Hey Phil Whats Up
Critics remember this for now: Mickelson has won three times at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am where the golfs glitterati will gather this week down on the Monterey Peninsula, a place where the reds are redder, the blues are bluer and Clint Eastwoods squint is worth the price of admission.
But, yo Lefty. Whats up with the missed cut at FBR late last month in your season debut followed by an indifferent week at Torrey Pines?
You told us at Scottsdale you were fresh, ready and more physically fit in your lower body which was supposed to produce a stronger base and more stability in your action. Then you went out and missed your first check in a season opener since you turned pro back in 1992 when you were still wearing collars turned up.
It just didnt come together, you said, after following a horrific opening round 76 with a desultory Friday 73 to whiff the weekend by seven shots at FBR. Ill get some good work done this weekend and hopefully come out sharp and ready to play next Thursday in San Diego.
By the time Thursday at Torrey Pines rolled around you had dropped to No. 4 in the world rankings. But your putter turned Round One into a two-under 70 on the tougher South course. Your new FT-9 driver had arrived along with the official blessing of the USGA. And you told us you now had a weapon that would eliminate the wide left block off the tee that had been your undoing in too many crucial situations.
Next thing anybody knew you were slopping it around the piece-of-cake North Course at Torrey Pines and posting a Friday 72 that left tire tracks all over your back. You backed that up with a Saturday 73. And your fairways in regulation percentages the first three days were 50, 36 and 43 per cent respectively.
Sunday brought with it four bogeys in the first six holes and a big fat 75 that moved you from a T20 down to a T42 at a seaside haunt not far from where you grew up and very close to your golfing heart.
Your driving accuracy ranking for the week was T52; your corresponding greens in regulation number was T48. You needed at least 30 putts in three of the four rounds. And by Monday morning you had slipped to No. 5 in the world rankings.
We dont want this to sound like were picking on you, Phil. Lord knows, theres been enough of that over the years.
I mean, Jim Furyk still hasnt teed it up yet this year. Vijay Singh has a sore knee. Anthony Kim has a sore shoulder. Ernie Els tied for 31st at Qatar. Steve Stricker gave one away at the Hope with a Sunday 77. And J.B. Holmes, who had won two of the last FBR Opens, also failed to make it to Saturday in Scottsdale.
Its just that youre Phil and none of those other guys are.
With Tiger Woods, who became a father (healthy baby boy, Charles Axel) for the second time Sunday, still in dry dock waiting for his knee to give him the full green light, youre going to be an even bigger story than you usually are if you dont start posting red numbers in bunches some time soon.
Tiger used to be amused at all those slump stories that would begin to surface when he would go two tournaments without a win. Well, you admitted last season wasnt what you had expected even though you won twice.
Your words last Tuesday: It (2008) wasnt what I hoped the year would be.
Later that day somebody asked you this question: Have you ever played in such a way to just hit it as far as you want no matter where it goes because you know hitting on the length of the hole and the layout that with grooves and with your ability to spin it you wont be punished?
Your answer, on the official transcript, left a few people scratching their heads. Your words: Thats not why I try to hit it as hard as I can, thats just because Im stupid at times and enjoy trying to get it out there and have an ego and want to be one of the longer guys. But its not because I think that Im going to score better necessarily. Ive seen the stats. (Short game coach Dave) Pelz has shown me repeatedly the fact that you can hit the ball 10 per cent farther, which would be 20 or 30 yards, and it doesnt equate to lower scores.
Even if we write that one off to transcriber error, the context at this point in your Tuesday presser was equipment and square grooves and a lot of inside baseball on golf. And it was kind of confusing. Then Nick Faldo on Golf Channel questioned several of your strategy decisions on the first two days of the Buick Invitational. It was hard to argue with Faldos criticism when you hit a driver off the deck from a fairway when the green was unreachable.
Theres one theory floating around that the more Tiger stays away, the harder it is for the top ranked players in the world to maintain their focus. I think thats mostly hogwash but there may be a grain of truth to the notion that its more difficult to take aim at a target when that target isnt in your field of vision.
Meanwhile, more and more people are noticing youre not a kid anymore. I dont think 38 is all that old, you said last week. But I feel like Ive been out here quite a while.
We know you and your trainer, Sean Cochran, are more focused on the majors than ever before this year. And we know this could mean you will be sharper the second week of April (Augusta) and the third week of June (U.S. Open) at the expense of the California swing where you have always played so well.
'I can certainly feel some rust,' Mickelson said late Sunday.
But what you need to know is one more mediocre week or, horrors, one more missed cut, is going to ignite a blaze of second-guessing if the pilot light doesnt go on pretty damn soon.
Thats just the way it works. Like it or not, Phil, you got one more week to kick it into gear or a bunch of impatient people too shortsighted to get you major championship plan, will begin to howl. Thats why they keep score.
The beauty of the flip side of all of this is a decisive victory at Pebble will stamp you as an early favorite for The Masters.
As Warren Beatty said, with a smile on his face, before the Feds gunned him down in the movie, Bonnie and Clyde: Lifes great, aint it.
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Putting prepared Park's path back to No. 1
Inbee Park brings more than her unshakably tranquil demeanor back to the top of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week.
She brings more than her Olympic gold medal and seven major championships to the Mediheal Championship on the outskirts of San Francisco.
She brings a jarring combination of gentleness and ruthlessness back to the top of the rankings.
Park may look as if she could play the role of Mother Teresa on some goodwill tour, but that isn’t what her opponents see when she’s wielding her Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet.
She’s like Mother Teresa with Lizzy Borden’s axe.
When Park gets on one of her rolls with the putter, she scares the hell out of the rest of the tour.
At her best, Park is the most intimidating player in women’s golf today.
“Inbee makes more 20- and 30-footers on a regular basis than anyone I know,” seven-time major championship winner Karrie Webb said.
All those long putts Park can hole give her an aura more formidable than any power player in the women’s game.
“A good putter is more intimidating than someone who knocks it out there 280 yards,” Webb said “Even if Inbee misses a green, you know she can hole a putt from anywhere. It puts more pressure on your putter knowing you’re playing with someone who is probably going to make them all.”
Park, by the way, said Webb and Ai Miyazato were huge influences on her putting. She studied them when she was coming up on tour.
Webb, though, believes there’s something internal separating Park. It isn’t just Park’s ability to hole putts that makes her so intimidating. It’s the way she carries herself on the greens.
“She never gets ruffled,” Webb said. “She says she gets nervous, but you never see a change in her. If you’re going toe to toe with her, that’s what is intimidating. Even if you’re rolling in putts on top of her, it doesn’t seem to bother her. She’s definitely a player you have to try not to pay attention to when you’re paired with her, because you can get caught up in that.”
Park has led the LPGA in putts per greens in regulation five of the last 10 years.
Brad Beecher has been on Park’s bag for more than a decade, back before she won her first major, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. He has witnessed the effect Park can have on players when she starts rolling in one long putt after another.
“You have those times when she’ll hole a couple long putts early, and you just know, it’s going to be one of those days,” Beecher said. “Players look at me like, `Does she ever miss?’ or `How am I going to beat this?’ You see players in awe of it sometimes.”
Park, 29, won in her second start of 2018, after taking seven months off with a back injury. In six starts this year, she has a victory, two ties for second-place and a tie for third. She ended Shanshan Feng’s 23-week run at No. 1 with a tie for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open last weekend.
What ought to disturb fellow tour pros is that Park believes her ball striking has been carrying her this year. She’s still waiting for her putter to heat up. She is frustrated with her flat stick, even though she ranks second in putts per greens in regulation this season.
“Inbee Park is one of the best putters ever,” said LPGA Hall of Famer Sandra Haynie, a 42-time LPGA winner. “She’s dangerous on the greens.”
Haynie said she would rank Park with Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright and Nancy Lopez as the best putters she ever saw.
Hall of Famer Joanne Carner says Park is the best putter she has seen since Lopez.
“I thought Nancy was a great putter,” Carner said. “Inbee is even better.”
Park uses a left-hand low grip, with a mostly shoulder move and quiet hands.
Lopez used a conventional grip, interlocking, with her right index finger down the shaft. She had a more handsy stroke than Park.
Like Lopez, Park prefers a mallet-style putter, and she doesn’t switch putters much. She is currently playing with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter. She won the gold medal with it two years ago. She used an Oddysey White Ice Sabertooth winged mallet when she won three majors in a row in 2013.
Lopez hit the LPGA as a rookie in 1978 with a Ray Cook M1 mallet putter and used it for 20 years. It’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame today.
“I watch Inbee, and I think, `Wow, that’s how I used to putt,’” Lopez said. “You can see she’s not mechanical at all. So many players today are mechanical. They forget if you just look at the hole and stroke it, you’re going to make more putts.”
Notably, Park has never had a putting coach, not really. Her husband and swing coach, Gi Hyeob Nam, will look at her stroke when she asks for help.
“When I’m putting, I’m concentrating on the read and mostly my speed,” Park said. “I don’t think mechanically about my stroke at all, unless I think there’s something wrong with it, and then I’ll have my husband take a look. But, really, I rely on my feel. I don’t think about my stroke when I’m out there playing.”
Hall of Famer Judy Rankin says Park’s remarkably consistent speed is a key to her putting.
“Inbee is definitely a feel putter, and her speed is so consistent, all the time,” Rankin said. “You have to assume she’s a great green reader.”
Beecher says Park’s ability to read greens is a gift. She doesn’t rely on him for that. She reads greens herself.
“I think what impresses me most is Inbee has a natural stroke,” Beecher said. “There’s nothing too technical. It’s more straight through and straight back, but I think the key element of the stroke is that she keeps the putter so close to the ground, all the time, on the takeaway and the follow-through. It helps with the roll and with consistency.”
Park said that’s one of her fundamentals.
“I keep it low, almost like I’m hitting the ground,” Park said. “When I don’t do that, I miss more putts.”
Beecher believes the real reason Park putts so well is that the putter brought her into the game. It’s how she got started, with her father, Gun Gyu Park, putting the club in her hands as a child. She loved putting on her own.
“That’s how she fell in love with the game,” Beecher said. “Getting started that way, it’s played a huge role in her career.”
Teams announced for NCAA DI women's regionals
Seventy-two teams and an additional 24 individuals were announced Wednesday as being selected to compete in the NCAA Division I women's regionals, May 7-9.
Each of the four regional sites will consist of 18 teams and an extra six individual players, whose teams were not selected. The low six teams and low three individuals will advance to the NCAA Championship, May 18-23, hosted by Oklahoma State at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
The four regional sites include Don Veller Seminole Golf Course & Club in Tallahassee, Fla., hosted by Florida State; UT Golf Club in Austin, Texas, hosted by the University of Texas; University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., hosted by the University of Wisconsin; TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif., hosted by Stanford University.
Arkansas, Duke, UCLA and Alabama are the top seeds in their respective regionals. Arizona State, the third seed in the Madison regional, is the women's defending champion. Here's a look at the regional breakdown, along with teams and players:
|Austin Regional||Madison Regional||San Francisco Regional||Tallahassee Regional|
|Michigan State||Arizona State||South Carolina||Arizona|
|Auburn||Illinois||Oklahoma State||Wake Forest|
|Houston||Iowa State||Colorado||Florida State|
|East Carolina||Notre Dame||San Diego State||Kennesaw State|
|Texas Tech||Old Dominion||Pepperdine||Denver|
|Virginia Tech||Oregon State||Oregon||Coastal Carolina|
|UTSA||Idaho||Long Beach State||Missouri|
|Georgetown||Murray State||Grand Canyon||Charleston|
|Houston Baptist||North Dakota State||Princeton||Richmond|
|Missouri State||IUPUI||Farleigh Dickinson||Albany|
|Brigitte Dunne (SMU)||Connie Jaffrey (Kansas State)||Alivia Brown (Washington State)||Hee Ying Loy (E. Tennessee State)|
|Xiaolin Tian (Maryland)||Pinyada Kuvanun (Toledo)||Samantha Hutchinson (Cal-Davis)||Claudia De Antonio (LSU)|
|Greta Bruner (TCU)||Pun Chanachai (New Mexico State)||Ingrid Gutierrez (New Mexico)||Fernanda Lira (Central Arkansas)|
|Katrina Prendergast (Colorado State)||Elsa Moberly (Eastern Kentucky)||Abegail Arevalo (San Jose State)||Emma Svensson (Central Arkansas)|
|Ellen Secor (Colorado State)||Erin Harper (Indiana)||Darian Zachek (New Mexico)||Valentina Giraldo (Jacksonville State)|
|Faith Summers (SMU)||Cara Basso (Penn State)||Christine Danielsson (Cal-Davis)||Kaeli Jones (UCF)|
Leach on grizzlies, walk-up music and hating golf
He's one of college football's deepest thinkers, and he has no time to waste on a golf course.
Washington State head football coach Mike Leach created headlines last week when he shared his view that golf is "boring" and should be reserved for those who, unlike him, need practice swearing. The author and coach joined host Will Gray on the latest episode of the Golf Channel podcast to expand on those views - and veer into some unexpected territory.
Leach shared how his father and brother both got bitten by the golf bug as he grew up, but he steered clear in part because the sport boasts an overly thick rule book:
"First of all, the other thing I don't like is it's pretentious. There's a lot of rules. Don't do it this way, don't do it that way. You walked between my ball and the hole. This guy has to go first, then you go after he does. I mean, all these rules, I just don't understand."
Leach also shared his perspective about what fuels the vibrant fashion choices seen on many courses:
"You can tell there's a subtle, internal rebellion going on with golf, and where that subtle, internal rebellion manifests itself is they really liven up the clothes. I mean, they're beaten down by all the little subtle rules, so they really liven up the clothes. Maybe have knickers, maybe they'll have a floppy hat or something like that."
Leach on the advice he would sometimes offer when friends explained their rationale for hitting the links:
"They say, 'Well I don't go there to golf or go to take it seriously. When I go golf, I just like to have some beers.' And I'm thinking, 'You know there's bars for that? There's bars for that, and at those bars they have, often times, attractive women and music going on?'"
Leach is heading into his seventh season at Washington State, and he also described a unique hazard that can sometimes pop up at the on-campus course in Pullman, Wash.:
"In the spring the grizzlies come out, and the grizzly preserve is right across the street from the golf course. So they’ll be out, you’ll see them running around on the hills inside the preserve there. But there is this visual where, all of a sudden you drive up this hill on your golf cart, and you’re at the tee box and you’re getting ready to hit, and on the hill just opposite of you it’s covered with grizzly bears. And as you’re getting ready to hit your ball, it occurs to you that the grizzly bears are going to beat you to your ball."
Other topics in the wide-ranging discussion included Leach's proposal for a 64-team playoff in NCAA Division I football, his chance encounter with Tiger Woods before a game between the Cougars and Woods' Stanford Cardinal, his preferred walk-up music and plans for "full contact golf."
Listen to the entire podcast below:
Post-Masters blitz 'exhausting' but Reed ready for return
AVONDALE, La. – After briefly suffering from First-Time Major Winner Fatigue, Patrick Reed is eager to get back inside the ropes this week at the Zurich Classic.
The media blitz is an eye-opening experience for every new major champ. Reed had been told to expect not to get any sleep for about a week after his win, and sure enough he jetted off to New York City for some sightseeing, photo shoots, baseball games, late-night talk shows, phone calls and basketball games, sitting courtside in the green jacket at Madison Square Garden next to comedian Chris Rock, personality Michael Strahan and rapper 2 Chainz. Then he returned home to Houston, where the members at Carlton Woods hosted a reception in his honor.
With Reed’s head still spinning, his wife, Justine, spent the better part of the past two weeks responding to each of the 880 emails she received from fans and well-wishers.
“It’s been a lot more exhausting than I thought it’d be,” he said Wednesday at TPC Louisiana, where he’ll make his first start since the Masters.
It’s a good problem to have, of course.
Reed was already planning a family vacation to the Bahamas the week after Augusta, so the media tour just took its place. As many directions as he was pulled, as little sleep as he got, Reed said, “We still had a blast with it.”
There are few places better to ease into his new world than at the Zurich, where he’ll partner with Patrick Cantlay for the second year in a row.
Reed wants to play well, not only for himself but also his teammate. After all, it could be an important week for Cantlay, who is on U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk’s radar after a victory last fall. That didn’t earn him any Ryder Cup points, however – he sits 38th in the standings – so performing well here in fourballs and foursomes could go a long way toward impressing the captain.
“There’s maybe a little extra if we play well,” Cantlay said, “but I’m just trying to play well every week.”
Reed got back to work on his game last Tuesday. He said that he’s prepared, ready to play and looking forward to building off his breakthrough major.
“A lot of guys have told me to just be careful with your time,” he said. “There will be a lot of things you didn’t have to do or didn’t have in the past that are going to come up.
“But first things first, you’ve got to go out and grind and play some good golf and focus on golf, because the time you stay and not focus on golf will be the time you go backward. That’s nothing any of us want. We all want to improve and get better.”