Lefty Still Lovin the Long Ball
Last year, he was so determined to keep his tee shots in the short grass that he went to a controlled fade off the tee, although that meant giving up distance. He couldn't argue with the results. Mickelson won his first major at the Masters, and was five shots away from a chance to win the Grand Slam.
What will Phil do next?
He won the FBR Open by a career-high five shots on Sunday, making birdies from the desert and saving par after hitting into the water. When it was over, someone asked him if hitting fairways was overrated.
'No, it's certainly important. Don't get me wrong,' he said. 'It's not overrated, but I think distance is underrated right now. I think that you've got to move the ball out there.'
His short game was as phenomenal as ever, but what made Phoenix such a fun week for Mickelson was the long ball.
'I drove the ball a lot longer than I think I have in years, and was able to have a lot of short irons in,' he said.
Mickelson went with a 3-wood off the tee on the par-5 13th because he was belting his driver in the 340-yard range, and he needed something less to land in the fat part of the fairway. Never mind that he pulled it into the desert; he still had a shot to the green and wound up with a birdie.
Then on the 14th, he felt he needed to 'chip a driver.'
'I just want to take 40, 50 yards off of it and get it out there about 290,' Mickelson said.
That sounds a lot like the Mickelson of old, like the time he talked about taking '8 yards off a stock driver' on the par-4 eighth hole at Bay Hill.
But that's one thing that makes Mickelson so fascinating - and at times so hard to figure out.
A year ago, the focus was on fairways.
'Because I've kept it in play, the course seems to be so much easier,' Mickelson said last year when he was in contention every Sunday leading to his Masters victory. 'I think after 33 years, I've figured it out.'
How quickly he forgets.
Mickelson was looking at the statistics from last year when he noticed he had a higher percentage of fairways hit than the three guys he was chasing - Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.
But he trailed all of them in distance.
'When I had sacrificed 15 yards last year, I knew that I needed to make a change,' Mickelson said after winning in Phoenix. 'Ultimately, you saw the change in September. But I knew that I had to do that if I wanted to get back to being able to play at this level.'
In some respects, the statistics bear that out.
Mickelson hit 63.6 percent of his fairways last year through the PGA Championship, when he won twice and had a chance to win all four majors. By the end of the year, he had dipped to 59.9 percent. And from the PGA Championship in August through the FBR Open last week, he has hit 58.5 percent of the fairways.
Mickelson has been testing his new Callaway equipment since September to find which driver-ball combination allows him to hit it straight without sacrificing distance. He believes he has figured it out, and his victory Sunday - after starting the year with two finishes out of the top 10 - gave him good vibes heading to Pebble Beach.
'I can't wait for next week,' he said. 'I can't wait to get out to the course and practice. I'm loving playing and ecstatic about the way things are set up in my bag.'
If the emphasis has returned to distance, that wouldn't be such a bad thing.
Singh smashes driver off just about every tee, figuring that if he lands in the rough, he can still make par at worst by being that much closer to the green. Woods is longer off the tee than he has been the past several years; his swing coach, Hank Haney, said power is important for Woods to regain his dominance.
As for the go-for-broke style that Mickelson adores?
He's right. That will never change. Mickelson has such supreme confidence that he only sees possibilities, not consequences. Some people blame his bad shots on poor decisions. Mickelson attributes them to poor execution.
One such occasion was Pebble Beach four years ago.
Mickelson was one shot behind on the par-5 18th and 257 yards from the green. Instead of relying on his wedge game - the best on tour - he hit driver off the deck with hopes of making an eagle, or at least a simple birdie. Instead, he put it in the Pacific Ocean and made double bogey.
There are three things about Mickelson that fall into the category of death and taxes.
His wedge game is among the best. Even when he was missing fairways in Phoenix, Mickelson knew that he only had to get it around the green to save par, or even make birdie.
Another constant is winning. Mickelson has gone only three years without a PGA Tour victory dating to his junior year at Arizona State - one of those was his rookie season, the other two in years his wife had an uneasy pregnancy. His 24 tour victories are second only to Woods (41) and Singh (25) among his peers.
And the third sure thing about Mickelson?
He always makes the game entertaining.
Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88
MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.
Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.
Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.
The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.
On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.
Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.
He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.
In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.
Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.
Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M
In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.
This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.
Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.
Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.
The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.
Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout
CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.
Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.
Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.
“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”
Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.
“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”
Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break
Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.
Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.
Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.
“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”
Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.
“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”
Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.