Suddenly, a Mickelson career slam looks possible

By Rex HoggardJuly 26, 2013, 9:49 pm

Open hangovers tend to last longer than jet lag and international layovers, and last week’s frenzied finish at Muirfield has required more retrospective than normal. In no particular order, the week that was on the Firth of Forth:

Made Cut

Left field. This was the one Phil Mickelson was never supposed to win. Consider that in his first 17 Open starts Lefty had just one top-10 finish, and yet there he was late Sunday hoisting the claret jug and talking about his legacy.

In less than a month the conversation changed from Mickelson’s heartbreak at Merion, where he posted his sixth runner-up finish at the national championship, to his place among the game’s greats as he eyes a career Grand Slam, which has been accomplished by only five others.

“Those five players are the greats of the game. You look at them with a different light,” Mickelson said at Muirfield. “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.”

The only aspect of Mickelson’s game that has ever truly been in question is his motivation, but following last week’s British breakthrough it seems he will have no trouble remaining properly inspired to collect that last piece of the Grand Slam puzzle – the U.S. Open.

Muirfield. The list of Open champions at the East Lothian links remains beyond reproach following Mickelson’s torrid finish and after a week walking the dusty track it’s easy to see why.

Muirfield is widely considered the fairest of all Open rotation courses and the hard and fast conditions only added to the layout’s shot-making aura. As one player explained to Cut Line on Monday, if you hit a good shot you were rewarded, while bad shots were punished, sometimes dramatically.

Bad bounces are part and parcel of the links golf experience, but at Muirfield the rub of the green seemed to be mitigated by a straightforward test and solid ball-striking.

It’s enough to make one wish we saw the Scottish gem more than once a decade.

Tweet of the week: @JohnHurleyGolf ( Tour player John Hurley): “Has anyone ever had the luxury of making par on the last two for 59 in a tour event? Great work (Russell Knox).”

Knox went out in 30 on Friday at the Boise Open on the Tour (he started on the back nine), eagled the second and birdied his next five to get to 12 under. We can hear the punch lines now, how’d you shoot 59? Easy pars at the last two. #Classic.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Adjustments. Before we go all Draconian on another major miss for Tiger Woods last week – he has now gone 17 Grand Slam stops without a “W” – it’s important to keep things in perspective.

Woods is the only player this season with four victories and during that 0-for-17 major slide he has nine top-10 finishes, which hardly suggests it’s time to reinvent the wheel. There is, however, a concerning theme that seems to regularly crop up for the world No. 1.

“I had a hard time adjusting to the speeds,” Woods said on Sunday of Muirfield’s putting surfaces.

Last month at Merion, where he finished tied for 32nd, Woods had a similar take: “I struggled with the speed all week.”

And at the Memorial: “I didn't putt very well.  I had bad speed all week.”

Ditto for this year’s Masters: “I had a hard time getting the speed ...”

You get the point. Woods’ swing has largely been up to the task (he ranks 20th on Tour this season in ball-striking and total driving), which means the only difference between the current version of Woods and the one who collected 14 majors is lag putting.

May we humbly suggest an emergency session with Steve Stricker before next month’s PGA Championship.

Missed Cut

R&A. The week began with R&A chief Peter Dawson clumsily picking his way through the all-male minefield that bringing the Open Championship back to Muirfield wrought and then took the golf course too close to the line and had to douse the dust-up with copious amounts of water.

It’s no wonder Dawson & Co. canceled the traditional Monday morning news conference.

For Dawson, there is no easy answer to the all-male issue that promises to flare up again in 2016 when the championship returns to Royal Troon, but he will have to do better than “we've been through over 250 years of existence without getting into political comment, and I don’t really intend to break that rule here.”

Reality is they have made political hot spots part of their job. As for the agronomic hot spots that beset Muirfield’s greens let’s hope they are a little quicker with the water hoses next time.

Legal fees. We will spare you the details of the ongoing legal wrangling between Vijay Singh and the PGA Tour, but the most recent motion, filed by the Tour in the commercial division of the New York County Supreme Court last Friday, is an indication of how contentious and esoteric things have gotten.

The motion, an ongoing legal slugfest since the Fijian sued the Tour in May following his run-in with the circuit’s anti-doping policy, argues to dismiss Singh’s claim that players had no say in the implementation of the anti-doping policy.

“(Players) act principally through the PGA Tour policy board, which consists of four players elected by the full Tour membership, four volunteer independent directors and one member from the PGA of America. The Player Advisory Council – which Singh himself served on in 2009 ... – consults on policy issues with the Policy Board. It was the Policy Board (in consultation with the PAC) that approved the program in 2007.”

Cut Line still figures this case is headed toward a settlement, but at this rate it won’t be anytime soon.

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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

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''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.