Watson stands by decision to bench Phil and Keegan

By Jason SobelSeptember 27, 2014, 8:15 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – It is right around high noon on Saturday and Phil Mickelson is preparing for a duel.

Waiting at the Gleneagles clubhouse for U.S. captain Tom Watson, he simply needs confirmation of his assumption. He just needs Watson to assure him that he’ll once again be paired with Keegan Bradley in the afternoon session, just as he was twice the day before and three times when the Ryder Cup was last contested two years ago.

Why would he think any differently? This is the 10th straight appearance in the biennial event for Mickelson and never once has he been benched for an entire day. He has already been left out of the morning session, though, an idea which Watson believed was the right call during dinner the night before.

“I sat at the table with him,” the captain would later explain. “He was exhausted.”

Exhausted because he’d competed in two matches with Bradley during the day, posting a 1-1 record while playing a total of 34 holes. At 44, Mickelson is no longer a lock to play all five sessions. In fact, two years ago, after earning three wins with his younger partner, he requested to sit out the Saturday afternoon matches.

He was always going to sit out a Saturday session this time, too, especially after playing twice on Friday. In retrospect, Watson admits now, perhaps that was a mistake. Perhaps he should have given him Friday afternoon off.


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Now, though, Mickelson is rested and ready to go. He is getting prepared to compete in the foursomes session – his preferred format, even if it doesn’t necessarily suit his skillset.

When the captain arrives, he gathers Mickelson with Bradley and fellow team member Webb Simpson. Instead of confirming their inclusion in the matches, though, he breaks the news to them.

They won’t be playing today.

“I expected exactly what Phil said to me,” Watson later recalled.

Unhappy with the decision, maybe even growing irate, he lobbies for the captain to change his mind.

"I've got a good record in the alternate-shot,” Mickelson tells him. “We can get it done, captain. We want the chance."

Watson doesn’t budge.

It takes a certain kind of captain to take such a stand against a five-time major champion and fellow Hall-of-Fame member, but Watson is exactly that kind of captain. He listens to Mickelson’s plea, hears him out. Then he answers once again.

“No.”

With that, Watson hops back into his cart to watch the four matches in the morning session. Mickelson isn’t done, though.

This time he sends a text message to the captain.

“Give us a chance,” it reads.

Watson doesn’t, though. He sticks to his plan.

When he texts Mickelson back, he tells him the same answer.

“No.”

For the remainder of the afternoon, Mickelson shuttled between the four team matches, wearing oversized gloves and alternatingly playing the roles of cheerleader and motivational speaker.

It’s a different role than he’s been so accustomed to having over the years. It must be equal parts debilitating and embarrassing, being told to watch from the sidelines while other less accomplished players compete for his country.

It must be a helpless feeling, too. Mickelson could only watch as Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar lose their match, then Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan, then Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler, until finally Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed surrender a lead on the final hole to only earn a disappointing half point.

Later, Watson is forced to explain the decision to keep Mickelson – and Bradley – from playing the entire day.

“I felt that we had the four best teams possible in the afternoon for alternate shot,” he says. “We can talk about decisions on teams all you want. The players that perform are the people that you have to talk about.”

He was then asked about it again, about the reaction from his heralded tandem to being left out.

“They were disappointed. I said, ‘I'm trying to make the best decisions possible in the afternoon with the lineup that's going to be the best for our team to win points.’ They were disappointed. They wanted to play. I like that in a player. I like the push-back that I got from them.”

Yes, Watson likes the attitude, he likes players who want the pressure on their shoulders. In this instance, though, he just didn’t like them enough to insert them into the lineup.

He’s then asked one more time about the move. He’s questioned as to whether he regrets it. To this, the captain only offers up a simple response that had become a theme throughout the day.

“No.”

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.