Phil's brother joins Lagardere, will represent Rahm

By Ryan LavnerAugust 3, 2016, 2:01 pm

When Tim Mickelson first started coaching, his plan was to work for a few years until he felt the desire to play professionally again. 

Fifteen years and three programs later, he finally made a career change. 

On Wednesday, Mickelson was announced as the newest player representative for powerhouse Lagardere Sports, a move that has been rumored for months. Mickelson, 39, will serve as the day-to-day manager for Jon Rahm, his former standout player at Arizona State who turned pro in June.

“He trusts what I think and there’s a mutual respect between he and I,” Mickelson said by phone, “and I thought it’d be a really good match and a really good career change.” 

A former No. 1-ranked amateur, Rahm was the first two-time winner of the Hogan Award, helping to thrust Mickelson and the Sun Devils back into the national spotlight. He’s already made a quick transition to the pro ranks, collecting a pair of top-3 finishes to essentially lock up his PGA Tour card for next season. 

Mickelson said he only considered leaving coaching within the past year.  

Last summer, he flew to Spain to recruit for the European Boys Team Championship, but on the way he stopped by Rahm’s hometown of Barrika. He spent two days there, playing Rahm’s old home course and talking to his parents about life after college, about the role of management companies and why they’re important.

“We left it at that,” he said. 

Six months after that initial conversation, Rahm joked that his head coach should simply follow him to the pros and serve as his agent. 

Mickelson shrugged off the suggestion at first, but he felt differently toward the end of the season.  

“I got really burned out and had lost the passion to go recruit every day,” Mickelson said. “It was stale. It’d been 15 years. Every coach is different about what they love and dislike about the industry. I couldn’t get the passion.

“I kept trying to envision what I was doing the next year, and it didn’t involve recruiting. Recruiting is such a big part of the job now that if you’re not recruiting the next talent, you’re falling behind. It wasn’t fair to put the program in a compromising position.” 

So last month, Mickelson announced that he was stepping down as the head coach, after five successful seasons. He said that he wanted to pursue other opportunities outside of college athletics, while denying rumors that he was set to join his 21-year-old star in the pros.

On Wednesday, Lagardere announced the move.

“It’s great,” Rahm said. “While I was in the States those four years, he was pretty much my dad. He was the guy I went to when I needed help and the guy I went to when I needed guidance. He’s helped out a lot to become the player I am today.” 

There is a unique bit of symmetry to the announcement: When Phil Mickelson turned pro in 1992, his coach at Arizona State, Steve Loy, left his position to serve as Mickelson’s agent. Fast forward 24 years, and Mickelson resigned from ASU to work as Rahm’s manager. His new boss and mentor at Lagardere? Loy, of course.

In his new role, Mickelson will work with Rahm on developing a schedule, handling requests and adjusting to Tour life. A special temporary member, Rahm will play the next three events, including this week’s stop at the Travelers Championship. He is likely to lock up his card for next season, just two months after leaving school; he’d become the first player since Bud Cauley in 2011 to do that. 

“There’s never a sure thing in this sport,” Mickelson said, “but he’s obviously a phenomenal talent and he’s proven it over the past four years. I believe in him and the person he is.”

Mickelson told his players at both San Diego and Arizona State that if he ever won a NCAA Championship, he planned to “drop the mic” and walk away from coaching. One of his most recent teams came close – the Sun Devils were ranked third entering the 2015 NCAA Championship.

After Mickelson’s departure last month, ASU moved quickly to hire Washington’s Matt Thurmond. The Sun Devils, who finished last season ranked seventh in the country, return senior Jared du Toit, who finished ninth at the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open.  

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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.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”