun on Tuesday showed exactly 25 professional golfers beating balls on the TPC Scottsdale range with varying levels of furiosity, another 10 working on their craft in the short game area, three dozen dutifully rolling putts on the practice green and untold others investigating the potentially tricky nooks and crannies of the golf course.

None of them was named Phil Mickelson, nor were any overly concerned about the whereabouts of one of their most popular brethren.

The defending champion was AWOL on this day and promises to be on Wednesday, too, having already withdrawn from the Waste Management Phoenix Open pro-am.

The excuse does come with a doctor’s note attached. On Friday night, after making the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, Mickelson withdrew because of a lower back injury. In the time since, he flew to Dalton, Ga., to visit with specialist Tom Boers.

Photos: Lefty's goofy looks we love

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“If it was any other tournament, I’d skip it,” Mickelson said in a released statement, “but I’m defending, it’s my second hometown and I love the event. I’ll have a light practice session and if it goes well I may try to play.”

The first part of that comment might have come affixed with an invisible asterisk to denote major championships as well, but the message remains: This one means a lot to Lefty.

He first played the title sponsor-bereft Phoenix Open as a freshman at nearby Arizona State in 1989, posting scores of 71-76 to miss the cut. Since then, he’s not only endeared himself to the raucous galleries, he’s made a career out of this tourney.

Mickelson has won here three times. He’s amassed more than $3.6 million in total earnings, making him far and away the record-holder. He’s posted 60 here. Twice.

There aren’t many PGA Tour events more closely associated with a single player, but that relationship is in jeopardy of growing this week.

All of which leaves two potential scenarios.

The first sees Mickelson – the consummate riverboat gambler on the course – playing this one conservatively. Having already voiced his goal of winning a long-elusive U.S. Open title this year, he decides to rest up and try to avoid any further damage to that lower back.

The second is intrinsically more enticing. In this scenario, he decides after a Wednesday range session at nearby Whisper Rock that he is indeed healthy enough to give it a go. Either he plays and doesn’t quite fare as well as he’d like or – in an even more palatable plotline – he picks up where he left off with last year’s wire-to-wire victory, battling against the odds to the delight of the galleries.

“I’m itching to play,” he said, “but I have to look at the big picture. I have a number of tournaments I want to play and play well this year, including the majors, so I have to be realistic about how I feel in the short term.” 

It’s a smart play from a guy who’s made a career out of being a risk taker. That won’t stop the fans here in his so-called “second hometown” from rooting for the latter scenario.

A year ago this week, Mickelson gave them plenty to cheer about, opening with a round that came within the edge of the final cup from being a 59, then lofting a tee shot to within inches on the boisterous 16th hole during Saturday’s third round.

But a big week this time would afford a different type of celebration. Everyone loves a comeback story and, around these parts, everyone loves Phil.

Hey, it could happen. But for now, in the days leading up to this year’s edition of the tournament, the game’s consummate gambler is still weighing the odds.


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Watch: Tiger's Saturday birdies at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 8:07 pm

Tiger Woods looks in complete control of his iron play at PGA National.

Four back to start the day, Woods parred his first seven holes before pouring in his first Saturday birdie with via this flagged iron from 139 at the par-4 eighth:

Woods' hit three more quality approaches at 9, 10 and 11 but couldn't get a putt to drop.

The lid finally came off the hole at No. 12 when he holed a key 17-footer for par to keep his scorecard clean.

One hole later, Woods would added a second circle to that card, converting this 14-footer for a birdie-3 that moved him back into red figures at 1 under par for the week.

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O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 5:13 pm

DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.

The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.

David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.

Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.

Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.

Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.

''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''

Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.

But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.

''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.

The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 24, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 4:32 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.

Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.

In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.

Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.

The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.

“It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”

Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.

ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.

“There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”

ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.

“It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”