Mickelson Back in Familiar Spot at Pebble

By Sports NetworkFebruary 8, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson eagled his final hole Thursday to fire a 7-under-par 65 and grab a share of the first-round lead at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
John Mallinger and Nick Watney also shot rounds of 7-under-par 65 on Thursday to join the reigning Masters champion atop the leaderboard.
Jim Furyk, the No. 2 ranked golfer in the world, Arjun Atwal and Jason Schultz are knotted in fourth place at 5-under-par 67.
Bill Murray
Bill Murray acknowledges the crowd during the opening round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. (Wire Images)
The Pebble Beach Pro-Am sees players teamed with amateurs the first three rounds and on three different courses - Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course and Poppy Hills Golf Course. Pebble Beach will host the final round on Sunday.
Mickelson and Watney played the easiest of the three courses, Poppy Hills, while Mallinger teed it up at Pebble Beach. Poppy Hills is the most protected of the three courses and that was important because Thursday was a wet and windy day.
Mickelson began on the back nine Thursday and parred his first two holes. He rattled off three consecutive birdies from the par-5 12th, then parred No. 15.
Mickelson, a three-time major winner, recorded back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17 to make the turn at 5-under-par 31. On his second nine, Mickelson found himself in the teeth of the demanding weather conditions.
The lefthander had one trick left up his sleeve. He parred the first eight holes of his second nine, then hit a spectacular 4-iron approach at the par-5 ninth to set up eagle and get him into a share of the lead.
'It was a fun day, even though it was windy at times, and I don't think I've ever driven the ball better before,' said Mickelson, who won this title in 1998 and 2005. 'The greens were in great shape today and the key was that I started every putt on line at the right speed.'
Mickelson has had an erratic start to the 2007 season. He tied for 45th at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, his first action since the Ryder Cup in September, then shared 51st at the Buick Invitational.
Last week, he missed the cut at the FBR Open, but Mickelson insists he's improving.
'My game has been progressing from week to week and I really can't wait to test my driving in tough conditions.'
Mallinger endured the most trying conditions of the three leaders. He teed off on No. 10 and flew out of the gate with a 40-foot birdie putt at 10. Mallinger, a TOUR rookie, rolled in a pair of birdie putts at 11 and 12, then tapped in a short birdie putt at the par-5 14th.
He closed his front nine with a short birdie putt at the 18th, then took advantage of the next par-5, the second. Mallinger two-putted for birdie there and collected his final birdie of the round at four when his sandwedge approach stopped 7 feet from the stick.
Mallinger parred out when the conditions got really demanding.
'It was perfect probably for at least nine holes,' said Mallinger. 'The wind started picking up right around three, so it was probably 13 holes I got that were pretty nice.'
Watney, like Mickelson, teed off on the back nine at Poppy Hills. He notched three birdies and an eagle on his opening nine, but dropped a stroke at the first.
Watney, whose first top-10 on the PGA TOUR came last year at Pebble Beach, recovered with birdies at the fourth and sixth holes to join Mickelson and Mallinger in first.
Last week's FBR Open champion Aaron Baddeley, Dean Wilson, Ryan Armour, Brendon de Jonge, Greg Owen, Charles Warren, Craig Kanada, Kyle Thompson, Sony Open in Hawaii winner Paul Goydos and two former U.S. Open champions, Lee Janzen and Corey Pavin, share seventh place at 4-under-par 68.
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    Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

    According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

    The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

    The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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    Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption

    By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

    Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

    The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

    "As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

    Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

    Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.

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    Notah: Driver is Tiger's No. 1 pre-Masters concern

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 5:49 pm

    Tiger Woods mounted a Sunday charge at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, sending shockwaves through Bay Hill when it looked as though he might finally claim PGA Tour victory No. 80.

    But the charge came to an end at the par-5 16th, where Woods had missed wide-right three days in a row before going OB-left on Sunday en route to bogey.

    Woods’ API performance featured just a handful of drivers each day, as firm and fast conditions allowed him to make frequent use of a 2-iron off the tee.

    That strategy led to a second top-5 finish in as many weeks, but if Woods wants to win again, if he wants claim another major, he is going to sort out his issues with the big stick.

    A guest Monday morning on the Dan Patrick Show, Golf Channel’s Notah Begay believes the driver will be a focus for Woods in his pre-Masters preparation.

    “Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver. … Any time he has to turn a shot right to left with trouble on the left, he struggles a little bit,” Begay said.

    “Off the sixth tee, off the ninth tee, there was some errant shots. And then we saw the really horrible tee shot yesterday at 16. He talked about in the post-round comments. He just didn’t commit to a shot, and the worst thing that a professional athlete can do to themselves to compromise performance is not commit.

    “And so he made a terrible swing, and that’s the miss that is really difficult for him to recover from, because the majority of his misses are out to the right. So, when you eliminate one half of the golf course, you can really make your way around … a lot easier. When you have a two-way miss going, which sometimes creeps into his driver, it really makes it difficult to take out some of the trouble that you’re looking at when you’re standing on the tee box.

    “So he has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

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    McIlroy trails only Woods in Masters betting odds

    By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 5:47 pm

    After rallying for victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy is once again among the betting favorites for the upcoming Masters.

    McIlroy was available at 16/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook last week, listed behind six other players. But after his three-shot win at Bay Hill, his odds were trimmed to 10/1, leaving him behind only betting favorite Tiger Woods.

    Next month will mark McIlroy's fourth opportunity to close out the final leg of the career Grand Slam by slipping into a green jacket. Here's a look at the current betting odds, with the first round only 17 days away:

    8/1: Tiger Woods

    10/1: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas

    14/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose

    16/1: Jason Day, Jon Rahm

    18/1: Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson

    25/1: Paul Casey, Bubba Watson

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama

    40/1: Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman

    50/1: Alex Noren

    60/1: Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters

    80/1: Branden Grace, Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Charley Hoffman, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay

    100/1: Zach Johnson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner