Mickelson's rounds of 60-65 leave room for improvement

By Jason SobelFebruary 2, 2013, 2:17 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The game of golf has been contested ever since shepherds started swatting makeshift balls around the fields of Scotland some 500 years ago. So anytime someone maintains something has never happened before, listen with a healthy dose of skepticism.

With that in mind, the following tale may have never happened before.

On Thursday, after Phil Mickelson watched his birdie attempt for a 59 agonizingly horseshoe around the final hole and stay dramatically out, he said he was “disappointed” with posting an 11-under 60.

One day later, after taking a six-stroke lead into the final hole only to post a disheartening double bogey for 65, Mickelson once again said he was “disappointed” with the finish.

And so what we’re left with is perhaps something that has never happened dating back to those Scottish shepherds: the first two-round score of 60-65 that was considered “disappointing.”


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Of course, it’s not exactly like Mickelson is hanging his head in shame right now. He leads the Waste Management Phoenix Open by four strokes and his two-round total of 125 is just one shot shy of the all-time 36-hole PGA Tour scoring record.

In fact, leave it to Lefty – an eternal optimist at heart – to find the silver lining in a pair of rounds that didn’t finish the way he would have liked.

“You know what happens: You always remember kind of the last hole, the last putt, what have you,” he explained. “But I think it's very possible that's going to help me, because it's got me refocused, that I cannot ease up on a single shot. I've got to be really focused. These guys are going to make a lot of birdies and I've got to get after it and cannot make those kinds of mistakes. Hopefully it'll help me refocus for tomorrow's round and come out and shoot something low.”

Even with the close calls, he’s been low enough so far this week. Mickelson played flawless golf through 35 holes until that final-hole double bogey knocked him from 19 under to only 17 under going into Saturday’s third round.

He’ll be playing alongside Bill Haas and Keegan Bradley in that round – a reuniting of last year’s three-man playoff at the Northern Trust Open.

“We're going to have a fun day tomorrow,” Mickelson said. “We enjoy playing with each other, we play a lot of practice rounds, and we're going to have a fun day, and [all] of us are going to be trying to make birdies and pushing each other along.”

“Obviously Phil is playing very well,” said Haas, who is in second place after rounds of 65-64. “We would need him to do that on 18, and we need him to do more stuff like that for us to catch him. I don't think it's that big of a speed bump for him. He'll make a lot of birdies.”

Competing in this event for the 24th time, nobody knows this place better than Mickelson.

In turn, nobody knows better that relaxing after a couple of low rounds is a recipe for disaster over the weekend.

“I didn't finish the way I wanted to,” he explained. “But I think it's a good example of what can happen on this course. You can make a lot of birdies and eagles, make up a lot of ground, but there's a lot of water and trouble there that if you misstep you can easily make bogeys and double.

“It'll be an interesting weekend, because I think it's going to be kind of a shootout where a lot of guys will be making runs, and it'll be up to me and the other guys in the last group to get going.”

It’s already been an interesting first two days for Mickelson, probably the first two-day score of 125 that could ever be considered “disappointing.” It sounds ridiculous, sure, but so do rounds of, say, 57-62, which could have been possible with a few breaks in the right way.

Instead, he will settle for a four-shot lead and a chance at winning his first PGA Tour title in 51 weeks. And no, there’s nothing disappointing about that.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.