Newsmaker of the Year No. 4: Phil Mickelson

By Rex HoggardDecember 24, 2013, 12:50 pm

Within minutes of his unlikely victory at the Open Championship Phil Mickelson had already settled into his normal routine as the smartest person in the room.

Just as the media and masses were trying to digest Lefty’s Scottish Slam – victories in consecutive weeks on links courses – the man himself had already compartmentalized the claret jug and moved on to the next mountain.

“If I'm able to win the U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam, I think that that's the sign of the complete great player. And I'm a leg away (U.S. Open). And it's been a tough leg for me,” he allowed in the moments following his Open triumph.

“There’s five players that have done that. And those five players are the greats of the game. You look at them with a different light. And if I were able to ever win a U.S. Open, and I'm very hopeful that I will, but it has been elusive for me. And yet this championship has been much harder for me to get.”

That kind of instant perspective is why Mickelson is among 2013’s top newsmakers. The truth is it’s why he’s always among the year’s top newsmakers.

His on-course play aside – an eclectic card in ’13 ranging from his brilliant performances at the Open Championship and Waste Management Phoenix Open to relatively lackluster starts at the Masters and throughout the FedEx Cup playoffs – it is Lefty’s keen sense for the dramatic that defies the golf world to look away.

He lipped out for a 59 in Round 1 at TPC Scottsdale, signed for a second-round 79 at Bay Hill and arrived at the U.S. Open, albeit a tad delayed following a red-eye flight on the eve of the opening round to attend the eighth-grade graduation of his oldest daughter back home in Southern California, wielding a juiced up fairway wood and a dialed down game plan.



“I knew he wasn’t going to try to hit a driver, which as you know with Phil is a good thing because that means he doesn’t try to bomb the thing 400 yards,” swing coach Butch Harmon said as Mickelson set out on Sunday at Merion with a one-stroke lead.

Mickelson’s heartbreaking history at his national championship appeared to be headed for a new chapter when he holed out a wedge shot for eagle at the par-4 10th to take the lead. But he miss-clubbed at the 13th hole, failed to convert a birdie putt at the 16th and watched the award ceremony for the sixth time from the bridesmaid’s box.

There could have been a Merion malaise, an emotional lull after coming so close to the one championship he covets the most . . . again. And, to be honest, it’s not as though many outside Camp Lefty considered the Open Championship a viable option given the 43-year-old’s pedestrian record at the game’s oldest tilt.

In 17 trips across the Atlantic, Mickelson had just two top-10 finishes in the Open and before 2011, when he finished a distant second to Darren Clarke, the ancient links didn’t seem to be his brand of Scotch – all of which makes Mickelson’s fairytale fortnight in Scotland so significant.

He won the Scottish Open in a playoff and carded what many considered the most inspiring final round of the year – a 66 that was capped by birdies at the 71st and 72nd hole – at Muirfield to etch his name onto the claret jug.

“After you work with a guy for 21 years, it’s pretty cool when you see him play the best round of golf he’s ever played in the last round of the British Open,” an emotional Jim “Bones” Mackay said.

Who knew the man who was one good bounce away from an U.S. Open title at Winged Foot or Merion just needed the burnt and bouncy turf of Muirfield to put his career into a final approach to greatness?

Even as Mickelson’s play dropped off late in the season he continued to make headlines, announcing in September he was considering cutting his schedule by as much as 25 percent in future years “in an effort to play at a high level when I do play because I know that I’m not able to do it 25 weeks a year,” he said.

For Mickelson the scheduling makeover is an ode to the obvious. Next year’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst marks the 15th anniversary of Lefty’s first near miss at the event when he lost to Payne Stewart on the Donald Ross gem.

It’s why, with his signature flare for the dramatic, Mickelson’s mind immediately raced ahead even as he waited adjacent the 18th green at Muirfield to accept the claret jug.

“I never knew if I would be able to win this tournament. I hoped and believed but I never knew it,” he said.

Muirfield was more than a victory for Mickelson, it was a seminal moment; and as is normally the case with Lefty, he figured it out long before the rest of us.


More Newsmakers in 2013:

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 5: Anchoring

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 6: Inbee Park

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 7: Rory McIlroy

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 8: Henrik Stenson

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 9: Jordan Spieth

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 10: Vijay Singh

Newsmaker of the Year: Honorable mentions

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J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda fired eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record at the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


Korda, who is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda, leads fellow American Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under.

Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

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Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

Later, he laughed about the moment.

''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

“They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

“Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

“As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

“Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.

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McIlroy, Scott have forgettable finish at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 11:03 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rory McIlroy and the rest of his group had a forgettable end to their rounds Thursday at the Honda Classic.

McIlroy was even par for the day and looking for one final birdie to end his opening round. Only two players had reached the par-5 finishing hole, but McIlroy tried to hold a 3-wood up against the wind from 268 yards away. It found the water, leading to a double bogey and a round of 2-over 72.  

“It was the right shot,” McIlroy said. “I just didn’t execute it the right way.”

He wasn’t the only player to struggle coming home.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Adam Scott, who won here in 2016, found the water on both par 3s in the Bear Trap, Nos. 15 and 17. He made double on 15, then triple on 17, after his shot from the drop area went long, then he failed to get up and down. He shot 73, spoiling a solid round.

The third player in the group, Padraig Harrington, made a mess of the 16th hole, taking a triple.

The group played the last four holes in a combined 10 over.