Eagle lone highlight for Phil Mickelson

By Associated PressAugust 16, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 PGA ChampionshipCHASKA, Minn. ' Phil Mickelsons second shot Sunday at the PGA Championship carried about 199 yards, bounced 6 feet in front of the hole and found the cup for an eagle.
 
I couldnt believe that thing went in, Mickelson said. Those are fun to see.
 
It also proved to be a mirage.
 
Mickelson shot 6 over on the remaining 17 holes to cap a miserable week at Hazeltine National, finishing 12 over 300. Its the first time hes shot 300 at a major in 11 years, dating to the British Open at Royal Birkdale in 1998.
 
The last two weeks have been frustrating with my play, Mickelson said. Ill have a week off here fortunately before we start the FedEx Cup and Ill see if I can get my game turned around for Barclays.
 
Lefty took six weeks off earlier this summer after his wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer, and his game has been slow to return. He played last week at the Bridgestone for the first time since the U.S. Open in June and tied for 58th.
 
His struggles continued at the PGA.
 
Mickelson teed off bright and early at 8:12 a.m., and he woke up the crowd when he holed out for eagle on the par-4, 490-yard first hole. The roar could be heard across the course, and it spurred Mickelson on to a 1-under 35 on the front nine.
 
Of course, Mickelson didnt have to putt on No. 1, which was a good thing. He has struggled all week to regain his putting stroke with minimal success. He needed 34 putts in the first round, 33 in the second and 30 on Saturday as he plummeted out of contention.
 
I havent putted the best for a little while now, so its probably going to take a little more than overnight, he said. But I at least feel like I have a little bit better direction.
 
Mickelson birdied Nos. 9 and 14, but a disastrous trip through the signature 16th summed up his week. He hit a poor tee shot way left into the hazard area, but was able to play it in the deep rough. But he chunked his utility club and the ball plopped into the creek just a few feet down the slope.
 
Mickelson spent extra time on the practice greens this week tinkering with his putting stroke, but declined to discuss the changes he was making.
 
He said will play The Barclays in two weeks, but has not laid out a longer-term plan for the rest of the season.
 
Fred Couples did say though that he expects Mickelson to play in the Presidents Cup.
 
I think everything is fine there, Couples said. I hope he wants to play. I hope he can play. I hope Amys there. I believe in all that that they will both be there.
 

 
TORTOISE AND THE OHAIR: Last week at the Bridgestone, course officials had to tell Padraig Harrington and Tiger Woods to speed up.
 
On Sunday at the PGA, Hazeltine officials had to tell Sean OHair to slow down.
 
OHair was the first player on the course Sunday morning, teeing off by himself at 7:36 a.m. The American wasted little time bringing an end to a long week. OHair finished his round in a blistering 2 hours and 13 minutes, averaging about 6 minutes a hole.
 
I actually didnt play that bad, OHair said.
 
And after shooting an 82 on Saturday to drop him to 13 over, OHair, who won the Quail Hollow Championship and has five other top 10 finishes this year, actually played better at the breakneck pace. He shot 73, tying his lowest round of the week, to finish the tournament at 14-over 302.
 
He had three bogeys and two birdies, but had to be told to slow down at the turn because he was catching up to the hole crews who were still putting the pins in the greens.
 
For me, it just kind of gets you in that good momentum, OHair said. You just get up there and hit it.
 

 
MAJOR PROBLEMS: U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover shot a 2-over 74 on Sunday to tie for fifth at 2-under 286, capping a frustrating week for this years major champions at Hazeltine National.
 
I hit some loose shots and my putter sort of ran out of gas for me, Glover said.
 
He started the day four strokes back of the lead and hoping to get back into contention, but he had trouble with the putter for most of the afternoon.
 
Just one of those days were there was a lid on it, Glover said.
 
He wasnt the only one who had trouble.
 
After tying for fourth at the Bridgestone last week, Masters winner Angel Cabrera never really got going at Hazeltine. He shot three rounds of 4-over 76, including the final round on Sunday, and finished 10 over and tied for 63rd.
 
Cabrera had an 8 on the par-3 eighth hole and then a bogey on the ninth during his 76 on Sunday.
 
British Open winner Stewart Cink finished with an 81 on Sunday and was 11 over for the tournament and tied for 67th.
 

 
SHOELESS JIM: Jim Furyks second shot on No. 8 went right of the green and down into the rough on the backside of the hill, stopping just before falling into the water.
 
So Furyk removed his right shoe and sock and rolled up his pant leg to his knee, then executed a beautiful little punch shot to 3 feet. He walked up the hill and put the gimme putt in with his foot still bare, much to the delight of the gallery.
 
Furyk shot 5-over 77 and finished the tournament at 10 over.
 

 
PGA BOUND: By finishing in the top 15, John Merrick and Italian Francesco Molinari both qualified for the PGA next year at Whistling Straits.
 
Merrick and Molinari were among six players who tied for 10th at even-par 288.
 
Merrick, from Long Beach, Calif., tied for the low round of the day with a 70 to ensure his return next year.
 

 
DIVOTS: Tom Lehman, the only Minnesota native in the field, shot 3-over 75 to finish 11 over for the tournament. The University of Minnesota alum got a rousing ovation as he walked to the 18th green, holding up his driver with the Golden Gopher head cover.
 
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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

    @radiosarks on Twitter

    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

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    Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

    “You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

    The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

    “He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

    But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

    And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

    It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

    That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

    “I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

    It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

    McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

    “I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

    It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

    “I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

    A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

    Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.