At 46, Mickelson no 'Olden Bear'

By Rex HoggardApril 4, 2017, 9:44 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. Phil Mickelson knows his golf history. He’s been a part of much of it the last 2 ½ decades since turning pro, just don’t try to tell him his competitive chances are history at Augusta National.

Mickelson was 15 when Jack Nicklaus set the standard for ageless excellence at the 1986 Masters, a high school phenom known only in San Diego circles with boundless potential and even more confidence.

“I VCR’ed it,” Mickelson said of the ’86 Masters in a light-hearted nod to a bygone era. “Many don't even know what that was, but I taped it and watched it over and over and just marveled at what it was. It was just incredible. It was one of the greatest moments in the history of the game.”

He watched the Golden Bear turn back the clock on the hallowed grounds and become the oldest Masters champion at 46 years, two months and 23 days. And, yes, Mickelson knows that when the final putt drops on Sunday this year he will be 46 years, nine months and 23 days old.

That’s where the comparisons end for Lefty.

Although he appreciates the historical significance, Mickelson isn’t willing to put a victory this week in a similar category. In ’86, Nicklaus’ victory was widely unexpected, with the game’s greatest two years removed from his last Tour victory and many figured the Golden Bear was well into his twilight years.

But the current version of Mickelson doesn’t see himself in the same light.

After a relatively pedestrian 2016, Lefty has been solid if not spectacular in ’17 with top-10 finishes in two of his last three starts, both of which were World Golf Championships. He also finished second to Henrik Stenson at last year’s Open in what may have been the season’s best duel.


Masters Tournament: Tee times | Full coverage


He will tell anyone willing to listen that he’s in the best shape of his life and under the guidance of swing coach Andrew Getson he’s turned one of his greatest liabilities, his driving, into an asset.

Mickelson also begins his 25th Masters with a distinctly optimistic mindset, which is no surprise given his history around Augusta National.

There was a time when a Sunday leaderboard without Mickelson’s name on it was an anomaly, with Lefty finishing in the top 10 at the Masters 13 times in a 16-year stretch starting in 1995.

The foliage, the mystique, the history of the place has a tendency of turning him into golf’s version of Benjamin Button.

“For a golfer who plays golf for a living, who loves the game, I can't think of a place that you would want to win at and be a part of the history more than Augusta National,” he beamed. “For somebody like myself who grew up dreaming of this tournament, dreaming of winning here, to actually do it, still feels like a dream.”

Mickelson first played the Masters in 1991 after winning the U.S. Amateur the previous summer. He remembered setting up a practice round with Arnold Palmer and walking the course with the King. His mind drifts back to that Tuesday when his love affair began with the iconic course the way it normally does with men of a certain age.

“Those are moments that I'll cherish,” he said. “I'm kind of the youngest generation that was able to spend enough time with him.”

But Mickelson quickly snapped back to the here and now and launched into a lengthy explanation of why he likes his chances this week, not despite his age but because of it.

“I don't think much about age right now,” Mickelson said. “I think that guys' careers are being extended a lot longer because of the way fitness has taken over. It's not like I'm a pillar of fitness, but I spend a decent enough time in the gym to be able to physically perform and practice and play the way I'd like to play.”

If Mickelson were to claim his fourth green jacket this week it would make him the oldest Masters champion. It would be historic and put Mickelson in the same conversation as Nicklaus when future generations talk of the event’s greatest winners. Unlike Nicklaus in ’86, however, this wouldn’t hold the same cachet, at least for Lefty. He may be older then Nicklaus was in ’86, but competitively he feels much younger.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

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PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm