Classic Mickelson will be missed at U.S. Open

By Will GrayJune 11, 2017, 11:35 pm

It was a classic Phil Mickelson performance in Memphis, which means it was a decidedly mixed bag.

There were dazzling approaches and crowd-pleasing putts. There was a run up the leaderboard and into contention. But there was also a final-round wipeout, one that later came with an honest admission.

It was the type of performance that fans have come to expect from the 46-year-old who still strolls fairways wearing a perma-smile, but also one that has kept a 43rd career title frustratingly out of reach. It’s the type of show that will be sorely missed at Erin Hills.

Mickelson finished alone in ninth place at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, three shots behind Daniel Berger. His undoing was as swift as it was shocking: a triple-bogey 7 on the 12th hole that dropped Lefty from a share of the lead into a position from which he was unlikely to recover.

It began with a tee shot out of bounds, followed by a watery approach. It was, frankly, a good triple, if such a thing exists.


FedEx St. Jude Classic: Articles, photos and videos


After the round, Mickelson told CBS that he was caught off-guard by a quick glance at a leaderboard behind the 11th green, one that showed he had already made up a four-shot deficit and had grabbed a share of the lead.

“I saw that I was tied for the lead, and it kind of shook me, to be honest,” Mickelson said. “It threw me because I didn’t expect to be there, I thought I was still chasing. It was as if I’ve never won before, as if I was a rookie. I was not as mentally focused as I needed to be, and something as simple as that threw me.”

Mickelson’s candor was admirable, but it also showed that his nearly four-year victory drought has become a burdensome yoke around his neck. Mickelson should have won since that dazzling display at Muirfield in July 2013, probably multiple times. But he hasn’t.

Sunday’s display was a great example of why the winner’s circle has eluded Lefty, as he made a costly error at a critical juncture. It also added to his list of recent close calls, one that is still topped by his stumble last year at Pebble Beach and also includes four other runner-up finishes since he lifted the claret jug.

For a man with more trophies than any case can display, the importance of his next one can’t be overstated.

That win will come, eventually, but Mickelson will inevitably have to conquer some nerves to get there. It’s a shame, then, that he won’t get an opportunity to do so next week in the one event he truly wants to win.

Yes, there’s still a chance that Mickelson could parachute into Erin Hills and stride right to the first tee box Thursday. But it will require an act of God, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the man upstairs has no interest in compelling opening-round storylines.

Needing, in his estimation, at least a four-hour weather delay in order to make it to Wisconsin from his daughter’s high-school graduation in Carlsbad, Calif., Mickelson will likely see only sunny skies over farm country. The deluge that rocked the opening round last year at Oakmont appears non-existent this time around.

“Last night there was a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms Thursday, and right now it’s 20 percent. So who knows,” Mickelson said. “But it’s not looking good, and it’s totally fine.”

Mickelson’s decision to attend commencement over a shot at closing out the career Grand Slam has been questioned by some and lauded by others. But should he never etch his name on the trophy, this particular choice will pale in comparison to his 72nd-hole club choice at Winged Foot on the list of major what-ifs.

Erin Hills was always going to be a great unknown. With its rolling fairways, long walks and fescue rough, it poses a stern test for any player, but especially one who will turn 47 on Friday and who eschewed practice rounds at The Players Championship last month in order to conserve energy.

Mickelson has long made his family a priority, including a cross-country itinerary to take in other commencement ceremonies prior to the 2013 and 2016 U.S. Opens. It’s a journey he assuredly would have signed up for this time around had Amanda’s graduation been a day earlier.

And while the big 5-0 is within sight, the list of future U.S. Open venues is one that should elicit a thumbs-up from Lefty: Shinnecock Hills next year, followed by returns to Pebble Beach, Winged Foot and Torrey Pines. All places where Mickelson has won or contended in the past.

So U.S. Open glory could still be in store for the player who has had one hand on the hardware six different times. It’s just unfortunate for golf fans that the calendars likely won’t align to afford him a chance to author another classic Mickelson performance in the coming days.

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.

 

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET

Images and footage from Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson's round Friday at Trump National in Jupiter, Fla., alongside President Donald Trump:



Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.



Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''


Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''