Notes: Mickelson to keep it simple at Open Championship

By Doug FergusonJuly 15, 2013, 11:25 pm

Fresh off a Scottish Open victory, Phil Mickelson showed up at Muirfield for the first time in 11 years and didn't take long to figure out his strategy for the British Open. He wants to keep it as simple as possible and try to make easy pars.

He didn't take the easy route on the par-5 17th, however.

Mickelson couldn't resist the temptation of the dunes right of the green. He placed the ball on the upward slope, even with the flag, and attempted his favorite trick shot - hitting a lob wedge that goes backward. With a full swing, the ball went up and over his head, landed on the green and stopped about 6 feet away.


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But it was only Monday, a day of practice.

''It is fun to come in with a win, but now it's time to focus on Muirfield and try to learn the nuances,'' Mickelson said. ''What I'm looking for is how to make easy pars, how to get the ball in the fairway easily, how to get it up and around the greens without a lot of stress, without having to hit perfect shots. Because imperfect shots will be magnified by the wind.''

Mickelson has not had much success in the Open. He finished one shot out of a playoff in 2004 at Royal Troon in what he considers his best week in the British Open. Two years ago, he made a Sunday charge that came up three shots short at Royal St. George's.

He is trying to understand how to play the game on the ground, so typical of links golf, but he said Muirfield is a course that sometimes requires the ball to travel more in the air to cover some of the pot bunkers short of the green.

Mickelson finished toward the bottom of the pack in 2002 at Muirfield. He missed the nasty weather on Saturday that derailed so many other players, but failed to take advantage of the calm conditions and shot 76. He tried to come down on Tuesday of last week for a practice round, but he didn't make it. That means he will be spending more time playing the course than he does at other majors.

Take Merion, for example.

Mickelson did most of his preparations a week before the U.S. Open, so he had no trouble flying home across the country to San Diego for his daughter's eighth-grade graduation and returning overnight in time for his Thursday morning tee time. He nearly won the U.S. Open.

At other majors, it's not unusual for him to play one full practice round at the course and go elsewhere the rest of the week until the opening round. But he knows those courses. Muirfield requires getting reacquainted.

''This week I'll spend more time on the golf course,'' he said. ''Being able to be here and have a few quiet days is good.''

His wife and three children were with him at Castle Stuart in the north of Scotland last week. They dropped him off Monday and headed to Barcelona for a few days until the championship begins.


FATIGUE FACTOR: Ernie Els has won major championships 18 years apart, and one big difference is the reaction of the media and the time commitments. It can be exhausting, and last year's win at Royal Lytham & St. Annes was even tougher because he wanted to honor his sponsor's commitment by playing in the Canadian Open the next week. He never really recovered the rest of the year.

It wasn't like that in 1994 when he won the U.S. Open at Oakmont.

''I think I did Matt Lauer and ''Today'' - Katie Couric was there still back in the day - did a little thing with them,'' he said. ''Went back to the 18th green at Oakmont, and that was the only thing. I didn't even own a house in those days. I got back on my plane, myself and (wife) Leizl, and flew back to London. We rented a cottage from Renton Laidlaw, and we just hid from the world there.

''The whole thing has changed a lot, especially since '94,'' he said. ''There are so many story lines that people want. So it can get very, very busy.''


HANSON'S BACK: Peter Hanson has been struggling with a sore back, and he's still not sure if he'll tee it up Thursday. The Swede said it was 50-50 he would play.

''I thought the disk problem in my back was getting better, but then it starts to feel worse,'' Hanson said.

Hanson had planned to play The Greenbrier Classic and the following week, either in America or Scotland. But there was a rain delay at The Greenbrier, and he couldn't move when play resumed so he had to withdraw. He came straight to Scotland to work with his physical therapist trying to get ready.

The key was going to be Tuesday.

''If I can play nine holes pain-free, then that will be the key to my playing or not,'' he said.

The first alternate if he were to withdraw is Joost Luiten of The Netherlands.


THE FRENCH CONNECTION: Thomas Levet was part of the four-man playoff at Muirfield in 2002, and he went one extra hole of sudden death before making bogey on the 18th hole and losing to Ernie Els. He didn't qualify to play this year. Neither did the other two from that playoff, Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington.

Levet is doing TV work, and he said it's been tough.

''I am fine here in the practice range, but when I walk back among the crowd it is difficult because everyone keeps reminding me of what happened in 2002,'' Levet said. ''I think I've signed 20,000 autographs already this week, so it is very difficult.''

France at least is represented by Gregory Bourdy, so maybe he can get atonement from his country.

''The question to Gregory is, 'Who will be only the second French player to win the British Open,''' Levet said. ''And the answer this week will be, 'Gregory Bourdy.'''

Arnaud Massy in 1907 at Royal Liverpool is the only Frenchman to win a claret jug. Jean Van de Velde nearly joined him in 1999 at Carnoustie when he took a three-shot lead into the final hole. Van de Velde famously made triple bogey and lost in a playoff.


DIVOTS: Ben Curtis is back with a familiar face on the bag. He has reunited with Andy Sutton, the English caddie he hired in 2003 to work for him at Royal St. George's when Curtis shocked the golfing world by winning the British Open. ... Charles Howell III would have been the second alternate, but he withdrew from the Open on Sunday when Jordan Spieth qualified by winning the John Deere Classic. If Zach Johnson had won the Deere, then Joost Luiten would have gotten in, and Howell would have moved up to the first alternate position. ... Harris English was among those who flew over on the charter from the John Deere Classic. He looked tired, but still managed to get in nine holes of practice to stay awake. He at least received some great instruction. English was joined for nine holes by Ernie Els, the defending champion and 2002 winner at Muirfield.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.


Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.