Lefty Leads Tiger Barely Makes Cut

By Associated PressMay 11, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 THE PLAYERSPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Phil Mickelson rarely found the fairway, twice knocked down flags and nearly holed out from the fairway. Despite all those thrills, what kept him in the lead Friday at THE PLAYERS Championship was a couple of pars.
 
Just about every player who had at least a share of the lead stumbled in the end, some worse than others.
 
Mickelson found dry land on the island-green 17th, then saved par from the right rough on the closing hole at TPC Sawgrass for an even-par 72 that gave him a one-shot lead over Nathan Green of Australia.
 
Peter Lonard took two double bogeys on his back nine, Carl Petterson finished bogey-bogey and Sean O'Hair three-putted the 18th to lose costly shots, leaving them two shots behind and chasing Mickelson, who was happy only with his position.
 
'It was a day that if I played well, I could have pulled away,' Mickelson said after finishing at 5-under 139, the first time he has had the lead at THE PLAYERS going into the weekend. 'I'm half disappointed and half OK.'
 
Tiger Woods tried to fight back, but he did a better job with his words than his clubs.
 
Woods finally picked up a birdie on his second hole, but he spent most of the sunny afternoon wondering if he would make the cut. He wasn't in the clear until a two-putt birdie on the 16th hole, dry land on the 17th and another par save for a 73, leaving him at 4-over 148 to make it by one stroke.
 
His best shot was directed at Rory Sabbatini, who said Thursday that the world's No. 1 player looked 'as beatable as ever' and that he likes the 'new Tiger' who struggles with his swing.
 
'If I remember the quote correctly, he said he likes the new Tiger,' Woods said. 'I figure I've won nine of 12 (PGA TOUR events), and I've won three times this year -- the same amount he's won in his career. So, I like the new Tiger, as well.'
 
Sabbatini didn't understand all the fuss.
 
'I never intended it as a dig at Tiger. I basically stated that I want to compete against him,' he said. 'He is the No. 1 player in the world, and I think I have the ability to get to No. 1 in the world, and that's where I want to contend.'
 
Both of them have their work cut out.
 
Sabbatini looked like a day-old Tiger by failing to make a birdie. He still was in the mix until he stepped to the 17th tee and deposited two balls in the water -- one from the drop area -- on his way to a quadruple-bogey 7 and a 79.
 
Green was one of the few players who finished strong, dropping only one shot in swirling wind for a 69 to finish at 140 and get into the final group with Mickelson on Saturday.
 
Lonard (72), O'Hair (69), Petterson (71) and Rod Pampling (71) were at 141.
 
Mickelson has hit only 11 fairways the first two rounds -- only Retief Goosen with eight has hit fewer -- but he is getting by with a solid short game that the Stadium Course allows because of tightly mown collection areas around the green, his specialty.
 
He dropped out of the lead with bogeys on the seventh and eighth hole, then hit the flag with a wedge on the par-5 ninth, getting a break when the ball only caromed 6 feet away to set up birdie. Mickelson also hit the flag on the 14th hole, another good break, as the ball likely was headed through the green.
 
But there was no luck involved on the par-5 16th.
 
After a perfectly played drive, he took 6-iron from 208 yards and caught the slope on the first bounce, which fed the ball to 6 feet for an eagle putt that put him back in the lead.
 
'Just enough draw to catch that swale,' Lefty said.
 
The wind wasn't nearly as strong, but it swirled and teased. Sunshine baked the course, and it figures to get firmer over the weekend. Only 15 players remained under par, and two dozen players were within five shots of the lead on a course where anything can happen at just about any time.
 
The island green didn't claim nearly as many victims in the second round -- only 21 on Friday, making that 71 for the week to break the tournament record with two rounds left. Even so, the penalty was just as stiff.
 
Former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman holed out for eagle from 163 yards on the 15th hole to get within two shots of the lead. Two holes later, his perfect record on the meanest par 3 at Sawgrass was over. Having never found the water in 55 previous attempts, this one went over the back, down the ramp and into the lake. He played a brilliant pitch up the grassy walkway for bogey.
 
Lehman had a 73 and was in the group at 1-under 143 that included Jim Furyk (72) and Rocco Mediate (71).
 
Furyk also struggled on his closing holes and hit the water, but his was on the front nine. He was one shot out of the lead until pulling his approach so badly on No. 7 that it hit off the bank and into water, leading to a double bogey.
 
'No golf professional should ever hit it in that body of water,' Furyk said.
 
He also took bogey on the par-3 eighth by hitting out to the right, and wound up with a 72, still in the hunt. And that's they way he looked at his position, no matter how his round ended.
 
'I'm disappointed, but I've done a lot right,' Furyk said. 'That's the mental battle. If I would have made a bogey and a double bogey early today and played the rest of the way around and shot even par, everyone would have been congratulating me for playing a good round here. I made those mistakes at the end, and everyone kind of expects me to jump off a bridge.'
 
Woods didn't find much to like about his game. He didn't hit the ball well and still struggled on the greens. His only two birdies of the round came on par 5s.
 
'I just need to shoot some good rounds,' Woods said. 'I just can't afford to make the mistakes I've made. For 36 holes, I've only made two birdies. Not very good.'
 
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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

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    Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

    So much for that.

    Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

    He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

    What’s the difference now?


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

    “I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

    Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

    “I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”