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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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.