Phils Thrill Tigers Defeat

By Brian HewittSeptember 3, 2007, 4:00 pm
And, to think, we are only halfway home.
The FedExCup Cup playoffs, criticized by just about everybody with an opinion or and agenda, has officially become a promoters dream.
Tiger and Phil. Stevie and Bones. Be sure to tune in again next week at Cog Hill near Chicago for Round Three of this four round duel to the golfing death. In pro wrestling they call this a cage match.
Fortunately golf is not pro wrestling. But its suddenly catching the attention of a lot of people who might otherwise be thinking football right now.
Yes, Phil Mickelson rubbed Tiger Woods nose in the dirt a little bit Monday near Boston. And, yes, there were a fair amount of TOUR players who privately took delight in seeing Tiger get his temporary comeuppance.
Mickelson fired a sizzling 66, needing just 23 putts to win the Deutsche Bank Championship at 16 under, two better than Woods, Arron Oberholser and Brett Wetterich. For 10 years Ive struggled against Tiger, Mickelson said, moments after his 33d Tour victory. This was a really fun day.
But there are two more weeks left to this thing they call the FedExCup and many unanswered questions. Woods, the No. 1 ranked player in the universe, may have been a little bit bloodied Monday near Boston where Mickelson took him down. But we now have a week to ponder whether or not he is unbowed. For his part, Mickelson said he might not even play near Chicago next week at the BMW Championship.
The newest FedExCup point standings have Mickelson at the top followed, in order, by Steve Stricker, Woods, K. J. Choi, Rory Sabbatini and Vijay Singh. Because the BMW field will be just 70 players, they will go off in twosomes next Thursday. That means Mickelson and Woods, it should be noted, will NOT be paired the first two days.
To be sure, one of the mostly unforeseen benefits of a FedExCup system most people havent gotten their hands around yet is the consistent likelihood of spectacular groupings.
After The Barclays and Week One of the playoffs, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh ranked fourth, fifth and sixth respectively in the FedExCup point standings. That meant they would be playing in the same grouping in the first and second rounds. This trio had never played together, as a threesome, before on the PGA TOUR.
Strangely, the Big Three played horribly their first nine holes Friday, the first day of the event. Singh four-putted his first hole; Woods made a double bogey on the drivable par 4 fourth; and Mickelson butchered the ninth hole, making bad choices and a triple bogey.
Saturday all three bounced back with more elasticity than a bungee cord. Woods and Mickelson hung a pair of 7-under 64s on the board while Singh tagged along with a tidy 66. Suddenly people were talking about the FedExCup on radio shows and in grill rooms all over the country.
(I know this because my regular Saturday golf group peppered me with FedExCup questions after our round. I knew the answers to most, but not all, of their questions. Sunday morning I spent 45 minutes on the phone with a knowledgeable golf radio guy in Chicago, Phil Kosin. The subject was almost exclusively FedExCup. Kosin doesnt like the FedExCup. But the fact that we spent that much time dissecting it is good for the concept.)
Meanwhile, Mickelson and Woods, in the same group, rarely needs intrigue to spark interest. But intrigue is what it got early during Deutsche Bank week when Mickelson hinted broadly that his current swing instructor, the estimable Butch Harmon, had given him tips on how to deal with his former student, Tiger Woods.
Prior to Monday's final round Mickelson and Woods had played in the same group 18 times in official PGA TOUR events. Woods had shot the lower score nine times. Mickelson had shot the lower score five times. And they had shot the same score four times. Monday Woods' 67 was one shot worse than Phil's 66.
About the previous failures, Mickelson said this: In the past I havent played that well with Tiger. He (Harmon) told me a couple of things he (Woods) likes to do and I kinda was watching for it. And I chuckled throughout the round when Id pick up on it. Working with Butch has really helped me understand how to play my best golf when I play in the same group with Tiger and I hope I have a chance to do that on Monday.
He got that chance when Aaron Baddeley made a mess of the 18th hole in his third round. That set up the twosome of Woods and Mickelson playing in the second to last group behind Arron Oberholser and 54-hole leader Brett Wetterich.
So just what was Phil talking about here? Gamesmanship ploys? Intimidation tactics? Mickelson wasnt saying. He opened the door and left it up to us to try and figure out exactly how Harmon was helping him figure out Woods.
Early on Monday Mickelson played like a guy who knew something he hadnt previously known. He birdied three of the first six holes and seized the lead all to himself at 14-under. Woods was 1-under through the same stretch and trailed Mickelson by three. First week FedExCup points leader Steve Stricker, who had captured The Barclays, birdied four of his first seven and was within two of Mickelson.
The drama was building. And you couldnt help but have the sneaking suspicion that the TOUR had at least something to do with it. Its common knowledge that most fans prefer birdies to bogeys. The scoring at Deutsche Bank in the third round was the lowest (69.973) in the events history'for any round. Put it this way: There were more than a few friendly hole locations and/or tee box set-ups on the weekend.
And you know what?
Why not?
Anyway, Stricker cooled. Mickelson survived a double bogey on the 12th and Woods just couldnt get his putter to work its usual magic on the back nine.
So now the circus tent moves to Cog Hill. The FedExCup gains more traction by the moment.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Deutsche Bank Championship
  • Getty Images

    Snedeker leads by one heading into final round

    By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 3:26 pm

    GREENSBORO, N.C. – Brandt Snedeker took a one-stroke lead into the final round of the weather-delayed Wyndham Championship after finishing the third round Sunday with a 2-under 68.

    Snedeker was at 16-under 194 through three rounds of the final PGA Tour event of the regular season. Brian Gay and David Hearn were at 15 under, with Gay shooting a 62 and Hearn a 64.

    Thirty players were on the course Saturday when play was suspended because of severe weather. After a delay of 3 hours, 23 minutes, organizers chose to hold things up until Sunday morning.

    Snedeker, who shot an opening-round 59 to become just the 10th tour player to break 60, is chasing his first victory since 2016 and his second career win at this tournament.

    Getty Images

    Olesen edges past Poulter in Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 3:10 pm

    With only two weeks left in the qualification window, Thorbjorn Olesen is now in position to make his Ryder Cup debut.

    Olesen finished alone in fourth place at the Nordea Masters, two shots out of a playoff between Thomas Aiken and eventual winner Paul Waring. Olesen carded four straight sub-70 rounds in Sweden, including a final-round 67 that featured three birdies over his final seven holes.

    It's a tight race for the fourth and final Ryder Cup spot via the World Points list, and Olesen's showing this week will allow him to move past Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, both of whom didn't play this week, into the No. 4 slot. Olesen is now also less than 40,000 Euros behind Tommy Fleetwood to qualify via the European Points list.

    The top four players from both lists on Sept. 2 will qualify for next month's matches, with captain Thomas Bjorn rounding out the roster with four selections on Sept. 4. Poulter and Casey will both have a chance to move back in front next week at The Northern Trust, while the final qualifying week will include the PGA Tour event at TPC Boston and Olesen headlining the field in his homeland at the Made in Denmark.

    Even if Olesen fails to qualify automatically for Paris, the 28-year-old continues to bolster his credentials for a possible pick from his countryman, Bjorn. Olesen won the Italian Open in June, finished second at the BMW International Open three weeks later and has now compiled four top-12 finishes over his last five worldwide starts including a T-3 result at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational earlier this month.

    In addition to the players who fail to qualify from the Olesen-Poulter-Casey trio, other candidates for Bjorn's quartet of picks will likely include major champions Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.

    Getty Images

    Thompson bounces back from rule violation

    By Randall MellAugust 19, 2018, 2:22 am

    If Lexi Thompson’s trouble in the sixth fairway brought back any painful memories Saturday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, she shook them off in a hurry.

    If the approach of another rules official amid a spirited run of brilliant play rattled her, she didn’t show it.

    Thompson posted an 8-under-par 64 in the third round despite another awkward rules infraction.

    Her round was impressively bogey free but not mistake free, and so her work will be a little harder Sunday chasing Lizette Salas.

    After incurring a one-shot penalty for violating a local rule in effect for preferred lies, Thompson will start the final round five shots back instead of four.

    She knows she’s fortunate she isn’t six back.

    If a rules official hadn’t witnessed Thompson in the middle of committing the infraction, she could have been assessed an additional penalty shot for playing from the wrong spot.

    Thompson got the penalty after stepping on the 10th tee and blowing her drive right, into the sixth fairway. She got it after picking up her ball over there and lifting, cleaning and placing it. She got it because she wasn’t allowed to do that in any other fairway except for the fairway of the hole she was playing.

    The preferred-lie rule was distributed to players earlier in the week.

    The story here isn’t really the penalty.

    Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

    It’s Thompson’s reaction to it, because she opened this week in such heartfelt fashion. After skipping the Ricoh Women’s British Open to take a month-long “mental break,” Thompson revealed this week that she has been struggling emotionally in the wake of last year’s highs and lows. She opened up about how trying to “hide” her pain and show strength through it all finally became too much to bear. She needed a break. She also candidly shared how the challenges of being a prodigy who has poured herself into the game have led her to seek therapists’ help in building a life about more than golf.

    That’s a lot for a 23-year-old to unload publicly.

    Last year may have been the best and the worst of Thompson’s career. She said dealing with that controversial four-shot penalty that cost her the ANA Inspiration title, watching her mother battle cancer and losing a grandmother were cumulatively more difficult to deal with than she ever let on. There was also that short missed putt at year’s end that could have vaulted her to Rolex world No. 1 for the first time and led to her winning the Rolex Player of the Year title. She still won twice, won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and was the Golf Writers Association of America Player of the Year.

    That’s a lot of peaks and valleys for a young soul.

    That’s the kind of year that can make you feel like an old soul in a hurry.

    So seeing a rules official approach her on Saturday, you wondered about Thompson gathering herself so quickly. You wondered what she was thinking stepping up and ripping her next shot 215 majestic yards, about her hitting the green and saving par. You wondered about how she  bounced back to birdie 13 and 14 and finish bogey free.

    With this week’s soul bearing, you wondered a lot about what rebounding like that meant to her.

    We’re left to wonder from afar, though, because she wasn’t asked any of those questions by local reporters afterward. The transcript showed three brief answers to three short questions, none about the penalty or the challenge she met.

    Of course, there were other questions to be asked, because local rules have been an issue this year. Did she read the local notes with the preferred lies explanation? She got hit with another local rules issue in Thailand this year, when she hit her ball near an advertising sign and moved the sign, not realizing a local rule made the sign a temporary immovable obstruction.

    Of course, there were other good stories in Indy, too, with Sung Hyun Park poised to overtake Ariya Jutanugarn and return to Rolex world No. 1, with Salas holding off Park so brilliantly down the stretch Saturday.

    Thompson, though, is the highest ranked American in the world. She’s the face of American women’s golf now. A face more tender, resolute and vulnerable than we have ever seen it.

    Folks along the ropes watching her on the back nine in Indy Saturday got to see that better than any of us.

    Getty Images

    Salas capitalizes on Park gaffe to take Indy lead

    By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 2:07 am

    INDIANAPOLIS – Lizette Salas waited patiently for Sung Hyun Park to make a rare mistake Saturday.

    When the South Korean mishit her approach shot into the water on the par-4 16th, Salas capitalized quickly.

    She rolled in her birdie putt then watched Park make double bogey – a three-shot swing that gave Salas the lead and the momentum heading into the final round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship. Salas closed out her 8-under 64 with a birdie on No. 18 to reach 21 under – two shots ahead of Park and Amy Yang.

    “I have been striking the ball really well, and I just had to stay patient,” Salas said. “And yeah, putts dropped for sure. I just really felt comfortable.”

    If she keeps it up one more day, Salas could be celebrating her first tour win since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship and her second overall. With five of the next six players on the leader board ranked in the world’s top 30, Salas knows it won’t be easy.

    The changing weather conditions weather might not help, either. If the forecast for mostly sunny conditions Sunday holds, the soft greens that have kept scores at near record-lows through the first three rounds could suddenly become quicker and less forgiving.

    But the 29-year-old Californian seems to have the perfect touch for this course, which weaves around and inside the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    She shot three sub-par rounds and finished tied for fifth last year here. This year, she has three more sub-par rounds including a course record-tying 62 on Thursday and has been atop the leader board each of the first three days.

    “I have been so confident the whole year,” Salas said. “I have a different mentality, I’m a different player. So I’m just going to go out and play as if I’m behind.”

    Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

    Salas’ toughest challenge still could from Park, who spent most of Saturday flirting with a 54-hole scoring record.

    She birdied the last four holes on the front side and made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 to reach 21 under with a chance to become the sixth LPGA player to ever finish three rounds at 23 under.

    The miscue at No. 16 changed everything.

    She never really recovered after dropping two shots, settling for par on the final two holes for a 66 after shooting 68 and 63 the first two days. Yang finished with a 65 after going 68 and 64.

    “I was a little weary with right-to-left wind,” Park said. “I think a little bit of weariness got to me, but overall, it’s OK.”

    Defending champion Lexi Thompson was five shots back after completing the final nine of the second round in 2 under 34 and shooting 64 in the afternoon.

    She made up ground despite being assessed a one-stroke penalty after hitting her tee shot on No. 10 into the sixth fairway and lifting the ball without authority. Rules officials had implemented the preferred lies rule because more than an inch of rain had doused the course.

    Thompson still made her par on the hole though it temporarily broke her momentum after making six birdies on the front nine in her first appearance since taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion.

    “Twenty-seven holes, I definitely had a few tired swings toward the end,” said Thompson, who finished each of the first two rounds with 68s. “But overall, a lot of positives. I hit it great. I made some really good putts.”

    Three players – Nasa Hataoka of Japan, Jin Young Ko of South Korea and Mina Harigae – were tied at 15 under. Ko started the third round with a share of the lead but had three bogeys in a round of 70.

    Now, all Salas has to do is cash in one more time.

    “I’ve been knocking on the door quite a bit in the last four years, haven’t been able to get it done,” Salas said. “I’ve got good players behind me, I’ve just got to play my game.”