Notes Mickelson Makes Schedule Change

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2007, 5:00 pm
HONOLULU -- Phil Mickelson said Tuesday that he plans to play as many as six out of seven events through the end of the FedExCup season, but there will be one big change to his schedule.

Mickelson, who tries to play the week before a major to get competitively sharp, said he would skip the tournaments before the Masters and the U.S. Open. He won the BellSouth Classic last year by 13 shots, then won his second green jacket a week later.

BellSouth has moved to May, and Houston will be a week before the Masters. Mickelson hasn't played Houston since 2003, and he has not played Memphis (the week before the U.S. Open) since 2001.

BEAUTIFUL HAWAII
Hawaii is celebrating one golf feat after another these days, from the youngest player in 50 years to make the cut on the PGA TOUR (Tadd Fujikawa) to the youngest U.S. Women's Amateur champion (Kimberly Kim) to Dean Wilson becoming the first player from Hawaii to win on the PGA TOUR in 16 years.

But it's not easy for most of them to reach the big time, and Wilson offered an excellent illustration.

A public course kid from Kaneohe on the north end of Oahu, he could only afford one trip to the mainland to play in the Junior Worlds at Torrey Pines. That kept him from getting noticed by colleges, and he didn't have a single scholarship offer when he left high school. Wilson wound up going to BYU-Hawaii with hopes of getting into a Division I school.

He transferred to the main campus of BYU -- former Masters champion Mike Weir was on that team -- but had to walk on and still had a tough time getting into the lineup over the scholarship players. Whenever he complained, the coach put him in his place with a line they both laugh about to this day.

'He told me, 'You're a dime a dozen. For all I care, you can paddle your canoe back to wherever you came from,'' Wilson recalled.

Wilson now lives in Las Vegas, but he keeps in touch with Hawaii golf through a Web site, www.808golf.com, and he wants to start a foundation for Hawaii juniors that would help with their travel to the mainland.

'You don't have to be from a country club. You don't have to have all the extra privileges,' he said. 'Not that my life was hard, but I was just a basic junior golfer that wanted to play on tour and worked toward it and got there. Hopefully, that's what those guys, when they look at me, they realize nothing is that extraordinary about my game.'

THE PERFECT START
No one gets to the PGA TOUR without plenty of support, and Stephen Marino didn't forget that.

Marino played golf at Virginia and has spent the last four years in the minor leagues, mainly the Gateway and Golden Bear tours. He made it to the final stage of Q-school for the first time last month and earned his card with a tie for eighth.

The Sony Open was his first PGA TOUR event as a member. And how's this for a debut -- he wound up in the same group as Michelle Wie and the hundreds of fans who came to watch her.

Standing on the first tee, soaking it all in, Marino spotted his parents and walked over to the ropes, giving each a big hug.

Moments later, his name was announced on the first tee and he split the middle of the fairway, on his way to an opening-round 68. He made the cut and tied for 34th.

CHANGED OUTLOOK
Chris Smith missed the cut at the Sony Open and might not get many cracks on the PGA TOUR this year, but his outlook leaving Honolulu was better than it has been in years.

Consider how his 2006 season began.

His sponsor's exemption to the Sony Open was taken away and given to Peter Jacobsen after an oversight kept Jacobsen, a popular figure at Waialae because of his clinics, out of the field. Smith came over, anyway, having already bought his plane tickets, and tried to Monday qualify. He made two bogeys down the stretch and missed by one.

'I knew it was going to be a bad year,' he said. 'The first two weeks could not have been any worse. Bad karma carried over.'

He finished 195th on the money list, then discovered he had shingles. And during a trip to the doctor, he found his blood pressure was 140 over 116. It was still high before leaving for Q-school, where he failed to get his card.

In the last month, Smith has lost 25 pounds and his blood pressure is down to 111 over 73. And he's ready to get back to work.

'The last four years have just been bad,' he said. 'My expectations went from way too high to way too low.'

DIVOTS
The BellSouth Classic in Atlanta now will be called the AT&T Classic to reflect the recently approved merger between the two phone companies. BellSouth had been the title sponsor in Atlanta since 1989. ... Rich Beem wasn't too discouraged by a 71-75 weekend, noting that it was his first tournament of the year. Plus, he earned his first FedExCup points. 'Yeah, but I can't cash those in for beer,' he said. ... Michelle Wie's week might best be defined by the fact that she had honors on the tee only twice in her 36 holes at the Sony Open. ... Notah Begay has signed a two-year endorsement deal to represent Turning Stone Resort, the title sponsor and host of a PGA TOUR event in the fall. ... Bernhard Langer has signed a deal to play Adams Golf equipment.

STAT OF THE WEEK
Nearly half of Phil Mickelson's victories on the PGA TOUR (14 of 29) have come in California or Arizona.

FINAL WORD
'I've talked to people who have been married 30 or 40 years, and they say the first seven years are the toughest. I'm on six. My other three marriages didn't make it past two.' -- John Daly, who filed for divorce in October and is trying to reconcile.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Getty Images

Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 9:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.

There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.

Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.

In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.

“It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.

“That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”

Getty Images

Woods does everything but win

By Ryan LavnerJuly 22, 2018, 8:57 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a proud man who spent the majority of his prime scoffing at silver linings and small victories, Tiger Woods needed little cajoling to look at the bright side Sunday at Carnoustie.

Sure, after taking the solo lead at The Open with nine holes to go, the first words out of Woods’ mouth were that he was “a little ticked off at myself” for squandering an opportunity to capture his 15th major title, and his first in more than a decade. And that immediate reaction was justified: In the stiffest winds of the week, he played his last eight holes in 2 over, missed low on a 6-footer on the final green and wound up in a tie for sixth, three shots behind his playing partner, Francesco Molinari.

“Today was a day,” Woods said, “that I had a great opportunity.”

But here’s where we take a deep breath.

Tiger Woods led the freakin’ Open Championship with nine holes to play.

Imagine typing those words three months ago. Six months ago. Nine months ago. Twelve months ago.

The scenario was improbable.

Inconceivable.

Impossible.

At this time last year, Woods was only a few months removed from a Hail Mary fusion surgery; from a humiliating DUI arrest in which he was found slumped behind the wheel of his car, with five drugs in his system; from a month-long stay in a rehab clinic to manage his sleep medications.

Just last fall, he’d admitted that he didn’t know what the future held. Playing a major, let alone contending in one, seemed like a reasonable goal.

This year he’s showed signs of softening, of being kinder and gentler. He appeared more eager to engage with his peers. More appreciative of battling the game’s young stars inside the ropes. More likely to express his vulnerabilities. Now 42, he finally seemed at peace with accepting his role as an elder statesman.

One major, any major, would be the most meaningful title of his career, and he suggested this week that his best chance would come in an Open, where oldies-but-goodies Tom Watson (age 59) and Greg Norman (53) have nearly stolen the claret jug over the past decade.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


But success at this Open, on the toughest links in the rota?

“Just need to play some cleaner golf, and who knows?” he shrugged.

Many analysts howled at Woods’ ultra-conservative strategy across the early rounds here at big, brawny and brutish Carnoustie. He led the field in driving accuracy but routinely left himself 200-plus yards for his approach shots, relying heavily on some vintage iron play. Even par through 36 holes, he stepped on the gas Saturday, during the most benign day for scoring, carding a 66 to get within striking distance of the leaders.

Donning his traditional blood-red shirt Sunday, Woods needed only six holes to erase his five-shot deficit. Hearing the roars, watching WOODS rise on the yellow leaderboards, it was as though we’d been transported to the mid-2000s, to a time when he’d play solidly, not spectacularly, and watch as his lesser opponents crumbled. On the same ancient links that Ben Hogan took his lone Open title, in 1953, four years after having his legs crushed in a head-on crash with a Greyhound bus, Woods seemed on the verge of scripting his own incredible comeback.

Because Jordan Spieth was tumbling down the board, the beginning of a birdie-less 76.

Rory McIlroy was bogeying two of his first five holes.

Xander Schauffele was hacking his way through fescue.

Once Woods hit one of the shots of the championship on 10 – hoisting a 151-yard pitching wedge out of a fairway bunker, over a steep lip, over a burn, to 20 feet – the outcome seemed preordained.

“For a while,” McIlroy conceded, “I thought Tiger was going to win.”

So did Woods. “It didn’t feel any different to be next to the lead and knowing what I needed to do,” he said. “I’ve done it so many different ways. It didn’t feel any different.”

But perhaps it’s no coincidence that once Woods took the lead for the first time, he frittered it away almost immediately. That’s what happened Saturday, when he shared the lead on the back nine and promptly made bogey. On Sunday, he drove into thick fescue on 11, then rocketed his second shot into the crowd, ricocheting off a fan’s shoulder, and then another’s iPhone, and settling in more hay. He was too cute with his flop shot, leaving it short of the green, and then missed an 8-footer for bogey. He followed it up on 12 with another misadventure in the rough, leading to a momentum-killing bogey. He’d never again pull closer than two shots.

“It will be interesting to see going forward, because this was his first taste of major championship drama for quite a while,” McIlroy said. “Even though he’s won 14, you have to learn how to get back.”

Over the daunting closing stretch, Woods watched helplessly as Molinari, as reliable as the tide coming in off the North Sea, plodded his way to victory. With Woods’ hopes for a playoff already slim, Molinari feathered a wedge to 5 feet on the closing hole. Woods marched grim-faced to the bridge, never turning around to acknowledge his playing partner’s finishing blow. He waved his black cap and raised his mallet-style putter to a roaring crowd – knowledgeable fans who were appreciative not just of Woods making his first Open start since 2015, but actually coming close to winning the damn thing.

“Oh, it was a blast,” Woods would say afterward. “I need to try to keep it in perspective, because at the beginning of the year, if they’d have said you’re playing the Open Championship, I would have said I’d be very lucky to do that.”

Last weekend, Woods sat in a box at Wimbledon to watch Serena Williams contend for a 24th major title. Williams is one of the few athletes on the planet with whom Woods can relate – an aging, larger-than-life superstar who is fiercely competitive and adept at overcoming adversity. Woods is 15 months removed from a fourth back surgery on an already brittle body; Williams nearly secured the most prestigious championship in tennis less than a year after suffering serious complications during childbirth.

“She’ll probably call me and talk to me about it because you’ve got to put things in perspective,” Woods said. “I know that it’s going to sting for a little bit here, but given where I was to where I’m at now, I’m blessed.”

But Woods didn’t need to wait for that phone call to find some solace. Waiting for him afterward were his two kids, Sam, 11, and Charlie, 9, both of whom were either too young or not yet born when Tiger last won a major in 2008, when he was at the peak of his powers.

Choking up, Woods said, “I told them I tried, and I said, 'Hopefully you’re proud of your Pops for trying as hard as I did.' It’s pretty emotional, because they gave me some pretty significant hugs there and squeezed. I know that they know how much this championship means to me, and how much it feels good to be back playing again.

“To me, it’s just so special to have them aware, because I’ve won a lot of golf tournaments in my career, but they don’t remember any of them. The only thing they’ve seen is my struggles and the pain I was going through. Now they just want to go play soccer with me. It’s such a great feeling.”

His media obligations done, Woods climbed up the elevated walkway, on his way to the back entrance of the Carnoustie Golf Hotel & Spa. He was surrounded by his usual entourage, but also two new, younger additions to his clan.

Sam adhered to the strict Sunday dress code, wearing a black tank top and red shorts. But Charlie’s attire may have been even more appropriate. On the day his dad nearly authored the greatest sports story ever, he chose a red Nike T-shirt with a bold message emblazoned on the front, in big, block letters:

LOVE THE HATERS.

After this unbelievable performance, after Tiger Woods nearly won The Open, are there really any left?

Getty Images

Molinari hopes to inspire others as Rocca inspired him

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 8:43 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Francesco Molinari was 12 years old when Costantino Rocca came within a playoff of becoming Italy’s first major champion at the 1995 Open at St. Andrews.

He remembers being inspired by Rocca’s play and motivated by the notion that he could one day be the player who would bring home his country’s first Grand Slam title. As he reflected on that moment late Sunday at Carnoustie it sunk in what his victory at The Open might mean.

“To achieve something like this is on another level,” said Molinari, who closed with a final-round 69 for a two-stroke victory. “Hopefully, there were a lot of young kids watching on TV today, like I was watching Constantino in '95 coming so close. Hopefully, they will get as inspired as I was at the time, watching him vie for the claret jug.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Molinari had already made plenty of headlines this year back home in Italy with victories at the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and the Quicken Loans National earlier this month on the PGA Tour.

A major is sure to intensify that attention. How much attention, however, may be contingent on Sunday’s finish at the German Grand Prix.

“It depends on if Ferrari won today. If they won, they'll probably get the headlines,” Molinari laughed. “But, no, obviously, it would be massive news. It was big news. The last round already was big news in Italy.”

Molinari won’t have any competition for the front page on Monday; Ferrari didn’t win the German Grand Prix.

Getty Images

Schauffele on close call: Nothing but a positive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 22, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Playing in a final group at a major for the first time, Xander Schauffele awkwardly splashed out of three pot bunkers, went out in 40 and still somehow had a chance to win at Carnoustie.

Playing the 17th hole, tied with Francesco Molinari, Schauffele flared his approach shot into the right rough and couldn’t get up and down for par. He dropped one shot behind Molinari, and then two, after the Italian birdied the final hole.

Just like that, Schauffele was doomed to a runner-up finish at The Open.

“A little bit of disappointment,” he said. “Obviously when you don’t win, you’re disappointed. Hats off to Francesco. I looked up on 17 and saw he got to 8 under, which is just incredible golf and an incredible finish.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Schauffele did well to give himself a chance. The 24-year-old was in the final group with Spieth, but both youngsters fell off the pace after rocky starts. The Tour’s reigning Rookie of the Year birdied the 14th but couldn’t convert a 15-footer on the treacherous 16th that would have given him a one-shot cushion.

“It’s going to go in the memory bank as a positive,” he said. “I had a chance to win a major championship. I was in the final group. I had to face a little bit of adversity early in the round, and I still gave myself a chance. Anyone can look at it however they want to, but I’m going to look at is as a positive moving forward and try to learn how to handle the situations a little better next time.”