Mickelsons Masters to Remember

By Rex HoggardApril 12, 2010, 5:57 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – For five months Tiger Woods begrudgingly dominated the spotlight. On Sunday Phil Mickelson and Augusta National took it back.

Good golf, the pundits claimed, would change a conversation that had lingered on unsavory items for far too long. They were right, but who knew the quality crafting would come byway an off-form lefty with wavering focus between a game that had come so easy to him at the end of 2009 and a wife who needed him.

For five months Woods has been reclusive and reticent. For five months Mickelson has been rusty and routinely, and rightly, distracted.

Turns out all Mickelson needed to get things back on track was Woods and a golf course that feels likes a comfortable sweeter. Alpha, it seems, needs omega to complete the championship cocktail.

The Masters Mickelson staked his claim to with his eagle-eagle-birdie blitz late Saturday afternoon was his long before he began the walk up the steep 18th fairway. By the 16th hole he was three clear of the field, the byproduct of the type of back-nine charge people remember, and he could have played to the crowd and skipped his tee shot across the pond like they do in practice rounds.

He played it straight, played the last three on a warm Sunday afternoon without flaw and had two coveted prizes waiting for him after holing his 8 footer for birdie at the last – a green jacket and a glowing wife, Amy, who has been absent from Tour life since being diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

“My wife has been through a lot this year and it means a lot to share some joy together,” Mickelson said in a broken voice. “She’s been an inspiration to me the last year.”

This week Mickelson gave his better-half plenty to cheer, to say nothing of the Augusta National faithful.

What started with Saturday’s back-nine fireworks came to a head when Mickelson reached the devilish 12th hole. He figured he needed to play famed Amen Corner in even par to keep pace with a leaderboard that turned over with each roar. He did one better, covering the hallowed ground in 2 under on his way to a closing 67, a 16-under 272 total and a three-shot victory.

There has been much made of Mickelson’s on-course evolution, some opining that he’d toned down his high-wire act in recent years, but at Augusta National he was every bit the “Thrill” of old.

At the 18th on Saturday and on the fifth on Sunday, Mickelson flopped and won, beating the odds and gravity and every ounce of reason in caddie Jim Mackay’s body for improbable pars via shots that looked like they may never fall from the sky.

On Sunday at the 13th, he beat the field the old fashion way, with bravado bordering on recklessness. From 207 yards through a 2-foot gap, and against Mackay’s subtle advice, Mickelson rifled a 6-iron from the pine straw to 4 feet. He missed the eagle putt, but his birdie dropped him to 12 under and two clear of a field that was running out of time.

“I tried to talk him out of it, he said no. I went at him again, he said definitely no,” Mackay laughed. “That’s Phil, he simplifies things. Give me the club and get out of the way.”

The powers that be wanted the pines to rattle, Mickelson rattled the pine straw at the 13th and put one arm in his third green jacket. He now owns more Augusta National green than all but three players named Jack, Arnie and Tiger.

As for the latter, the “return” ended with a mixed card. To wrap up Woods’ week, his best moments may have come on Monday when he held his mass Q&A with a curious media and didn’t break any china. But after four days of tournament golf maybe the biggest questions that remain are about his golf. And that’s progress by any measure.

He was solid Thursday and Friday, dodgy on Saturday and simply not sharp enough to get the job done on Sunday. For the record, Choi matched Woods shot-for-shot and side-by-side over 72 holes. It was Y.E. Yang all over again. Who knew Woods’ real Achilles ailment was Korean Kryptonite?

From the start Woods’ swing seemed out of sync and on Sunday he battled the dreaded two-way miss. He hit the ninth fairway, from the first tee, played an eventful outward loop of 35 that included three bogeys, two birdies and an eagle and was largely a non-story for the second-consecutive year on the back nine.

There were those who said a Woods victory straight out of his hiatus would not look good for the game. So, in that case, Karma wins.

Lost in that hyperbole, however, was Woods’ tie for fourth, his seventh consecutive year in the top six, a victory of form if not function given the circumstances.

“I had another terrible warm-up,” said Woods, who closed with 69 and tied with Choi in fourth place. “Big hook off of (No. 1), popped up my drive at (No. 2), bladed a chip at (No. 3).”

Sounds a lot like a man who missed five months on the job and his play suggests the only fix Woods needs is reps, which prompted one scribe to ask when he will play again?

“Think we’re playing the Monday qualifier for Hilton Head (Verizon Heritage) tomorrow,” Woods cracked.

He lost the tournament, but not his sense of humor. The same might not be said for Lee Westwood, the 54-hole leader who appeared poised to end all that Grand Slam heartache.

To be honest, Augusta National is not a place the Englishman had fallen for. Westwood’s miss is a quick left, which is an easy way to work one’s way off a leaderboard. But he’d put the time in to learn the Georgia gem’s secrets, floating in the week before the event to cram for the ultimate exam.

“That did him a world of good. All week it just made him feel comfortable and he’s starting to understand it,” said Chubby Chandler, Westwood’s manager.

The major enigma, however, continues to baffle Westwood, who completed the “Near-miss Slam” on Sunday with his runner-up showing. In the last two years he’s finished no worse than third at the U.S. Open (2008), British Open (2009), PGA Championship (2009) and now the Masters.

Fred Couples can relate. At 50 years old he was looking to top Jack Nicklaus, who won his last Masters at 46 in 1986. Instead, “Boom Boom” signed for a closing 70 and took the senior division, which comes with no jacket just a pair of Ecco shoes and no socks.

Couples’ title chances slipped away with a missed short putt at the 11th, a familiar theme, and were rinsed for good when his tee shot at the 12th hit the bank and rolled back into Rae’s Creek. Augusta National’s “second cut” must not have the grab that it did in 1992, when Couples beat the field and gravity with one of the all-time breaks to lift his green jacket.

“It was a great four days for me,” said Couples before boarding a golf cart bound for the greener pastures of the Champions Tour after his final-round 70 left him alone in sixth.

In order Choi and Anthony Kim, fresh from his Shell Houston Open victory, made spirited runs. The American born of Korean parents clawed into the game with a birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie run that began on the 13th hole. The Korean proper took a share of the lead with a 7 footer for birdie at the 10th hole, but neither could keep pace with Mickelson.

No one could. Not at a golf course that means so much. Not with fate smiling down from crystal clear skies and a wife and two children, the oldest of whom had to be rushed to an area emergency room with a fractured arm following a roller-skating mishap Saturday night, waiting happily.

“We refer to (Augusta National) as Phil’s playground,” Mackay said.

He’s finished outside the top 10 at Augusta National once in the last decade and he plays the venerable club’s closing nine the way Bobby Jones envisioned, with zeal. For the week Lefty was 13 under on the inward loop, including his no-bogey, four-birdie finish on Sunday.

To put it simply, “I love this place,” Mickelson said.

On Sunday – with Amy waiting behind the 18th green, 11 months removed from Tour life but beaming as if she’d never left – both Mickelson’s made a return at a place where it matters the most. Moments later they entered Butler Cabin together, holding hands, and it seemed like home.

Hensby takes full responsibility for violation

By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2017, 5:28 pm

The PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program manual covers 48 pages of details, from the pressing to the mundane, but for Mark Hensby the key section of the policy could be found on Page 5.

“The collector may allow you to delay reporting to the testing area for unavoidable obligations; however, you will be monitored from the time of notification until completion of the sample collection process,” the policy reads. “A failure to report to the testing area by the required time is the same as a doping violation under the program.”

Hensby, a 46-year-old former Tour winner from Australia, didn’t read that section, or any other part of the manual. In fact, he said he hasn’t received the circuit’s anti-doping manual in years. Not that he uses that as an excuse.

To be clear, Hensby doesn’t blame his anti-doping plight on anyone else.

“At the end of the day it’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility,” he told GolfChannel.com.

Like Doug Barron, Scott Stallings and even Vijay Singh before him, Hensby ran afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy because, essentially, of a clerical error. There were no failed tests, no in-depth investigations, no seedy entourages who sent Hensby down a dark road of performance-enhancing drug use.

Just a simple misunderstanding combined with bad timing.

Hensby, who last played a full season on Tour in 2003, had just completed the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship when he was approached by a member of the Tour’s anti-doping testing staff. He was angry about his play and had just used the restroom on the 17th hole and, he admits, was in no mood to wait around to take the urine test.

“Once I said, ‘Can I take it in the morning,’ [the Tour’s anti-doping official] said, ‘We can’t hold you here,’” Hensby recalled. “I just left.”

Not one but two officials called Hensby that night to ask why he’d declined to take the test, and he said he was even advised to return to the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to take the test, which is curious because the policy doesn’t allow for such gaps between notification of a test and the actual testing.

According to the policy, a player is considered in violation of the program if he leaves the presence of the doping control officers without providing the required sample.

A Tour official declined to comment on the matter citing the circuit’s policy not to comment on doping violations beyond the initial disclosure.

A week later, Hensby was informed he was in violation of the Tour’s policy and although he submitted a letter to the commissioner explaining the reasons for his failure to take the test he was told he would be suspended from playing in any Tour-sanctioned events (including events on the Web.com Tour) for a year.

“I understand now what the consequences are, but you know I’ve been banned for a performance-enhancing drug violation, and I don’t take performance-enhancing drugs,” Hensby said.

Hensby isn’t challenging his suspension nor did he have any interest in criticizing the Tour’s policy, instead his message two days after the circuit announced the suspension was focused on his fellow Tour members.

“I think the players need to read that manual really, really well. There are things I wasn’t aware of and I think other players weren’t aware of either,” he said. “You have to read the manual.”

It was a similar message Stallings offered following his 90-day suspension in 2015 after he turned himself in for using DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour.

“This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently, but I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Stallings said at the time.

Barron’s 2009 suspension, which was for a year, also could have been avoided after he tested positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor for what were by many accounts legitimate health issues.

And Singh’s case, well that chapter is still pending in the New York Supreme Court, but the essential element of the Fijian’s violation was based on his admitted use of deer-antler spray, which contained a compound called IGF-1. Although IGF-1 is a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the use of deer-antler spray is not a violation if an athlete doesn’t fail a drug test. Singh never failed a test.

The Tour’s anti-doping history is littered with cases that could have been avoided, cases that should have been avoided. Despite the circuit’s best educational efforts, it’s been these relatively innocent violations that have defined the program.

In retrospect, Hensby knows he should have taken the test. He said he had nothing to hide, but anger got the best of him.

“To be honest, it would have been hard, the way I was feeling that day, I know I’m a hothead at times, but I would have probably stayed [had he known the consequences],” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand that if you have too much water you can’t get a test either and then you have to stay even longer.”

Hensby said before his run in with the anti-doping small print he wasn’t sure what his professional future would be, but his suspension has given him perspective and a unique motivation.

“I was talking to my wife last night, I have a little boy, it’s been a long month,” said Hensby after dropping his son, Caden, off at school. “I think I have a little more drive now and when I come back. I wasn’t going to play anymore, but when I do come back I am going to be motivated.”

He’s also going to be informed when it comes to the Tour’s anti-doping policy, and he hopes his follow professionals take a similar interest.

Getty Images

Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief

By Will GrayDecember 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.

The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.

The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.

Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.

"This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."

Getty Images

LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.

THE MAJORS

Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)

Spieth pars 12, but makes quad on 15

Spieth takes another gut punch, but still standing

Article: Spieth splashes to worst Masters finish

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U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)

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The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)

Spieth survives confusing ordeal on 13

Photos: Spieth's incredible journey on 13

Take it, it's yours: Spieth gets claret jug

Chamblee: Spieth doesn't have 'it' - 'he has it all'

Article: Spieth silences his doubters - even himself

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PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)

Article: Spieth accepts that Grand Slam is off the table


TWO REGULAR TOUR WINS

AT&T Pebble Beach

Article: Spieth rising from 'valley' after Pebble Beach win

Travelers Championship

Spieith wins dramatic Travelers in playoff

Watch: Spieth holes bunker shot, goes nuts


FUN OUTSIDE OF TOUR LIFE


PHOTO GALLERIES

Photos: Jordan Spieth and Annie Verret

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Photos: Jordan Spieth through the years