The La Jolla Follies

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The last time I saw a six beat a seven was in a Calcutta-style tournament years ago. Louie Epstein, a solid 21 handicap, approached a one-footer at the par-4 finishing hole and said to his son-in-law, Howard Sokol, 'Let me tap that in Howard - that's an eight for a seven.'
 
Meanwhile, one of their opponents, Mort Schiff, stuffed his triple-bogey roll center cut, and with the stroke he was due, lifted his team to victory.

Phil Mickelson's no Mort Shiff, but now he too knows how the rest of the chops in the world of golf feel. Sometimes a double bogey's actually good enough. The La Jolla Follies didn't close with the kind of fireworks Mickelson set off in Fort Worth last year, when he poured in a long range putt at the 72nd hole for a closing 63 at venerable Colonial. But a win's a win, right?
 
Poor Frank Lickliter. He's on the verge of his first win, needs only five to put it in the bank, and he tosses seven. Should his caddie have grabbed him by the shirt collar after Lefty blew it in the ravine? Was this a Van de Veldian situation? Doubtful, considering Lick had played the 17th in 3-under over the final two rounds using his driver. As for the putt he jackhammered six feet past the hole, that appeared to be a borderline spasm.
 
Too bad. Lick's a throwback guy, armed for combat behind the wheel of his beloved Humvee with a cigarette, the cool shades and a hunting rifle. Give him credit for walking step-for-step with the game's heavy hitters on Sunday, playing 4-under over the final six to make the playoff.

As for the rules imbroglio, certainly golf fans received a valuable education on the subject of the provisional ball. I, on the other hand, received a stern warning from my family that bedtime for the kids was fast approaching and that if I didn't spend some time with the little ones I'd be penalized in my own right. Try explaining to a three-year-old that in golf there is no clock, only interminably long blimp shots.
 
Anyway, Mickelson now owns 18 PGA Tour victories at age 30. He's headed to the Hall of Fame, unless he goes Lighthorse Harry Cooper and comes up empty at the majors, which I think is an impossibility. Phil of late has demonstrated the necessary stones. For the second straight year, he issued a directive to the field and particularly to Tiger - who like Phil has deep ties to the San Diego area - that Torrey Pines is his house. Winning the head-to-head with Tiger has to help him when he gets to the majors, possibly eye-to-eye with Woods.
 
Granted, the loose swings he made at Pebble and then again at San Diego cast a smidgen of doubt, but remember Phil shot 66 on Sunday in winning last year's Tour Championship. Plus, I believe Lefty's one of the few who actually relishes the idea of kicking Tiger's behind. And it's imperative to think that way. Bring Tiger to the center of the ring. Exchange heavy artillery. You striped one 305, I'll take it 310. You jammed a wedge to six feet. I'll put it to four feet.
 
By the way, this isn't merely a player-versus-player battle we're witnessing. This is equipment company against equipment company. Titleist was getting hammered by Nike, not in terms of overall market share but in terms of perception. Nike had THE WINNER. Titleist had the bluebloods in Mickelson and Love, considered talented but a bit soft in the wake of Tiger's rampage a year ago. Titleist countered with its new Pro V-1 golf ball, and the added 10 to 15 yards has helped Love and Mickelson close the gap.

Interestingly enough, I'm not sure Love got enough credit for what he did at Pebble. Had Tiger started seven back, then played the first seven holes in 8-under, AND hit 18 in two for a summer-rules, course record 63, it would have been widely hailed as another Tiger classic. Instead it was a Love classic, No. 2 on his hit parade behind his rainbow fairy tale at Winged Foot in 1997.
 
Love had two viable, winning eagle chances on the 72nd and 73rd holes at Torrey, but alas couldn't convert. Still, he's revived hope that instead of being simply a wealthy, 13-win guy with one major, he might someday conclude his fine career as maybe a very wealthy, 20-win and three major guy ticketed for the Hall of Fame.
 
Finally, even as I'm writing this column Tuesday morning, Tiger Woods is picking up his 29th ESPY, the most overhyped award in history. I need the ESPYs to tell me Woods was athlete of the year? Steven Segal as a presenter?
 
As unbelievable as six beating seven at The La Jolla Follies.