CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Winless for almost 12 years on the PGA Tour, Billy Mayfair will take whatever he can get.
There was that Friday game he won a few weeks ago at Whisper Rock, the Arizona club where members include Geoff Ogilvy and Paul Casey. He won a match against his wife, a good college player. And he won a qualifier Monday, significant because it gave Mayfair a tee time in the Quail Hollow Championship.
Now comes a chance for the real thing.
Mayfair kept the ball in play Saturday and kept the lead at Quail Hollow, shooting a 1-under 71 to take a two-shot lead over Masters champion Phil Mickelson and Carolina favorite Davis Love III.
A victory would be his first since the 1998 Buick Open, and the first time a Monday qualifier won on the PGA Tour since Fred Wadsworth in the 1986 Southern Open.
“Today was a real test for me,” Mayfair said. “I kept it going for 18 holes and still have the lead going into tomorrow.”
It is hard for Mayfair not to get caught up in the possibilities.
He lost his PGA Tour card after the worst season of his career, and a victory would sure take care of that. He only got into Quail Hollow because of a Monday qualifier that he almost missed. Mayfair was late arriving in Charlotte, had to race to the course to make his tee time and then shot a 65, his best score of the year.
All that’s left is to hold off Mickelson, Love and a collection of players who have won far more recently than Mayfair.
“I’ve got to put it out of my mind,” he said. “I’ve got to use my 21 years of experiences out here, and I’ve got to say, ‘You know what? I’ve been out here.’ I’m a tour veteran, I’ve got a lot of veterans that are chasing me. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I know what I need to do tomorrow and how to handle it. And try to do the best I can.”
He has been good enough so far, finishing three rounds at 9-under 207. It’s his first 54-hole lead in four years.
Mickelson, in his first start since winning a third green jacket, overcame food poisoning at the start of the week and a few errant shots to put himself in a great position to join a strong list of champions at Quail Hollow. He birdied the par 5s on the back nine, and he closed with a tough two-putt from 60 feet for a 71.
He made par, and he made a point.
It was such an impossible putt that Mickelson told his caddie to leave the pin in the cup because he wasn’t aiming at the hole, wanting to avoid any chance of the ball going down a slope. Instead, he hit it well to the right, then made about a 6-footer for par.
“For as beautifully designed as this golf course is tee to green, the greens are by far the worst designed greens we play on Tour,” Mickelson said. “Even though they’re in immaculate shape, I would say that 18 would be the worst green that we have on Tour, except that it’s not even the worst on this golf course – 12 is.”
Love birdied three of his last five holes for a 4-under 68 and will play in the final group with Mayfair.
For a tournament that no longer has Tiger Woods, who missed the cut, it is not lacking in star power. Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera had a 73 and was in the group at 6-under 210 that included Pebble Beach winner Dustin Johnson (72) and J.J. Henry (71).
Another shot back was Jim Furyk, who already has won twice this year. Furyk had a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole that caught the lip and spun 5 feet away, he wound up three-putting for bogey. He still shot 71 and was right in the mix.
So was Rory McIlroy, who had to make eagle on his 16th hole Friday to make the cut on the number. Playing early Saturday, McIlroy made birdie on half of his holes for a 66. By the end of the day, he was only four shots out of the lead.
Ten players were within four shots of the top, a margin that doesn’t seem so large considering how long it has been since Mayfair has been tested like this.
The 43-year-old Mayfair is a five-time winner and still the only player to beat Woods in a playoff on the PGA Tour. That was in the 1998 Nissan Open, and he won the Buick Open later that year. That was his last victory.
He was tested the most Saturday in the middle of his round, hitting his tee shot into the creek on the par-5 seventh and making a bogey as his lead dropped to one shot. He made a tough par after hitting a tree with his tee shot on the next hole, made a good par save on the ninth, then hit a wedge to about 6 feet for birdie on the 10th.
“Once I birdied 10, I kept the momentum going,” Mayfair said.
Mickelson didn’t have much and was happy to shoot the score he did. He made birdie after hitting a spectator in the head on the par-5 10th, and despite not feeling crisp, made only three bogeys.
Mickelson has never won in his first start after the Masters.
“I didn’t have it today,” Mickelson said. “I didn’t have great control over my ball-striking and missed a number of putts that I probably could have made. But I controlled the misses, I kept the round in check, and because of the difficult conditions was able to shoot a number that kept me in contention for Sunday. So I’m excited about my opportunities tomorrow.”
Mayfair leads Mickelson two back at Quail Hollow
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Winless for almost 12 years on the PGA Tour, Billy Mayfair will take whatever he can get.
U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup
The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.
Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.
"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.
Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.
Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3
Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up
Match 3 — Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)
Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2
Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2
Match 6 — Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1
Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up
Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up
Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1
Match 10 — Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1
Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)
Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up
TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018
ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).
Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).
Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).
Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.
This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.
-NBC Sports Group-
Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf
Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.
He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.
The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.
He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.
“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.
It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.
For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.
Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.
In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.
Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.
For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.
“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”
But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.
“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”
In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.
His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.
As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.
“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.
“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.
It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.
Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.
“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”
If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.
Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.
Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.