A Shot Here a Shot There - Another Second
Mickelson is not impressed by seconds and thirds. And in New Orleans last week, it was the same old story, 50th verse. You know the punch line - he finished second. Mickelson dutifully met the press, he willingly signed autographs and posed for a photo or two - and went home extremely disappointed.
Wait a minute - what does a man have to do to feel good about a tournament? Second means you beat every man in the 144-man field, save one.
Well, when you begin the last round with a three-shot lead, you have to win to feel a little smug satisfaction. At the very least, you have to play a good solid round and get beat by an exceptional round of golf. Mickelson himself says you don't play a round that was just mediocre, an even-par 72 like he did Sunday, and leave feeling like a champ. And you don't hit a tee shot in the water just four holes from the end - again as he did.
And so, another one slips through his fingers. Six times this season he has finished in the top three. Only once has he won. This, friends, is getting old.
He should have won it last week. But then, how many times can you say that? Sunday's loss Mickelson disgustingly called 'a pathetic round of golf.' A pathetic round of golf when a man (David Toms) is hoisting up a 64 will almost always get you beaten.
Mickelson, I'm afraid, is becoming this generation's Greg Norman. Norman always played well enough to get into contention, but time after time he slipped when a birdie here or there would have won. Norman won 18 times, but for all his talent, he might have won 40.
Mickelson, too, has won 18 times. But this year there have been so many times when, had he not hit the wayward drive or missed the crucial putt, he would have at least three more.
ITEM: Pebble Beach - Could have won, but played a driver off the fairway on 18 and splashed down into the Pacific. Davis Love wins, Mickelson ties for third.
ITEM: Buick Invitational - This one he won in a playoff, though it looked for all the world like he would lose it in extra holes. After Love was erased in overtime by plugging one in the bunker, Mickelson got up on the tee the very next hole and hit his drive out-of-bounds. Astoundingly, Frank Lickliter hit the exact same shot. Mickelson re-teed and won it when Lickliter couldn't two-putt from 10 feet.
ITEM: Bay Hill - Mickelson shot an excellent 66 the last day, but Tiger Woods caromed it off a spectator and made birdie-3 in the side-pocket on 18 to win by one.
ITEM: BellSouth - On a 36-hole windup on a chilly, windy Sunday, Mickelson led after nine holes of the third round. He lost the lead, however, and couldn't close in on winner Scott McCarron because he plopped his drive into a creek on 9 in the afternoon. Mickelson finished tied for third.
ITEM: Masters - In a tense battle with Woods and David Duval over the final nine, he missed three birdie chances the final three holes and it's over. Woods wins, Mickelson third.
ITEM: New Orleans - After a month off to ponder what went wrong at Augusta, he showed no signs of rustiness here as he fired 66, 66 and 64 the first three rounds. But Mickelson drove into water on No. 2 Sunday, drove against a tree on No. 5, and drove into water again on 15. Toms does his thing and there you have it - game, set and match, while Mickelson shoots 72 and once again leaves disappointed.
'It's not like I'm going to dwell on it much,' he said, then went on his way while Toms was reveling in the victory ceremony.
Mickelson is 30 years old now. He's no longer the kid who won at Tucson while he was still in college, no longer the youngster who was going to turn the Tour upside-down when he got both feet on the ground. He's got the size-12s there now, he's reached the prime age for golfers, and the time has come for him to make his move.
Two things keep getting in his way: he's prone to hitting an errant drive or missing a crucial putt at the most inopportune of times; and there's a gentleman named Eldrick T. Woods who also plays golf. Were it not for him, Mickelson would be the No. 1 player in the world and would probably own at least four or five more victories.
Woods will be around five years longer than Mickelson, so Mickelson can't do anything about the bad luck of the calendar. He can, however, reduce the number of poor drives and putts.
Until Woods gets married and has a couple of kids, he is going to have more time for golf than Mickelson. He has time for golf, golf and more golf, while Mickelson has time for wife, children and golf. The time has come when he is busily tending to his family. Unfortunately, it's also time for him to be winning golf tournaments.
What do you think about Mickelson's recent performance?
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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.
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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.
McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.
But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.
“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.
“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.
“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”
McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.
“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”
McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.
How The Open cut line is determined
Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.
The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:
• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.
• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.
• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.
The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.
The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major
Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:
What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.
What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.
How old is it?
It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.
Where is it played?
There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.
Where will it be played this year?
At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.
Who has won The Open on that course?
Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).
Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?
Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.
Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?
This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.
Who has won this event the most?
Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.
What about the Morrises?
Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.
Have players from any particular country dominated?
In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.
Who is this year's defending champion?
That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.
What is the trophy called?
The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).
Which Opens have been the most memorable?
Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.
When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?
Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.