Mickelson's Hall-of-Fame career more than just numbers

By Randall MellNovember 10, 2011, 4:52 pm

If I’m running the World Golf Hall of Fame, I know right where to place Phil Mickelson’s exhibit when it’s unveiled next May.

I rearrange the place so I can put him between Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros.

Thursday’s news that Mickelson was elected into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot leaves us trying to assess where his legacy belongs even though he’s only 41 years old and still driven to build on his record.

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Mickelson has won 39 PGA Tour titles in his career, more than anyone except Sam Snead (82), Jack Nicklaus (73), Tiger Woods (71), Ben Hogan (64), Palmer (62), Byron Nelson (52), Billy Casper (51) and Walter Hagen (45). Mickelson has won three Masters (2004, ’06, ’10), the PGA Championship (2005) and a U.S. Amateur (1990).

And yet Mickelson’s career will be measured in how he won prizes more meaningful than titles and trophies. He won a legion of hearts and minds. He won them with a real knack for mesmerizing us with the spectacular, both spectacular success and spectacular failure. He also won them patiently standing along gallery ropes and signing more autographs than probably anybody but Palmer. He has won them looking so many fans in the eyes, connecting with a smile and a tip of the cap.

“The image of the players and the image of the game is the biggest asset we have,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said sitting with Mickelson at the Hall of Fame announcement Thursday at the Barclays Singapore Open. “Phil has contributed to that in a very positive way.”

As a player, Mickelson will be remembered for playing with a fearless, attacking style.

In that respect, he’s golf’s version of a theme-park ride.

His history of thrills and spills is dizzying.

Mickelson will be remembered as the daredevil who threaded the needle with his impossible shot between the trees from the pine straw at Augusta National's 13th hole on his way to his third Masters’ title last year. It wasn’t the high-percentage shot. It wasn’t even the smart shot. But it was a great shot. He’ll also be remembered as the bedeviled player who knocked his chances of winning the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in 2006 off a hospitality tent at the 72nd hole.

“God, I’m such an idiot,” Mickelson famously said in the aftermath.

Having the nerve to risk making himself look like a fool is part of his appeal.

Like Ballesteros, Mickelson plays with a creative flair seen in few players, with a relish for creating great escapes.

While Mickelson might not be the greatest player of his generation, he may be its most exciting.

There’s a quirky cleverness about his game that also sets him apart, though sometimes he seems to be too clever for his own good. He won the Masters with two drivers in his bag. He lost a U.S. Open with no driver in his bag. Master of the short game, he once played Colonial with five wedges in his bag.

While Mickelson’s critics wonder if he just likes showing off, if there’s too much calculation in everything he does, there’s no denying the signature brilliance he’s brought the game.

When it’s all said and done, the image of Mickelson that may endure more than any other was his hug of his wife, Amy, after winning last year’s Masters. The couple has three children. Almost a year removed from being diagnosed with breast cancer, Amy embraced her husband that day with tears streaming down her face. Mickelson’s mother, Mary, was diagnosed with breast cancer about the same time as Amy.

Through the illnesses of loved ones, through his own diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis, Mickelson endures with some big dreams still unfulfilled.

When it’s all said and done, he hopes he’ll have added more memories to his Hall of Fame exhibit.

“To be called a Hall of Famer, that does sound like I’m a little old,” Mickelson said. “Fortunately, I don’t feel old, and hopefully I’ll be able to play quite a bit longer.

“I still want to win a number of golf tournaments. I would like to get to that magic number of 50 wins that few players have done. But, also, finally getting that U.S. Open win would mean a lot to me, as well as would a British Open win, which would conclude the grand slam.

“I came close at the British Open last year at Royal St. George’s. I’ve had five seconds at the U.S. Open. I am going to try to take the knowledge I’ve gained over the years that led to those good performances and see if I can get over the hump.”

And along the way, there’s bound to be more hearts and minds to win.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.