New York State of Mind

By Rex HoggardJune 17, 2009, 4:00 pm
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2009 U.S. OpenFARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' Phil Mickelson was born in Southern California. He sports a home with a dinosaur head and a space rock in Scottsdale and logs more flight hours in the G4 than a GM executive. But somewhere along the way from Bethpage to Winged Foot and back to Bethpage, he became New York ' like Woody Allen and graffiti.
Spray paint this on the side of the West Broadway local: NYC loves Lefty.
So imagine the show when the adopted prodigal son grinned and glad-handed his way around Bethpage Black on Wednesday, about a month removed from the type of news that changes lives and seven years removed from a championship run that changed the loyalties of an entire city.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson enjoys his practice round Wednesday at Bethpage. (Getty Images)
Or, as one fan mused midway through Wednesdays madness: Is this Wednesday or Sunday?
Didnt matter, at least not to the better part of two burrows who gathered in this corner of Long Island to watch Mickelson, who, by the by, didnt hit a single shot that counted. That comes Thursday when the intensity promises to climb even higher.
Before he headed out for his collective hug, Mickelson met with the press. Funny, this time last year we were grilling the left-hander about his no-driver experiment and a Day 1 pairing with Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines. On Wednesday most scribes were just glad to see him because that means Amy Mickelsons condition is not as bad as originally feared.
Amy Mickelson, the Tour staple who celebrated her husbands breakthrough victory at the 2004 Masters and his heartbreaking loss at Winged Foot in 2006 with equal grace and verve, was diagnosed with breast cancer last month and Mickelson suspended his schedule indefinitely, a dire sign for those who read tea leaves.
But Leftys return last week at Memphis and to the scene of his 2002 U.S. Open near miss this week was a reason to exhale. The road ahead is still daunting, but the medical mountain suddenly doesnt seem so high. And Amy, never one to let her man off without dig, had a simple request to help ease her into treatment.
She's left me a number of little notes, texts, cards, hints, that she would like to have a silver trophy in her hospital room, said Mickelson, who plans to be by his wifes side on July 1 when she begins treatment. So I'm going to try to accommodate that.
More so than anyone not named Woods, Mickelson shows up at Grand Slam events with a single purpose. Truth is he probably has no idea how many top 10s hes posted in major championships and doesnt care. This week is no different, despite the circumstances or the serenading.
On Wednesday Mickelson said he was confident in his game, adding that he may be hitting the ball better than he ever has. A prevailing school of thought in these parts is that time between the ropes will provide him with an escape from his wifes medical fortunes, if just for a few hours.
I did enjoy having a bit of a reprieve, if you will, in getting on a golf course and forcing myself to concentrate on something else, Mickelson said of his week in Memphis.
After his press conference Mickelson headed out into the cool morning to join Bones and Butch and what seemed like 30,000 of his closest friends and associates. If Mickelson doesnt land that coveted silver trophy ' the one he let slip through his fingers at Winged Foot and Pinehurst ' it wont be from a lack of support from the NYC faithful.
Its a measure of a mans popularity when his caddie pulls more applause than almost anyone else in the field. But then Mickelson roars are as much a part of Bethpage now as forced carries and public golf zealots who sleep in cars for tee times.
On the 13th green one fan started a curious trend, barking out: Youre a beautiful man Phil Mickelson. On the ninth green an entire gallery broke into a chorus of Happy Birthday, to celebrate Lefty turning 39 on Tuesday.
In between there was golf, smiles and more well-wishers than a census man could count. Exactly what Mickelson needed. An escape, where Butch Harmon was less swing coach and more counsel and Jim Bones Mackay was less caddie and more companion. Lean on me Grand Slam style.
Included in Wednesdays four-ball was three major champions and Darron Stiles, a curious fourth wheel who has had more than his share of personal tragedy and between-the-ropes therapy this season.
Stiles, who has been alongside an aunt and sister-in-law who battled breast cancer, was hardly 18 holes into his fifth year on Tour at Januarys Sony Open when his wife called to tell him his father had just passed away.
Stiles withdrew from the Sony, raced home and has struggled with his emotions and his game ever since.
I still think about my dad every day, so it definitely helps to be out here, Stiles said. I can feel what (Mickelson) is going through. Theres a lot inside thats not coming out, but from the outside hes doing real well.
Mickelsons ability to internalize Amys plight and focus on the most demanding four rounds in golf remains to be seen.
At the 1995 Masters Ben Crenshaw funneled the pain of losing longtime swing coach and friend Harvey Penick into a green jacket. However, three years ago just across Long Island at Winged Foot Tiger Woods, mentally the strongest golfer of this and maybe any generation, struggled in the wake of his father Earls passing and missed the cut. Its the only time hes missed a cut at a major as a pro. The point? It can go either way.
One thing is for certain, if Mickelson can compartmentalize the fire, then the fan base is in place for the most inspiring Open victory since, well, last year at Torrey Pines.
Midway through his round Mickelson found himself deep in a greenside sand trap at the 18th. Butchie, he smiled, tell me if this goes in.
Youll hear it, Harmon correctly reasoned.
And if Mickelson can align the proper stars and hoist silver on Sunday, theyll hear it from Montauk to Manhattan.
Related Links:
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    McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

    McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    “I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

    Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

    Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

    “I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

    This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

    A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

    McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

    “It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

    As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

    “It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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    Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

    By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

    PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

    She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

    Her confidence is high.

    “Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

    Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

    Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

    “One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

    “I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

    Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

    “I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

    That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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    Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

    By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

    PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

    While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

    But then . . .

    “Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

    In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

    She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

    With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

    At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

    Park’s back with a hot putter.

    That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

    “The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

    Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

    “But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

    Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

    Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

    They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

    Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

    “I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

    “She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

    Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

    “I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

    Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

    “When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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    Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

    By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

    PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

    It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

    “This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

    Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

    “First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

    Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.