Weakened Mickelson Playing Strong at Buick
Mickelson fired an eight-under-par 64 on the easier North Course at Torrey Pine Golf Club to tie Davis Love III for the lead through two rounds of the Buick Invitational in La Jolla, Calif.
'As the week has gone on, I've slowly felt better and better,' Mickelson said. 'Hopefully, by tomorrow or Sunday I'll be 100 percent.'
Mickelson and Love, who shot 67 on the North Course, stand at 12-under-par; one shot clear of overnight leader Brent Geiberger, who carded a three-under-par 69 on the South Course.
Mickelson won't have to look over his shoulder to find Love this weekend at the Buick Invitational. He'll be right by his side. The two will be paired together for the third consecutive round on Saturday.
Love is in search of his second straight PGA Tour victory, after having broken a 62-start winless drought at last week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Love came from seven shots back as the final round began to win his 14th career Tour event, doing so at Mickelson's expense.
Mickelson held a share of the 54-hole lead at Pebble, and was within one shot of Love playing the 72nd hole, but pushed his second shot to the par-five 18th into the rocks along the Pacific Ocean shoreline. He carded a double bogey and finished in a tie for third.
Mickelson made large strides to redeeming himself in the second round. The defending champion went out in three-under-par 33, and then birdied four of his final six holes for his best round of the season.
'I've played at a very slow pace and haven't really had a problem,' said Mickelson, who also held a share of the lead through two rounds a year ago. 'I don't know if there's a benefit, but certainly there's an old saying, `Beware of the ailing golfer.''
After closing in 63 to win Pebble, and opening in 65 this week, Love carded yet another impressive round on Friday. Love can thank his iron play for his score of five-under-par 67.
Love hit only four of 14 fairways in the second round, but found 15 of the 18 greens in regulation. Following a bogey at the par-four 11th, his second hole of the day, Love birdied three of his final five holes on his outward half. He then moved to double digits under par with a birdie at the par-four fourth, his 13th, before finishing his day with back-to-back birdies at the eighth and ninth holes.
'I got away with one today,' said Love. 'I drove it all over the place, but made some good saves. I have to get better to keep up with Phil and the others.'
One of those 'others' will be Tiger Woods.
Two years ago, Woods flirted with the cutline before shooting rounds of 62-65 to win. Last year, Woods entered the weekend six shots off the lead. He then fired rounds of 67-68 to contend for the title. This year, Woods is five strokes off the pace with 36 holes remaining.
Woods carded a second-round 67 on the South Course. Once again, putting proved to be Tiger's foil. Though he took eight fewer putts (26-34) in round two than he did in his opening 70, Woods lipped-out a number of birdie putts - something that has plagued him throughout the early part of this season.
Tiger appeared set to make a late rally on Friday when he eagled the par-five 13th to move to six-under for the tournament, but promptly bogeyed the next hole. Tiger atoned for an errant approach shot at the 14th by sticking his second shot to the par-four 15th to within five feet of the cup. He converted the birdie to move back to six-under-par, where he finished the day.
'I've been saying it all year - I'm not that far off,' Woods said. 'I just have to stay patient. I've been through this before and when it clicks, it's going to be pretty good.'
Tiger did lose his patience with the swarming media, fans and marshals crowded behind the scorer's tent. Woods was quick with his word following his round, and made a sharp jaunt to the putting green.
There are 18 players within four shots of the lead, including Mike Weir, Jose Maria Olazabal, Brad Faxon and Tom Lehman. Weir is in a tie for fifth at nine-under after a round of 67. Olazabal (68), Faxon (69) and Lehman (68) share 10th place at eight-under.
Still, the weather may be the determining factor as to wins this event. Friday was expected to be the last day of dry, sunny conditions before cold rain moves in for the weekend.
News, Notes and Numbers
*The cutline fell at three-under-par 141. Charley Hoffman, a San Diego native who received a sponsor's exemption, will miss the cut. After opening in 67, Hoffman was ten strokes higher on Friday. He finished the tournament at even-par 144.
*The South Course will be in rotation for the final two rounds. Through two rounds the South has played at 70.945, while the North has played at 70.520. Both courses are par-72.
Click here for Full-Field scores from the Buick Invitational!
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.