After Troon heartbreak, Baltusrol just what Phil needs

By Rex HoggardJuly 26, 2016, 8:18 pm

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – You could almost hear Rob Thomas harmonizing as Phil Mickelson made his painful play.

“This is it now

Everybody get down

This is all I can take

This is how a heart breaks”

- This is How a Heart Breaks

Lefty’s had his share of major heartbreaks. Just pick your poison. Maybe it’s the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion when he closed with a 74 to lose by two strokes; or at Winged Foot in ’06 when he signed for another final-round 74 to drop a one-stroke decision at his national championship.

But Royal Troon ... Royal Troon was different.

Mickelson played flawless golf in Scotland two Sundays ago. Bogey-free golf, which he will tell you isn’t something he does very often, in what was widely dubbed the “Duel in the Wind” with Henrik Stenson. He posted a closing-round 65 without a single “Phil” moment when everything has a tendency to go pear-shaped.

Three days earlier he’d come within a single rotation of rolling in a birdie on the 18th hole for the first 62 in major championship history. At the time he battled mixed emotions: “I just shot one of the greatest rounds ever and I want to cry,” he said.

The golf gods had decided it wasn’t Mickelson’s day and he moved on, but that Sunday loss to Stenson will not be as easily dismissed.

“I'll look back over time and my disappointment will probably increase, because I think it's the first time in my career that I have played to that level of golf and not had it be enough to win a tournament,” Mickelson said on Tuesday at the PGA Championship.

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Getting clipped by Justin Rose at Merion or Geoff Ogilvy at Winged Foot was one thing, the byproduct of largely self-inflicted wounds that have come to define the risk-taking southpaw. But the outcome of this year’s Open felt as if it was out of his hands, a new dynamic that was not of his making.

At 46, Mickelson has steeled himself against the inevitable doubts and internal critiques that normally follow a loss that defies easy explanation.

There will be a time when Phil will reflect on Royal Troon, probably fondly, but those moments can wait. The People’s Champion who won his second major at Baltusrol in 2005 doesn’t have the time or luxury for reflection just yet.

That determination to stay on topic was evident when he was asked about the perceived narrow window he has to win majors. Mickelson bristled.

“I don't believe that there is a small window. I think there's a really big window of opportunity to add to my resume, to continue to compete in big events,” he said. “There's a really big window of opportunity to have some success. I'm having more fun playing because of it.”

There is a bit of symmetry to Mickelson’s decision to leave Royal Troon unexamined. When he arrived at the ’05 PGA he was more than a year removed from his first major victory, and had dropped close calls at the ’04 U.S. Open and Open. He was looking to further a career that was, at least in the biggest events, just getting started.

He immediately liked Baltusrol, a traditional East Coast venue with thick rough and pushed up greens. Loved the area and made Joe’s Pizzeria, just a few well-played 3-woods the other side of Interstate-78, a staple in his dietary rotation.

“I had said going in that when I win one, that I'm going to win multiple; it wasn't going to be just a one-and-done,” Mickelson said. “I needed to come back, in a fairly short time period and validate that first win.”

Similarly, the alternative to revisiting his loss to Stenson at The Open is to fixate on the next mountain, in this case this week’s PGA Championship.

He arrived late last week in the area for a corporate outing followed by a charity function on Saturday before getting back to work relearning Baltusrol after an 11-year hiatus.

Idle hands and all.

Unlike in ’05, the often-wayward Mickelson plans to play Baltusrol strategically this week, trading power for precision with an action he and swing coach Andrew Getson have made more consistent as evidenced by his play two weeks ago in Scotland.

“We have big tournaments coming up right now and because I am playing well, I don't want to let an opportunity, another really good opportunity that I have to play a PGA Championship here at Baltusrol at a course I like, while my game is sharp, and let the effects or disappointment linger,” he said.

The alternative would be to drill down on what went wrong at Royal Troon, and time will probably reveal that some heartbreaks simply can’t be explained.

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."