Mickelsons Great Year Ending on Sour Note
It just might not seem that way right now.
In the ultimate case of 'what have you done for me lately,' Mickelson has gone from Masters champion to Ryder Cup renegade.
He certainly wasn't the goat at Oakland Hills; for once, that was a team effort. But most of the criticism probably will fall into his lap for a series of dubious decisions that were magnified by poor play.
First, he changed equipment companies a week before the Ryder Cup. Then he didn't play on the tournament course the final two days before the matches.
All that would have been overlooked except for his performance. Mickelson got benched Saturday morning. He lost his singles match with what NBC analyst Johnny Miller called a 'nut shot.' And his 1-3 mark at Oakland Hills was the first time in five Ryder Cups that Lefty had a losing record.
Asked to explain what went wrong for the Americans, one can only hope Mickelson wasn't serious when he said that playing in the Ryder Cup was a 'career-defining moment for us.'
If that's the case, Mickelson's defining moment would be that knockdown 9-iron he tried to bounce onto the 16th green along the water at Oakland Hills, not the 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole at Augusta National. He would be remembered as the guy who skipped two days of team practice, not the one who so brilliantly mapped out a strategy at the majors that he came within five shots of winning all four.
The next thing Mickelson said Sunday night was more accurate.
'When we get here, we are under constant ridicule and scrutiny over our play, and not coming together as a team, and all of this stuff that we know to be false,' he said.
Mickelson was begging for scrutiny. Given the events leading up to the Ryder Cup, it's a wonder he didn't replace the small American flag on the back of his team uniform with a bulls-eye.
He is not the first player to change equipment before the Ryder Cup. Tiger Woods caused a stir when he switched to Nike irons a week before the '02 Ryder Cup at The Belfry. But then he won the World Golf Championship that week in Ireland by not making a bogey until the 72nd hole.
Mickelson switched to the Callaway driver, fairway metals and golf ball at the Canadian Open and tied for 57th with his highest-score of the year (291) and fewest number of birdies (11).
Not surprisingly, Mickelson was pounded with questions about his new tools during the Ryder Cup. It was easy to blame his play on the equipment change, even though he was coming off back-to-back bad weeks on tour.
Besides, it's not as if that was the first time he has missed a fairway by 40 yards.
And he was using Woods' golf ball when Mickelson came up short on the 11th green and spun back down the hill into the fairway, a pivotal point in their alternate-shot match Friday afternoon.
The equipment issue became such a flash point that David Toms rose to his defense after the only point Mickelson contributed all week.
'Hold on, hold on,' Toms said, the closest he has ever come to giving a lecture. 'He was my partner today. All I can tell you is I think he hit every fairway with that new equipment. He was not hitting irons off the tee. He was hitting Callaway drivers, 4-woods, 3-woods. And he played damn good.'
Mickelson repeated he made the right decision.
'Nobody else believes it, but I can live with that,' he said. 'If I went the other way and played with something that everybody else thought was right but I didn't -- that I can't live with.'
As for his practice habits, that fell in line with captain Hal Sutton's philosophy. He wanted his guys to worry about their own game and let that spill over into the results everyone expects.
Mickelson stuck to his routine. He spent nearly eight hours playing 18 holes Monday when Oakland Hills was closed to the public, hitting shots from every imaginable spot around the green, filling his yardage book with notes.
He rarely plays the course in the days leading up to a major - remember his visit to the Buffalo Bills' training camp at the PGA Championship last year? But no one could think of a time when a player didn't practice with his team. And for Mickelson to practice on the adjacent North course at Oakland Hills on Thursday only put him under greater scrutiny.
If he delivered, it probably would be a moot point.
But he didn't, and that left Mickelson open to more second-guessing than Sutton.
Then again, that's been the story of Mickelson's career.
What most people see as a bad decision, Mickelson sees as poor execution.
Given the intensity of the Ryder Cup, this might have been a little of both.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba
Conor Moore is known for his impressions of golfers, and he is back with a new video just in time for The Open.
Moore even got the thumbs up from Ian Poulter.
This is hilarious..— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) July 16, 2018
Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite
Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.
Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.
Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.
Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:
12/1: Dustin Johnson
16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose
20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed
40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton
50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick
60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson
80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele
100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen
Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC
If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.
Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.
Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.
There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.
There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.
Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.
John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.
Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense
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.
“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.”