Fatigued Mickelson ends season with PR blunder

By Randall MellSeptember 6, 2014, 4:12 pm

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – His eyes were almost alarmingly bloodshot.

You wanted to hand him a bottle of Visine and tell him to go take a nap.

After Wednesday’s late pro-am finish, Phil Mickelson looked like he was out of gas, and the BMW Championship had yet to start, but he was typically gracious waiting around to answer a few reporters’ questions.

Those bloodshot eyes led naturally to a question.

“Phil, just how fatigued are you feeling and does it help you at all coming to a place like Cherry Hills?”

Mickelson sees opportunities like no other player, and this question turned out to be a nice opportunity. Nobody is more clever sending messages than this Hall of Famer, and he shaped a nice little shot at the PGA Tour brass, while paying the proper respect to the home of his 1990 U.S. Amateur title.

“I’m not real high on playing four in a row,” Mickelson said. “I’m just excited to be here. This is the one of all the four [FedEx Cup events] that I wanted to play, Cherry Hills.”

Mickelson said returning to Cherry Hills was “rejuvenating” and was helping get his “energy level up.”

There are two-way misses in golf, and then there’s this, a two-way bull’s-eye, where a dart hits two targets simultaneously.

Mickelson warmed the hearts of Denver, but he also basically dissed the Tour Championship, more than implying that it didn’t matter so much to him this year, not with the Tour making it the anchor leg in a fatiguing four-week run of big events with the Ryder Cup to come two weeks after that.

The Tour Championship is one of the PGA Tour’s flagship events, the FedEx Cup’s grand finale. If the Tour Championship isn’t that important to a player, then you have to infer that neither are these playoffs.


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BMW Championship: Articles, videos and photos


Mickelson’s point was respectfully made, until he withdrew from the BMW Championship in the wee morning hours early Saturday.

All of a sudden, Mickelson isn’t just pooping on the PGA Tour’s doorstep with his message. He’s pooping on Denver’s doorstep with so many fans surely headed out the door this Saturday morning without even knowing Lefty withdrew.

“My primary goal is to rest and prepare for the Ryder Cup,” Mickelson said in a statement released after midnight. “Without a chance to contend at the Tour Championship, the most important thing for me now is to prepare for the Ryder Cup.”

The BMW Championship will get its largest crowds this weekend. Sunday is sold out. With Tiger Woods out with back problems, Mickelson and Rory McIlroy are the big draws.

Yes, Mickelson obviously is running out of gas, as his Friday struggle to a 76 further suggests, but this withdrawal is poorly executed. Now he’s sending all the wrong messages. He’s quitting in the middle of the night.

Here’s the thing that has to be said in taking Mickelson to task this morning. He has earned immense grace over his career, with his devotion to fans, with his long hours signing autographs, with all he has given to his pro-am partners. I once saw him march an entire pro-am gallery to a concession stand at the Deutsche Bank Championship and tell the workers there to give the gallery whatever they wanted to eat. He peeled off a wad of bills and told the clerk to have someone bring the change out to him after every one had eaten. He has been equally generous with media, with long patience even after long, lousy rounds. He is truly a golf treasure.

This withdrawal, though, was a bogey on his card as an ambassador of the game, a mistake. He’ll be forgiven quickly. He’s earned that, but it’s unfortunate one of his toughest years concludes this way.

At 44, Mickelson’s season ends winless for just the third time since he played his first full season in 1993. He won’t make it to the Tour Championship for the first time since the FedEx Cup playoffs began in 2007.

Mickelson is worn out. You can see it beyond the bloodshot eyes. We don’t know how much the psoriatic arthritis hinders his energy levels. We don’t know how much longer this season feels to him because of the back issues and strained oblique he dealt with earlier in the year.

Fatigue is a real factor in this September push for all of the game’s best players.

Sergio Garcia skipped the Deutsche Bank Championship last week and went to the Hamptons with friends to refuel. He’s now atop the leaderboard at the BMW Championship.

“I would love to play all four tournaments on the FedEx Cup, but I knew that it wasn't going to be good for me to start with, I was going to get tired of it,” Garcia said after Friday’s round. “It wasn't going to be good coming into the Ryder Cup.

“It was nice to spend some time with my girlfriend, and some friends, in the Hamptons. We played a little golf. We enjoyed the beach, and we just had a good time.”

Rory McIlroy said he is trying to protect himself from fatigue.

“I have two more weeks to push through,” McIlroy said earlier this week. “I am feeling a little tired, and I'm trying to conserve as much energy as possible.”

Like McIlroy, Rickie Fowler is only 25, but he says fatigue is a factor in this playoff run.

“You don’t push it in your workouts as hard, because you’re trying to stay rested,” Fowler said. “You try to sleep as much as possible. You do a little less on practice days, because it is a long stretch, especially coming off Akron and the PGA Championship. I usually only play two or three weeks in a row, not just because of the physical side, but because of the mental side, because of the focus you need. It’s really tough to go four weeks in a row and be on top of your game.”

Mickelson’s bloodshot eyes said it all, even if he said too much.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

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

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

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.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

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.