Lefty Tumbles off the Leaderboard

By Associated PressApril 12, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Phil Mickelson stared out toward the 18th green, shook his head slightly, rubbed his chin and tried to figure out where it all went wrong.
 
On a day for going low, Lefty went south.
 
Mickelson wont need to worry about clearing a spot in his closet for a third green jacket, not after a dismal Saturday afternoon at Augusta National.
 
It was moving day, all right, but he moved in the wrong direction. Coming in just three strokes off the lead, Mickelson stumbled his way through a 3-over 75 that knocked him out contention heading to the final round.
 
A disappointing day, obviously, Mickelson said. I didnt play very well, and it was a day where there were some low scores out there. The greens were soft, the rain softened the course, and I thought there were some low scores. I just didnt shoot one of them.
 
Indeed, more than half the field shot par or better after heavy showers drenched the course just past lunchtime, causing a 45-minute delay and softening up those slick Augusta greens. Seven players shot in the 60s. Another six were at 70 or 71. Eleven more shot even-par 72.
 
And then there was Mickelson, whose score beat only seven other players and was epitomized by two dismal holes.
 
At the par-5 eighth, his third shot was right on the flag'literally. It struck the stick and spun back toward the fairway, nearly rolling off the green instead of staying up near the cup. He zoomed the putt 4 feet past the hole, then missed the comebacker. Instead of a likely birdie, he wound up with bogey.
 
That misfortune seemed to unnerve Mickelson, who bogeyed 10 and 12, but he appeared to collect himself with back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14.
 
Then there was No. 6, the 170-yarder known as Redbud. Ian Poulter had a hole-in-one there on Thursday, but this time the pin was tucked in the back right side of the green, a difficult placement that surrendered only four birdies Saturday and made it the fourth-toughest hole on the course.
 
The safe play was to lay it out left of the flag, take two putts and get out of there with a par. But Mickelson yanked an 8-iron into the one place he couldnt'the back right bunker. There was no way to blast it out of sand and keep it on the top tier of the green, so all he could do was watch his ball roll back toward the left fringe, leaving a good 60 feet just to save par.
 
You cant miss it right there, and I know that, Mickelson said. You just have to hit it left and try to make par.
 
He could even make bogey. Mickelson didnt give the uphill putt a hard enough whack and it came to a stop about 10 feet short. He missed that one, too, and took a 5. As he walked toward 17, he knew that any realistic hope of making a charge on Sunday was gone.
 
Trevor Immelman maintained the lead with his third straight round in the 60s, leaving him at 11-under 205 after three rounds. Mickelson is nine strokes back, needing a comeback of historic proportions to catch Immelman.
 
Jackie Burke overcame an eight-shot deficit on the final day to win in 1956, but he was aided by the collapse of amateur Ken Venturi. Even if the top four players on the leaderboard'none of them major winners'fall apart, theres still that guy in fifth place.
 
Tiger Woods shot a 68 and is three shots clear of Mickelson. Hard to imagine the worlds greatest player collapsing as well.
 
Ive just got to go out there and shoot a really low score, Mickelson said.
 
Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, followed up a second-round 68 with a 75 of his own. He bogeyed six out of 10 holes in one stretch, leaving him at even par and 11 strokes off the lead.
 
Poulters ace was a distant memory as he struggled through a birdie-less round. He bogeyed No. 9, took a double-bogey at the end and settled for pars on the other 16 holes. Yep, mark off another potential contender with a 75.
 
But the Englishman has never won a major, so his slide wasnt totally unexpected.
 
Mickelson, on the other hand, had three majors on his resume and is generally regarded as the best player in the world not named Tiger. Hes won two titles at Augusta in the last four years. On Saturday, though, Mickelson looked as though he was playing here for the first time.
 
It was an old bugaboo'the putter. In addition to that miss at No. 8, he botched putts of less than 10 feet at both 12 and 15, the latter costing him a third straight birdie.
 
If I knock that putt in, Im back to even for the round, which was the goal, said Mickelson, who started the day at 5 under. I thought I hit it closer. I thought it was 2 feet and instead it was 6. I didnt really putt those that well today, so when I missed that, well, that could have been a big momentum booster.
 
It was pretty much over by the time he got to 18. He drove it in a bunker, then knocked his second shot off a TV tower. Mickelson pulled off a delicate chip to save par, but it really didnt matter at that point.
 
Its one of those things where I think people who watch TV think, Oh, I cant believe Phil is hitting bad shots, said Steve Flesch, who played with Mickelson and wound being the best left-hander on the course.
 
I feel his pain because we have all gone through it. Unfortunately, its on a stage where its going out across the world. Everybody is seeing it.
 
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”