Mickelson's gaffe generates needed excitement

By Rex HoggardOctober 9, 2015, 10:24 am

INCHEON, South Korea – It wasn’t Concessiongate, but given the status of a biennial event that has largely lacked any measure of buzz for some time, the rules minutiae that likely cost Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson a half point Friday was a reason to sit up and take notice.

While Lefty’s gaffe lacked the antagonistic subtext that made last month’s Solheim Cup so compelling, it was a breath of fresh air straight off the East China Sea for an event sorely in need of excitement.

When the dust finally settled at the Presidents Cup, the rules snafu led to Mickelson and Johnson losing two holes in the span of a single frame (No. 7), and International captain Nick Price’s suddenly energized team took care of the rest.

After earning the lone International point on Thursday, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace made an early statement Friday, stunning the American duo of Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, 4 and 3, to start a rally that would have the Internationals trailing by just a point, 5 ½ to 4 ½, at day's end.

The highlight for captain Nick Price, however, was Sangmoon Bae’s 11-foot birdie make on the 18th hole to edge Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, 1up. At no point during that match did Bae and his partner Danny Lee lead the Americans - until, of course, it was over.

“I must admit, that putt that Sangmoon made on No. 18 today, was probably the highlight of the last two days for us,” said Price, whose team won their first session since 2011. “They struggled a little bit today, and Danny obviously has been trying so hard. I think he's strung out. But it's a good day for us.”

It was the collective play of the International team, which won three and a half of the five points avaiable on Day 2, that infused a measure of competitiveness into these matches, but it was the bizarre moments that Mickelson spent on the seventh hole that made the event compelling.

With his fourballs match against Jason Day and Adam Scott all square on the seventh tee, Mickelson switched to a “firmer [golf] ball” for his tee shot only to discover he had violated the one-ball rule, which resulted in what officials called an “adjustment to the state of the match.”

The adjustment, essentially a one-hole penalty, was compounded when rules officials told Mickelson he was disqualified from the hole. Zach Johnson, who was playing the International tandem a man down, made par to the Internationals' birdie.

From all square to 2 down in one hole, it was, indeed, a profound adjustment to the state of the matches as a whole, transforming them from foregone conclusion to compelling competition.

While Mickelson took full responsibility for his mistake, he did seem to cast a strange stone afterward with a comment that is sure to become bulletin board fodder for a suddenly inspired International team.

“I feel like we spotted the Internationals’ best team two holes and they still couldn't beat us. Just saying,” Mickelson said.

Although Alison Lee’s mistake, combined with what appeared to be European gamesmanship, actually inspired the American Solheim Cup team to victory last month, Mickelson’s mistake appeared to give the Internationals new life heading into Saturday’s double session.

After both its captain and players started the week with weak efforts, the International team rallied on Friday thanks, at least in part, to a pep talk by Price after Thursday’s meltdown.

“Price had a good involvement with the team last night, getting the pairings spot-on, and I think that was really important for today,” said Grace, who along with Oosthuizen is 2-0 this week.

Price – who surprised some even inside his own team room with a few of his pairings on Thursday, most notably his decision to sit Sangmoon Bae for the opening foursome match – said his biggest concern was how nervous his team, particularly the rookies, appeared in the opening session.

“I know I keep repeating myself, but there's not much more that you can say to those guys to instill confidence in them,” Price said. “You know, I don't criticize them. I didn't say anything. It was just an observation yesterday. They just responded so well today.”

U.S. captain Jay Haas likely stated a similar case to his team after dropping three of Friday’s five fourball matches, but then the American front man has history on his side.

The U.S. team held a similar one-point advantage after two days in 2013 at Muirfield Village before nearly sweeping the morning fourball session on Saturday. It began Sunday with a six-point advantage.

“Obviously we're not as pleased with our day today as we were yesterday,” Haas said. “I don't think the guys are discouraged. It's a putt here, a putt there. Things could have ended differently. It's obviously a very important day tomorrow. I think the guys realize that and they will come out ready to go.”

While Saturday will prove pivotal for this year's matches, Friday was likely the most crucial day for the overall health of the Presidents Cup.

As Price has preached all week, these matches, perhaps more so than any of the previous 10, need to be competitive and compelling. That the event became slightly more contentious on Friday was only a bonus.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.