Mickelson Stays on Top Furyk Fades

By Associated PressFebruary 10, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. --The conditions were the toughest Phil Mickelson has faced in eight months, a day of survival when it was important to keep the ball in play and keep big numbers off the scorecard.
 
That's the kind of language often used at the U.S. Open.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is looking for his first PGA TOUR win since last year's Masters. (WireImage)
This was only the wet, cold, windy and miserable Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where patience is tested not because of 6-inch rough but six-hour rounds. The similarity Saturday was Mickelson tied for the lead going into the final round, the first time he's been in that position since last summer at Winged Foot.
 
All he has to do now is write a better ending, although redemption didn't even cross his mind.
 
'I don't really think in those terms,' Mickelson said. 'I would like to get off to a good start this year, and I love playing this tournament, having won it a couple of times. It would be nice to get momentum on the West Coast.'
 
Mickelson made only two small errors at Spyglass Hill and shot a 2-under 70, putting him at 14-under 202. He was tied with Kevin Sutherland, who birdied the last hole at Poppy Hills and also found himself in a familiar spot.
 
It was the second time in three weeks he birdied the last hole to get into the final round. And it was the second time all the focus was on somebody else. He had Tiger Woods in the group ahead of him at Torrey Pines. Now he gets Mickelson at his side at Pebble Beach.
 
'That's to be expected,' Sutherland said. 'I'm playing well right now. I'm shooting scores that I should be shooting given the way I'm playing, so I feel good about tomorrow.'
 
John Mallinger, a 27-year-old rookie, had a 68 at Poppy and was one shot behind.
 
Mickelson is perfecting his swing by the day, and what helped this week was the perfect rotation of courses. He played Pebble Beach on Friday, the only day the wind didn't blow much, and shot 67.
 
Sutherland opened with a 72 at Pebble Beach on Thursday and rallied at Spyglass and Poppy.
 
Jim Furyk had to take on rain that fell sideways in 20 mph gusts at Pebble Beach on Saturday, and it was costly. He hit a fairway metal for his second shot on the par-4 10th over the cliffs and took double bogey, and wound up with a 76, six shots behind.
 
'A tough day to be at Pebble,' he said. 'I could have done a lot better job. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow.'
 
More 'Crosby' weather was in the forecast for Sunday, and that was OK with Mickelson. While he has started slowly this year after a four-month layoff, he is most pleased with the ease in hitting draws, fade and low, piercing tee shots.
 
The key if the weather gets bad is to drive the ball well,' he said. 'You have to put the ball in place because from the rough or the bunkers, you're just fighting for par the whole time. I'm actually really excited about my chances. I've been driving it better than I think I ever have, and I'm excited about putting it to the test here.'
 
Aiding his chances are the limited number of contenders.
 
The 42-year-old Sutherland plays his best golf in his native California, but his only PGA TOUR victory came five years ago down the coast at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
He was one shot out of the lead going into the last round at the Buick Invitational, but closed with a 74 and tied for 14th.
 
Mallinger, making only his eighth career start on the PGA TOUR and his fourth this year, made his first bogey of the week by missing a 3-foot par putt on his 15th hole, then went birdie-bogey-birdie to give himself a chance.
 
Some big names are atop the leaderboard, but they have a lot of ground to cover.
 
Davis Love III shot 70 at Spyglass and Corey Pavin shot 67 at Pebble Beach. They were tied for fourth at 9-under 207. Vijay Singh was poised to move a little closer to the top until hitting a tee shot into the ocean, another shot over the corporate boxes on the 18th at Pebble Beach and making double bogey to shoot 71. He was eight shots behind, along with Tom Watson, who had a 72 at Spyglass.
 
Furyk knew what he was in for when he arrived on the putting green and the wind was already rustling through the Monterey pines. Once he got out to the six holes along the Pacific, the flags were bending at a 90-degree angle and trouble was waiting on every miss.
 
He didn't miss many, except for the putts. Furyk hit the ball so clean that he gave himself birdie putts inside 18 feet five times in the first seven holes, finally converting after hitting a 7-iron from 106 yards on the downhill seventh.
 
Furyk was even par, two shots behind, when he hit a pedestrian drive on the 451-yard 10th and had a 3-wood left into a strong wind coming into him and off the ocean on the right. It hung over the cliffs and stayed there, dropping into a sandy area next to a fence. He wound up with double bogey, then dropped two more shots as the weather got worse.
 
Divots
Bill Murray gave tournament director Ollie Nutt a scare on the first tee. He asked for quiet, then informed the gallery that this would be his last appearance in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. After setting up over his ball, he looked back up and added, 'As an amateur.' Then he ripped one down the middle as the crowd roared. ... The celebrity presence at the AT&T was best defined by a marshal on the 14th fairway. There was laughter and cheering ahead on the 15th tee, and he was asked who was in the group ahead. 'Kevin Costner, Don Cheadle and ... I'm not sure who the other two guys are,' he said. Those would have been the PGA TOUR players, Dean Wilson and D.J. Trahan. OK, so they're not household names, but still. ... Tom Watson is eight shots behind, but still happy over one goal -- he and son Michael made the pro-am cut and are tied for second.
 
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    Woods delofts 2-iron to use off Carnoustie tees

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 1:23 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods has been effective this season hitting a 2-iron off many tees, reverting to a version of the stinger shot he made so popular.

    This week at baked out and brown Carnoustie he went to the next level, adding a new 2-iron to his bag that he bent to 17 degrees, down from his normal 20-degree version.

    “I took a few degrees off of it, just trying to be able to have the ability to chase one down there,” he explained on Tuesday.

    Woods said he still carries the club about the same distance, from 245 to 250 yards, but “it gets to its final destination much differently [on the ground].”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “Obviously, it rolls out whereas mine back home, I've generally liked having it 20 degrees because I can hit the ball into the par 5s as an option,” he said. “This one's not really designed for hitting the ball in the air to par 5s as an option. It's more of a driving club.”

    After playing two practice rounds, Woods said he wasn’t sure how much he would use the new 2-iron given the dry conditions which have led to ridiculously long tee shots, and he said he might adjust the club more if the course doesn’t slow down.

    “If it softens up, it could be a good club,” he said. “If it doesn't soften up, then I might just add a degree to it and keep it a little softer and not have it so hot.”

    The Open is the second consecutive event where Woods has added to his bag. At The National earlier this month, he went with a new mallet-headed putter that he plans to continue to use this week.

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    Europeans out to end the recent American dominance

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 12:59 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In golf’s biggest events, the Americans have left the rest of the world feeling red, white and mostly blue.

    If you’re wondering whether the U.S. currently holds a meaningful title, the answer is probably yes.

    Golf’s four majors? Yep.

    The Ryder Cup? Indeed.

    The No. 1 player in the world? Absolutely.

    The Presidents, Solheim, Walker, Palmer and Curtis Cups? Uh-huh.

    It’s been a popular talking point at the men’s majors, as Europe’s finest players have been peppered about why they’ve all seemingly fallen under Uncle Sam’s spell.

    After all, the Americans haven’t ripped off five major wins in a row like this since 1981-82 – when Justin Rose was still in diapers.

    “I don’t know what I’d put it to down to,” the Englishman said Tuesday, “other than the American boys in the world rankings and on the golf course are performing really, really well. The top end of American golf right now is incredibly strong.”

    Since 2000, the Americans have taken titles at eight of the nine courses on the modern Open rota. The only one they’ve yet to conquer is Carnoustie, and that’s probably because they’ve only had one crack at it, in 2007, when an Irishman, Padraig Harrington, prevailed in a playoff.

    Not since Tom Watson in 1975 has a U.S. player survived Carnoustie, arguably the most difficult links on the planet. But Americans ranging from Dustin Johnson to Tiger Woods comprise six of the oddsmakers' top 10 favorites, all listed at 25/1 or better.

    “America, there’s no doubt about it, and there’s no other way to put it, other than they have an exceptional bunch of players at the moment,” Tommy Fleetwood said. “It just so happens that it has been a run of American golfers that have won majors, but at the same time, they’ve generally been the best players in the world at the time that they’ve won them.

    “You don’t really look at them as a nationality. You just look at them as players and people, and you can understand why they’re the ones winning the majors.”

    Indeed, there’s not a fluke among them.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Since this American run began last summer at Erin Hills, Brooks Koepka (twice), Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed have hoisted trophies. All were inside the top 25 in the world when they won. All were multiple-time winners on the world stage before that major. And all, most ominously for Europe, were 29 or younger.

    “There’s a bit of camaraderie amongst all of them,” Rose said. “I know Brooks and Dustin are incredibly close, and you’ve got Rickie (Fowler) and Justin Thomas and Jordan as a group are all really close. It’s working really well for them. They’re spurring each other on.”

    That’s why there’s even more anticipation than usual for the Ryder Cup. The Americans haven’t won on foreign soil in a quarter century, but this band of brothers is better and closer than those who have tried and failed before them. Couple that with a few aging stars on the European side, and there’s a growing sense that the Americans could be on the verge of a dominant stretch.

    That should sound familiar.

    During an eight-major span in 2010-11, the most common refrain was: What’s Wrong with American Golf? International players captured seven consecutive majors, including six in a row at one point. They took over the top spot in the world rankings. They turned the Ryder Cup into a foregone conclusion. In the fall of 2010, Colin Montgomerie pounded his chest and declared that there’d been a “changing of the guard over to Europe,” and it was hard to find fault in his reasoning.

    “European golf was very healthy a few years ago for a long time,” McIlroy said. “It seemed like every major someone from the island of Ireland turned up to, we were winning it. It doesn’t seem that long ago.”

    Because it wasn’t.

    So even though it’s been more than a year since an International player held any title of consequence, these types of runs are cyclical, and Europe in particular has no shortage of contenders.

    Major drought or not, McIlroy is a threat every time he tees it up. Rose turns 38 in two weeks, but he’s playing arguably the best golf of his career, recording a top-10 finish in a ridiculous 17 of his past 21 starts. Fleetwood is fresh off a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, where he closed with 63. Jon Rahm is a top-5 machine. Alex Noren just won on the Ryder Cup course in France.

    “I think Tommy, clearly, showed how close the Europeans are to challenging that dominance as well,” Rose said. “So it’s not like we’re a mile behind. It’s just that they’re on a great run right now, and there’s no reason why a European player shouldn’t come through this week.”

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    Links to the past: Tiger's return revives Open memories

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 12:51 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods rekindles his love affair with links golf this week at Carnoustie, which seems about right considering his introduction to the ancient ways of the game began here on the Angus coast.

    It was here on the most brutal of the Open Championship rota courses that a 19-year-old Tiger first played links golf at the 1995 Scottish Open, an eye-opening and enlightening experience.

    “I remember my dad on the range with me, saying, ‘Are you ever going to hit the ball past the 100 yard sign?’” Woods recalled on Tuesday at Carnoustie, his first start at The Open since 2015. “I said, ‘No, I'm just enjoying this. Are you kidding me? This is the best.’”

    During this most recent comeback, Tiger has been all smiles. A new, relaxed version of his former self made calm and approachable by age and the somber influence of injury. But this week has been different.

    During a practice round with Justin Thomas on Monday he laughed his way all the way around the brown and bouncy seaside layout. Much of that had to do with his return to the unique ways of links golf, the creative left side of his brain taking the wheel from the normally measured right side for one glorious week.

    He talked of game plans and strategic advantages on a parched pitch that has seen drives rolling out over 400 yards. At his core, Tiger is a golf nerd for all the right reasons and this kind of cerebral test brings out the best of that off-the-charts golf IQ.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Although there are no shortages of defining moments in Tiger’s career and one can make all sorts of arguments for what would be his seminal moment – from the 1997 Masters to the 2008 U.S. Open –the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool stands out, based on near-perfect execution.

    In ’06 at Liverpool, which played to a similar shade of dusty yellow as Carnoustie will this week, Tiger hit just a single driver, opting instead for a steady diet of long irons off tees. For the week he hit 48 of 56 fairways, 58 of 72 greens and rolled the field for a two-stroke victory and his third, and most recent, claret jug.

    This Open has all the makings of a similar tactical tour de force. For this championship he’s put a new 2-iron into play that’s more like a strong 1-iron (17 degrees) and imagines, given the conditions, a similar low, running menu.

    “It could be that way,” Woods said when asked the similarities between this week’s conditions and the ’06 championship. “I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees, just because I hit a 3-iron on Monday, down 18, I went 333 [yards]. It can get quick out here.”

    If Tiger ever needed a major championship confidence boost the Carnoustie Open would be it, an inspiring walk down memory lane to a time when he was the undisputed king of golf.

    “[The ’06 Open] is the closest you can compare to this,” David Duval said. “But I struggle to remember that golf course being as fast as this one. It was close, but this one is something else.”

    Ernie Els had a slightly different take, albeit one that was no less ominous to the rest of the field this week.

    “Liverpool is on a sand hill, this has a bit more run to it,” Els said. “But it’s got the same feel. It’s almost like St. Andrews was in 2000. Very, very fast.”

    It’s worth noting that Tiger also won that ’00 Open at the Home of Golf with an even more dominant performance. It is the unique challenges of the links test that make many, even Tiger, consider the Open Championship his best chance to continue his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.

    More than any other Grand Slam gathering, The Open is blind to age and the notion of players competing past their prime. In 2008 at Royal Birkdale, then-53-year-old Greg Norman flirted with the lead until the very end, finishing tied for third; a year later at Turnberry, Tom Watson came within one hole of history at 59 years young.

    “It certainly can be done,” Woods said. “You get to places like Augusta National, where it's just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately. That's just the way it goes. But links-style golf courses, you can roll the ball. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.”

    Whether this is the week Tiger gets back into the Grand Slam game depends on his ability to replicate those performances from years past on a similarly springy course. As he exited the media center bound for the practice putting green on Tuesday he seemed renewed by the cool sea breeze and the unique challenges of playing the game’s oldest championship.

    Coming back to Carnoustie is more than a reintroduction to links golf; for Tiger it’s starting to feel like a bona fide restart to his major career.

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    Woods: New putter should help on slower greens

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 11:35 am

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods’ ice-cold putting showed at least a few signs of heating up earlier this month at The National, where he switched putters and ranked seventh in the field on the greens.

    The mallet-style putter is still in the bag as Woods prepares for The Open, and he’s hoping the heavier model with grooves will prove valuable at Carnoustie.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “To be honest with you, I’ve struggled on slower greens throughout my entire career,” Woods said Tuesday. “So for me, it’s going to help on these greens, for sure.”

    To combat the slower greens, Woods usually applied a strip of lead tape to his putter. But this heavier model of putter doesn’t need the extra weight, and the grooves on the putter face allow the ball to get rolling faster and hotter.

    “You don’t necessarily have to do that with the grooves,” he said of the lead tape. “When I putted with the Nike putter, I didn’t have to put lead tape on the putter to get a little more weight to it. I could just leave it just the way it was. This is the same type.”  

    For all of the talk about his putting woes this season, Woods still ranks 56th in strokes gained: putting. More crucial this week: He’s 102nd in approach putt performance, which quantifies how well a player lag putts.