Home course? For Mickelson and Torrey Pines, not so much

By Doug FergusonJanuary 28, 2016, 12:10 am

SAN DIEGO - The best thing about Phil Mickelson playing at Torrey Pines is that it's his hometown event on the PGA Tour, and he is treated accordingly.

These days, that might be the only thing that appeals to him.

Yes, Mickelson is a three-time winner of what is now called the Farmers Insurance Open. But the last of those three victories was 15 years ago, before Rees Jones got his hands on the South Course at Torrey Pines to bulk it up for the U.S. Open.

Mickelson has had only one close call since then. That was in 2012, when he needed to hole out with a wedge from 72 yards for eagle on the par-5 18th hole to force a playoff. He had his caddie tend the pin. He just missed.

If his recent history on the South Course isn't bad enough, Mickelson lost out on his bid to redesign the North Course last fall.

Mickelson was so excited about the design last year during the tournament that he eagerly showed his plans during the pro-am. He wanted to bring the aesthetics of the canyon into play and make the course more enjoyable for amateurs and a strong test for the pros.

But he fell victim to a quirky decision by the California Fair Political Practices, which said that anyone who worked on preliminary designs could not take part in the design or the construction based on the bid for the contract.

Ultimately, the project went to Tom Weiskopf, who is at Torrey Pines this week. Work on the North Course, used for the opening two rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open, will start next week. Weiskopf said he hasn't talked to Mickelson.

''I was quite surprised that Phil wasn't chosen, to tell you the truth,'' he said. ''It made all the sense in the world.''

So now Mickelson is left to play a tournament on one course that has been changed to his dislike, and another course where he had great plans that fizzled in politics.

Even so, this week figures to be an early barometer of his 25th year on the PGA Tour.

Mickelson hasn't won since the 2013 British Open at Muirfield, and he didn't contend in any tournament since the St. Jude Classic last June. But after taking nearly four months off and working with a new swing coach, he began 2016 with a bogey-free weekend and a tie for third in the CareerBuilder Challenge.

''Just because it's not a win, it doesn't mean it wasn't what I wanted,'' Mickelson said. ''I'm playing the way I want.''

It's just one tournament. And whatever happens at Torrey Pines certainly won't indicate what kind of year he can expect.

Even so, this is an important step given the nature of the courses. The rough on the North Course is thick enough that players couldn't see their golf balls from a few paces away in some spots. And the South Course, already a brute, also has ample rough.

''It's an ideal tournament for me to start driving the ball well because it's such a demanding ball-striking golf course that it feels great to be able to go there and really put it to the test,'' Mickelson said.

He said he could get away with some wayward shots on the desert courses, provided he kept it in play, and that wasn't an issue last week.

''I'm looking forward to going to Torrey and seeing how good I can strike it,'' he said.

The field is plenty strong even with world No. 1 Jordan Spieth playing in the Singapore Open and Rory McIlroy still three weeks away from making his U.S. debut this year. The defending champion is Jason Day, though his week was put in doubt when the PGA champion withdrew from the pro-am with the flu.

Rickie Fowler, who grew up an hour away, traveled the longest to get to Torrey Pines.

He won the Abu Dhabi Championship on Sunday for his fourth victory worldwide in the last eight months, then arrived in San Francisco on Monday morning and made it down to San Diego in time to host a junior clinic. Fowler is now a career-best No. 4 in the world ranking. Fowler ended last year with a third-place finish in the Hero World Challenge, and he began this year with a fifth-place finish at Kapalua. And then he won in the Middle East.

''After having two nice weeks to start the year ... put me in a mindset of I'm able to be a little bit more aggressive and play a little bit more offensively, instead of trying to just get things going at the beginning of the season,'' he said. ''Right now, I'm looking forward to each week and getting back in the hunt and ultimately, to continue to do what I did last week.''

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”