Mickelson Misses Key Putts Then the Cut

By Associated PressJune 15, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- No 72nd hole collapse for Phil Mickelson at this year's U.S. Open. No 72nd hole for Phil Mickelson, period.
Lefty and his bum wrist were dumped out of the Open by Angel Cabrera's birdie on his last hole late Friday afternoon. It's the first time in 31 majors he's missed the cut, going back to the 1999 PGA Championship, the longest active streak on the tour.
'No, no, no. I didn't knock Mickelson. Mickelson knocked out himself,' Cabrera said. 'He shot 11 over par.'
For all the fears about his aching wrist and what that thick, black brace more suited for bowling than birdies would do to his game, it was his putting that really hurt Mickelson on Friday. During a four-hole swing where he dropped six strokes, he had a three-putt followed by a four-putt.
He finished with a 77 that left him with a 36-hole total of 151, one shot over the cut line. At 10-over 150, the cut equaled the Open's highest in relation to par, set at Bethpage in 2002. It was 9 over last year at Winged Foot.
'I felt I had made a great move early in the round if I just kind of made a couple bogeys and didn't do too much damage,' Mickelson said. 'But (Nos.) 7 through 10 did me in. Six-over in those four holes -- take six shots out and I'm right there at 5 over.'
Mickelson wasn't the only big name to have his weekend free up. Colin Montgomerie, who had a spectacular flameout of his own last year, finished at 18-over 158. Two-time winner Retief Goosen, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia also went home early.
'I was thinking about my game, so I wasn't thinking about who was not going to be here on the weekend,' Cabrera said. 'I'm sorry for all of the guys that are left out.'
But Mickelson saw this coming. When someone asked him after his round about making the cut, he looked incredulous.
'That would be pretty unbelievable if 11 over was the top half of the field,' he said. 'I can't buy that. I don't think so.'
That Mickelson's cut streak ended at the U.S. Open of all places is oh, so appropriate.
He craves this title, but the Open has shown him nothing but cruelty. Four times he's been runner-up, usually the victim of bad luck or bad timing. Last year, of course, was all on Mickelson, a collapse of Normanesque proportions.
Needing only to make par on the 18th hole on Sunday, he pulled out his driver -- never mind that he'd hit only two fairways the entire round -- and overcut it. The ball clattered through trees before landing in trampled rough. Instead of playing it safe and punching out, he went for the green -- and hit another tree. His third shot found a plugged lie in a bunker, burying his U.S. Open title hopes right along with it. Instead of kissing the silver trophy, he tied for second with Montgomerie and Jim Furyk.
This year, his bad Open karma kicked in before he had even hit a shot. Practicing at Oakmont Country Club on Memorial Day weekend, he injured his left wrist while chipping out of rough around the green. The inflammation hurt so badly he withdrew from The Memorial and didn't play a full practice round before teeing off Thursday.
A thick black brace kept the pain in check, but he fiddled with it endlessly throughout his two rounds. Wrap on, wrap off. Wrap on, wrap off.
'It'll be fine,' he said. 'It's sore, but it'll be fine.'
Now it should. He has a few extra days to rest it.
The wrist injury meant Mickelson arrived at Oakmont with lowered expectations. But his 74 Thursday was a respectable score at the beastly course. When he ran off two birdies in his first six holes Friday morning, he looked like he might actually work himself into contention.
Then his round fell apart.
His second shot on the par-4 No. 7 flew from rough into a fescue-filled ditch, a hazard. As the ball disappeared into the weeds, Mickelson took off his cap and slapped it against his leg in disgust. A two-putt left him with a double bogey.
'The double hurt, but you're going to make that. That wasn't that big of a deal,' he said. 'I thought 7, 8, 9, 10, that's the stretch if I play them 2 over, it's not going to kill me. If I could par the next three, I'll be all right.'
Not even close.
He was in the trap off the tee on No. 8 and two-putted for a bogey. He ran a 60-footer for birdie past the hole and onto the fringe on No. 9, and his chip shot landed 3 feet short.
Then came a four-putt double on 10. He only needed a 6-footer to save par, but it broke too much and snaked 8 feet past the hole. His second effort banged off the back of the cup. By the time he got the ball in the hole, he'd lost six strokes in four holes.
'That stretch,' he said, 'did me in.'
The rest of his back nine didn't help.
His tee shot on the par-3 13th landed on the fringe, and he opted for a flop shot. But he took almost a full swing, and the ball skipped about 18 feet past the hole. As the crowd gasped, Mickelson kicked at the grass. His par putt missed by 2 feet.
He made a nice birdie on 14, outdriving Furyk and Adam Scott by at least 30 yards and knocking his approach shot to 3 feet. But he backed right up on 15, dumping his tee shot in the rough and finding sand on his second shot.
He closed with bogeys on three of his last four holes.
'It's disappointing to dream as a kid about winning the U.S. Open and spend all this time getting ready for it and have the course setup injure you,' he said. 'You're trying to win and hit great shots, but you're also trying to not end your career on one shot, or at least suspend it for a while.'
Asked what he planned to do while he waited to see if he made the cut, Mickelson didn't hesitate.
'Go watch the carnage on TV,' he said.
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    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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    Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

    Hoylake in 2006.

    That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

    So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

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    “I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

    With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

    “The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”

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    How will players game-plan for Carnoustie?

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:31 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Thomas took a familiar slash with his driver on the 18th tee on Monday at Carnoustie and watched anxiously as his golf ball bounced and bounded down the fairway.

    Unlike the two previous editions of The Open, at what is widely considered the rota’s most demanding test, a particularly warm and dry summer has left Carnoustie a parched shade of yellow and players like Thomas searching for answers.

    Under the best circumstances, Carnoustie is every bit the unforgiving participant. But this week promises to be something altogether different, with players already dumbfounded by how far the ball is chasing down fairways and over greens.

    Brown is beautiful here at Royal Dark & Dusty.

    But then it’s also proving to be something of a unique test.

    Where most practice rounds at The Open are spent trying to figure out what lines are best off tees, this is more a study of lesser evils.

    Tee shots, like at the par-4 17th hole, ask multiple questions with few answers. On his first attempt, Thomas hit 2-iron off the tee at No. 17. It cleared the Barry Burn and bounded down the middle of the fairway. Perfect, right? Not this year at Carnoustie, as Thomas’ tee shot kept rolling until it reached the same burn, which twists and turns through both the 17th and 18th fairways, at a farther intersection.

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    “A hole like 17 in this wind, the trick is getting a club that will carry [the burn],” said Thomas, who played 18 holes on Monday with Tiger Woods. “If that hole gets downwind you can have a hard time carrying the burn and keeping it short of the other burn. It’s pretty bizarre.”

    The sixth hole can offer a similar dilemma, with players needing to carry their tee shots 275 yards to avoid a pair of pot bunkers down the right side of the fairway. Yet just 26 yards past those pitfalls looms a second set of bunkers. Even for the game’s best, trying to weave a fairway wood or long-iron into a 26-yard window can be challenging.

    “Six is a really hard hole, it really just depends on how you want to play it. If you want to take everything on and have a chance of hitting an iron into a par 5, or just kind of lay back and play it as a three-shot hole,” Thomas shrugged.

    It’s difficult to quantify precisely how short the 7,400-yard layout is playing. It’s not so far players are flying the ball in the air, particularly with relatively little wind in the forecast the rest of the week, so much as it is a question of how a particular shot will run out after it’s made contact with the firm turf.

    As the field began to get their first taste of the bouncy fun, one of the earliest indications something was askew came on Sunday when Padraig Harrington, who won The Open the last time it was played at Carnoustie in 2007, announced to the social world that he’d hit into the burn on the 18th hole.

    “This time it was the one at the green, 457 yards away,” the Irishman tweeted. “The fairways are a tad fast.”

    Most players have already resigned themselves to a steady diet of mid-irons off tees this week in an attempt to at least partially control the amount of run-out each shot will have.

    Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, hadn’t played a practice round prior to his media session, but could tell what’s in store just from his abbreviated range session on Monday. “Extremely baked out,” he said.

    The conditions have already led Spieth and his caddie, Micheal Greller, to conjure up a tentative game plan.

    “You might wear out your 5- and 4-irons off the tee instead of hitting 3- or 2-irons like you’re used to,” Greller told him.

    But even that might not be the answer, as Tommy Fleetwood discovered on Sunday during a practice round. Fleetwood has a unique connection with Carnoustie having shot the course record (63) during last year’s Dunhill Links Championship.

    The Englishman doesn’t expect his record to be in danger this week.

    In fact, he explained the dramatically different conditions were evident on the third hole on Sunday.

    “There’s holes that have been nothing tee shots, like the third. If you play that in the middle of September or October [when the Dunhill is played] and it’s green and soft, you could just hit a mid-iron down the fairway and knock it on with a wedge,” Fleetwood said. “Yesterday it was playing so firm, the fairways really undulate and you have bunkers on either side, it’s actually all of a sudden a tough tee shot.”

    The alternative to the iron game plan off the tee would be to simply hit driver, an option at least one long-hitter is considering this week if his practice round was any indication.

    On Sunday, Jon Rahm played aggressively off each tee, taking the ubiquitous fairway bunkers out of play but at the same time tempting fate with each fairway ringed by fescue rough, which is relatively tame given the dry conditions. But even that option has consequences.

    “It’s kind of strange where there’s not really a number that you know you’re going to be short,” said Fleetwood, who played his Sunday practice round with Rahm. “[Rahm] hit a drive on 15 that was like 400 yards. You just can’t account for that kind of stuff.”

    Whatever tactic players choose, this Open Championship promises to be a much different test than what players have become accustomed to at Carnoustie.

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    Fleetwood: Carnoustie course record won't help at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 2:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, but he’s skeptical that his past experience will help him at The Open.

    Last fall, in the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, Fleetwood birdied six of his last eight holes to card a bogey-free, 9-under 63, the lowest score ever at what is widely considered to be the most difficult course in the Open rota.

    No one expects a repeat this week at Carnoustie – not with the conditions this brown, firm and fast.

    “It’s a completely different course,” Fleetwood said Monday. “Shots that you’ve hit have literally no relevance for a lot of it.

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    “It doesn’t do any harm to have played it for a few years. It doesn’t do any harm to have a course record, but it’s a completely different challenge to what we normally face.”

    Fleetwood took a much-needed two-week break after the French Open, deciding to withdraw from last week’s Scottish Open for a bit more time in his own bed. (He said it was his last full week at home until mid-October.) Since his sparkling 63 to nearly steal the U.S. Open, the Englishman said that he’d “run out of steam” but now feels energized.  

    “There’s not really a good reason why I couldn’t do it (this week),” he said. “It really doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past. The only thing they could do is build your confidence and give you examples of what you can do – examples that you can end up there, and you have the game to compete.”