Mickelsons shot great but not the best

By John HawkinsApril 14, 2010, 1:54 am
It was the defining moment of the 74th Masters, the biggest shot in a week that began with hearty storylines and never let up. A 6-iron from the straw just right of Augusta National’s 13th fairway, a pair of Georgia pines framing Phil Mickelson’s line to the green, his first lead of the tournament coming just minutes earlier after a birdie at the par-3 12th vaulted him one ahead of K.J. Choi.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson hits his approach shot from the 13th hole Sunday at Augusta. (Getty Images)
Those circumstances, plus Philly Mick’s mixed history in terms of pursuing the aggressive route to a victory, all played a role in amplifying the importance of the 6-iron. A miss short would virtually guarantee no better than a par, and if his ball tumbles into Rae's Creek, the subsequent mess could have been enough to knock Mickelson out of contention. If he plays it ultra-safe, he’s looking at a difficult two-putt, and quite possibly, ground lost to those on his tail. There is very little room right of the pin, a troublesome bail-out left.

The window of opportunity was small, the margin for error both broad and severe. “A great shot is when you pull it off,” Mickelson would say upon claiming the green jacket for a third time in seven years. “A smart shot is when you don’t have the guts to try it.”

As impromptu quotes go, it was a line as brilliant as the shot itself, spoken by a man whose outrageous skill is accompanied by an abnormally high level of self-confidence, which is derived from his ability to assess situations quickly, clearly and objectively. Mickelson’s decision to hammer that 6-iron off a quirky lie from 207 yards – a shot that seemed to hang in the air for most of the afternoon before stopping about 4 feet from the flag – was a huge risk with a massive reward, a stroke of genius some would instantly describe as one of the greatest in golf history.

There’s just one little problem.

He missed the putt.

Mickelson had a 4-footer for eagle and walked away with a birdie, the same score as fellow competitor Lee Westwood, who also played his second from the right trees, laid up, then knocked a wedge to 10 feet. Much like Corey Pavin’s approach on the 72nd hole of the 1995 U.S. Open, Lefty struck one of the most memorable and important shots of the modern era, then forgot to blow out one of the candles before slicing the cake.

You say it doesn’t matter? How can it not? In a game where score is the only barometer of success and failure, the historic value of Mickelson’s second at the par-5 13th is at least partially compromised by his overall result on the hole, which should have been a 3 but was instead a 4. Otherwise, we’re talking about sheer artistry, which requires a panel of judges similar to those in ice skating and “Dancing With the Stars.”

The greatest shots of all-time must directly affect the balance of competition, especially when they occur late in the game. Tiger Woods’ chip-in from behind the 16th green at the 2005 Masters is a perfect example. From a spot where he should have made a 4 and might have made a 3, Tiger made a 2. Was it a lucky birdie, as Woods himself admitted? Absolutely, but the ball still fell in the hole, and good for him that it did, because Woods bogeyed the 17th and 18th before overcoming Chris DiMarco in a playoff.

If Tiger loses, is the chip still remarkable? Sure, but it doesn’t rank as highly on the Greatest Ever list, regardless of where you have it now. Speaking of which, Y.E. Yang’s hybrid over the trees on Hazeltine’s 18th at last summer’s PGA was awfully good – it gave him the cushion he needed to defeat Woods, a historic triumph capped by a swing as clutch and productive as any you’ll find in any decade.

For my money, Larry Mize’s birdie chip to beat Greg Norman in 1987 remains the best shot in Masters history. Jack Nicklaus’ long iron nto the 15th, which led to an eagle and launched the Miracle of ’86, is no more than a half-length behind, followed by Tiger’s chip, Mickelson’s birdie putt on the 18th to beat Ernie Els in 2004 – a first Masters title for a guy who, at the time, was the Much Maligned One – and the 6-iron last Sunday.

Nobody in the Golf Channel newsroom howled louder than me when Mickelson’s stopped just right of the flag. Nobody groaned louder when the eagle putt slid past the hole.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.