Tiger, Phil have big goals in 2014 despite age

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 22, 2014, 11:45 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have combined to play 797 events and 2,824 rounds on the PGA Tour. They’ve enjoyed remarkable success, winning a combined 121 times, and they’ve been handsomely rewarded for their efforts, amassing more than $182 million in on-course earnings.

But, to repeat: They’ve played nearly 800 events. Or, think about it this way: Mickelson is entering his 22nd full season on Tour, which means he’s been competing on the world’s best circuit longer than Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth has been alive. There’s a lot of mileage on these Ferraris.

High-profile athletes in other sports talk often about the grind of a sporting life, about how each year it gets more and more difficult to put on the uniform and go to work. Not Tiger and Phil.

As they arrived here at Torrey Pines to make their 2013-14 domestic debuts, the two greatest players of their generation talked about being hungrier than ever – an attitude derived from how, in recent years, they’ve adapted and evolved their disparate games. 

Since last January there have been 19 wins by players in their 20s, but Tiger and Phil continue to thrive amid the youth movement. Woods, 38, won five times in 2013, including at a venue (TPC Sawgrass) that has never fit his eye. Mickelson, 43, meanwhile, won three times around the world and enjoyed one of the most satisfying wins of his career at the Open, a major that required a complete overhaul of his game.

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This, though, figures to be an important year for both stars, legacy-wise, as they chase the tournaments they covet most.

Let’s start with Woods. Even though he is major-less since summer 2008 and has battled injuries for years and had his personal life tossed into a blender, he’s still on pace to reach 18 majors. Jack Nicklaus won his 15th, the 1978 Open, at age 38. Woods turned 38 last month. Entering their age-38 season, Tiger has just as many pro major starts (64) under his Nike belt as Jack did.

“Every year is a big year,” Woods said Wednesday, rebuffing the notion that this year, with a favorable foursome of major venues, is a critical year. “Every year counts. … I know that I don’t have 20 years in my prime (remaining). Most guys don’t jump from the foul line at age 58.”

Still, Woods says that he still pushes his body to the limit to prepare and be ready to compete. In recent years, though, his body has pushed back, and playing a full schedule, with no setbacks, has proved elusive. Since 2009 there has been a variety of assorted ailments: neck, knee, Achilles’ tendon (twice), back, elbow. More so than the fierce competition or the major weekend struggles, a clean bill of health likely remains his biggest hurdle.

Woods acknowledged that although he’s still able to generate the same clubhead speed as he once did (between 118 and 120 mph each of the past four years), he cannot summon that velocity on every shot. “I don’t have the rotational speed that I used to,” he said, before adding that he’s “infinitely stronger” and “more explosive” in exercises.

So, yes, even Woods, with his boxer’s waistline and running back’s biceps, cannot escape the signs of aging. As a result, his game has needed to evolve.

These days, Woods finds himself thinking his way around the course more than ever before. Depending on tournament conditions, he can either rear back and bomb it, like he did last year at Firestone, or he can “dink and dunk” and play “small ball,” like he did at The Players.

“You’re still able to be successful,” he said, “but you do it a different way. You evolve as you age.”

Mickelson has undergone a similar transformation. Five years older than Woods, Lefty has avoided serious setbacks with injuries but revealed in 2010 that he suffers from psoriatic arthritis. Though he’s been able to manage the symptoms with medication – while also being more conscientious of his diet and workouts – Mickelson clearly has lost distance off the tee, dropping from 299 yards per pop in 2010 to just 287 last year.

“It’s just more effort to be able to play golf at the highest level,” he said.

Unlike Woods, who now relies more on his mind and course management, Mickelson has instead turned to his equipment to help sustain his high level of play. Over the past few years, he says he has been able to turn his weaknesses into strengths. He has improved nearly 130 spots in strokes gained-putting since 2011 (all the way to No. 6 last year), and the new technology in his driver – lowering the center of gravity, reducing the spin rate – has bolstered his belief off the tee.

“I’m more excited about this year than any year ever,” he said. 

That’s typical Phil gusto, of course, but his game was surprisingly sharp a week ago in Abu Dhabi, where he likely would have won if not for an ill-advised decision from the bushes in the final round. His renewed confidence is also a significant reason why Mickelson has embraced his pursuit of the career grand slam, why, even in January, the upcoming Open at Pinehurst is a topic of discussion.

“I feel like it’s just a matter of time,” Mickelson said of the U.S. Open breakthrough. “I actually believe I’ll win a couple.”

How about that? In golf, it seems, you’re never too old to win something new.

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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.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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