Mickelson 'nervous,' but optimistic about 2016 season

By Will GrayJanuary 13, 2016, 1:42 pm

Amateurs and hackers alike, take note: even the best in the game get nervous.

Phil Mickelson failed to win last year on Tour, and he did not advance to the Tour Championship for the second straight season. As he looks to make his first start since the Presidents Cup at next week's CareerBuilder Challenge, the 45-year-old admitted that there are still some butterflies to battle heading into his season debut.

"My last two years have been disappointing to me, and I want to make this upcoming year one of the best years possible," Mickelson said Wednesday on "Morning Drive." "I'm optimistic, but I'm also nervous because it's been a little while since I've played to the level I expect to."

There is a lot to focus on this year. In addition to the Masters at it's normal Augusta National grounds, the U.S. Open will take place at Oakmont Country Club, the Open Championship at Royal Troon and the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club, where Mickelson won in 2005. Also part of a crowded scheduled are the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National and golf's return to the Olympics in Rio.

Mickelson hasn't won since the 2013 Open Championship, and that drought in part led him to make a coaching change last fall. Lefty split with longtime instructor Butch Harmon, instead tabbing Australian instructor Andrew Getson as the man to help get him back on track. Based on Mickelson's comments, one area of off-season focus is clearly evident.

"When I analyze it and look objectively, my swing plane has not been what I need it to be," he said. "I've been having to save so many shots at impact with my hands, and if I can get my swing back on plane, and have very little adjustments at impact, then my feel, and my touch, and my shot-making ability will hopefully come back."

Another area that has received attention from Mickelson in recent months has been the stat sheet, and specifically par-4 scoring. He finished 114th on Tour last season in that category, a significant decline after finishing 24th in par-4 scoring in 2014 and 27th in 2013. He noted that par-4 birdie percentage is a statistic that "means the most" to him when evaluating his overall play.

"It's telling me that I'm getting the ball in play, or close enough to the green to where I can make birdies," he said. "So leading in par-4 birdies is I think one of the most important statistics, because we also have so many of them throughout a round, and that has been not the strength that it usually is in my career."

After his appearance in Palm Springs, Mickelson's West Coast swing is also slated to include stops at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in upcoming weeks. Despite the early-season jitters, he remains optimistic that a new year and a new instructor will mark a turnaround in his performance.

"I'm hopeful that this off-season, the work I've put in, will get my swing back on the plane that it has been in the past," he said, "and allow me to hit the shots I've been able to hit as I did in the past."

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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.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

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.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“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.”