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.

Sobel: Phil's WD ranks somewhere between poor form and unlawful surrender

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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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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x