Mickelson tuning up for U.S. Open in Memphis

By Associated PressJune 5, 2013, 10:53 pm

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Phil Mickelson is playing the week before the U.S. Open to make sure his game is sharp as possible, particularly after not playing very well at the Masters after taking off before that major.

''I know that for me to be sharp mentally especially into a tournament where the penalty for missing is so great like the U.S. Open, it's important that I'm sharp and I'm ready to play,'' Mickelson said Wednesday after finishing a practice round.

He's got plenty of company at the St. Jude Classic.

The TPC Southwind course plays at a par-70 over 7,239 yards and features small greens that don't hold shots easily, narrow fairways and enough rough to provide a good test before golfers head to Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania. That's why Brandt Snedeker and Boo Weekley are here, giving this tournament a field featuring five of the current top 10 money leaders.

Dustin Johnson is back trying to defend his title. Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old from China, also is here on a sponsor's exemption along with local favorite John Daly.

''This is a great golf course,'' Mickelson said. ''The greens are small, they're difficult to get the ball stopped, and there are a lot of cool little shots around the greens. So the precision of the iron shot into the green as well as the importance of hitting fairways here is a similar style of golf that will happen at Merion next week.''

This will be only Mickelson's third appearance here when this event begins Thursday. While no one has won on the PGA Tour the week before and gone onto win the U.S. Open, Mickelson played the week before winning each of his four majors. He even won the BellSouth Classic in 2006 before winning his second Masters.

''I like playing the week before,'' Mickelson said.

Mickelson tied for 16th in Houston then took off the week before the Masters this year. He wound up tied for 54th with his best score of 71 coming in the first round. Since then, he has played only twice finishing third in Charlotte at the beginning of May and then missing the cut the next week at The Players Championship at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

So visiting Memphis was a must to avoid going four straight weeks without a competitive round before heading to the U.S. Open. Mickelson last played here in 2009 when he wound up tied for 59th, but he said he remembers how much he likes the course and the challenge offered.

''I love the small greens,'' Mickelson said. ''You really have to be precise with your shot making into the green with your irons to get the ball close to get it stopped. I think that there again it allows the player that is playing well a chance to make birdies and a guy who is not to make bogeys. So you separate the guys that are playing well.''

To Snedeker and Weekley, the TPC Southwind is like a home course.

Snedeker lives in Nashville, a three-hour drive away, and has played here repeatedly over the years. As the defending FedEx Cup champ, this event is even more special with FedEx the event sponsor. He already has a win this year at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February and has six Top 10s in the eight cuts he's made this year putting him third on the money list.

''I love being here, it's been good to me and I feel like the course is in great shape,'' Snedeker said. ''I feel like I have a good chance of playing well this week, and my golf game, even though it didn't look great last week, it feels like it's playing well right now. And I'm excited with what this week can hold, especially considering my past success here.''

Weekley will have plenty of family from his home in Milton, Fla., along with Mississippi and Alabama getting the rare chance to watch him compete in person. He's back on tour after taking a week off following his win at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, in an area where it's hot with Bermuda greens.

''I'm excited to be able to go back to the Open and play again,'' Weekley said. ''I feel like my game's close. Taking a week off and not practicing, just spending time with my kids and stuff. It takes me about another week to get it back together again. That's why I was ready to play this week and get it all ready.''

Johnson is back in Memphis after he won here a year ago in his first time playing this event. He extended the drought of tour winners the week before not winning the U.S. Open when he missed the cut the next week. But he said that was more an issue of the course not setting up for him.

He's back with the same mindset he has every week, especially in a year he started off with his seventh career win.

''I'll take a win every week before a major the rest of my life,'' Johnson said.

Notes: Paul Goydos is making his return to the tour here. The two-time winner had surgery on his left wrist and has not played since the Northern Trust Open at Riviera last year. ... Snedeker is one of four players with six Top 10 finishes this year. ... Billy Horschel, currently fourth among this year's money leaders, made his professional debut at this event in 2009 on a sponsor's exemption.

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Descending into golf's depths, and trying to dig out

By Brandel ChambleeApril 23, 2018, 3:05 pm

Watching Alvaro Quiros finish second this past week in Morocco, I was reminded of just how rare it is for player to come back from the depths of golf hell.

Quiros, a player of immense ability, hype and length, won the Dubai World Championship – his sixth win in four years – to close out 2011 and then went down the rabbit hole of trying to change his golf swing. He would miss 11 cuts in 2012 and either miss the cut or withdraw in another 41 European Tour events over the next four years. Because he hadn’t won a major championship, his epic backwards slide in the world rankings (435th prior to this past week) mostly went unnoticed – but it was far from unusual.

Ian Baker-Finch won the 1991 Open Championship, but just three years later, when he played 20 events on the PGA Tour and missed 14 cuts, he no longer looked anything like a recent major champion. In 1995, he played in 18 events and either missed the cut, withdrew or was disqualified from every one of them. In 1996, he missed the cut in all 11 events he entered on the PGA Tour; and in 1997, he shot 92 in the first round of The Open, withdrew from the championship and stopped playing professional golf.

Like Quiros, Baker-Finch’s downfall came after his biggest win, when he finally thought he had the time, because of the 10-year exemption he received, to change his golf swing.

David Duval won the 2001 Open Championship and just two years later he shot 83-78 in the same event and missed the cut, which was one 16 events he either missed the cut or withdrew from that year. In 2005, he missed 18 cuts in 19 starts. Duval’s competitive demise may well have been precipitated by injuries and an existential malaise after winning golf’s oldest championship, but it was accompanied by queries far and wide as to how to correct his swing and thinking, just like Baker-Finch before him and Quiros thereafter.

These desperate searches for help, like the indelible ink stains on dyer’s hands, are the one common thread amongst those who suffer from the absolute negation of their technical and then creative abilities. Those who take as indisputable the theories of others are, in the deepest sense, wounding their own intuition. They are controverting the evidence of their own senses in such a way that is comforting to the insecure player, but tragic to the artist. To quote Carl Jung: “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”

As I write this, PGA Tour winners Steven Bowditch (1,885th in the world) and Smylie Kaufman (337th) are in similar downward spirals in their careers and no doubt are desperate for, and susceptible to any suggestion.

One player they can look to who made it back from the frantic madness that accompanies losing one’s game, is Henrik Stenson. He put his trust in one man, Pete Cowen, even though while working with Pete he missed 14 cuts in 2002, followed by 15 missed cuts in 2003, and 11 in 2004. What Stenson did not do was panic and run from teacher to teacher, from shrink to shrink, as the missed cuts piled up.

Stenson, with Cowen’s help, slowly built one of the most reliable swings in the history of the game. A swing that regularly leads events in fairways found and greens hit in regulation. A swing that authored the lowest score ever shot in major championship history. A swing that is a far cry from the OB-launching swipes he was taking in late-2001 and 2002.

Given the soul-eating depths of where he came from, a place from which few have dug themselves out of, I watch Stenson play golf with a far great admiration than I otherwise would, and similarly was pulling for Quiros in Morocco. The same way I am pulling for Bowditch and Kaufman to find their games again.

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Langer skipping Senior PGA for son's HS graduation

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 2:53 pm

Defending champion Bernhard Langer will miss this year’s Senior PGA Championship to attend his son’s high school graduation.

Langer made the announcement Monday, during Senior PGA media day at Harbor Shores in Michigan. The event will be held May 24-27.

“I won’t be able to defend my title this year because my son graduates from high school that very same weekend,” he said. “Family comes first in my life, so I have to be there to celebrate.”

Langer said that his son, Jason, will play golf for the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. Langer and his family live in South Florida.

Langer won last year’s event at Trump National outside Washington, D.C. The 60-year-old has no wins but three runners-up in eight senior starts this season.  

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Landry reaches OWGR career high after Valero win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:40 pm

After notching his first career PGA Tour win at the Valero Texas Open, Andrew Landry also reached unprecedented heights in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Landry shot a final-round 68 at TPC San Antonio to win by two shots, and in the process he cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time at age 30. Landry started the week ranked No. 114, but he's now up to 66th. The move puts him within reach of a possible U.S. Open exemption, given that the top 60 in the May 21 rankings will automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills.

Trey Mullinax went from No. 306 to No. 169 with his T-2 finish in San Antonio, while fellow runner-up Sean O Hair jumped 29 spots to No. 83 in the world. Jimmy Walker, who finished alone in fourth, went from No. 88 to No. 81 while fifth-place Zach Johnson moved up five spots to No. 53.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

Alexander Levy took home the title at the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II, allowing the Frenchman to move from No. 66 to No. 47. With no OWGR points available at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Levy is guaranteed to stay inside the top 50 next week, thereby earning a spot in The Players.

Idle since an MDF result at the Houston Open, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood dropped two spots to No. 100 this week. It marks the first time Westwood has been ranked 100th or worse in nearly 15 years, ending a streak of consistency that dates back to September 2003.

The top 10 in the rankings remained the same, with Dustin Johnson leading off at No. 1 followed by Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose. Rickie Fowler remains No. 6 with Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia rounding out the top 10.

With no starts announced until the U.S. Open in June, Tiger Woods dropped two more spots to No. 91 in the latest rankings.

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What's in the bag: Valero Texas Open winner Landry

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 12:34 pm

Andrew Landry won his first PGA Tour event at the Valero Texas Open. Here's a look inside the winners' bag.

Driver: Ping G30 (9 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 65X shaft

Fairway woods: Ping G (14.5 degrees adjusted to 15.5), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 75X shaft; (17.5 degrees), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 85X shaft

Irons: Ping iBlade (3-PW), with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 105 S shafts

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (52, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts

Putter: Ping PLD ZB-S

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x