Mickelson looking to shake his West Coast doldrums

By Associated PressFebruary 19, 2009, 5:00 pm
Northern Trust OpenLOS ANGELES ' Not even the player parking lot at Riviera was immune to a traffic jam. Phil Mickelson waited not only for the other courtesy cars to clear, but for attendants to move two orange cones and two golf bags so he could park in a special place.
 
Being the defending champion has its privileges.
 
Mickelson took a five-year hiatus from the Northern Trust Open, but he fell in love with the tournament upon his return. He lost in a playoff one year, then atoned for that with a two-shot victory last year.
 
Now, Riviera could be just what he needs.
 
Lefty usually thrives on the Left Coast, with 16 victories and 40 finishes in the top 10. But this has been a dismal start to his season, having missed the cut in Phoenix and failing to crack the top 40 at Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson hasn't had a lot of reasons to celebrate this season. (Getty Images)
Ive played well here the last couple of years, Mickelson said Wednesday before teeing off in his pro-am. I had a good practice session this morning, and I think its starting to come around. But the first three weeks obviously were not what I wanted. This is a great place to get it turned around.
 
Mickelson hasnt been able to pinpoint the problem, but he cant ignore the shots that stray out-of-bounds, or making bogeys on the par 5s. His goal for the week is to get the misses back under control.
 
Is he worried?
 
I dont think worrying is the word, Mickelson said. I think about it a lot, trying to figure out what exactly is going on. Right now, its just been a little rusty and I havent played the way I would like. It doesnt feel as far off as the scores are indicating, so I feel like if I can just get a little thing here and there, and the misses can come back down into play, Ill be OK.
 
The Northern Trust Open again has a strong field'not quite as strong as last year, when it had more players in the top 15 of the world ranking than any event behind the four majors, three World Golf Championships and The Players Championship.
 
Mickelson is among five of the top 10 at Riviera, which has an international feel for the first time this year on the PGA Tour.
 
Part of that is because the Accenture Match Play in next week in Arizona, so several European Tour players are making their U.S. debut, from Soren Hansen and Graeme McDowell to Jeev Milkha Singh and Oliver Wilson.
 
But the out-of-towner making the biggest buzz is 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa.
 
Hello, America, the Japanese sensation said when introducing himself in English during his press conference.
 
Ishikawa made history at age 15 when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup on the Japan Golf Tour while a freshman in high school. That made him the youngest winner on a tour recognized by the Official World Golf Ranking.
 
He won again last year in his first full year as a pro, finishing fifth on the Japanese money list.
 
No matter how he fares at Riviera, he already is assured of having the largest media following. Tournament organizers received an additional 100 requests for credentials from the Japanese, and the PGA Tour hired an interpreter and assigned an additional media official just to shadow the teenager known in Japan as the Shy Prince.
 
How does one so young cope with so much attention?
 
Ive been asked the same question, if I feel any pressure, Ishikawa said. But actually, I havent thought about pressure itself. At times, I get nervous, but I always try to be positive, rather than negative. More fans come to watch, and Im more happy.
 
Tiger Woods was 16 when he made his PGA Tour debut, but he was still an amateur, still wild and shot 72-75 to miss the cut. Ishikawa was already a pro at that age, and so far up the world ranking that he narrowly missed qualifying for the Match Play.
 
All of this is difficult for someone like Hunter Mahan to grasp.
 
I was 17 and played Travelers Championship in Hartford and just missed the cut by one, he said. But to be a pro, Ive got no chance at that? I wouldnt know what to do. I would probably have to call my mom and go, What do I do? I want to eat, what do I do? I wasnt mature enough to handle it. But Im sure he is.
 
The other special guest at Riviera is Vincent Johnson, an Oregon State graduate who received the first Charlie Sifford Exemption for players who represents the advancement of diversity in golf.
 
That will make it two tournaments in the last three weeks with a player of African-American heritage, and Woods hasnt even played this year as he recovers from knee surgery.
 
Its just been a little surreal, this whole thing, Johnson said. Finding out that I was just a candidate, I was really honored because of what Mr. Sifford stands for. And to receive it things like this dont happen to me.
 
Ishikawa is used to this, and Johnson figured that out during a practice round Tuesday. After walking off the green, the first thing he noticed behind him was a group of 50 photographers and a kid in bright yellow pants.
 
Now I know how Tiger feels, Johnson said. It was good that it was behind me. But Im sure at this point, hes oblivious to it.
 
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    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

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    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”