Dont Take Your Eyes Off Phil

By Brian HewittApril 4, 2007, 4:00 pm
Tiger Woods is the player you have to watch this week at Augusta National where he will attempt to win his fifth Masters Tournament and third straight major championship. But Phil Mickelson will be the player you wont be able to take your eyes off of.
 
To be sure, Mickelson can be as unconventional and unorthodox as the previous sentence of this column'it ended with two prepositions. To be double sure, Mickelson is, after all, a lefty.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson works on his shorts game Tuesday. (WireImage)
And he will have two drivers in his bag when his attempted defense of this title begins Thursday morning. One of them will have a square shaped head. Similarly, he put two drivers into play last year at Augusta where his final-round 69 held off Tim Clark by two shots for Mickelsons second Masters triumph in three years.
 
When I need distance, I use the square one, Mickelson explained this week. And when I try to hit little low shots or work it around the trees on 10 or 13, Ill use the regular-shaped driver.
 
Mickelson has been drilling down on this years Masters ever since his arrival at the golf course last Thursday. By comparison, Woods didnt get to Augusta National until Sunday and that was the earliest ever for him. Typically at major championships, Mickelson shows up hours before his tee time and spends an inordinate amount of time on the putting green.
 
Most players will tell you that major championships are mental endurance contests; that they only have so much mental gas in their tanks for a 72-hole event. And they will shake their heads at the way Mickelson goes about his business at the big stages.
 
Ive been out here a little bit practicing, Mickelson allowed Tuesday. Which was like Hillary Clinton saying she had been doing a little campaigning.
 
This is the same Phil Mickelson who told us he was an idiot after ruining what was supposed to be a perfectly good and unspoiled walk up the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open at Winged Foot last June. Several bad decisions later he wound up with double-bogey when a simple par would have won the championship.
 
He is not an idiot. He is a bright guy with a high golf intelligence quota. But he is flawed in at least two ways that Woods is not and both involve decision making: Mickelson is prone to being stubborn at the wrong times. And he is subject to being a victim of his own immense talent and vivid imagination.
 
In short, even though he can navigate his way around the worlds hardest golf courses in ways that would make a rear admiral proud, he doesnt always play the percentages.
 
And now it is time to find out if the collateral emotional fallout from Winged Foot has left permanent mental scars. Mickelson followed Winged Foot with indifferent golf the remainder of 2006. Notably uninspired was his play at the Open Championship, the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.
 
Ive had to overcome tough losses in the past, he maintains. None, however, of the magnitude of Winged Foot.
 
Now Mickelson is back at a place where, it appears, he was born to succeed. Mickelsons record in the last eight Masters shows eight straight top-10s. Yes, he won earlier this year at the AT&T National Pro-Am. But Mickelson wont have earned a full clean bill of health from Winged Foot until he plays well at Augusta.
 
That having been said, it will be surprising to me if Mickelson doesnt finish in the top 5 this week and not surprising at all if he wins his third Masters.
 
Unlike the opportunistic Nick Faldo who played in 23 Masters with only three top-10s, Mickelson is money in the bank when he gets down among the dogwoods and azaleas. Faldo won all three times he got close and thats all credit to him. Mickelson is always close.
 
Im not really thinking about the U.S. Open as much as Im trying to defend my Masters championship, Mickelson said bravely in his pre-tournament press conference.
 
By early Sunday evening we will know for sure whether this was just so much whistling past the golf graveyard or whether Mickelson really has put Winged Foot behind him. Meanwhile, we will be watching his every step.
 
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    'Hungover' Pepperell improbably in mix after 67

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 4:20 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eddie Pepperell’s 11:40 a.m. tee time on Sunday at The Open was a tad early, and not just because the Englishman was heading out more than three hours before the leaders.

    Following a third-round 71 that dropped him eight strokes off the lead, Pepperell did what many golfers do after a less-than-stellar round – he drank.

    “Honestly, I was a little hungover. I won't lie. I had too much to drink last night,” said Pepperell, who said he went to bed on Friday at around 11:30 p.m. “I was so frustrated yesterday, that today was really, I wouldn't say a write-off, but I didn't feel I was in the golf tournament. Whether I shot 69 or 73 today, it wouldn't have been heartbreaking.”

    Pepperell was much closer to the former on Sunday, posting a round-of-the-day 67 to move to within one stroke of the lead held by multiple players as the leaders made the turn.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Pepperell had just a single bogey on a blustery day at Carnoustie and closed his round with birdies at Nos. 14 and 17. It was one of just four rounds in the 60s on a course that had become increasingly difficult with each gust.

    With six players tied for the lead at 6 under par, including defending champion Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, Pepperell planned to wait and see how the afternoon progressed.

    “The only hope I have is that it's Carnoustie, and the last three, four holes, even though they're downwind, still anything can happen with obviously pressure and all that sort of stuff out here,” he said. “So I'll have to hang around.”

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    Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

    By Tiger TrackerJuly 22, 2018, 4:00 pm

    Tiger Woods is stalking his 15th career major championship trophy. Follow the action with our tracker to see if he can get it done at Carnoustie.


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    Pros melting down on Twitter as they watch Tiger

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 22, 2018, 3:42 pm

    Tiger Woods mounted a final-round charge and took the outright lead at Carnoustie on Sunday.

    His fellow pros have been watching and tweeting like your average fans.

    We're compiling their missives below:

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    Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 22, 2018, 11:00 am

    NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

    Saturday, Day 3 (Times ET)

    7AM-3PM (Watch): Jordan Spieth fired 65 to move into a three-way share of the 54-hole lead, while Tiger Woods (66) played his way into contention. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Rickie Fowler and Thorbjorn Olesen.

    4:30-7AM (Watch): Sunny skies and birdies were on the menu early in Round 3, as Justin Rose made his way around Carnoustie in 64 strokes. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau.


    Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

    8:20AM-3PM (Watch): As the skies cleared on Friday afternoon, defending champion Jordan Spieth made a run to try and regain the claret jug. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

    1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith.


    Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

    Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

    1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.