Putting continues to bedevil Mickelson

By John HawkinsJanuary 27, 2012, 11:47 pm

We should know by now never to presume anything with Phil Mickelson, a man who has been down every road and a few that didn’t make the map. The achievements obviously outweigh the busts, but more than most hall of famers, Mickelson’s career has been a mix of unpredictability and volatility. When it comes to expectations, you enter at your own risk.

That doesn’t make Lefty’s 2012 debut at Torrey Pines any less shocking. He referred to his opening-round 77 as pathetic – too much to overcome Friday, when a 68 left him two off the cut. It wasn’t so much Thursday’s bloated score that caught my attention as the way Mickelson produced that 77. His short game was as sloppy as I’ve ever seen it. He needed 32 putts despite hitting just nine greens, a combination far more likely to come from a 5 or 6 handicap.

Phil Mickelson and Jim McKay at the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open

It wasn’t the vintage Mickelson crash-and-burn, which typically featured a couple of questionable club selections, a heavy foot on the gas pedal and a late water ball. The only similarity between Thursday and yesteryear was that Philly Mick didn’t hit many fairways. In the past, he didn’t always have to. Maybe now he does.

Despite what might be described as a Mickey Lolich physique, Mickelson has remained remarkably healthy during his 20 years on the PGA Tour. Tiger Woods has the chiseled body – and has spent more time on the disabled list than anyone in the game’s top tier. At the age of 41, Lefty’s knees and back work just fine. He has played through the arthritic condition that plagues his hands. His fluctuating weight has never been an issue competitively.

Stanley leads Snedeker by one

He’s still not making putts, however, and that is a malady that can bring down any man who misses half his fairways. The belly putter may have been a passing phase for Mickelson – a false answer to a mid-life crisis for a guy who holed more 15-footers than almost anyone for a long, long time – but the fact that he even tried a broomstick hints at a problem that may not come and go.

You look at the number of tour pros who have won major titles in their 40s, and it’s a very short list. Mickelson is anything but your Average Pro, and it’s worth noting that he claimed all four of his majors after a decade of Big Sunday futility. His career has followed a unique path, making him one of the 20 greatest golfers ever, but at some point, everyone must accept the notion that they aren’t as good as they once were.

Conventional wisdom, with an assist from history, tells us that it often happens to a player in his early 40s. To overstate the significance of Mickelson’s 77 would be silly – it was one bad round that he followed up with a fairly decent one. Since a statistically superb 2008, however, his numbers, particularly on the greens, have gone in the wrong direction. And since his stirring triumph at the 2010 Masters, Mickelson’s results have not been befitting: just one win in 34 starts.

That victory occurred last April at the Shell Houston Open. Three months later, Lefty finished second at the British Open, a sweet-and-sour runner-up that remains the last time in was in serious contention. Sweet because he overcame a history of mediocre play at the British. Sour because he would have won the tournament if he’d made his 4-footers.

Six weeks later, Mickelson showed up at the Deutsche Bank Championship with a belly in his bag – a radical, do-whatever-it-takes move that didn’t resolve the matter. I was fortunate enough to play a round of golf with Lefty back in the fall of 1999. We went out to Peachtree CC in Atlanta the day after the Tour Championship, and in four hours, I learned more from Mickelson about reading greens than I could have figured out myself in 40 years.

I know he can still read ‘em. I’m just not positive he can still make ‘em.

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.