Mickelson Preps for Masters Plays BellSouth

By Associated PressMarch 30, 2005, 5:00 pm
DULUTH, Ga. -- Phil Mickelson's performance in the BellSouth Classic might not be as important as what he does off the course in preparation for defense of his Masters title.
But don't expect him to lose focus here simply because the first of this year's golf majors is a week away.
'I don't think so,' he said when asked about that Wednesday. 'This tournament has great practice facilities. It gives me a great opportunity to work on my game and get sharp and to not worry about what's coming up next week.'
But Mickelson isn't entirely putting the Masters on the back burner. He spent about 10 hours at Augusta National on Tuesday before heading back to this Atlanta suburb and shooting a 3-under 69 in Wednesday's pro-am.
'It went really well yesterday,' Mickelson said. 'It was fun to get down there and see the course in such great shape.'
Mickelson, the only one of the game's top four players in the BellSouth, had to wait to tee off Thursday along the rest of the field because rain delayed the start of the first round.
The other top players in the world -- Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els -- are passing on this tournament to get more practice time at Augusta.
But the BellSouth field is hardly weak, starting with defending champion Zach Johnson, third in his last three starts this year.
Also playing on the 7,293-yard, par-72 TPC at Sugarloaf are No. 5 Retief Goosen, No. 10 Stewart Cink, No. 13 Stuart Appleby and No. 15 Chris DiMarco.
But the spotlight will be on Mickelson, who finally won his first major last year at Augusta. He thinks he ironed out some kinks in his game after a tie for 40th place in the just-completed Players Championship.
'Well, I'll have a better idea after this week, I think,' the left-handed player said. 'I'm starting to play a little better and addressed an issue yesterday with the way I was driving it last week.
'This will be a big week for me to get momentum and get confidence in the way I've been playing. I've put a lot of time in. Now, it's time to start having it pay off.'
Mickelson has two wins and a second in seven starts this years and is the leading money winner at $2,753,456.
He also doesn't consider the field to be watered down despite the absence of Singh, Woods and Els.
'We have so many quality players on the tour that we have a competitive field every week no matter who plays,' Mickelson said. 'The field here is very strong,'
Johnson, whose only victory last year as a rookie was here, has been playing very well. His third-place finishes came at Doral, Bay Hill and in the Players Championship.

He earned $652,000 in those three events and has made $902,000 overall in nine starts this year. He'll be making his Masters debut.
'I feel good with where my game is at,' said Johnson, whose thoughts also are on next week. 'Just kind of a stretch where you want to get things rolling.
'I enjoy this course, and it's a very good one to prepare for Augusta. Although I haven't seen Augusta, I can see the resemblances. So it should be a good stepping stone to next week.'
Ben Crane, a former BellSouth winner, withdrew due to injury. ... The field includes 22 players entered in next week's Masters as well as previous Masters champions Mickelson, Larry Mize and Ian Woosnam, and two-time winner Jose Maria Olazabal. ... 'I look forward to it every year. I'll just be happy to make the cut,' said European Ryder Cup captain Woosnam, who hopes to play 20-22 events this year if his back holds up.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - BellSouth Classic
    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

    By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

    There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

    The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

    Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

    If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

    “The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

    The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

    Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

    Getty Images

    Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

    There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

    Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

    While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

    Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

    1. Brooks Koepka

    2. Dustin Johnson

    3. Patrick Reed

    4. Justin Thomas

    5. Jordan Spieth

    6. Rickie Fowler

    7. Bubba Watson

    8. Webb Simpson


    9. Bryson DeChambeau

    10. Phil Mickelson

    11. Matt Kuchar

    12. Brian Harman

    On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

    Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

    European Points

    1. Tyrrell Hatton

    2. Justin Rose

    3. Tommy Fleetwood

    4. Francesco Molinari


    5. Thorbjorn Olesen

    6. Ross Fisher

    World Points

    1. Jon Rahm

    2. Rory McIlroy

    3. Alex Noren

    4. Matthew Fitzpatrick


    5. Ian Poulter

    6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello

    @jenamsims on Instagram

    Koepka autographs local kids' 'Go Brooks' sign after win

    By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 2:30 pm

    Brooks Koepka is a two-time U.S. Open winner, but that doesn't mean he's now too big to go sign a couple pieces of cardboard in somebody's front yard in the middle of the night.

    Koepka's girlfriend, Jena Sims, posted two pictures to her Instagram story on Sunday of "Go Brooks" signs she says were put up by some local kids in the area where Koepka was staying for the week.

    The first is dated prior to Koepka's final-round tee time.

    The second is from Sunday night.

    And here, separately, for no reason in particular (other than the fact that she posted it) is a video of Sims running over a parking cone at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

    Speaking of kids, just feels those two are gonna make it.

    Getty Images

    Koepka moves to No. 4 in world with U.S. Open win

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:05 pm

    After successfully defending his U.S. Open title, Brooks Koepka reached a new career high in the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Koepka held off Tommy Fleetwood to win by a shot Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, becoming the first player to go back-to-back in nearly 30 years. As a result, he jumped five spots in the latest rankings to No. 4, six spots higher than he reached with last year's U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills.

    Fleetwood finished alone in second place and moved up two spots to No. 10, tying his career-best placement. Patrick Reed moved up two spots to No. 11 by finishing fourth, while fifth-place Tony Finau went from No. 37 to No. 31.

    Updated Official World Golf Ranking

    It was a largely quiet week in the rankings despite the fact that a major championship was contested. Outside of Koepka and Finau, the only other player inside the top 50 to move up or down more than three spots was Jason Dufner, who went from 53rd to 48th with a T-25 finish.

    Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for the second consecutive week, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Koepka and Jordan Spieth. Jon Rahm dropped one spot to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Fleetwood rounding out the top 10. Hideki Matsuyama fell two spots to No. 12, dropping out of the top 10 for the first time since October 2016.

    Despite a missed cut at Shinnecock, Tiger Woods actually moved up one spot to No. 79 in the latest rankings. He plans to play the Quicken Loans National and The Open in the coming weeks, which will be his final two chances to move into the top 50 in time to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The event is being held for the final time this summer at Firestone Country Club, where Woods has won eight times.