Lefty birdies the last, shares U.S. Open lead

By Randall MellJune 15, 2013, 1:40 am

ARDMORE, Pa. – You know Phil Mickelson relishes the drama of it all.

You know he lives for authoring storylines like these, unorthodox adventures full of peculiar twists and turns.

With the sun sinking fast on a frustrating Friday full of missed opportunities at Merion, Mickelson’s U.S. Open story continued to twist and turn toward what he hopes will be an unforgettable Father’s Day for his entire family.

On a day filled with missed birdie chances, Mickelson made us wonder if flying cross country after seeing his daughter’s eighth-grade graduation on the eve of this championship was as foolish as it was admirable. It made us wonder about this twist and turn because he looked as if he might already be running out of gas in the second round. He stepped to the 18th tee Friday without a single birdie on his scorecard. His first-round lead was gone, his momentum was fading, his story was beginning to sag.

And then, in the fading light, Mickelson sent a jolt through Merion.

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He put a spark back into his bid to win his first U.S. Open.

Mickelson rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt at the last hole to keep his story as the story of this 113th U.S. Open.

Mickelson’s birdie lifted him back atop the leaderboard, this time sharing the top spot with Billy Horschel as the leaders in the clubhouse in the suspended second round.

At 1-under 139, Mickelson and Horschel are the only players left under par.

Mickelson turns 43 on Sunday. Time’s running out in his bid to finally win this major, and that’s why his decision to return home and see his daughter, Amanda, give her graduation speech came with a risk. As wonderful as his motives were, as admirable as his devotion to family is, jetting cross country from his California home in the middle of the night to make his Thursday tee time isn’t the ideal way to prepare to win a major.

It’s all good again after Friday’s finish. That final birdie turned momentum back Mickelson’s way. It fuels his bid to trump the disappointment of five second-place finishes in 22 U.S. Open starts. It makes his decision to try to win the U.S. Open with no driver and five wedges in his bag continue to look good.

“It was great,” Mickelson said. “I wasn’t expecting birdie there.”

It came with Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley hurrying to finish before darkness suspended Friday’s second round.

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“It was a nice way to finish,” Mickelson said. “I fought hard all day.”

Merion wouldn’t be slugged into submission again Friday, not by anyone.

While his 2-over-par 72 was more than respectable with Merion punishing so many of the world’s best players, Mickelson knew his round could have been so much better, nearly as good as his opening-round 67.

“Let a lot of birdie opportunities slide early and in the middle of the round,” Mickelson said. “I fought hard to stay in there and hit a lot of good quality shots.  Made a bunch of good pars.”

Mickelson made 10 consecutive pars in the middle of his round. That’s not bad around here, but don’t tell Mickelson that. He missed a 5-foot birdie chance at No. 2, missed a 4-foot birdie chance at No. 8, missed an 8-foot birdie chance at No. 9 and failed to convert yet another good birdie chance at the 11th hole.

On a day when Merion beat up so many players, just getting birdie looks was a minor victory.

Luke Donald made an early move atop the leaderboard Friday, but he made four consecutive bogeys coming home. He sits tied for third.

How tough was it? A trio of major-championship winners were cumulatively 40 over par through the two rounds they played together. Jim Furyk (16 over), Graeme McDowell (13 over) and Zach Johnson (11 over) will all miss the cut.

McDowell left saying he wouldn’t be surprised if 4 over par won this championship.

“It feels good being in contention heading into the weekend,” Mickelson said. “There are a lot of players right there, around par, a couple over.  I think this golf course provides a chance to shoot a low round, even though not many players have done it, and it's difficult.”

Mickelson likes his chances of being the guy who shoots a low round.

“The way I have control off the tee and as good as the putter is, even though it didn't show today, I'm very excited about the opportunity this weekend,” he said.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.