Notes Lefty in the desert Player of the Year award

By Associated PressNovember 10, 2010, 1:56 am

JBWare MastersMELBOURNE, Australia – Phil Mickelson plans to start the 2011 in the desert, as he has done so often in his career.

Just not the California desert.

Mickelson, who only recently began to expand his global horizons, said he is planning to make the Abu Dhabi Championship his first tournament of the new year. It will be held the same week as the Bob Hope Classic.

“I’ve wanted to go to the UAE (United Arab Emirates) for a while, and this is the perfect time,” Mickelson said, adding his entire family and swing coach Butch Harmon will be going with him. “It should give me great weather to work on my game, and it gives me a chance to get to the UAE. The whole family is going, and they’re pretty excited about it.”

This figures to be the second straight year that the Bob Hope Classic gets more attention for who’s not there.

A year ago, the PGA Tour granted nine conflicting releases to players to compete in Abu Dhabi. Tournament officials at the Hope were not thrilled, although they overlooked the fact that six of those players were European and all nine were European Tour members. What caused such consternation is one release went to Anthony Kim, who went to high school in the Palm Springs area.

Mickelson is a two-time champion at the Bob Hope Classic, although he has lost interest in recent years when the tournament started moving away from its traditional rotation of golf courses.

The four-time major champion is taking an interest in playing overseas, and making the most of it. He is immensely popular in China, where he is building golf courses and teaching academies. There also is appearance money to be made, part of the game for years.

“I feel like there’s an obligation as a player to try to bring the game to different parts of the world,” Mickelson said. “The UAE, especially Abu Dhabi, and China seem to be our greatest growth opportunities.”

Mickelson will go straight from Abu Dhabi to Torrey Pines for the start of his busy West Coast swing. He plans to play Phoenix, Pebble Beach and Riviera, but is undecided on the Match Play Championship. He said that would depend on his kids’ spring break.


PLAYER OF THE YEAR: The PGA Tour is starting to compile its ballots for player of the year, with Jim Furyk sure to be one of the candidates after his three-win season and capturing the FedEx Cup.

Furyk already has wrapped up one such award.

The PGA of America honor is based on points, which Furyk has clinched with 60. He received 10 points for each of his wins at Innisbrook, Hilton Head and the Tour Championship, and 18 points for being second on the money list and 12 points for being fifth in the adjusting scoring average.

Matt Kuchar won the money list and the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average, although he has only one victory. Phil Mickelson was the only PGA Tour member to win a major, but he didn’t win anything else.

One thing Furyk and Kuchar share is a perk that often gets overlooked. Any PGA Tour player who wins the money list or the FedEx Cup receives a five-year exemption on Tour.


KODAK CHALLENGE: Troy Merritt is in decent shape to keep his PGA Tour card as a rookie, at No. 121 on the money list, and some $37,000 clear of No. 125. He’s in even better shape to claim the $1 million prize from the Kodak Challenge, which goes to a player’s best cumulative score on 18 out of 30 holes from various tour events.

But it won’t be without a fight.

Merritt has a one-shot lead over Rickie Fowler and Aaron Baddeley, and both of them are coming to Disney. Baddeley withdrew from the Australian Masters, while Fowler is coming to Florida after tournaments in Malaysia and Shanghai.

“I didn’t want to just give it to Troy,” Fowler said with a grin. “Got to make Troy work for it.”

For the 21-year-old Fowler, it’s more than just $1 million.

He already has had a dream rookie season – more than $2.6 million in earnings, well inside the top 50 in the world ranking, a spot on the Ryder Cup team. The one thing missing is a trophy, and that’s another reason to go to Disney.

“I’m not in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions,” Fowler said, savvy enough to know the winners-only tournament at Kapalua only changed its name a few days earlier. “This is another shot at having a chance to win.”


CADDIE NIGHT: One of the best nights of the year is in Shanghai when the European Tour loopers gather downstairs at the hotel bar for their “Caddie of the Year” program.

Caddies vote throughout the week for the best caddie and a few other awards.

The main winner was Ken Comboy, voted caddie of the year. He works for Graeme McDowell, who had a decent year – U.S. Open champion at Pebble Beach, two European Tour victories and that massive birdie putt at Celtic Manor to give Europe victory in the Ryder Cup.

John McLaren, now working for Luke Donald, got the award for worst dressed.

And the best switch of the year might have been unanimous – Craig Connelly, who began the year working for Graeme Storm until he got an offer to caddy for a young German named Martin Kaymer. They went on to three wins, including the PGA Championship.

It was standing room only for most of the night, a festive occasion that was attended by most of the caddies at the HSBC Champions no matter what tour they work, along with a host of players that ranged from Lee Westwood, Donald, McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Ryan Palmer and Rickie Fowler.


CARD TIME: Disney is the final PGA Tour event of the year, and the last chance for players to finish among the top 125 on the money list to secure their full cards for next year. Troy Matteson, already exempt for 2011 because of a win last season, is at No. 125 and has a lead of nearly $13,000 over Briny Baird.

Two players with a lot riding at Disney spent last week in Shanghai.

Heath Slocum is at No. 30 on the money list by $132 over Ryan Moore. That’s significant because the top 30 on the money list get into the Masters next year, and Moore already is eligible for Augusta National.

Richard S. Johnson of Sweden is No. 131 on the money list, and he qualified for the HSBC Champions by winning in Sweden. He was due to arrive in Florida sometime Monday, then try to shake off the jet lag and try to earn the $50,000 that might be necessary to finish among the top 125 on the money list.


DIVOTS: Tiger Woods failed to win a World Golf Championship for the first time since the series began in 1999. … Padraig Harrington made an albatross on the 14th hole of the third round at the HSBC Championship, the seventh one of the year on the PGA Tour. … With the Presidents Cup in Australia next November, the European Tour is planning to push back its season-ending Dubai World Championship to the first full week in December.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Of the four majors and four World Golf Championships, Americans had only two victories this year—Phil Mickelson (Masters) and Hunter Mahan (Bridgestone Invitational).


FINAL WORD: “When I’m comfortable and when I’m happy, there’s not many people than can play better than me.”—Sergio Garcia.

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After Further Review: Nelson lost in the shuffle?

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 3:40 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the Nelson's future ...

If the goal was “different” by bringing the AT&T Byron Nelson to Trinity Forest, consider it achieved. But bringing a world-class field south of Dallas could still be tricky.

Yes, the tournament can always rely on local resident and AT&T spokesman Jordan Spieth to throw his hat in the ring. But even with Spieth strolling the fairways this week, the field strength was among the worst all season for a full-point event.

The debut of the sprawling, links-like layout likely did little to sway the undecideds, with only the third round offering the challenging conditions that course co-designer Ben Crenshaw had envisioned. And the schedule won’t do them any favors next year, as a revamped itinerary likely puts the Nelson right before the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.

The course will inevitably get better with age, and Spieth expects positive word of mouth to spread. But it might be a while before the stars truly align for an event that, for the moment, feels lost in the shuffle of a hectic schedule. – Will Gray


On Jordan Spieth's putting ...

Jordan Spieth’s putting is plainly bad right now, but it isn’t going to stay this bad forever.

He is the second ranked player on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, just like he was last year. This putting slump has lingered, but it’s unfathomable to think this guy just forgot how to putt.

Sooner rather than later he’s going to remember he’s Jordan Spieth and the 40-footers are going to start pouring in. He’ll be telling Greller to go get the ball because he’s too far away and the tee is in the other direction.

Bottom line, the ball striking is for real and the putting slump will pass. He’ll win soon – maybe even as soon as this week. – Nick Menta


On golf and gambling ...

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court over tuned a federal ban on sports betting in most states, a move the PGA Tour and many professional sports leagues embraced as a tool to both build fan interest and grow revenue.

Experts estimate sports betting could become a $150-$200 billion annual industry, and even a small piece of that could be significant for golf, but there will be risks.

Unlike any other sport, golf is played on multiple fields simultaneously, which inherently creates risks when gambling is introduced to the equation. Although the Tour has gone to great pains to head off any potential problems, like all bets gambling comes with great rewards, and great risks. – Rex Hoggard

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Wise continues whirlwind ascent with first win

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 3:13 am

DALLAS – Still shy of his 22nd birthday, Aaron Wise continues to prove himself to be a quick learner.

Wise went from unheralded prospect to NCAA individual champ seemingly in the blink of an eye while at the University of Oregon. After eschewing his final two years of eligibility in Eugene, he won in Canada on the Mackenzie Tour in his third start as a professional.

He continued a quick learning curve with a win last year on the Web.com Tour to propel him to the big leagues, and he didn’t flinch while going toe-to-toe with Jason Day two weeks ago, even though the result didn’t go his way.

Faced with another opportunity to take down a top-ranked Aussie, Wise made sure he got the job done Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson – even though it took until dark.

With mid-day rains turning a firm and fast layout into a birdie barrage, Wise seamlessly switched gears and put his first PGA Tour title on ice in impressive fashion with a bogey-free 65. Deadlocked with Marc Leishman to start the day, Wise made six birdies in his first 10 holes and coasted to a three-shot win as the leaders barely beat the setting sun to avoid an anticlimactic Monday finish at Trinity Forest Golf Club.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


As it turned out, the hardest part of the day was enduring the four-hour weather delay alongside his mother, Karla, as his afternoon tee time turned into a twilight affair.

“She was talking to me in the hotel about what a win could mean, what a second could mean, kind of taking me through all that,” Wise said. “I was like, I’ve got to calm down. I can’t just sit here. I said, ‘You’ve got to go.’ I kind of made her leave the room.”

Wise displayed some jitters right out of the gates, with a nervy three-putt par on the opening hole. But with several players going on birdie runs to turn what seemed like a two-man race into a much more wide-open affair, Wise went on a tear of his own with four birdies in a row on Nos. 7-10.

That gave him a window over Leishman and the rest of the chase pack, and he never looked back.

“I talked to myself and kind of made myself trust my putting,” Wise said. “These greens out here are really tricky, and for me to roll those putts in on 8 and 9 really kind of separated things.”

Leishman had held at least a share of the lead after each round, and the 34-year-old veteran was looking for his third win in the last 14 months. But a bogey on No. 10 coincided with a Wise birdie to boost the rookie’s advantage from two shots to four, and Leishman never got closer than three shots the rest of the way.

“He holed putts he needed to hole, and I didn’t,” Leishman said. “Hit a couple loose shots where I could have probably put a bit of pressure on him, and didn’t. And that’s probably the difference in the end.”

Instead of sitting next to a trophy in Dallas, Wise could have been closing out his senior season next week with an NCAA appearance at Karsten Creek. But the roots of his quick climb trace back to the Master of the Amateurs in Australia in December 2015, a tournament he won and one that gave him confidence that he could hold his own against the best in the world. He returned to Eugene and promptly told his coach, Casey Martin, that he planned to turn pro in the spring.

The same dogged confidence that drove that decision has been the guiding force behind a whirlwind ascent through every rung of the professional ladder.

“I just have a lot of belief in myself. I didn’t come from a lot. A lot of people don’t know that. I didn’t get to travel a bunch when I played junior golf,” Wise said. “Kind of all along it’s been very, very few moments to shine and I have had to take advantage of them.”

Despite that belief, even Wise admits that he’s “shocked” to turn only his second real chance to contend at this level into a maiden victory. But fueled by the memories of a close call two weeks ago, he put the lessons learned at Quail Hollow to quick use while taking the next step in an increasingly promising career arc.

“It was awesome, everything I dreamed of,” Wise said. “To walk up 18, knowing I kind of had it locked up, was pretty cool.”

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Grace celebrates birthday with final-round 62

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:51 am

DALLAS – Branden Grace celebrated his 30th birthday in style, making the biggest charge of the final round at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Grace closed out a 9-under 62 as the sun began to set at Trinity Forest Golf Club, moving from outside the top 10 into a share of third place, four shots behind Aaron Wise. It equaled Grace’s career low on the PGA Tour, which he originally set last summer at The Open, and it was one shot off Marc Leishman’s course-record 61 from the opening round.

“Good birthday present. It was fun,” Grace said. “Little bit of imagination, little bit of luck here and there. You get more luck on the links golf course than maybe on a normal golf course.”


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


Weeks after Grace’s wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, he now has his best result on the PGA Tour since winning the RBC Heritage more than two years ago. As a world traveler and former Presidents Cup participant, the South African embraced an opportunity this week to go off the beaten path on an unconventional layout.

“It feels like a breath of fresh air coming to something different. Really is nice. I really enjoyed the golf course,” he said. “Obviously I think we got really lucky with the weather, and that’s why the scores are so low. It can bite you if it settles in a little bit in the next couple years.”

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Scott barely misses qualifying for U.S. Open

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:33 am

DALLAS – A birdie on the 72nd hole gave Adam Scott a glimmer of hope, but in the end even a closing 65 at the AT&T Byron Nelson wasn’t enough to earn an exemption into next month’s U.S. Open.

Scott entered the week ranked No. 65 in the world, and the top 60 in next week’s rankings automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills. The cutoff was a big reason why the 2008 tournament champ returned for Trinity Forest’s debut, and midway through the final round it seemed like the Aussie had a shot at snagging a bid at the 11th hour.

Scott needed at least a solo ninth-place finish to pass an idle Chesson Hadley at No. 60, and while his 5-footer on the 18th green gave him a share of sixth place when he completed play, he ultimately ended up in a three-way tie for ninth at 15 under – barely short of a spot in the top 60.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


“I tried to make the most of really favorable conditions today, and I did a pretty good job of it. Just never really got a hot run going,” Scott said. “I feel like I struggled on the weekend reading the greens well enough to really get it going, but I think everyone but the leaders did that, too. They’re not the easiest greens to read.”

Scott has played each of the last three weeks in an effort to earn a U.S. Open exemption, and he’ll make it four in a row next week when he returns to the Fort Worth Invitational on a course where he won in 2013. Scott still has another chance to avoid sectional qualifying by earning a top-60 spot at the second and final cutoff on June 11 following the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Scott has played 67 majors in a row, a streak that dates back to 2001 and is second only to Sergio Garcia among active players. While he’s prepared to play each of the next three weeks in a last-ditch effort to make the field, he’s taking his schedule one event at a time with the hope that one more good result might take care of business.

“I’ll play next week and hopefully play really well, and give myself a bit of cushion so I can take a week or so off and try to prepare the best I can for the U.S. Open,” Scott said.