Massacre at Winged Foot Part II

By Mercer BaggsDecember 20, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Stories of the Year Editor's Note: is counting down its top 5 stories from the world of golf in 2006 and looking ahead to the five 'Big Questions' on the PGA TOUR in 2007. This is story No. 2 from this past season.
It doesnt take much to change perception. For if it did then it would take more than just a moment in time to alter how we feel about someone.
Prior to the start of the 106th U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson was perceived by many as the greatest golfer on the planet. He was the Masters champion. He was the winner of two consecutive major championships. He was a man of immense talent ' and immense confidence.
Phil Mickelson
Even Phil Mickelson could not believe what happened on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot.
All of that, combined with the fact that Tiger Woods, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, was making his first start in nine weeks, meant Mickelson was easily the man to beat at Winged Foot Golf Club that third week in June.
A Mickelson victory meant history. It meant three straight major victories, something only Woods had accomplished in the last 50 years. It meant talk of a MickelSlam. It meant that he would not just be Tigers chief rival ' he would, for a moment in time, wear the crown.
And thats how long it took for everything to change ' a moment.
For 71 holes, Mickelson scrapped his way around Winged Foot, battling a balky driver and inconsistency from the start. Nevertheless, he was in sole possession of the lead. One shot up on the field; one hole from living out a childhood fantasy.
Mickelson had been dreaming of winning the U.S. Open ever since he was a kid. He had been preparing for this moment ever since he finished his second Masters celebration. He had not only played preparatory rounds at Winged Foot, he had done so in the twilight hours, trying to mimic the conditions he would face should he be in the final group, playing the final hole in the final round, and doing so with a chance to win.
And here he was, just as he wanted to be.
A par seemed inevitable. After all, this was the new Phil Mickelson. The one who knew how to finish off major championships. The one who now received rewards without all the risk.
And when Colin Montgomerie ' oh, poor Colin Montgomerie ' butchered the hole in front of him, Destiny herself seemed ready to crown Mickelson.
It was to be a coronation. It was instead another massacre.
In the 1974 U.S. Open, Hale Irwin won at Winged Foot with a 7-over-par 287 score. Only seven players broke par that entire week. The late Dick Schaap, noted author and sportswriter, dubbed it The Massacre at Winged Foot.
Thirty-two years later, a reprisal seemed to be taking place. Only 11 players broke par over four rounds ' no one lower than 2-under 68. The course, with its newly implemented graduated rough, had ensnared the likes of defending champion Michael Campbell, Retief Goosen and Sergio Garcia. Chewing them up and spitting them out like stale gum before the weekend began.
The most notable player on that list of early exits was Woods. Playing for the first time since the death of his father, Woods could only manage a pair of 76s. It was his first missed cut in a major as a professional.
But it was what took place on Sunday that led to mouths agape, spirits shattered, and perceptions forever changed.
There was Jim Furyk, who missed a 5-foot par putt on the final hole which ultimately would have gotten him into a playoff. There was Padraig Harrington, who bogeyed his final three holes to finish two behind.
Then there was Monty, poor Monty. The man synonymous with major championship failure was tied for the lead while playing the par-4 18th. After successfully navigating a tee shot that didnt really fit his left-to-right ball flight, he found himself in the right side of the fairway, 172 yards from the hole.
With the pin placed on the back right of the green, he was now in perfect position for his power fade. A playoff was all but assured. An outright victory a real possibility.
As Monty was approaching his second shot, USGA officials brought out the trophy, placed it on a table, and let it sit to await its new owner.
Colin Montgomerie
This change of clubs helped cost Colin Montgomerie a chance to win his first major.
It would not be Monty.
One of the games all-time accurate players, Montgomerie came up sinfully short with a 7-iron (he had switched from a 6-iron). Pitching from rough alongside the right side of the green, he could do no better than get his third shot 40 feet from the pin. His par putt missed by 10 feet. His bogey putt missed as well.
There would be no playoff. There would be no major. There would only be what-ifs and coulda-beens.
After a cooling off period, Montgomerie emerged from the players locker room. He met with the media and answered all their questions. He said, I look forward to coming back here again next year and try another U.S. Open and then he paused, before adding, disaster.
Had things played out as expected, Montgomerie would have forever been mocked for his performance on the 18th hole. Instead, that role will forever be reserved for Mickelson.
Just as Monty made everyone forget about the failures of Furyk and Harrington; Mickelson returned the favor for the Scotsman.
Monty experienced a disaster on the final hole. Mickelson experienced a massacre.
Having hit only two fairways all round ' none on the back nine ' Mickelson opted for driver. He not only missed his 12th fairway of the day, he pushed his tee shot so far to the left that it caromed off a corporate hospitality tent.
His next shot hit a tree. But it wasnt the result that raised eyebrows and drew gasps; it was the decision to go for the green instead of pitch out safely back into the fairway.
Like an un-killable horror villain, Old Phil had returned to star in this nightmarish sequel.
Mickelsons second shot went about 25 yards. His third shot sailed left of the green and buried in a bunker. Two swings later, he was finally on the green. One putt thereafter, he was in with a double bogey.
Mickelson finished, as did Montgomerie and Furyk, at 6-over 286. One solitary swing behind Geoff Ogilvy.
Ogilvy was and will forever be the 2006 U.S. Open. He will also be a secondary figure in this tournaments summary, perhaps even tertiary.
Not that the 29-year-old Aussie didnt do his part to earn this title. He holed an 18-foot chip to save par on the 17th hole and then got up-and-down from off the green on the 18th for par ' a par for which Mickelson, Montgomerie and Furyk would have gladly paid double the winners prize of $1.225 million.
But even Ogilvy knows that this championship will forever be remembered not as the one he won, but as the one lost by Mickelson (primarily) and Montgomerie (secondarily).
If I had been watching on TV, I would be thinking Phil lost it. And Monty lost it just as much as Phil did, Ogilvy said at the TOUR Championship. But that's fine. I just feel fortunate there's plenty of guys who have done better than me on the last few holes and lost in major championships, so I just feel fortunate I was one of the lucky ones to have things go my way.
To his credit, Mickelson hung around for the trophy presentation ' the only one of the three runners-up to do so. He applauded Ogilvy and apologized to his New York fans.
Mickelson would not win over the remainder of the season, in fact, he would not even contend for a title. He took off the final three months of the year to recuperate.
Looking like a man sucker-punched by life, he fielded questions that fateful Sunday.
I am still in shock that I did that. I just cant believe that I did that, he said. Im such an idiot.
That final line was plastered on newspaper headlines across the world.
Idiot. Thats what Mickelson was calling himself. And he wasnt getting an argument from fans and press. In just a moments time, he had gone from king of the golf world to lowly court jester, a late-night talk show joke.
It doesnt take much to change perception.
Related Links:
  • Previewing 2006; Reviewing 2007
  • Mickelson Collapses at U.S. Open
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    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

    Masters victory

    Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

    Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

    Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

    Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

    Green jacket tour

    Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

    Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

    Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

    Man of the people

    Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

    Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

    Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

    Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

    Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

    Growing family

    Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

    Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

    Departure from TaylorMade

    Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

    Squashed beef with Paddy

    Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

    Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

    Victory at Valderrama

    Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
    Getty Images

    Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

    Well, this is a one new one.

    According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

    “No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

    Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

    “If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

    The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

    “I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

    The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

    Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

    Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.