Chills and Spills with Phil the Thrill

By Brian HewittNovember 12, 2007, 5:00 pm
Phil Mickelson is Scary Movie, Theater of the Absurd and Greek Tragicomedy all wrapped up into a dream shared by Tarantino, Fellini, Hitchcock and the Coen Brothers.
 
The best part is the unpredictability.
 
For that matter, throw in a little Edgar Allan Poe. At any given moment on any given Sunday any one of his pendulum swings can leave a pit in your stomach.
 
Prior to Sunday, perhaps you could argue the point. But not any more. Of the top players in the world today, Phil Mickelson is the one from whom you can never quite be sure what youre going to get.
 
John Daly, you say? Wrong.
 
Daly is certainly unpredictable. But golfs Paul Bunyan'even though hes still the stuff of legends'simply isnt among the worlds best players any more. Among other things, he doesnt have his card to play on the PGA TOUR. And his world rank had plummeted to No. 492 prior to last week.
 
Phil, on the other hand, is still the goods and The Thrill
 
Sunday in China he squandered a five-shot lead during the final round of the HSBC Champions. Then, trailing by one, he hit a ball in the water on the 72nd hole. Yet he still managed to worm his way into a playoff with Ross Fisher and Lee Westwood.
 
Two holes later he converted a short birdie putt to win his fourth tournament of the year. Phil has always been an American brand and rarely ventures from our mainland. So it seems extra strange that, because of co-sanctioning, the HSBC was the first official event of the 2008 European Tour schedule.
 
Which means, yes, at the moment, Phil Mickelson, if he were a member of the European Tour, would lead the Order of Merit.
 
Anyway, Mickelson himself is acutely aware of the fact that there are more wild rides in his golf history than there are at Disney World. It feels amazing, Mickelson said. The whole day was a whirlwind.
 
How about the whole last four years for Lefty.
 
Lets see: Two Masters victories; one PGA Championship; one blown U.S. Open in 2006; a widely-scrutinized coaching switch from Rick Smith to Butch Harmon; a wrist injury that ruined his chances at Oakmont where he had hoped to win his first U.S. Open and make up for the debacle on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot.
 
Its a funny game, golf, Mickelson said after the China playoff and moments before boarding a plane back to the States that signaled the beginning a two and a half month layoff from competitive golf. We say that a lot.
 
What Mickelsons plan also revealed, indirectly, was he will not be playing in the Mercedes-Benz Championship in early January. As recently as last week, Mercedes-Benz officials were still holding out hope for a Mickelson appearance at Kapalua even though he hasnt played there since 2001.
 
Mickelson is still No. 2 in the world rankings behind Woods. But, to repeat, no one at golfs highest level takes a back seat to Phil when it comes to finding himself in the middle of all kinds of dramas.
 
Last week in Singapore Mickelson posted a 79 and finished 16 shots behind winner Angel Cabrera. A throat malady (more on that in the next paragraph) had reduced his voice to little more than a whisper and sent him, along with his caddie, to the doctors office.
 
Phils pretty sure he picked up the bug breathing the ash-choked air during the wild fires that raged through Southern California before he departed to Asia. More drama: Houses in Phils Rancho Santa Fe neighborhood burned to the ground during the fires. Mickelsons is still standing.
 
Meanwhile, back in China, Phils final-round total of 76 included six penalty shots. Thats the bad news. The good news is that his first foray to the Far East'with wife and three young children in tow'gave him two tournament weeks to test new Callaway equipment under the gun and get another fortnight of tournament reps under his belt with the changes Harmon has been instituting in his swing.
 
Is Mickelson better theater than Woods?
 
The answer is hes a different kind of theater.
 
Tigers plots run more toward John Wayne. They are compelling but more straightforward.
 
Phils scripts?
 
Lets put it this way. If they ever published an unauthorized book on the pitches and yaws of his high-flying career, the writer for the job would be Stephen King.

Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
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    Woods: New putter should help on slower greens

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 11:35 am

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods’ ice-cold putting showed at least a few signs of heating up earlier this month at The National, where he switched putters and ranked seventh in the field on the greens.

    The mallet-style putter is still in the bag as Woods prepares for The Open, and he’s hoping the heavier model with grooves will prove valuable at Carnoustie.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “To be honest with you, I’ve struggled on slower greens throughout my entire career,” Woods said Tuesday. “So for me, it’s going to help on these greens, for sure.”

    To combat the slower greens, Woods usually applied a strip of lead tape to his putter. But this heavier model of putter doesn’t need the extra weight, and the grooves on the putter face allow the ball to get rolling faster and hotter.

    “You don’t necessarily have to do that with the grooves,” he said of the lead tape. “When I putted with the Nike putter, I didn’t have to put lead tape on the putter to get a little more weight to it. I could just leave it just the way it was. This is the same type.”  

    For all of the talk about his putting woes this season, Woods still ranks 56th in strokes gained: putting. More crucial this week: He’s 102nd in approach putt performance, which quantifies how well a player lag putts.

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    Woods: Open best chance for long-term major success

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 11:26 am

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods is more than a decade removed from his last major title, but he said Tuesday that The Open is the major that gives him the best chance for long-term success.

    “I would say yes, because of the fact that you don’t have to be long to play on a links-style golf course,” Woods said during his pre-tournament news conference. “It certainly can be done.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Woods pointed to the late-career success for both Greg Norman (2008) and Tom Watson (2009), both of whom challenged for the claret jug deep into their 50s.

    “Distance becomes a moot point on a links-style golf course,” he said.

    That’s certainly not the case, however, at the Masters, where bombers long have thrived, or the U.S. Open, which places a premium on long and straight driving.

    “You get to places like Augusta National, which is just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately,” he said. “But links-style courses, you can roll the ball. I hit a 3-iron that went down there 330. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.”

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    "Vantage Point with Mike Tirico" set to debut Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsJuly 17, 2018, 10:15 am

    Special Hour Complementing the Network’s Week-Long Golf Central Live From The Open News Coverage; Premiere Scheduled to Include Interview with 2014 Open Runner-Up Rickie Fowler On-Site from Carnoustie

    Features Include Tirico and Curtis Strange Re-watching ’99 Open at Carnoustie & Jim “Bones” Mackay Facilitating Exclusive Conversation with Caddies Michael Greller, John Wood Recounting Final Round Pairing at 2017 Open

    To help set the table ahead of The 147TH Open at Carnoustie, Golf Channel will premiere Vantage Point with Mike Tirico on Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET. An extension of the network’s week-long Golf Central Live From The Open comprehensive news coverage, Vantage Point will revisit landmark moments in The Open’s history, uncover personal stories relevant to the fabric of the week and feature a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year” on golf’s original championship.

    “It’s a thrill to be going back to The Open again this year, which is a fitting setting to launch this new opportunity,” said Tirico, NBC Sports host who this week will celebrate his 22nd consecutive year covering The Open. “I love being a part of the Golf Channel team during golf’s biggest weeks, and anticipate contributing to our commitment to great storytelling with Vantage Point.”

    Kicking off the premiere of Vantage Point will be Tirico’s exclusive interview with 2014 Open runner-up and 2015 PLAYERS champion Rickie Fowler on-site from Carnoustie. One of Fowler’s favorite events, he has missed just one cut in eight previous appearances at The Open. Other highlights within the show include:

    • Jim “Bones” Mackay facilitating an exclusive conversation between caddies Michael Greller (Jordan Spieth) and John Wood (Matt Kuchar) recounting the final round pairing at The Open last July.
    • Tirico hosting a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year”: David Duval, Tom Lehman and Justin Leonard.
    • A recollection of one of the most unforgettable collapses in major championship golf, when Jean van de Velde surrendered a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole in 1999 at The Open. Tirico and Curtis Strange – both on the live tournament broadcast that year for ABC/ESPN – recently re-watched the telecast together for the first time since calling it live.

     

    “This is harder to watch than I thought it was going to be. I’ve never seen anything like

    that in my life. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like that again.” – Curtis Strange

     

    “I think I got caught up in the whole deal and felt human for the guy.” – Mike Tirico

     

    Vantage Point with Mike Tirico will complement the network’s Golf Central Live From The Open, which will feature nearly 60 hours of comprehensive news coverage from Carnoustie. In total, NBC Sports will dedicate more than 350 hours to showcasing the third men’s major championship of the year, including nearly 50 live hours of the network’s Emmy-nominated tournament coverage – annually the most live hours of coverage from any golf event – spanning from Thursday’s opening tee shot to Sunday’s final putt.

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    Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

    By Tiger TrackerJuly 17, 2018, 8:40 am

    Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.