Lefty Gets More Than He Bargain For

By Associated PressJune 17, 2005, 4:00 pm
PINEHURST, N.C. -- Phil Mickelson lobbied all week to make a tough golf course even tougher, stopping just short of daring the U.S. Golf Association to plop down windmills and clown's-mouth cutouts on the greens.
On Friday, Mother Nature took over the course setup duties from the guys in blue blazers and reminded the left-hander to be careful what you wish for.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson found plenty of trouble Friday in his 7-over 77.
'It was very fair,' Mickelson said, carefully choosing his words, 'if you played well. You could get off to a quick start, especially the front nine. I didn't quite do that.
'But,' he said again a moment later, 'it was right there if you hit the right shots.'
Suffice it to say that Mickelson didn't - not off the tees, from the fairways and especially on the greens. He hit just eight of 15 fairways, eight of 18 greens and didn't make even one putt longer than 8 feet. He started on the back nine and made back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 12 and 13, a cruel preview of the four straight Mickelson made to close out his first nine holes.
The 7-over 77 scorecard he signed left him eight shots out of the lead at the halfway point. It also marked Mickelson's worst round at the Open since 1994, when he shot 79 at Oakmont on the final day. It was only his second season as a pro, and back then no one would have imagined that the supremely talented kid with the easy smile was tying the first few knots in a string of major championships failures that would extend to 42 and haunt him for the next 10 years.
The futility ended with a victory in the Masters last year. The rash mistakes and spectacular collapses became easier to forget, and the times when Mickelson played bravely and well - only to see someone else play better - were easier to remember.
The process was long, painful and often too public. Mickelson vowed to play more aggressively, then less. His convictions changed several times in the course of a single season, and his character got ripped each time. But the fix was relatively simple: better preparations, better decisions and the resolve to see things through. Whether it was the result of frustration or simply maturity hardly mattered.
Either way, that's what made Friday's disaster tough to see coming. Mickelson has added both a swing and short-game coach and they do the scouting work before major championships with a military precision that would shame NFL teams during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.
Nine-hour practice rounds became par for the Pinehurst No. 2 course for Team Mickelson. Like everyone else, they knew the inverted, bowl-shaped greens would kick approach shots into some treacherous lies. But they went to the trouble of simulating just about every one.
Throw in long stretches on the driving range and practice green, with his coaches, Rick Smith and Dave Pelz, hovering nearby at nearly every moment, and you begin to understand why Mickelson strolled into the interview room on the eve of the Open and invited the USGA professors to get medieval with the final exam.
Mickelson's opening came when someone asked whether he could imagine the USGA making the same ill-advised setup choice they did for last year's Open at Shinnecock Hills, where dried-out greens turned some putting surfaces into miniature golf courses from Hell.
'Well, I'm a little biased because I would love to see that happen,' Mickelson said, to some laughter.
'It's always been my contention that if nobody can hit a green, I've got a pretty good chance,' he added, to more laughter. 'I'm not opposed to that occurring this week.'
He repeated it a few more times, in a few different appearances. But when he stopped to talk after his second round, all the bravado had been drained out of his face.
'It's a tough course because you just can't make birdies. The more you try to make birdies, the more bogeys you're going to make. I wasn't really trying to make birdies,' Mickelson said. 'I was just trying to salvage pars and had a tough time doing that. It's a tough golf course.'
Proof of that was collecting on every side of him. There are precious few birdies to be squeezed out of Pinehurst. The course played five strokes above par in the opening round and a slightly less grueling 4-over Friday. The total number of players under par, starting with co-leaders Olin Browne and defending champion Retief Goosen at 2-under, can be counted on one hand.
'You just can't play aggressive here,' Mickelson said, repeating himself almost as if he had found the mantra. 'You just can't. I think it's going to take 36 pars to have an outside shot at winning, and that's kind of what I'm going for.'
The days when Mickelson let one foot get too far in front of the other - only to stumble at the most inopportune moments - were supposed to be a thing of the past.
He might yet thrive in the even-tougher conditions expected through the weekend. But at the moment, a bad putting day midway through a tournament that Mickelson said couldn't be tough enough for his satisfaction has him looking more clownish than just about anything the USGA can do to the greens.
Related links:
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    Masters champ Reed: 'I definitely had a chance'

    By Will GrayJune 17, 2018, 11:55 pm

    SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Patrick Reed’s Grand Slam bid made it all the way to the closing stretch of the final round at the U.S. Open.

    Reed had never cracked the top 10 in a major championship before a runner-up finish at last year’s PGA Championship, and he followed that with a convincing victory at the Masters in April. In the U.S. Open, despite starting the final round three shots behind a quartet of co-leaders, he made a concerted effort to add a second major title.

    With Shinnecock Hills declawed in response to third-round conditions that bordered on unplayable, Reed birdied each of his first three holes and five of his first seven to move to 1 over and within a shot of Brooks Koepka’s lead. He could get no closer, though, as three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on Nos. 9-12 effectively ended his title bid.

    Reed finished alone in fourth place at 4 over, three shots behind Koepka after closing with a 2-under 68.

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    “Of course, Grand Slam would have been nice. But you know, I mean honestly, to me, that was really the last thing on my mind,” Reed said. “It was go out, play some solid golf, try to post a number and see if you can get the job done. I had a chance. I definitely had a chance.”

    It’s the third top-15 finish at the U.S. Open in the last four years for Reed, who tied for 13th at Chambers Bay and finished T-14 last year at Erin Hills.

    Reed was bidding to erase a nine-shot deficit after 36 holes, which would have been the second-largest comeback in tournament history. He was also looking to join Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth on the short list of players to capture the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.

    “Of course it’s disappointing,” Reed said. “But at the same time … To finish in the top 10 my last three majors, and to have a chance to really win all three of them and to close one off, it means a lot.”

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    Watching Koepka, Fleetwood knew he was one shot short

    By Will GrayJune 17, 2018, 11:33 pm

    SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – In the end, even a record-tying performance wasn’t enough for Tommy Fleetwood at the U.S. Open.

    Fleetwood started the final round at Shinnecock Hills six shots off the pace, but he quickly moved up the board with a run of four birdies over his first seven holes. He added four more in a row on Nos. 12-15, and he had a 9-footer for birdie on No. 18 to become the first player to ever shoot a 62 in the U.S. Open.

    He missed, and that proved to be the difference – for both the record and the tournament.

    Fleetwood waited around in player hospitality for the next three hours while the leaders finished, alternating between watching the golf (with sandwich in hand) and playing with his newborn son, Frankie. He was on the chipping green when Brooks Koepka completed play at 1-over 281, successfully defending his title and finishing one shot ahead of Fleetwood.

    “Brooks kept giving me like a little bit of hope, and then he’d hole a putt just to stab you in the stomach a little bit,” Fleetwood said. “I always just had that feeling that I was one shy, so I never really got massively, massively excited.”

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    This was the first year the U.S. Open would have gone to a two-hole, aggregate playoff, so Fleetwood needed to stay loose for a possible overtime that in previous years would have instead been an 18-hole playoff on Monday. He emerged from the locker room and headed to the range to warm up after Koepka birdied No. 16 to take a two-shot lead with two holes to play.

    “I just thought, 'I should really go up, because you never know,'” Fleetwood said. “I mean, the worst thing that could happen is if something did happen and I wasn’t really ready, so it’s better warming up with that intention.”

    The solo runner-up is a career-best major finish for Fleetwood, who also finished fourth last year at Erin Hills. He now shares a piece of tournament history, becoming just the sixth player to shoot a 63, joining a list that includes Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Johnny Miller, Vijay Singh and Justin Thomas.

    And after torching a demanding layout to the tune of eight birdies, he insisted he won’t dwell much on the final putt that got away – even though Koepka’s closing bogey meant that it ultimately made the difference.

    “The putt on 18, I actually wanted more for the 62 at the time, and then it became a thing for the tournament,” Fleetwood said. “Obviously, that’s the putt that will play on your mind because that was the last shot you hit and that was your chance. But I missed some putts in the week, and I made some putts. I think everybody did. And your score is your score. And for me, just getting that close to winning a major again, I think that is the ultimate thing I’ll take from it.”

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    DJ and more congratulate Koepka on social media

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 17, 2018, 11:31 pm

    Brooks Koepka won his second consecutive U.S. Open title at Shinnecock Hills. Dustin Johnson, his friend and playing competitor on Sunday, was quick to congratulate Koepka. And he wasn't alone.

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    Firefighter Parziale ties for low am with dad on bag

    By Associated PressJune 17, 2018, 11:07 pm

    SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Leaning on his club, Matt Parziale crossed one leg over the other and placed the free hand on his hip. His caddie mirrored his position and used Parziale's bag as his source of support. The two looked almost identical, just one older than the other.

    Being related will do that.

    Parziale's dad, Vic Parziale, has been with his son throughout his entire U.S. Open journey, starting Monday and ending Father's Day. Matt finished 5 over par Sunday to tie for low amateur at 16 over for the tournament.

    ''We do stand alike out there,'' Vic said. ''It's funny.''

    Said Matt: ''I don't like it, but that's how life goes.''

    He's kidding. The idea of turning into his dad doesn't scare him.

    ''He's the best guy I know,'' Matt said. ''If I can be half that good, I'll be doing all right.''

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    It's a classic like father, like son relationship.

    Matt, 31, is a full-time firefighter back home in Brockton, Massachusetts. Vic retired from the same station last year after 32 years.

    The two, obviously, also share a love for golf.

    ''He stinks now,'' Matt said. ''I'd have to play pretty bad to let him win. He used to be much better than he is now.''

    Matt says he was 14 the first time he beat his dad. Vic says his son was 15. Either way, once Matt beat Vic's 73 by a stroke as a teenager, it was game over.

    Vic never beat his son again.

    ''Golf skipped a generation for sure,'' Vic said. ''Because I don't play like him.''

    As the first mid-amateur to make a cut at the U.S. Open in 15 years, Matt's second round was his best, carding a 73 with a birdie on No. 18 that guaranteed him a spot in the final rounds.

    On the last day, Matt shot a 75 to end up at 296, the same mark fellow amateur Luis Gagne scored. Will Grimmer was the only other amateur to make the cut, and he finished 23 over at 303. The tournament started with 20 amateurs.

    This was Matt's first U.S. Open. He played at the Masters earlier this year, but did not advance after two rounds. Vic was his caddie there, too.

    ''Mostly, I just carry the bag and keep my mouth shut,'' Vic said.

    His specialty is wind: Matt does go to his dad for advice there. It helped this week.

    ''I don't get paid,'' Vic said. ''I don't want to be, of course. I just love doing it.''

    The two have worked alongside each other for as long as either can remember. After college at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, Matt turned pro but called it quits after a couple years when it didn't pay off financially. That's when he became a firefighter.

    But Matt never fully gave up golf, regaining his amateur status and going on to win the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship back in October. Vic caddied, of course.

    ''It's not something that happened over night,'' Vic said. ''He just wasn't lucky getting here. He really worked hard on his game.''

    Being a firefighter actually allows him to practice and compete often. Matt works two 24-hour shifts a week.

    He's not returning straight to his full-time job immediately, though. His upcoming golf schedule is packed. Starting Wednesday, Matt will compete in the Northeast Amateur tournament. Then he'll have the U.S. Amateur - after he gets married on Aug. 3 - and more.

    Wherever and whatever, Vic will be standing nearby.

    ''He's always given me the opportunity to succeed,'' Matt said. ''None of this is possible without his support and his help.''