Phil hopes for grueling test in seeking Grand Slam

By Ryan LavnerJune 15, 2016, 9:10 pm

OAKMONT, Pa. – No player has been tempted, teased and tortured at the U.S. Open more than Phil Mickelson. Over the past 25 years, he’s racked up a record six runners-up just about every way imaginable – mis-clubs, missed fairways, missed putts – and the Open oh-fer is all that’s kept him from joining the all-time greats who have completed the career Grand Slam.

And so it was curious to hear Mickelson on Wednesday say that he wants Oakmont – by many accounts, the most difficult course in the United States – to cross the line between brutal and unplayable, as if he were welcoming even more torment.

“I feel like I’ve learned how to play that style of golf,” he said.

Mickelson has been bucking trends his entire career, of course. The usual recipe for success in the U.S. Open is to find the fairway, play the high-percentage shot into the green, take your medicine when out of position and hole 10-footers. There are many enviable aspects of Mickelson’s game, but frankly, that isn’t his style. He’s never been particularly accurate off the tee. He’s prone to taking unnecessary risks. His putter occasionally betrays him in big moments. And yet his high-wire act has produced 42 wins, including five majors, and he’s been close, agonizingly close, to breaking through at the major he covets most.

“When that line is on the edge or crossed,” he said, “I feel like I have one of my better chances to come out on top.”

Lefty doesn’t have fond memories of Oakmont. In the weeks leading up to the 2007 Open, he took too many hacks out of the thick, gnarly rough and injured his left wrist. By the time the Open rolled around, he had no chance, shooting 11 over and missing the cut for just the second time in his career. He battled a bone bruise for the next three months.

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This time, Mickelson hasn’t even attempted a shot out of the rough – “I’d rather wait to get hurt during the tournament than before it,” he joked – nor has he practiced out of the fairway bunkers, which are so deep and fluffy that they’re basically a blast-out.

Mickelson has also reversed his pre-tournament routine. After practicing Monday (typically an off-day during major weeks), he flew home to San Diego to attend daughter Sophia’s eighth-grade graduation. He didn’t touch a club Tuesday because of the ceremony and long trip back, but he spent a few hours on the course late Wednesday afternoon in advance of his 2:09 p.m. ET tee time Thursday.

He said the challenge here, as it’s been ever since his surprising victory at Muirfield, is shifting his focus away from the result (the career Grand Slam!) and more into the process. So far, it’s proved to be just talk. Whether it was his self-imposed pressure or his game simply wasn’t there, the last two Opens haven’t gone well, with no finish better than 28th.

“I could BS you and tell you I didn’t think about it,” he said of the Slam. “But no, I think about it all the time.”

Though he remains relatively healthy on the eve of his 46th birthday, this Open might prove to be his last real opportunity to snag that elusive Open. His putter is no longer a liability – he’s ranked third on Tour in putting – and he’s recorded more top-10s this season (five) than in his last two listless years combined.

But Mickelson is in a vastly different position than any of the other 155 players in this week’s field. Each year he is asked, repeatedly, to reopen old wounds, to discuss the most crushing disappointments of an otherwise legendary career. Alas, there are plenty for him to sort through – most notably, the three-putt from 5 feet on 17 at Shinnecock; the wayward drive and 3-iron that nailed a tree on the 18th at Winged Foot; the airmailed wedge on 13 at Merion – but Mickelson maintains that he has the necessary experience and game plan to win. After all of the close calls, his self-belief hasn’t wavered.

“My career is built on failure,” he said with a wry smile, “and that has been a big motivator for me, because I think how you handle failure is a huge element to becoming successful.”

And so he’s here at Oakmont, embracing a potentially brutal U.S. Open, hoping for carnage and a setup that borders on unfair. Maybe his rationale isn’t so complicated, after all. Mentally, he’s already dealt with much worse.

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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.

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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.

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“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.”