Mickelson's WD raises many questions

By Jason SobelJune 1, 2012, 1:20 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – In the hours directly after Phil Mickelson’s withdrawal from the Memorial Tournament due to “mental fatigue,” I received hundreds of emails and tweets. Just about half felt that Mickelson should be exonerated from any wrongdoing because of his two decade-long commitment to competing in PGA Tour events without having any track record of bowing out early. Meanwhile, the other half believes he should be held accountable for quitting on the performance without seeing it to fruition.

The one thing we can all agree upon: This is a hot-button issue for which there are no easy answers.

That’s because there are so many different layers to the story. Without a clear-cut, yes or no conclusion to most of the questions currently being asked, we have to explore the gray areas. Let’s break down a few of the major components to this issue:

Does Mickelson have a greater responsibility than lesser-known PGA Tour players?

Four players withdrew from the Memorial following Thursday’s opening round. Each posted a score of 79 or worse. Of the four, only Tom Gillis listed a reason (back injury) for leaving the tournament early.

Of course, Gillis and fellow WDers Sang-Moon Bae and Boo Weekley don’t sell tickets or help draw television ratings like Mickelson. And yet, holding the Hall of Fame inductee to a higher standard is to claim inequality amongst the PGA Tour ranks.

There’s no right or wrong answer here, but Mickelson never asked to be held more accountable just by winning. He never implored fans to buy tickets to see him, never insisted that they watch telecasts when he’s in contention.

That’s not to say that we can’t criticize him for withdrawing without physical injury, but if we do, we must also scrutinize every other PGA Tour pro who leaves early without a valid excuse every week – and yes, it does happen every week.

Is Mickelson being punished in the court of public opinion for his honesty?

A few weeks ago, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels hit Washington Nationals rookie phenom Bryce Harper with a pitch. When he was asked about it after the game, Hamels neglected the age-old unwritten rule about denying all culpability.

'I was trying to hit him,' the lefty said. 'I'm not going to deny it.'

Rather than play the innocent card, Hamels spoke the truth – and was widely criticized for it. Mickelson’s case is easily analogous. He could have cited a non-threatening tweak to his back or a shoulder, which in turn may have helped to explain why he shot 79. Instead, Mickelson told the truth, referencing his “mental fatigue” as the reason, leading to commotion and consternation among the masses.

Or did he? There’s scuttlebutt at Muirfield Village that Mickelson may have been mentally fatigued, but his rationale behind the decision was to send a message to the PGA Tour and this tournament about its cell phone policy, considering he appeared very distracted during the course of play on Thursday.

If that’s the case, then his punishment for being honest serves as delicious irony if he indeed wasn’t completely honest about the reason for withdrawing.

Does the PGA Tour need to rethink its cell phone policy?

In covering many tournaments in the season’s first five months, I’ve noticed that the rule in regard to cell phone use by fans remains wildly inconsistent.

Discussion: Your take on the PGA Tour's cell phone policy

There are some events in which any ticket-holder with a cell phone visibly showing anywhere near the rope line separating galleries from the action are told to put it away and threatened with revocation of their ticket; at other events, there is often little to no policing of the policy at all.

The simple fact is, with voluntary marshals attempting to protect the needs of competitors, there will never a streamlined enforcement policy to which all parties can agree. That said, there needs to be greater consistency from week to week. When it starts affecting play – as it did on Thursday – then it becomes an issue.

The easy answer is for the PGA Tour to ban all cell phones, but in today’s age, officials would risk losing many potential gallery members if cell phones were completely prohibited.

Should Mickelson be suspended or fined by the PGA Tour for withdrawing without an injury?

This one is simple: No.

According to the 2012 PGA Tour player handbook, Article IV, Section A-8 states: “Fatigue will not be considered a valid reason for withdrawing.” However, this particular rule only applies to players who withdraw after committing to a tournament and prior to beginning the opening round or those who withdraw during a tournament round.

After the completion of a tournament round, no reason for withdrawal is necessary. So based on the bylaws of the PGA Tour, he is not subject to any sort of punishment.

Which leads to…

Does the PGA Tour need a stiffer stance on its in-tournament withdrawal policy?

It happens every week. A player – or a number of players – will post an ugly number on Thursday, and then decide that instead of slogging through another 18 holes before slamming the trunk, he’ll cut his losses and head home one day early.

Sure, it would be nice for the PGA Tour to crack down on quitters, but there’s always an easy alibi in place, so it would be impossible to enforce.

Just a few weeks ago, Angel Cabrera hit three balls into the water on the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, and then later withdrew from The Players Championship due to “personal reasons.” The announcement drew laughter from the assembled media contingent, which altogether considered three water balls to be very “personal.”

At least Cabrera gave a reason – whether it was genuine or not. The same can’t be said for other players on a week-to-week basis, but the level of wrongdoing can be endlessly debated.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.