Mickelson still has hunger to play great golf

By Jason SobelFebruary 2, 2012, 12:53 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Phil Mickelson would like you to know that he isn’t done yet. Isn’t done competing, isn’t done winning and isn’t done being motivated for both.

Despite what the rumors may claim.

In today’s need-it-now, 140-character, McNugget-eating, McMansion-building, mile-a-minute society, conclusions often come quicker than facts. No point in waiting on a result when an opinion can be formed in the time it takes to microwave dinner.

Golf is hardly immune to such knee-jerk reactions. Exhibit A: Tiger Woods. In the past two years, he’s been both “BACK!” and “DONE!” not with every tournament or even every round, but in so many cases, on a shot-by-shot basis.

In an ironic twist of events, Mickelson can feel his pain.

One round through his season-opening appearance at the Humana Challenge, the mercurial left hander had saddled himself with a 2-over 74 that included two bogeys, a double and a triple. Suddenly his inspiration was being questioned. With his World Golf Hall of Fame induction coming this May and with 39 career PGA Tour victories and four major championships already to his credit, it could be surmised that Mickelson is not only done playing his best golf but is done wanting to play his best golf.

Hold that thought.

He followed with scores of 69-66-69 the next three rounds and though he didn’t contend, he easily made the three-round cut.

Fast forward a few days and again Mickelson’s motivation was again being examined after an opening-round 77 at Torrey Pines’ South Course that led to a missed cut at an event he has won three previous times.

His explanation? “I don't know what happened last week,” he said. “I'm going to put it as something I'm going to shrug off because I know that my practice sessions have been really good.”

Mickelson maintained that his motivation remains as high as ever.

“I love to compete. I'm excited about this year. I'm ready to play,” he said prior to competing in this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open. “Bringing it from the practice session and bringing it out on the golf course, that's my challenge right now, because I was able to … get my putting where I want it. My putting feels terrific. I felt it was the last physical part of my game that needed some work, and it feels great. Now I've just got to get it from the practice tee to the golf course.”

Ever the optimist, Lefty said Wednesday that he’s looking at this week’s festivities – and yes, the WMPO must always be described as “festivities” – as the start to his season, and he will try to forget that those first two weeks ever happened.

It would be a daunting proposition for most other players, but such has become the norm for Mickelson, who can go from MC to W and back to MC like nobody in recent memory.

While playing successful golf may still be at the forefront of his career goals, there’s no question Mickelson has growing interests in other aspects of the game. Following last week’s event at Torrey Pines, he offered to redesign the North Course for no fee, only wanting to “fix” the layout out of the goodness of his heart.

“Well, I tried to underbid everybody. That was the goal,” he said with a laugh. “It has been a dream of mine to turn that golf course into what I know it can be. We will spend countless hours making sure that that course is right because the first goal is to make it playable. It's got to be playable for everybody.

“I'm excited about this opportunity because it's the most beautiful canvas out there, and it has not been utilized properly, and I feel like after playing for so many decades and looking at these courses and appreciating all their beauty, to try to take that and integrate it into a course that I love is a fun opportunity.”

When asked whether such pursuits as course design and other business related to the industry could affect life inside the ropes, Mickelson deferred.

“It certainly can if you let it, but that's why I have to isolate it,” he explained. “That's why this is a perfect fit. It's in San Diego when I am home. I always take a week off after I play for a few weeks, so it's a perfect opportunity for me to go spend time after I drop the kids off at school, go spend a few hours on the golf course 15 minutes away.”

Even if his playing career is far from over, it appears Mickelson is already starting to set himself up for life after tournament golf – much like so many other Hall of Famers have done before him.

Early Wednesday morning, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem met with Mickelson on the practice range at TPC-Scottsdale and implored him to not think about the Champions Tour “until he’s 55 or 56 years old.” The commish may have a pie-in-the-sky outlook if he believes the player will be competing on a weekly basis for the next decade-and-a-half, but he also realizes that life after Phil will never be life devoid of Phil.

“The sky is the limit for Phil. He can do whatever he wants,” Finchem said. “I would hope that his playing career has a long way to go, but beyond that, I think he’s a smart guy, he’s so personable, he’s got a good business mind – I think he can be invaluable in a lot of different ways. He can design golf courses, he can work with the charity interface, he’s a good spokesperson. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone better with sponsor customers than Phil Mickelson.”

He claims he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. There’s no reason to extrapolate – even in our need-it-now times – two sub-par performances into a lack of motivation, desire or talent. Mickelson will have another chance to prove the doubters wrong this week. And if it doesn’t happen here, then he’s got the next week and the week after that, too.

Sure, he may be setting himself up for life after competition, but that doesn’t mean such a time is impending – and according to him, it’s certainly not here right now.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.