DUBLIN, Ohio – People marvel at the shots that Phil Mickelson can create.
On Sunday at the Memorial Tournament, he didn’t have much choice but to be creative at the 15th hole.
“Yeah, it was a crazy hole,” Mickelson said, shaking his head.
He was at 12 under and coming off a chip-in birdie at the 14th hole when he stepped to the tee at the 15th. A large crowd was encouraging him to make a run at leaders Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler, who were still within reach.
And the short, 529-yard par-5 15th was the perfect place to make eagle and send some shock waves across the course.
“After chipping in on 14 I thought, gosh, if I could just birdie (the last four holes), you never know what might happen,” Mickelson said. “And 15 is a birdie hole. I was thinking maybe eagle.”
Instead, he hit his drive far, far to the left into a creek that usually doesn’t come into play.
“I hit a terrible drive, obviously,” he said.
Rather than go back to the tee, he elected to take a one-shot penalty. That meant he had to go up a hill through some trees and underbrush and take a one-shot penalty, taking a drop from the middle of the cart path on the 17th hole.
Tiger Woods was in the group playing the 17th and Woods took a quick glance over to his left, clearly trying to figure out what was taking place.
Twice Mickelson took the drop in the middle of the cart path and both times the ball bounded down into the weeds, unplayable. According to the rules he is then permitted to place the ball at the site of the drop, in this case in the middle of the blacktop.
While a surprised gallery tried to figure out how he even got into such a predicament, Mickelson pulled out a 3 wood and cleanly picked the ball off the cart path, hitting a high draw that left him near the tee at the par-3 16th hole.
The gallery roared.
Unfortunately, the shot didn’t lead to any magical finish.
From there, Mickelson hit onto the 15th green, then three-putted for a double-bogey 7.
“After that terrible drive, it kind of dashed my hopes of winning,” said Mickelson, who capped a 3-under 69 to finish seven shots behind eventual winner Rose.
Asked if he has ever played a hole like he played the 15th on Sunday, Mickelson laughed and said, “Unfortunately, quite a few.”
LOPEZ HONORED: Each year the Memorial Tournament honors prominent individuals for their contributions to the game of golf.
The tournament announced Sunday that the 2011 tournament’s honoree would be LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez.
Lopez turned pro in 1977 and went on to amass 48 wins, including three major championships. After winning nine times as a rookie, she won eight more times in her second season in 1979 to repeat as the LPGA’s player of the year.
The honoree for this year’s Memorial Tournament was Seve Ballesteros. Other past honorees include Bobby Jones, Water Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Tom Morris Jr. and Sr., Babe Zaharias, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and the tournament’s founder and host, Jack Nicklaus.
OVERTAKEN: Rickie Fowler held a one-shot lead with nine holes left in the Memorial Tournament. His first PGA Tour victory was within reach. Not only that, if he could hang on he would be accepting the championship trophy from tournament founder Jack Nicklaus.
But then Fowler bogeyed the 10th hole to fall into a tie with Justin Rose, then hit into the water at the par-3 12th hole to make double-bogey. Rose pulled away to win by three strokes, leaving Fowler in second place to wonder what went wrong.
“It was an awesome week,” said the rookie from Oklahoma State. “Obviously that was not the round that I wanted today.”
Fowler, ahead by three strokes to start the day, lapsed to a 1-over 73. Rose, meanwhile, put together a 66 to finish at 18-under 270.
The one shot that cost Fowler dearly was a 5 iron at the 184-yard, par-3 12th hole. He dunked it into the large lake that fronts the picture-postcard hole at Muirfield Village.
“I was just trying to aim at the back bunker and cut it off a little bit there,” he said. “The ball started going where I wasn’t trying to (hit it). I just made a bad swing – and I paid for it.”
Rather than dwell on the near-miss, the 21-year-old preferred to look at what he gained from the experience. The last time he came this close to winning was at the Phoenix Open in February, where Hunter Mahan shot a closing 65 to win by a stroke while Fowler was shooting a 68.
“Coming from Phoenix and feeling the nerves that I did there and playing this week, I felt really comfortable out there,” said Fowler. “I can just imagine the next time, being in contention. I’ll feel that much more comfortable.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Tiger Woods, who admitted last winter that he had committed marital indiscretions, was asked if he is finding some normalcy in his life so that he can now concentrate on golf: “It’s progressing.”
COLLEGE AWARDS: The Golf Coaches Association of America annually honors its players of the year in each division with Jack Nicklaus Awards. The winners were announced on Sunday at the Memorial Tournament.
The Division I recipient was Eugene Wong of Oregon, North Alabama’s Brett Munson (Division II), Tain Lee of Claremont McKenna (Division III), Justin Lower of Malone (NAIA) and Abraham Ancer of Odessa (junior colleges).
DIVOTS: After play was suspended a tournament-record six times in the first three rounds, heavy rain hit the course early Sunday morning. But play went on as scheduled and there were no further delays. … Ricky Barnes holed out an 87-yard wedge shot for eagle at the par-5 15th hole on Sunday. He also holed a 108-yard shot at the par-5 11th on Saturday. … Three players making their first appearance at the Memorial finished in the top 10: Fowler (second), Barnes (tied for third) and Rory McIlroy (tied for 10th). … Five of the top 10 finishers are in their 20s: Rose (29), Fowler (21), Barnes (29), Ryan Moore (27) and McIlroy (21). … Rose’s 66 was two strokes better than anybody else in the final round. … Rose joined Sweden’s Carl Pettersson (2006) as the only two Europeans to win the Memorial.