Tiger Lefty Duel Coming to a Head

By Associated PressJune 10, 2006, 4:00 pm
U.S. OpenFAR HILLS, N.J. -- A back corner of the locker room at the Byron Nelson Championship is reserved for past champions, the perfect place for an impromptu duel between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
 
Woods was changing his shoes and chatting with a few reporters last year when Mickelson walked into the room. Before long, two of the best players in golf starting lobbing school-yard challenges at each other, everything from racquetball to tennis, from basketball to swimming. Weary of where this was going, Woods ended the banter with a playful shot at Mickelson's physique.
 
'Tell you what,' Woods told him. 'I'll take you on in anything where you have to run.'
 
Mickelson smiled, but went silent, one of those rare times he was at a loss for a comeback.
 
When and where their rivalry began is hard to pinpoint. They have been linked so often that Mickelson was surprised to hear the first time he and Woods played the same tournament was the 1993 Nissan Open. Woods received an exemption as a 17-year-old amateur and missed the cut, Mickelson was in his first full season on the PGA TOUR and tied for 19th.
 
They never have met in a playoff, as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer did at the 1962 U.S. Open. And for the last several years, Mickelson merely has been part of the rotation of rivals to Woods, sharing time with Ernie Els or David Duval or Vijay Singh.
 
That's no longer the case.
 
Woods-Mickelson figures to be the main event at the U.S. Open when it starts Thursday at Winged Foot.
 
They are Nos. 1-2 in the world ranking. Their peers say they have the most raw talent in the game. They have won four of the last five majors, with Mickelson capturing the last two. And for the first time since Woods' record victory in the '97 Masters, he might not be the favorite at a major championship.
 
'There's clearly two guys out here doing the thing, doing the damage,' Paul Azinger said. 'I think Phil Mickelson is the best shotmaker on tour right now. I think he's the most confident player in the world. And I think he's the man to beat.'
 
How Woods will perform is a mystery.
 
He has been coping with the May 3 death of his father, and Woods has not played since the Masters. The nine-week break is the longest of his career.
 
'It's a matter of getting sharp -- not mentally sharp, but golf sharp,' John Cook said. 'It will be interesting to see how Winged Foot goes for Tiger.'
 
No matter how much emphasis is on Woods and Mickelson, the first priority is getting a handle on Winged Foot. This will be the fifth U.S. Open held on the classic Tillinghast design in Mamaroneck, N.Y., a course known for greens that slope severely toward the front, cavernous bunkers, tree-lined fairways and deep rough.
 
'I just earned a ticket to hell,' Mark Brooks said after making it through a U.S. Open qualifier.
 
The USGA has introduced graduated rough, where the grass grows taller the farther it gets from the fairway. Big hitters have been swinging from the heels on the PGA Tour with little regard for where it goes, finding it just as easy to hit wedge out of the rough as a 6-iron from the middle of the fairway.
 
Winged Foot might not allow for that. The rough is so deep that Mickelson said there might be a thousand golf balls buried in there, hit by members who couldn't find them.
 
'I'm going to make a prediction that somebody hits the wrong ball in the rough,' Mickelson said.
 
Mickelson and Woods ran into each other at Winged Foot a few weeks ago, in the clubhouse when each took a break from practice, and later as they crossed paths on the fairway.
 
But meeting in majors, or any tournament, is rare.
 
Woods held off Mickelson at Bethpage Black four years ago in the U.S. Open, although they were separated by one group. The one time they did play together in the final round at a major was at the 2001 Masters, when Woods held him off to capture his fourth consecutive major. In regular PGA Tour events, there was that sizzling duel at Doral, which Woods won with a 6-foot par on the last hole.
 
But don't get the idea Mickelson is always on the wrong end.
 
It was Lefty who stopped Woods' winning streak at six by beating him in the 2000 Buick Invitational. Woods went four years without losing a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour until Mickelson beat him that year at the Tour Championship, denying Woods a 10th victory.
 
And lately, in the majors, Mickelson is the one holding the trophy.
 
'There have been times where I've come in under the radar not having played that well, not being considered a favorite,' Mickelson said. 'But I think that's going to be unlikely for the U.S. Open.'
 
What makes a rivalry is not so much head-to-head meetings, rather the record. Nicklaus and Palmer are famous for that playoff at Oakmont in '62, but their rivalry was compelling because of their different personalities, they way they were perceived by the public and how they swapped green jackets. Either Nicklaus or Palmer won the Masters five straight years.
 
Woods, like Nicklaus, has an incomparable record among his peers, with 48 victories and 10 majors. Mickelson, like Palmer, rarely goes anywhere without his ears ringing from so much applause, especially when a major goes to New York.
 
And they have had their moments in the press.
 
Mickelson irritated Woods three years ago when he told a magazine that Woods uses 'inferior equipment.' He meant to say Woods uses outdated technology, such as a 43-inch shaft made of steel, and Woods eventually caught up with the times. Mickelson apologized to Woods before the '03 Buick Invitational, and Woods wound up winning by four shots while playing with Lefty in the final group.
 
Brad Faxon filled out that threesome. He was called 'Switzerland' that day.
 
But it was Mickelson who was among the first to publicly say Woods was singularly responsible for a spike in PGA Tour purses. And when Mickelson's winless streak in the majors reached 0-for-40, it was Woods who rallied to his defense by saying that Mickelson had so much talent that it was a matter of time, and that Mickelson was the best wedge player on tour.
 
Their relationship often is misunderstood, which is not to suggest they're best friends. It didn't help when they both played poorly while paired together for the first time in the Ryder Cup two years ago. They rarely spoke, and stood some 20 yards apart on the first tee of their opening match.
 
Nicklaus saw a different side to their relationship last year at the Presidents Cup.
 
'The first day I get there, Tiger and Phil said, 'Hey, let's go play some pingpong.' Two guys are playing, having a good time, laughing, kidding each other,' Nicklaus said. 'Now, is that bad blood? I'm sure they're competitors. Absolutely, they want to beat each other. But you know, they still spend time together and enjoy each other's company.'
 
The year Woods turned pro, Mickelson was one of the biggest attractions in golf. His fourth victory that year came at the World Series of Golf, the same week Woods was winning his third straight U.S. Amateur. Players gathered around the TV in the locker room at Firestone to watch the U.S. Amateur, wondering what to make of this guy.
 
'When he turned pro, you still weren't sure how good he was going to be,' Mickelson said. 'And when he won in the first few weeks, that's when everyone realized he was going to be an incredible player.'
 
He passed Mickelson within three years. Now, Mickelson is doing his best to catch up.
 
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    Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

    By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

    NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

    Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

    The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

    Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

    Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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    Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

    Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

    Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

    Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

    4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

    4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

    4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

    4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

    4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

    5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

    5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

    5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

    5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

    5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

    6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

    6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

    6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

    6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

    6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

    6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

    7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

    7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

    7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

    7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

    7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

    7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

    8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

    8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

    8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

    8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

    8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

    8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

    9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

    9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

    9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

    9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

    9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

    10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

    10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

    10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

    10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

    10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

    10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

    11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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    Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

    He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

    “There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

    Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

    “I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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    Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

    Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

    Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

    “I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

    Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

    “It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

    More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

    “I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”