Tiger, Phil playing mind games with themselves

By John FeinsteinJuly 23, 2014, 1:48 pm

There has never been a great athlete in any sport who wasn’t masterful at deception – specifically self-deception. Through the years, myriad clichés have evolved in different sports. Pitchers have great stuff, but their command is off. Batters are hitting the ball on the button but right at people. Quarterbacks are throwing the ball well but are having a little problem going vertical. Shooters in basketball aren’t getting enough good looks.

The golf clichés are similar: I’m hitting it as well as I’ve ever hit it, I’m just not making any putts. I’m putting well – the ball’s just not going in the hole. And the popular: It’s right there, I’m just a little bit off.

Of course, in the case of truly great players, the clichés are often true. To go out right now and bet your house that neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson will win the PGA Championship next month would be insane.

Why? Because one is, at worst, the second-best player in history and the other is almost certainly in the top 15 – or possibly better. You never write off the truly elite athlete. Even playing at 20 pounds overweight for the Washington Wizards, Michael Jordan was still a legitimate NBA All-Star. He wasn’t close to being Michael Jordan but he was still a very good basketball player.

All of that being said, it was hard to know whether to laugh or cry when listening to Woods and Mickelson last week during the British Open.

Woods sounded more like a guy preparing to run the 100-meter dash at the Olympics than a golfer: “I’m stronger, faster, more explosive.” Heck, he even came out of the starting blocks well with his 69 on Thursday. But golf’s not a sprint and the most gentle part of the game (putting) has been Woods’s biggest downfall, especially in majors, in recent years. But then, almost predictably, came rounds of 77, 73 and 75 and Woods’ worst four-round finish ever in a major (69th place).

Let’s remember that prior to the tournament, Woods said his expectation was, “to finish first,” because that’s always his expectation. As late as Friday evening he was reminding people that Paul Lawrie came from 10-shots back at Carnoustie on Sunday in 1999 to win.

That’s true. But Rory McIlroy isn’t Jean Van de Velde and Tiger Woods, at least at the moment, isn’t Tiger Woods. This time he wasn’t even 64-year-old Tom Watson.

All of which is to be expected when you’ve only played six rounds of competitive golf since early March and undergone back surgery. But the notion, which Woods even put forth at Congressional after missing the cut by four shots, that he was just a little bit off here and there is ludicrous. Tiger Woods finishing 23 shots behind the winner is not that far off? Seriously?

In some ways, Mickelson sounded more delusional. For weeks, even months, he has been insisting that he’s “right there.” Every week he’s hitting the ball the best he’s hit it all year. If that’s the case, he should be shooting 59 almost every day with that kind of improvement.

How in the world can Phil Mickelson say he’s hitting the ball well after hitting three balls out of bounds the first two days of a major under relatively benign conditions? It’s not like hurricane winds blew those balls out of bounds; Mickelson hit them there. The fact that he recovered from one of the out of bounds to make bogey and from another to make par is proof that the genius still lives inside him.

Here’s one thing you can bet: Mickelson will show up in Akron next week and talk about how he found something on the last day at Hoylake, that shooting 68 on Sunday to finish T-23 gave him an extra boost of confidence. He probably won’t bring up the fact that 28 players broke 70 that day and not one of them was the winner.

Mickelson should probably be more concerned with the state of his game right now than Woods. He’s 44 and, even though he won the British Open a year ago, he’s not as long off the tee as he once was and you can’t help but wonder when the psoriatic arthritis he battles is going to start to affect him – if it isn’t already. He certainly isn’t going to talk about it and sounds as if he’s making excuses. He also hasn’t been able to putt with any consistency for most of the last year.

Woods will be 39 in December and, unlike Mickelson, who suffers from a disease that isn’t curable, his various physical issues have all been fixable. Still, his is a battered 38-year-old body – clearly a fragile one, based on past history.

Even so, the biggest battle both men face right now is between their ears. For all their talk about how good they feel about their swings and their games and their explosiveness, each is clearly fighting himself on the golf course. Mickelson doesn’t play golf to finish T-23 and Woods certainly doesn’t play to finish 69th. The only thing that matters to either one at this stage of their career are the majors: Mickelson would like to finish the career Grand Slam and add another major or two before he’s done and Woods is still holding out hope that he can find some of his youthful brilliance again and surpass Jack Nicklaus.

Right now, you wouldn’t bet the ranch on either guy. But you’d be foolish to write them off, even if the best thing about their golf at the moment is their ability to spin bad results into sounding hopeful.

Then again, that’s to be expected from the best of the best. It's what they do.

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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

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

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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

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.