Perfect timing for Phil's resurgence at Dell

By Rex HoggardSeptember 2, 2017, 7:28 pm

NORTON, Mass. – Tim Mickelson waited patiently while Jon Rahm, who Mickelson represents, answered a parade of questions following a second-round 66 at TPC Boston that moved the Spaniard into the lead at the second postseason stop.

But player-manager is Mickelson’s day job. He’s been moonlighting as his brother’s caddie the last few months and Caddie Mickelson hasn’t had a lot of post-round work to do this season, as Player Mickelson has eschewed practice sessions after playing.

It’s not as though Phil Mickelson hasn’t had the desire to work on his game after rounds in recent months, it’s just that the energy and focus hasn’t been there to make the extracurricular activity worthwhile.

“I'm going to go practice when we're done. I haven't done that in a while because I've been so tired after the round, and I just feel a lot better,” Lefty said following a second-round 67 moved him into the hunt at the Dell Technologies Championship.

All of which meant Rahm’s press conference was just the beginning of Caddie Mickelson’s day. “Heading to the range in about 20 minutes,” he smiled.

Although Mickelson declined to give specifics, he explained following Friday’s first round that he’s been struggling with his focus and energy for the last six or eight months, a concern that led him to see a doctor who devised a treatment program that Lefty said has made a big difference, as evidenced by his play this week.

Mickelson hasn’t opened a tournament with back-to-back under-par rounds since early June and he said the biggest difference is with his short game and shots like the one he hit on the 18th hole when he scrambled from a collection area with a vintage pitch to 2 feet for a closing birdie.

“That's exactly what I'm talking about,” Mickelson said of his shot at the 18th hole. “I haven't been able to see how I want the ball to come off while I'm hitting it. When I'm looking at the ball, I usually have a mental picture of the shot and visualizing the shot, and then my body kind of reacts to that; creates that shot. I haven't been doing that. I've just been blindly hitting the shot.”


Dell Technologies Championship: Articles, video and photos

Current FedExCup Playoff points standings


The timing couldn’t be better, not just for Mickelson but for U.S. Presidents Cup captain Steve Stricker, who will make his picks for this year’s team following Monday’s final round.

Last month, Stricker offered Mickelson a bit of motivation at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, “you’ve got to show me a little bit more than what you’ve shown lately,” he told the southpaw in what was an admittedly awkward moment for the normally reserved American captain.

But Mickelson, who has played on every U.S. Presidents Cup team and hasn’t missed a team event since 1994, understood.

“[Stricker] needs to do what's best for the team,” Mickelson said. “He needs to get the best guys on the team. These are fun events but they are also important and we want to win, and as a captain, it's his job, responsibility, to make the tough decisions and do what's in the best interests of the team and I support that either way.”

Although a solid week at TPC Boston would certainly make Stricker’s Tuesday a little less stressful, it’s hard to imagine Mickelson being left off the U.S. team.

In recent matches he’s taken on the role of team room leader, pairing with rookies like Anthony Kim and Keegan Bradley with great success and generally being, well, Phil.

“If you've got an option to have him around on or off the team, it would be a benefit,” said Lucas Glover, who played on the 2007 and ’09 Presidents Cup teams with Mickelson. “Just the competitiveness, the humor, the passive-aggressive, just, I want to beat everybody. And you feed off that. Just great for a team.”

Although Mickelson is currently 18th on the U.S. points list (the top 10 automatically qualify), there’s not exactly a list of players making more compelling arguments to be a pick. No. 15 on that list is Brandt Snedeker, who shut it down for the season with a sternum joint injury, and No. 17 Ryan Moore, who withdrew from the second playoff stop on Friday following an opening 82.

Last week on Long Island, Stricker indicated Kevin Chappell, 11th on the points list, has played well enough all season to deserve a pick if he doesn’t move into the top 10; which means there’s a scenario where the final pick could come down to No. 12 Brian Harman, 13 Jason Dufner, 14 Gary Woodland and 16 Brendan Steele.

Oh, and Mickelson, who seems to have found some 11th-hour form and brings an unquantifiable level of leadership to a team that already includes five Presidents Cup rookies (six if Chappell makes the team).

“I would love to be the one he felt added to the team but if I'm not, he's got to make that tough call. I totally understand it,” Mickelson said. “I've had a tough time for awhile. But these two rounds, although they have been great, I don't know if that's enough or not.”

Mickelson’s start at the Dell Technologies Championship may not be enough to ease Stricker’s busy mind, but two more days of focus and energy would certainly help.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''