Mickelson wins one showdown sets up another

By Rex HoggardMarch 15, 2009, 4:00 pm
2007 WGC CA ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. ' More often than not the script doesnt settle as penned. The golf world wanted Tiger vs. Phil at Doral, would have celebrated Tiger vs. Camilo ' considering the Latino tilt of the south Florida masses ' and settled for Tiger vs. Geoff. We got Phil vs. Nick, which in retrospect hardly turned out to be a B flight or reason to tune out.
 
Particularly when the distance between the contenders and those lined up to simply cash a check spanned the Everglades and yet the outcome remained in doubt through the final green.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson hoists his first WGC trophy. (Getty Images)
Read into Phil Mickelsons one-shot buzzer beater at the WGC-CA Championship at your own risk. It was not a Doral do-over, salving the sting of that blow-for-blow he dropped to Tiger Woods before the WGC banner came to Miami. Nor was it a perfectly-timed told you so that coincided with Leftys quiet pairing with Butch Harmon two years ago here at Doral.
 
At best, Mickelsons World Golf Championship breakthrough was an attention getting qualifying lap with an intense eye toward Augusta National.
 
Mickelson visited Augusta National earlier in the week and gushed after his opening-round 7-of-14 fairways hit, offering of his new, screw it philosophy off the tee.
 
He has a lot of confidence in the swing changes weve made, Harmon said. Everything were doing right now is gearing toward Augusta National.
 
But it was his putter ' combined with the best of modern medicine and an upgraded conditioning program ' that netted Tour title No. 36 and the first WGC of his Hall of Fame career.
 
For the week, Mickelson took just 99 putts, second among a field of the worlds best, including just eight over his final nine holes on Thursday. Whatever the tonic, Mickelson has now won twice heading toward Magnolia Lane ' in Los Angeles with something less than his best stuff and at Doral with something less than a quarter tank physically.
 
On the eve of his final-round bout with Nick Watney, Mickelson was hustled to a local Urgent Care facility, suffering from cold chills and dehydration, the byproduct, Mickelson said, of a virus. He remained in bed until 1:30 p.m. on game day Sunday and arrived at Doral weak and unable to perform his regular warm-up.
 
I said before we teed off, beware the injured golfer, Mickelson said.
 
Watney, who suffered an injury only to his young psyche on Sunday, wasnt too bad either.
 
The world descended on Miami for a World Golf Championship, and a California Amateur broke out. Mickelson, a SoCal staple, and Watney, the pride of Fresno, began the final turn four clear of the field. By the time the final two-ball made the turn, Watneys 8 -footer for eagle at the 10th hole combined with Mickelsons tap-in for birdie pushed the duo a touchdown clear of the field. Welcome to the WGC-CA Match Play Championship.
 
On Thursday, Henrik Stenson played a shot from a water hazard as God made me, or, to be precise, in his unmentionables and a golf glove. On Sunday, Watney and Mickelson played alone, or at least it seemed, and fully clothed and simply pantsed the field.
 
By the time the pair reached the fearsome18th, after trading pars for the previous five holes, Mickelson smoothed the type of drive that would have won him that U.S. Open at Winged Foot, an aggressive line that sailed over the watery blue and into the fairway. In many ways Doral has become a fairytale, a closing Monster and 17 mice.
 
You've got to hit it in the fairway there, and if I hit it in the water, I'm looking at losing the tournament rather than trying to win it, said Mickelson, who closed with a 69, his fourth round in the 60s, for a 19-under 269 total. When the drive came off, that felt awesome.
 
Yet, as clutch as Mickelsons closing salvo was, his CA performance was as much a result of an intensified workout regimen with his trainer, Sean Cochran, as it was his two-years with Harmon. Mickelson and Cochran have been working together since 2003 but switched up the routine this off-season in an attempt to have Lefty peak at the majors.
 
When you get dehydrated its hard to get your body caught up just with fluids. Thats why you need an IV, Cochran said. For him not feeling physically at his peak, this is a huge step for him.
 
Although it probably didnt feel like it as the sun melted out of the south Florida sky Sunday, Doral was also a huge step for Watney.
 
Victories in New Orleans in 2007 and earlier this year at Torrey Pines established Watney as an American up-and-comer, but his blow-for-blow duel with Mickelson proved hes prepared for the biggest stages.
 
Watney is big and strong and a tad bland, which is less an indictment of his game as it is a general observation. He earned his spot in the days marquee pairing with a pair of steely sand saves and a timely up-and-down at the 18th on Saturday. On Sunday, the 27-year-old showed why Harmon kept the quiet kid from Fresno among his select stable of Tour players, matching Mickelson shot for shot until the final hole when his birdie attempt to square the match stopped two rotations short.
 
As Nicks ball rolled toward the hole . . . Ive been there man, Mickelson said.
 
Despite two awkward lies in bunkers that ultimately cost him his first WGC, Watney closed with a 70, his only round above 67 all week.
 
I dream of moments like that (at No. 18), in my dreams it comes out a little different, said Watney, emotional following the most high-profile duel of his career. I had a solid week, beat 78 of the best players in the world. I beat Tiger Woods.
 
As for the world's No. 1, his ballstriking looked as sound as it did two weeks earlier in Tucson, but his putting was often a few blades off. He ranked 74th in the field in putts per greens in regulation and tied for ninth, his highest finish in this event since 2004.
 
The good news is I got better each and every day, Woods said. My ballstriking, my feel got better each and every day. Im happy with the way I played, I didnt say the way I finished.
 
Good news for those script writers penning Masters tomes, but not for those coloring outside the lines.
 
(Woods) will get back to that level, said Mickelson, a smile creeping into his delivery, Im hoping it is in five weeks and not four.
 
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  • Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook sank a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without making a bogey on the Plantation Course or the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    Cook was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back.

    Bubba (64) fires his lowest round of 2017

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:12 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Bubba Watson’s plan when he left the Dell Technologies Championship in September was to take a few months off and come back fresh in 2018

    Those plans changed after a few weeks.

    “What we figured out was the mental side, preparing for kindergarten - not for me, for my son - preparing for [wife] Angie's knee surgery. It's been a tough go,” Watson said.

    “Being home and being with the family and everything, I realized how much I missed the game of golf, and that's why I wanted to come and play in these tournaments.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    The plan has paid off this week at the RSM Classic, where Watson is tied for 12th place after a second-round 64 on the Seaside course moved him to 7 under par.

    Watson, who tied for 51st two weeks ago in Las Vegas, got off to a quick start on Day 2, playing the opening nine in 29. Despite a miscue at the 14th hole, when his tee shot wedged into a tree, he was solid coming in for his best individual round this year.

    The left-hander was particularly sharp with his ball-striking after what has been a difficult year.

    “I want to play golf now and right now I'm swinging at it pretty nicely,” he said.

    S.H. Park (65) builds three-shot lead at LPGA finale

    By Doug FergusonNovember 17, 2017, 9:58 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Golf felt so easy to Sung Hyun Park that only when she took out her card to catch up on her scores did she realize she had closed out the front nine with five straight birdies at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Park kept right on attacking.

    The 24-year-old from South Korea added a 30-foot eagle putt late in her second round and finished with a 7-under 65, giving her a three-shot lead going into the weekend at Tiburon Golf Club.

    Nothing seems to bother her, even the chance to cap off an amazing rookie season by sweeping all the big awards on the LPGA Tour.

    ''To be honest, I don't feel quite as nervous as I thought I would,'' Park said through an interpreter. ''After the first shot, after the first hole, I felt a lot more comfortable. I'm not feeling as nervous as I thought I might be going into today.''

    Leave that to the players chasing her.

    Even with a three-putt bogey on the final hole, Park was at 12-under 132 and was three shots clear of Caroline Masson (66) and Sarah Jane Smith (69).


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    More importantly, none of the other players in the chase for the $1 million Race to the CME Globe bonus or any other big award was within five shots of Park, who is trying to become the first rookie since Nancy Lopez in 1978 to win LPGA player of the year.

    Lexi Thompson, who leads the Race to the CME Globe and the Vare Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average, shot a 67 and wound up losing ground. She was six shots behind and must stay within 10 shots of Park to win the Vare.

    So Yeon Ryu, who leads the points-based award for player of the year, managed a 71 with her sore right shoulder but was 11 shots back.

    The other two players who need to win the tournament to collect the $1 million bonus also had their work cut out for them. Brooke Henderson had another 70 and was eight shots behind, while world No. 1 Shanshan Feng shot 73 and was 11 shots behind.

    Park was in control, only she didn't see it that way.

    ''I don't think it's quite that far of a lead,'' Park said. ''Two, three shots of a lead can change at any moment. We will have to see what's in store for this weekend.''

    Park began her big run with an 18-foot birdie on No. 5, got up-and-down for birdie from just off the green at the par-5 sixth, holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 7, and then closed out the front nine with birdie putts from 8 feet and 15 feet.

    ''I actually didn't know that I was going five birdies in a row,'' Park said. ''Come hole No. 10, I realized that I hadn't been jotting down my scores as diligently, and so I realized it a little bit later on. And it felt great.''

    That gave her the lead by one shot over Suzann Pettersen, except that Pettersen faded badly on the back nine.

    Pettersen dropped four shots in a three-hole stretch by getting out of position off the tee and she shot 39 on the back nine for a 70 to fall five shots behind.

    ''I feel like I'm playing good,'' Pettersen said. ''Three bad drives on the back nine cost me four shots. That should not be possible on this course, where the fairways are about 100 yards wide.''

    Park was honored at an awards banquet Thursday night as the LPGA rookie of the year. Now, she has more awards in her sights. A victory would give her the award for player of the year. She would capture the money title, which she leads over Ryu. And depending on how the weekend goes, she might be able to surpass Thompson in the race for the Vare Trophy.

    Thompson did well to recover from two bogeys on her opening three holes.

    ''I hit a few really erratic shots in the beginning. It wasn't a good start to the round,'' Thompson said. ''Just tried to stay positive and find something that could work for the last 14, 15 holes.''

    Lydia Ko fell six shots behind in her bid to avoid a winless season. She was one shot behind going into the second round but managed only three birdies in her round of 71.

    Park, meanwhile, had everything going her way. Even when she pulled her drive on the par-5 14th into a sandy area with a root next to her ball, she picked it clear and sent it through a goal post of trees back to the fairway. Three holes later, she blasted a drive and had only a 7-iron into the green at the par-5 17th, which she hit to 30 feet and made the long putt.

    Does anything make her nervous?

    ''I hate spiders,'' she said. ''But in terms of golf, I always get nervous to this day on the first tee. I can feel my heart pounding.''

    It's a feeling that doesn't appear to last very long.