Fun and Games for Mickelson

By Jay CoffinJune 19, 2010, 6:44 am

2010 U.S. OpenPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – It’s likely that in the 110-year history of the U.S. Open, no player has ever said they didn’t want this championship to end. But there was Phil Mickelson, after the second round, saying that he had fun and wished that Round 3 would get here sooner.

This is the toughest test in golf. It’s the game’s most mentally and physically demanding challenge. Yet, Mickelson played the second round here at Pebble Beach like he was beating the brains out of his little brother in his Torrey Pines backyard some 25 years ago.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is seeking his fifth major title. (Getty Images)
In just two short hours, Mickelson injected life into an Open that was in desperate need of a pick-me-up. Afterall, this is Pebble Beach, a place where only legends of the game prevail. And with no disrespect meant to first-round leaders Brendon de Jonge, Shaun Micheel and Paul Casey their resumes don’t quite fit the bill of men named Nicklaus, Watson, Kite and Woods.

Mickelson was un-Lefty-like during a first-round 75 where he putted terribly and made no birdies. But Friday, he made five birdies in the first eight holes (Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8) and cruised to a 5-under 66, the lowest score of the championship by two shots. Mickelson is tied for second place with Ernie Els, Dustin Johnson and Ryo Ishikawa, who all are two shots behind Graeme McDowell.

“It’s the best I’ve ever seen him play,” said Padraig Harrington, who shot consecutive 73s playing alongside Mickelson and a struggling Y.E. Yang. “He had the ball under a whole lot of control out there. It was the easiest 66 you’ll ever see.”

After the first round, Mickelson swore he was hitting it well enough to win and that he just needed to chat with his putting guru Dave Stockton to help get the flatstick back into a groove. They spent time talking about setup and it helped get the ball started on the correct line better.

“I knew I had been putting well,” Mickelson said. “It was just a minor tweak here or there that was going to make the difference.”

Did it ever? Although Mickelson said he was pleased with his round, the reality is that it could’ve been considerably lower. He missed a birdie attempt from 8 feet on the 13th hole and missed a 10-footer for birdie on the par-5 14th hole. But, the key to the round was that, other than a ragged bogey on the ninth hole, Mickelson never struggled to make par. For one day it was Mickelson, not Els, who was the Big Easy.

“I felt like I wasn’t overstressing the entire round trying to hit miraculous shots,” he said.

Instead, Mickelson was making everyone else in the field stress about his presence on the leaderboard, much the way most have done while watching Tiger Woods in the past. Sure, we’re only halfway home to the Halfway Slam, but we’re 36 holes away from what would be Mickelson’s finest moment. He’s had plenty, but after five second-place finishes here he has a chance to win his beloved U.S. Open, ascend to the top of the World Ranking and head to St. Andrews for a British Open where talk of a Grand Slam would be in full bloom at a place where Woods has dominated.

But Mickelson knows as well as anyone not to get ahead of himself. That’s why wife Amy and their three children were scheduled to arrive at Pebble Beach late Friday evening. Since Mickelson has such a late tee time Saturday, plans called for a family breakfast and a few games of chess, a similar schedule to that of Saturday at Augusta two short months ago.

The elements aren’t going to get any easier. There are several formidable foes in contention, namely Els, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year who has won this championship twice before but not since 1997. And the golf course is expected to become a typical U.S. Open weekend where the greens will get firmer and the hole locations will get tougher.

But the man who owns four major championships doesn’t seem fazed a bit. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

“I think this is the greatest place for a golfer to hold an Open, to be able play one of the most beautiful golf courses and have it be in U.S. Open conditions,” Mickelson gushed. “This is so much fun and I don’t want the weekend to end.”

Fun. There’s that word again.


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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.