Notes Major hangover for 2009 major champions


AUGUSTA, Ga. – British Open champion Stewart Cink feels as though he is giving away shots with his short game. U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover said his game is a little scratchy, a blend of not making enough putts and not hitting it where he is aiming.

All the major champions from 2009 share one thing in common. They haven’t had much of a year.

PGA champion Y.E. Yang was the only reigning major champion to finish in the top 10 at the Masters (a tie for eighth). His best finish this year is third place in the Phoenix Open, where he closed with a 65. Cink’s best was losing in the quarterfinals of the Match Play Championship, while Glover tied for ninth in the San Diego.

In the year since winning the Masters, Angel Cabrera had only four top 10s in 24 starts without coming seriously close to winning.

Is it a major hangover?

“I can’t speak for anybody else,” said Glover, who tied for 36th at Augusta National. “I did the same thing in the offseason. I’m doing the same things now that I did before, and will continue to do them. Only difference for me is I’m not playing as much. I’ve having a little extra time off to try to stay fresh. Hopefully, that will pay off.”

Cink missed the cut as his love-hate relationship with the Masters continued.

“I need to compare myself to the players that are playing the very best,” Cink said. “And if you look, they are always efficient at getting the ball up-and-down from 50 yards, and their birdie conversation rate is pretty high.

“And neither of those two areas I’ve been great at this year.”

THE SHOUT AT AMEN CORNER: On what might be the loudest golf course, there is one spot at Augusta National that is eerily quiet. The 12th green is some 160 yards away from the gallery, and the view is blocked for some by the bunker. And even if they can see the ball disappear into the cup, the distance leads to a delay.

That’s why Jim “Bones” Mackay, the caddie for Phil Mickelson, will remember the 15-foot birdie putt on Sunday.

“I’ll tell you what a cool moment it was,” Mackay said. “It’s so silent back there, and to hear him yell as that putt went in a couple seconds before we heard from the crowd … it was a real special moment.”

And what did Mickelson yell when he made the birdie?

A number of European players hopeful of making the Ryder Cup might have a decision to make in August.

Nine players qualify for the European team – four from a list of world ranking points earned on any sanctioned tour in the world, five from a list based on money earned on the European Tour. The team will be determined on Aug. 29 after the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, the same week the FedEx Cup playoffs get under way with The Barclays.

And that could be a problem.

Europeans cannot earn world points at The Barclays because of the time difference. It will not end until about 11 p.m. in Scotland, and the team is to be announced that evening.

Money points can be earned at Gleneagles, however. There could be some Europeans on the bubble who might have to choose between going to Gleneagles to try to earn a spot on the team, or going to New Jersey with hopes of advancing in the lucrative FedEx Cup.

Then again, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey chose to stay behind two years ago and play the Deutsche Bank Championship. They wound up missing the cut, being eliminated from the playoffs, and making the team as captain’s picks.
Two years ago in a Detroit hotel, Angel Cabrera spoke of his fondness for the European Tour and how much he enjoyed playing there, particularly in Britain and the Iberian peninsula. He contemplated spending most of his time in Europe.

That was before he won the Masters for his second major. Cabrera is getting more comfortable in the United States, spending more time in Houston with coach Charlie Epps, and now he wants to beef up his PGA Tour schedule.

Cabrera plans to play at Colonial and the Memorial – he has never been to Muirfield Village. Asked about the European Tour in late spring and summer, he said he would play only the French Open and the British Open.

“I’m happy here,” he said.

Cabrera will keep Argentina as his home base, but he is looking into renting a house in Houston.
Steve Stricker has gone four years using the same Titleist irons because he doesn’t believe in changing what has been working. But after a disappointing week at the Masters, in which he didn’t break par until the final round, Stricker might have something new in the bag when he plays next in New Orleans.

Stricker’s biggest beef at Augusta National was his iron play.

“I may try something different,” he said. “I’ve been monkeying with some different sets the last year or two, and now might be a good time to switch it up, just to get a different look and a different feel.”

If he changes, Stricker said it likely would be to the AP2 irons. He actually put those in play at the Chevron World Challenge in December and shot 65 in the final round, but put the old 755s back in the bag when the new season started.

“I like the way I hit them, I just couldn’t pull the trigger on them,” he said. “I may do it this time.”
Another record held by Jack Nicklaus? He received eight special exemptions for the U.S. Open. Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson are second with five. … Players who missed the cut at the Masters still get paid, and while it doesn’t count toward the money list, it does apply to the European points list for the Ryder Cup. … Golfsmith is refunding more than $1 million to customers who bought a Callaway driver and were promised their money back if Phil Mickelson won the Masters. The retailer had taken out an insurance policy on the promotion.
This was the first time Tiger Woods broke par all four rounds at the Masters without winning.
“A great shot is when you pull it off. A smart shot is when you don’t have the guts to try it.”– Phil Mickelson.

Even sweeter than Phil Mickelson slipping into another green jacket was seeing his wife waiting for him behind the 18th green Sunday at Augusta National with tears streaming down her face.

She had not been at a golf tournament since being diagnosed with breast cancer 11 months ago.

He had not looked the same ever since.

A shattered world seemed at peace in the fading sunlight Sunday at the Masters, where Mickelson made one last birdie for a 5-under 67 and a three-shot victory over Lee Westwood.

The conclusion was far more emotional than anyone expected.

“To win this tournament, it’s the most amazing feeling,” Mickelson said from Butler Cabin. “This has been a special day. I’ll look back on this day as very memorable, something I’ll always cherish.”

Determined to win one for his family, Mickelson made two remarkable par saves from the trees, then made a gutsy play off the pine straw and over Rae’s Creek on the par-5 13th hole. It was the kind of shot that has brought Mickelson so much criticism for taking too many risks. This time, nothing was going to stop him.

His final birdie only mattered on the scorecard, 16-under 272, the lowest by a Masters champion since Tiger Woods in 2001. Mickelson had this won as he walked up the 18th fairway to a massive ovation. He raised both arms when the putt fell, had a long embrace with caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay then walked toward the scoring hut and into Amy Mickelson’s arms.

Standing behind them was Mary Mickelson, his mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in July.