Punch Shot: What will Phil do in 2016?

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2016, 11:15 pm

Phil Mickelson is making his 2016 debut at this week's CareerBuilder Challenge. The 45-year-old Hall of Famer faces some big questions this year. Our writers offer some answers:

By REX HOGGARD

Phil Mickelson will turn 46 the day he tees off for the first round of this year’s U.S. Open, a milestone that he seemed to sense with a touch of unease when he said earlier this month on "Morning Drive" he was optimistic but “also nervous.” It’s always difficult to predict what Lefty will do, particularly during such a crucial year, but here goes:

Win a Tour event? Mickelson will win a PGA Tour event in 2016, his first since hoisting the claret jug in 2013, and it’s likely that triumph will come on the West Coast, where he has won 19 of his 42 Tour titles (the Northern Trust Open, where he’s won twice, would be the most obvious place).

Win the U.S. Open? As for the greater goal, which would be to finally win the U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam, it’s starting to feel as if that ship has sailed. After six runner-up finishes in his national championship the odds simply aren’t in Mickelson’s favor at Oakmont.

Play for the U.S. Ryder Cup team? He will, however, don the red, white and blue for the 11th time in October at the Ryder Cup. Whether he qualifies, which he would with a victory, or is one of captain Davis Love III’s picks, there is no way Mickelson will miss this year’s matches.


By RANDALL MELL

Win a Tour event? Yes. He’s motivated. He’s right about his swing. It doesn’t seem to put the kind of pressure on his body that other players feel. Mickelson has always been unpredictably good, turning it on when we don’t expect it. He was off his game in a winless year in 2015, but he still tied for second at the Masters, tied for third at the FedEx St. Jude and tied fourth at Wells Fargo. His putting wasn’t terrible (41st in putts per GIR), but he was terrible in the lack of birdie chances he gave himself. He was 177th in hitting greens in regulation, the worst statistical finish of his 24-year PGA Tour career. He won’t be that bad again this year. 

Win the U.S. Open? No. The window has closed. He’ll be 46 by the time he tees it up at Oakmont. Hale Irwin remains the oldest U.S. Open winner at 45 for a reason.

Play for the U.S. Ryder Cup team? He’ll be worth a captain’s pick again, but he isn’t among the 10 best Americans in the game anymore and won’t make it on points.


By RYAN LAVNER

Win a Tour event? I predict we’ll see a rejuvenated Mickelson in contention a bunch this year – at Augusta and Quail Hollow and Baltusrol, among others – but also going winless for the third consecutive season. With the depth of talent on the Tour these days, it’s asking a lot for a 45-year-old to hold it together for all four rounds, especially with the putter.  

Win the U.S. Open? What a story it’d be, but Chambers Bay was Lefty’s last great chance.

Play for the U.S. Ryder Cup team? Yes, but that’s assuming he plays well in at least a few majors. As great as he is in the team room, he still needs to post a few top finishes to warrant consideration over some of the young, hungry players who likely will have better seasons. 

Mickelson has too much talent to fade away completely, and the combination of his new swing changes and this being a Ryder Cup year should keep him engaged. As always, his year is best approached without expectation – it’s what makes his throwback performances (like the ’15 Masters) even more thrilling.


By WILL GRAY

Win a Tour event? Lefty will give himself a couple of chances, but I don’t see it happening. A new swing coach could take some getting used to, and Mickelson’s stat line last season left plenty to be desired: 114th in par-4 scoring, 144th in ball-striking and 177th in GIR percentage. Don’t be surprised if he ends the year without a trophy.

Win the U.S. Open? Well, it will be hard for my first prediction to come true if Mickelson wins at Oakmont, so I’ll say no. On top of that, I’ll echo a belief I have shared in this space for the past two years: Mickelson will never win the one remaining trophy that he covets the most. 

Play for the U.S. Ryder Cup team? This, I can see. Even if Mickelson has a mediocre season, and even if he doesn’t win an event, I can see Davis Love III adding Mickelson as a pick. His veteran leadership and team room presence are clearly viewed as benefits, and he played surprisingly well as a pick at the Presidents Cup. If it happens, hopefully for everyone’s sake we can avoid another benching controversy.

When Mickelson left Muirfield with the claret jug three years ago, the discussion centered around just how high his new career trajectory would take him. But if he remains winless in 2016, the talk could easily shift to whether or not Mickelson – who turns 46 in June – will ever win again on the PGA Tour.

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Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

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Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

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Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

 “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”