Last shot at major glory for Mickelson

By Associated PressAugust 5, 2008, 4:00 pm
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2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' Phil Mickelson already had crossed the finish line the last time he showed up at Oakland Hills.
 
Now he can only hope he is hitting his stride.
 
Mickelson is the betting favorite at the PGA Championship, his last chance to win a major in a year that has been filled with disappointment at the biggest events.
 
There was a 75 in the third round of the Masters that knocked him out of contention. There were no drivers in his bag at the U.S. Open for two rounds. And he lost a ball at Royal Birkdale on his way to a 79 in the first round, a major that ended before he could settle in for a cup of tea.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson meets with the press Tuesday at Oakland Hills. (Getty Images)
Not that this year has been a disaster by any means.
 
This is a big week, Mickelson said Tuesday. Because right now my season, with just two wins, is just OK. But if I were able to come through on Sunday and win this event, it would make an OK year a great one.
 
It also might erase some sour memories of Oakland Hills.
 
Mickelson first met The Monster in 1996 and endured his worst finish in a U.S. Open over four rounds. He tied for 94th that week, 19 shots out of the lead. Even more forgettable was his last trip to Oakland Hills for the Ryder Cup in 2004.
 
He already was under more scrutiny than usual for switching from Titleist to Callaway a week before the Ryder Cup. Then he went two days away from his teammates, taking one day off and spending another day working on the adjacent North Course. U.S. captain Hal Sutton paired him with Tiger Woods, and while neither played well in both their losses, Lefty caught the brunt of the blame.
 
Sutton then benched him, saying Mickelson would be a cheerleader instead of a player.
 
It was a ragged finish to what had otherwise been a brilliant year for Mickelson, who won his first major at the Masters, was second at the U.S. Open, missed a playoff at the British Open by one shot and was two shots out of a playoff at the PGA Championship.
 
But his swing was gone long before he arrived at Oakland Hills for the Ryder Cup. That was when Mickelson used to pour so much into the majors that he had little left at the end of the year.
 
If last week was any indication, hes headed in the right direction.
 
Mickelson blew a chance to win the World Golf Championship at Firestone last week with three bogeys on the final four holes, although he explained Tuesday why he wasnt nearly as alarmed as everyone else.
 
Obviously, I didnt like the way I finished, he said. But I was so glad that I was in a position to compete for the championship, to get back into contention, to have an opportunity where every putt counted and put myself in a pressure situation heading into this event. I would have loved to have won last week ' theres no arguing that point. But I really needed to be there like I was.
 
Such is the aura of Mickelson, good and bad.
 
The winner at Firestone was Vijay Singh, a three-time major champion who, unlike Mickelson, has won a money title, PGA TOUR player of the year and was No. 1 in the world. Yet all the TV sports shows focused on the next day was Lefty.
 
Were they complimenting my outfit? Mickelson joked.
 
It wasnt his most unseemly collapse, but it still makes news. Mickelson had reason to find progress from what looked like a setback.
 
When Im playing a course, Im trying to take half the trouble out of play, he said. So I want to set up down the right edge of the fairway and hit a cut, and if I miss it left, it doesnt bother me. What bothers me is if I hook it.
 
Lefty caught the left edge of the green and found a bunker on No. 15, making bogey. He caught the left bunker on the 17th, leading to another bogey. And his hopes effectively ended with a blocked tee shot to the left rough on the 18th.
 
I dont look at that overly disappointed, he said. Because I missed it to the side I wanted to miss it.
 
It would help not to miss anything at Oakland Hills, a course that some believe might prove to be the toughest major of the year. It has been stretched out to just under 7,400 yards, a real beast for a par 70, and occasional showers this week figure to make it feel longer.
 
Its tougher than Torrey Pines, all things being equal, Geoff Ogilvy said.
 
Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in a playoff after finishing at 1-under 283. Trevor Immelman won the Masters at 8-under 280. Padraig Harrington won the British Open at 3-over 283, but Ogilvy doesnt count Royal Birkdale because of 35 mph wind.
 
Nothing ever was going to get as tough as Birkdale. You could put an asterisk next to it, he said. The irony will be that the U.S. Open could be the easiest course we play all year.
 
The difficulty of Oakland Hills always has been the greens, so heavily contoured that they likely will be slower than some majors to keep it fair. And the length since Rees Jones got his hands on the course after the Ryder Cup is most noticeable on the par 3s, such as the downhill, 257-yard ninth and the 238-yard 17th, which played so long into a breeze Monday that Bart Bryant hit a driver.
 
If one of the big hitters is piping it, theyre going to have a good week, Bryant said.
 
Mickelson can only hope hes one of those guys, and a decent year for him turns into a great season by any measure.
 
Woods was in this position a year ago ' without a major for the year ' when he tied a major record with a 63 in the second round at Southern Hills and went on to defend his title in the PGA Championship.
 
Three years ago, that was Mickelson. He had gone four months without winning until going wire-to-wire to win at Baltusrol.
 
I had an OK year in 2005, a couple of wins, and looked at it as though it would make an OK year great, Mickelson said. And I feel the same way this year. Its been an OK year, but winning the last major could turn it into something special.
 
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    Gooch chooses 'life over a good lie' with gators nearby

    By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 11:31 pm

    AVONDALE, La. – A fairway bunker wasn’t Talor Gooch’s only hazard on the 18th hole at TPC Louisiana.

    Gooch’s ball came to rest Thursday within a few feet of three gators, leading to a lengthy delay as he sorted out his options.

    Chesson Hadley used a rake to nudge two of the gators on the tail, sending them back into the pond surrounding the green. But the third gator wouldn’t budge.

    “It woke him up from a nap,” Gooch said, “and he was hissing away and wasn’t happy.”

    The other two gators remained in the water, their eyes fixed on the group.


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    “I’m sure we would have been fine, but any little movement by them and no chance I would have made solid contact,” he said.

    A rules official granted Gooch free relief, away from the gator, but he still had to drop in the bunker. The ball plugged.

    “I chose life over a good lie in that situation,” he said.

    He splashed out short of the green, nearly holed out his pitch shot and made par to cap off an eventful 6-under 66 with partner Andrew Landry.

    “It was my first gator par,” he said. “I’ll take it.”

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    Koepka's game 'where it should be' even after injury

    By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 11:18 pm

    AVONDALE, La. – Brooks Koepka didn’t look rusty Thursday while making six birdies in the first round of the Zurich Classic.

    Making his first start in four months because of a torn ligament in his left wrist, Koepka and partner Marc Turnesa shot a 5-under 67 in fourballs at TPC Louisiana.

    “It felt good,” Koepka said afterward. “It was just nice to be out here. I played pretty solid.”


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    The reigning U.S. Open champion felt soreness in his wrist the week after he won the Dunlop Phoenix in the fall. He finished last at the Hero World Challenge in December and then the following month at the Tournament of Champions before shutting it down.

    He only began practicing last week and decided to commit to the Zurich Classic after three solid days at Medalist. He decided to partner with one of his friends in South Florida, Marc Turnesa, a former PGA Tour winner who now works in real estate.

    Koepka hasn’t lost any distance because of the injury – he nearly drove the green on the 355-yard 16th hole. He’s planning to play the next two weeks, at the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

    “I feel like I’m playing good enough to be right where I should be in April,” he said. “I feel good, man. There’s nothing really wrong with my game right now.”

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    Like a tattoo: Ko shares early Mediheal lead

    By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 10:45 pm

    Lydia Ko put herself in early position Thursday to try to extend her birthday celebration through Sunday at the LPGA Mediheal Championship.

    Ko, who turned 21 on Tuesday, is off to a strong start at Lake Merced Golf Club, where she has a lot of good memories to draw upon as she seeks to regain the winning form that made her the greatest teen phenom in the history of the women’s game.

    With a 4-under-par 68, Ko moved into a four-way tie for the lead among the morning wave in the first round. I.K. Kim, Jessica Korda and Caroline Hedwall also opened with 68s.

    All Ko has to do is look at her right wrist to feel good about returning to San Francisco. That’s where she tattooed the date April 27, 2014, in Roman numerals. That’s how she commemorated her Swinging Skirts victory at Lake Merced, her first title as an LPGA member. She won there again the following year.

    “This is a golf course where I've played well,” Ko said. “The fans have been amazing. They’ve been super supportive every single time I've come here, even since I played the U.S. Juniors here.”


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    Ko made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced in 2012.

    “It just brings back a lot of great memories,” she said.

    Ko got this week off to a good start with friends from South Korea and New Zealand flying to California to surprise her on her birthday. She was born in South Korea and grew up in New Zealand.

    “Turning 21 is a huge thing in the United States,” Ko cracked. “I’m legal now, and I can do some fun things.”

    Ko is looking to claim her 15th LPGA title and end a 21-month winless spell. Her ball striking was sharp Thursday, as she continues to work on improvements under her swing coach, Ted Oh. She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation.

    “My ball striking's been getting better these last few weeks, which has been really nice,” Ko said at week’s start. “But then I've been struggling with putting, which was the aspect of the game that was going really well. I feel like the pieces are there, and just, sometimes, the hardest thing is to kind of put all those pieces together. Just have to stay patient, I know there are a lot of good things happening.”

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    Watch: Rose drops trou despite gator danger

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 10:12 pm

    We all know how fashion-conscious pro golfers are, and sometimes that even trumps modesty.

    Take Justin Rose, whose tee shot on the par-3 third hole in Thursday's opening round of the Zurich Classic found the water. But the ball was close enough to shore for Rose to try to play it. Not wanting to get his light-colored pants dirty - what is up with all the white pants on Tour these days, anyway? - he took them off to play the shot.

    If there were any gators in the water hazard - and this being Louisiana, there almost certainly were - they showed no interest in the Englishman.

    It was only appropriate that Rose should strip down for a shot, as his partner, Henrik Stenson, famously did the same thing (to an even greater degree) at Doral in 2009.

    Finally, just to provide some closure, Rose failed to get up and down.