Mickelson misses cut, blames lack of distance control

By Jason SobelJuly 5, 2013, 7:18 pm

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – Here at The Greenbrier, a sprawling 6,751-acre playground in the bucolic West Virginia foothills, golf can sometimes become an afterthought, even for those who get paid to play it for a living. A simple check of PGA Tour players' Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts this week will return results that look like a photo essay entitled, “What I Did On My Summer Vacation.”

The best description for this place -- during this week, at least -- is that it's like summer camp for professional golfers. There isn’t a competitor in the field who hasn’t enjoyed kayaking or fly fishing or clay shooting or even a little falconry at some point.

Prior to the start of this tournament, Phil Mickelson was asked about the coolness factor of what has become an increasingly well-liked tournament. He concurred with the notion, but after missing the cut in each of his first two appearances here he also added a caveat.

“I haven’t actually seen it on a weekend,” he deadpanned, “but I hear it’s even better on weekends.”

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Mickelson will have to continue taking other players’ words for it, because for the third straight year he’ll fail to see The Greenbrier on a weekend, as rounds of 74-68 left him gassing up the plane for a trip home to San Diego.

“It has been a frustrating three years for me playing like this on a golf course that I really admire and respect,” he admitted.

As Mickelson flies past an atypically dark cloud on his way out of town, he will be able to point to a few silver linings out the window.

His second-round total of 2-under 68 marked the first time in six tries that he actually broke par here on The Old White TPC, lowering his scoring average to a still-hefty 71.17 on a course that traditionally yields lower scores.

He cut his number of strokes in half on the 17th and 18th holes. That’s not an easy task, but one day after posting triple bogey on the par-5 penultimate hole and bogey on the par-4 closer, he birdied each of them, needing six fewer shots to complete those two holes.

And he figured something out about his game and this course, even though it’s taken three years for it to sink in.

“It's my distance control with my irons I haven't figured out yet,” he said after hitting 24 of 36 greens in regulation over two days. “We're a couple thousand feet, [but] we've been practicing at sea level, so obviously it's going to go longer. It's the same altitude as Phoenix but it goes a different yardage and I haven't quite figured it out. I've posed over a lot of iron shots today and they end up not just a yard or two off from where I figure, but they're 10 or 12 yards off from where I figure. I think as I look back on these last three years, that's been the biggest issue for me is distance control with the irons.”

There is no room for an explanation on the scorecard, but we can still try to pencil in a few questions. Why did it take so long for him to figure this out? How come other players aren’t similarly affected?

For his part, Mickelson was steadfast in this determination, even offering specific instances.

“I’ll give you an example that sets the tone for this week: On 16, the par 4, I hit a great drive and an iron shot that I thought was going to hit the pin coming down,” he explained. “Not only did it not hit the pin, it flew a yard from the back edge and went over the green and into the rough. It caught me off guard to fly seven yards off the number I was expecting. I just have not been able to get my distance dialed in here. The elevation change, I haven’t been able to adjust to it.”

To his credit, Mickelson has sought advice from anyone and everyone. On Wednesday, prior to the opening round, he stood in the second fairway, confounded as to his aiming points for certain pin positions. Jim Justice, the ubiquitous owner of this property, pulled up alongside him in a golf cart and the two discussed strategy for nearly 10 minutes, with Mickelson doing more listening than speaking.

“Look, I’m looking for advice from anybody, because it’s giving me problems,” he said.

As it turns out, even the man who runs this place couldn’t help Mickelson, as he bogeyed that second hole each day this week.

Next up for Mickelson is a few days of practice back home in San Diego, followed by next week’s Scottish Open, then the Open Championship. He remains optimistic about his game for the second half of this year, repeatedly maintaining that he’s playing solid golf right now.

That may be true, but he won’t be playing it this weekend. Not here, at least.

Once again, despite his wishes, Mickelson will fail to see the weekend at The Greenbrier. As he said earlier this week, he’d hoped to stick around for the first time.

“I wasn’t really thinking as a fan,” he said. “I was thinking about playing. So this isn’t what I was hoping for.”

Even so, he’ll see a few silver linings to the dark cloud outside his window on the flight home.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.