Lefty Should be Well Rested for Ryder Cup

By Associated PressSeptember 12, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesMUNICH, Germany -- Phil Mickelson headed home from Ireland a few weeks ago in dire need of some rest.
Lefty has finally figured out what works best him in the major championships, and no one can argue with the results. He has won a major each of the last three seasons -- only Tiger Woods has a longer streak over the last 20 years -- by pouring so much effort into his preparation that he is out of gas when the PGA Championship ends in August.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson has a career Ryder Cup record of 9-8-3.
One problem.
The Ryder Cup is played in September.
Mickelson is the only player on the American team who has not played a PGA TOUR event since the practice session Aug. 28-29 in Ireland, choosing instead to take the last two weeks off and work privately this week to get his game in shape. The Ryder Cup likely will be his last event of the year. Unless he changes his mind, his next tournament will be the Bob Hope Classic in January.
'I need a couple of weeks off,' Mickelson said after he tied for 54th among 76 players at Firestone. 'The best way for me to get ready for the Ryder Cup is to get some rest. I played poorly and I'm tired, too. I'm going to work on my game and get it sharp.'
The U.S. team requires nothing less from him.
Tiger Woods is a master at balancing his schedule and had no qualms with Mickelson taking time off to recharge.
'But we need Phil to play well -- we really do,' Woods said. 'He's one of the leaders of our team. And you're always looking for the leaders of your team to win points.'
The three leaders of this American team are Woods, Mickelson and Jim Furyk, who have played in every Ryder Cup since 1997. Mickelson got his start in 1995, going 3-0 in his debut, and he is the only player among those three with a winning record at 9-8-3. Woods is 7-11-2, while Furyk is 4-9-2, with only won victory in the 11 team matches he has played.
Even so, the scrutiny might be stronger than ever on whether Lefty pulls his share of the load.
Woods has won five straight tournaments heading into the HSBC World Match Play Championship, a 16-man field playing 36-hole matches at Wentworth Golf Club outside London. Furyk is coming off a victory in the Canadian Open. He, too, is playing at Wentworth.
That Masters victory seems like a long time ago.
He has contended only twice in the last five months, tying for fourth at the Memorial (three shots out of the lead) and blowing the U.S. Open with a double bogey on the final hole to tie for second. He was never in serious contention at the British Open -- no surprise there because he rarely plays his best on links courses -- and he faded to a 74 in the final round at the PGA Championship.
U.S. captain Tom Lehman didn't sound the least bit concerned Tuesday.
'I'm a pretty straight shooter. I tell Phil what I think, and he tells me what he thinks,' Lehman said in a telephone interview from New York. 'And when he tells me that he'll be ready, I believe him.'
Mickelson saunters along with a gee-whiz smile and a tip of the cap, which hides an ultra-competitive spirit. He burns to win, and nothing gets his attention more than a stage on which to show everyone what he can do.
One way or another, he is exciting to watch.
'He understands more than anybody that this Ryder Cup is on a world stage, and the opportunity this team has,' Lehman said. 'He will be ready as a competitor. It's too enticing to him.'
Mickelson began concentrating on the majors in 2004. Since then, he has played 10 times after the PGA Championship, and his best finish was a tie for 19th among 31 players at the '04 Tour Championship. He didn't even show up at the Tour Championship last year, using a Halloween party as his excuse.
As for the Ryder Cup in 2004? That happened to be his worst, going 1-3 and losing both matches while playing with Woods. While neither of them remotely resembled major champions, the lasting image was Mickelson hitting 3-wood on the 18th hole that one-hopped off the fence, costing them the match.
Mickelson switched equipment a week before that Ryder Cup, which became convenient criticism of his poor play. In fact, he was starting to slide right after completing his remarkable run through the majors that year, missing the Grand Slam by a total of five shots.
This is no secret to Mickelson.
A year ago in February, he was asked how to get his game sharp in September when he is worn out by August.
'I have to find a way around that,' Mickelson said in a blunt assessment. 'I have to accept the fact that I'm tired, but I've got to find a way to bring out my best golf for that event.'
He figured it out last year at the Presidents Cup, where he played extremely well in going 3-0-2.
And there's no reason he can't be ready for the Ryder Cup.
For one thing, Mickelson is such a talent that even his 'B' game is better than anything Europe has to offer.
And consider what happened last year. Dominant during the West Coast swing, Mickelson was virtually a no-show for five months until the last major arrived. More determined than ever, he went wire-to-wire at Baltusrol to win the PGA Championship.
Perceptions of Mickelson in the Ryder Cup have been skewed by his last performance, another example of the 'What have you done for me lately?' culture that pervades sports these days. Until the last Ryder Cup, Mickelson never had a losing record.
'I have played well in the Ryder Cup, but we haven't won, so it doesn't feel like it's been very good,' Mickelson said. 'Losing four out of five (stinks). This is an important Ryder Cup for the U.S. team to come out on top.'
For that to happen, it's important for the Masters champion to show up.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 36th Ryder Cup Matches
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

    NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

    Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

    Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

    1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

    Getty Images

    Knox relishes round with 'mythical figure' Woods

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 8:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Russell Knox was expecting the worst and hoping for the best Thursday at The Open.

    Playing with Tiger Woods tends to have that effect.

    The native Scot received a treat earlier this week when he saw his name on the tee sheet alongside his boyhood idol, Woods.

    “Felt good out there, but obviously my swing, it was just like I had too much tension,” Knox said after an opening 73. “I just wasn’t letting it go as normal. First round with Tiger, I expected to feel a little bit different. The way I felt was better than the way I swung.”

    Knox said that he was nervous playing alongside Woods, a player he’d only encountered on the range. “He’s almost like a mythical figure,” he said.

    But after a while, he settled into the rhythm of the round at Carnoustie.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I thought it would be worse,” he said, “I feel like I should know what I’m doing. It’s cool playing with Tiger, but I’ve got to get over that. I’m here to win, not just enjoy my walk around the course.”

    Knox probably had more interaction with Woods than he anticipated, if only because the third member of the group, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, keeps to himself because of the language barrier.

    “It’s kind of a blur,” Knox said. “It’s like, Oh, I’m chatting away with Tiger here like normal. I don’t even remember what I was saying.”

    There have been countless stories from this year as the next generation of players – guys who grew up watching Woods dominate the sport – get paired with Woods for the first time.

    It was no less special for Knox on Thursday.

    “It’s nice for him to say things like that,” Woods said, “and we enjoyed playing with each other. Hopefully we’ll play a little bit better tomorrow.”

    Getty Images

    Rain expected to shower Carnoustie Friday morning

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:43 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – By the end of the day Friday, we’ll be able to determine which side of The Open draw ended the first two rounds at Carnoustie with more favorable conditions. With rain expected for most of Friday morning, it seems those who played early/late may be more pleased.

    According to Weather.com, there is a 75 percent chance of rain beginning at 2 a.m. local time Friday here in Scotland. That percentage vaults up to 95 percent by 7 a.m., with the first tee time scheduled for 6:35. At 11, the number drops to 55 percent. After 2 p.m., the percentage chances of rain are 25 percent and below for the remainder of the day.

    Temperatures during the day are expected to be from the low 50s to the low 60s and winds will vary between 14-18 mph, again per Weather.com.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    This is The Open’s official weather report for the weekend:

    Saturday: A dull start with some drizzle possible. Staying cloudy for much of the day but gradually becoming brighter with a chance of some sunny intervals during the afternoon and evening. Winds light and variable in direction but should predominantly settle in to a SSE 8-12mph during the afternoon. Max temp 20C (68F).

    Sunday: Often cloudy but mainly dry. A better chance of some decent sunny spells compared to Saturday. Most likely the windiest day of the Championship; SW 12-18mph with gusts 20-25mph. Feeling warm, especially in any sunshine with a max temp of 23C (73F).

    Getty Images

    Bandaged Woods 5 back after even-par 71

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods arrived Thursday with therapeutic tape on the back of his neck.

    Carnoustie’s back nine inflicted even more pain.

    Playing in the most difficult conditions of the day, Woods’ progress was stalled by two late bogeys as he settled for an even-par 71 that left him five shots off the lead at The Open.

    “I played better than what the score indicates,” he said. “It certainly could have been a little bit better.”

    Woods created a stir when he showed up with black kinesiology tape on his neck. Afterward, he said that his neck has been bugging him “for a while” and that Thursday was merely the first time that the tape was visible.

    “Everyone acts like this is the first time I’ve been bandaged up,” he said, smiling. “I’ve been doing this for years.”

    Woods said that the discomfort didn’t really affect his swing, other than a few shots “here and there.” It didn’t seem to affect his score, either, as he went out in 2 under before a few stumbles on the back nine.

    On the fast, baked-out turf, he played conservatively off the tee, using driver only once and 3-wood just twice. Apparently he didn’t need the added distance, not with his 6-iron traveling 240 yards. He tried to play to his spots, even if it routinely left him more than 200 yards for his approach.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    That’s the strategy he employed at Hoylake in 2006, where he hit driver just once and captured the third of his Open titles. Despite some of the similarities in firmness, Woods said that Carnoustie presents a different challenge off the tee.

    “These fairways are very small,” he said. “They’re hard to hit right now. They’re so fast, and they’re so moundy.”

    Finding the fairway wasn’t the chief problem for Woods on Day 1, however. He missed just four fairways but found only 11 greens.

    More damaging to his score was his play on the par 5s. Despite having only an 8-iron in, he failed to birdie each of the two par 5s and then bogeyed Nos. 10, 13 and 15 to squander his early momentum.

    Though the draw here won’t be a significant factor – or at least not like in recent years, with a wide range in scores from morning to afternoon – it’s clear that Woods (in game 47 of 52) encountered the most difficult of the conditions Thursday, with the wind gusting to 20 mph and the fairways running even faster after another sun-splashed afternoon.

    Still, his opening 71 was one of the better scores in the late wave.

    “He hit it good,” said playing partner Russell Knox. “He plotted his way around, which I expected him to do, and he was very conservative off the tee. It’s kind of fun to watch him do that, to be honest.”

    Even more fun would be a major with Woods in contention.

    He hasn’t broken par in the opening round of his last eight majors. Indeed, for Woods, these slow starts have been the real pain in the neck.