No 2 Fan Ful-Phil-Ment

By Mercer BaggsDecember 30, 2004, 5:00 pm
2004 Stories of the YearEditor's note: We are counting down the top 10 stories in golf for the 2004 season. This is Story No. 2.
 
Phil Mickelson wears the white hat. The public ' the majority ' sees him this way. They see him sign pictures and golf balls and programs and pieces of paper by the hundreds. They see him with his pretty wife and his pretty daughters. They see him with his goofy, permanent smile.
 
They see him win; they see him lose. They see how he handles both. They love him for this.
 
They want to be Phil Mickelson. They want the pretty family and the millions of dollars and the playing golf for a living. They want this wonderful life.
 
And since they cant be him, they want for him. They want for the man who interacts with them and makes them feel a part of this wonderful life. They want what he wants.
 
They got it on April 11, 2004.
 
They had seen this all before ' at the U.S. Open and at the PGA Championship and at this very Masters Tournament.
 
They had seen him in contention for a major championship. They had seen him with his left hand on the trophy, unable to grasp it fully with his dominant right hand. They had seen him fail, again and again and again.
 
But they hadnt seen him in this particular situation ' with a share of the lead with 18 holes to play.
 
They wondered: would this be any different? This was supposed to be a new Phil Mickelson, one no longer hell-bent on power, but on precision. A Phil Mickelson reprogrammed to win major championships.
 
They would hope for something different this time ' but they would believe it only when they could actually see it.
 
And so they watched.
 
They watched as he bogeyed the third hole and the fifth and the sixth on this Sunday. They saw him fall three down when Ernie Els eagled the par-5 13th. They closed their eyes and they thought: no, this will not be any different.
 
OK, Phil, just go ahead a dump a couple of balls in the water on 12 and 13 and lets end this failed experiment.
 
No, no, instead lets birdie 12 and 13 and make this a tournament.
 
Phil did this and reopened a sea of eyes. And even when Ernie birdied 15 to go up by two, those eyes ' the thousands in Augusta and the millions around the world ' were open, wide open to hope and possibility.
 
And Phil had this same look in his eyes. He, too, believed.
 
He birdied 14 after nearly holing his approach shot. And after failing to birdie the par-5 15th, he made a birdie from 20 feet on the par-3 16th. He was tied for the lead with two holes to play.
 
Ernie could not birdie 17 or 18. And he could not watch. The tournament ' the one he wanted to win equally as much as his very popular opponent ' was no longer on his clubs, and all he could do was go to the practice range, hit a few balls, hope for a playoff, wait and listen to the crowd.
 
The crowd would certainly let Ernie, and everyone as far away as Atlanta, know of Phils fate on the final hole.
 
After a par on 17, Phil piped a drive down the middle of the fairway on 18, leaving himself 162 yards to the pin. He then hit his approach shot ' just his 30th swing on the back nine this Sunday ' just beyond the flagstick.
 
They watched him as he walked up the final hole. They saw him wave and smile, and it was for them. And this putt, should it fall, would be for them as much as him, as well.
 
They all would have to wait for the result of this putt. But this was a good thing. Phils playing companion, Chris DiMarco, was mired in the front greenside bunker. He would excavate his ball onto the green, almost on top of Phils marker ' but just beyond.
 
So Chris would have to putt first. Everyone watched, but none more studiously than Phil. Chris would miss left; Phil would make sure he did not.
 
Phils putt was said to be distanced at 18 feet between ball and hole. But its importance was immeasurable.
 
How could you measure the worth of major championship ' for a man who had never won one; for a man who had played in 47 of them; for a man who had worn this losing label like a scarlet letter?
 
And so they watched. They watched as the ball left from the putter. They watched as it tracked towards the hole. They watched as it tried to escape on the left side. They watched as it was pulled inside by the cups edge.
 
They exploded before the ball could clang the plastic bottom. They screamed and hugged and watched as their man jumped in the air and threw his hands much higher.
 
And in the distance, Ernie Els closed his eyes and shook his head. He knew. He didnt have to see.
 
They watched as Phil hugged and kissed his pretty wife and his pretty daughters. They watched as he put both arms inside a green jacket. They watched as he held aloft the replica of the Augusta National clubhouse.
 
He had always promised them that this day would come.
 
They had finally seen what they had always wanted to see. And it was better than they ever could have imagined it to be.
 
Related Links:
  • 2004 Year in Review
  • Full Coverage - 2004 Masters
  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''