Mickelson, McIlroy off to promising start in 2014

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2014, 3:10 pm

As far as season openers go, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy gave fans plenty of reasons for optimism in Abu Dhabi.

Sure, a case could be made that they both left the desert lamenting their mental mistakes – Phil the double-hit in the final round that led to a triple bogey, Rory the two-shot penalty Saturday for taking an improper drop. But even though they finished a shot behind surprise winner Pablo Larrazabal, the biggest takeaway from Abu Dhabi was the play of two of golf’s biggest stars. Considering their 2014 objectives, it was an auspicious start.

Of course, Mickelson enters every year bubbling with enthusiasm, effusing about his new equipment, believing that, yes, this will be his best year yet. And who knows? At age 44, with the prospect of the career grand slam looming, it just might.

But even more encouraging than Lefty’s runner-up finish or his new driver was the fact that he traveled nearly 8,500 miles, showed relatively little rust and gave himself a chance to win in the first start of arguably his most important year ever.

Supposedly, his 2014 season begins and ends at Pinehurst, where all of his U.S. Open heartache began 15 years ago. The thinking goes that it would then leave his other starts to serve as measuring sticks for his game, with one very green-jacketed exception.

If that’s true, if Mickelson’s first few months are just one big preview for the U.S. Open, it sure didn’t seem like it in Abu Dhabi. 

He could have collected the fat appearance check, mailed it in for 72 holes, and headed back to San Diego for next week’s domestic debut at home. Instead, he showed his trademark resiliency, erasing a no-birdie opener to shoot 63 on Day 3, rebounding from a double-hit on 13 to post three birdies in his last five holes, showing more than enough over four days to make you believe that he’ll soon pick up a victory on the West Coast swing.

“We’re all along for the ride,” a laughing Mickelson told The National. “We’re up, we’re down. We see where it goes.”

Over the past year McIlroy’s ride has been even bumpier, which made his week even more promising. Indeed, his T-2 stands in stark contrast to a year ago, when he arrived with much fanfare, looked utterly lost with his new sticks and missed the cut in a fitting opener for the lost year.

These days, Rory is smiling again. (Well, except when he’s penalized.) The saunter has returned, as has the confidence and aggressiveness on the course.  

Of course, he may have been too easygoing, which led to a crippling penalty for an improper drop on Saturday. He groused about the “stupid rules” in golf, but really he can chalk this up to a brain-dead moment. It was an obvious violation that could have been avoided.

Even after a final-round 68 he still seemed miffed by the penalty.

“I can’t describe how frustrating it is, and I feel like I’m standing here and I should be 15 under par for the tournament and winning by one. But that’s the way it goes,” he said. “I played the least shots of anyone this week. I can count it as a moral victory more than anything else.”

Now, perhaps, he has a little extra fire, but at least he doesn’t feel as though he squandered his last opportunity for a while. Dating to last October, the world No. 7 has finished 11th or better in seven of his last eight starts, including his drought-busting victory at the Australian Open.

“I feel good about my game,” he said. “I feel like I’m back to the place that I want to be.”

Rest assured, he’s not the only one who left Abu Dhabi feeling that way.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.