The curious case of Mickelson's overnight WD

By Jason SobelSeptember 6, 2014, 2:32 pm

Call me old school, but I prefer mid-tournament withdrawals to occur when a player comes down with a slight case of pre-round broken leg. Or maybe when – apologies for the mental image - he can’t keep any food down on the course. Or even in the rare circumstance when he’s going to become a father and chooses being in the delivery room over 18 holes.

Hey, that’s part of the allure of being a professional golfer – as an independent contractor, you don’t need to explain to a general manager or coach why you can’t play on a given day. In fact, you don’t need any explanation at all. Players can withdraw mid-tournament without reason and without any penalty, which prompted one of their brethren to refer to a recent spate of early exits as an “epidemic” just a few months ago.

All of which leads us to Phil Mickelson, who WD’d from the BMW Championship in the wee hours of Saturday morning based on this theory: He needs time to prepare for the Ryder Cup.

“Without a chance to contend at the Tour Championship,” he said in a statement, “the most important thing for me now is to prepare for the Ryder Cup.”

The first issue here is that Mickelson stole away from Cherry Hills like a thief in the night, leaving a tournament he had constantly maintained he was excited about while mired in a share of 63rd place in the 69-man field.

On the scale of poor form, this ranks somewhere between societal faux pas and unlawful surrender. Over the past two decades, no player has better understood the business of building a brand and protecting an image. By fleeing like the old Baltimore Colts in their Mayflower trucks (do they make private jets, too?), Mickelson undoubtedly knows he triple-bogeyed this latest public relations test.

Mell: Fatigued Mickelson ends season with PR blunder

BMW Championship: Articles, videos and photos

The bigger issue is that it contrasts everything we’ve always known about the unsinkable lefthander. This is a guy who rarely misses a Shell Houston Open or FedEx St. Jude Classic or Scottish Open, because he prefers to prepare for big events by being in the heat of competition.

“The more I play, the sharper I get and usually the second or third tournament is when I play my best,” he explained last year. “That’s why I like to have a tournament before a major, because a major’s penalty for a miss is so severe you’ve got to be sharp on each shot right from the gate.”

The Ryder Cup will begin exactly three weeks after Mickelson’s final competitive round of the season, which means his WD is the antithesis of his usual preparation. It also comes across as disingenuous based on recent comments.

He’s been uncharacteristically indecisive in recent weeks. After missing the secondary cut at The Barclays, he insisted, “I’m barely keeping my sanity, I’m so frustrated.” Days later, before the Deutsche Bank Championship, he maintained, “I don’t have high expectations. My game will be a crapshoot.” And yet, after finishing T-45 there, he claimed, “I haven’t driven the ball this well in a long time and my putter felt great.”

Yes, he can turn his game on in a hurry, which is why it’s puzzling that he would forgo his final 36 holes of the season in favor of preparing for an event three weeks away.

Unless it isn’t, really.

Mickelson has never been shy about using his actions to help his agenda. He was never happy about four straight weeks of FedEx Cup playoff events, saying recently, “I want to do everything I can to support the PGA Tour … But I don’t ever play four weeks in a row, outside of weeks that I’m staying at my house. To play four in a row is very difficult for me.”

Maybe he’s using his status as a pulpit to get this point across. Maybe he really feels like two more days at home will leave him better prepared for the Ryder Cup. Maybe he’s just burnt out on golf right now and needs to get away from it. Maybe there are other factors at play that he simply didn’t want to make public. For a man who has dealt with his own health issues as well as those of close family members, we can only hope he isn’t masking any further problems in that area.

We can only take him on his word, though, and he contested that he needed to be fresh for the Ryder Cup. For a player who has spent a career doing and saying the right thing so often, one who whips galleries into a frenzy based on his aggressive nature, this maneuver feels like a risk-reward that wasn’t worth the risk.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 9:20 am

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

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

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.

Said Harmon:

“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.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“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.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

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:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open 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.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (