Punch Shot: Phil's or Rory's performance more encouraging?

By Randall Mell, Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2014, 4:20 pm

Sure, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy walked away from Abu Dhabi winless, but they showed plenty of guts and glory in their season debuts. Our GolfChannel.com writers debate: Whose performance was more encouraging?

By RANDALL MELL

Or, in other words, whose knuckle-headed play was less discouraging?

Rory McIlroy needed a quick start to 2014 more than Phil Mickelson did. So, coming close Sunday at Abu Dhabi translates into a more encouraging start.

Given the kind of years they were coming off, McIlroy needed affirmation more than Mickelson needed it. McIlroy gets the bigger boost with both players tying for second in what felt like a loss for all of us with Pablo Larrazabal playing knuckle-head free golf in the final round. If Larrazabal could have thrown in his own mental gaffe Sunday, maybe we get to see a McIlroy-Mickelson playoff. All credit to Larrazabal, but a McIlroy-Mickelson playoff would have felt like a big-bang start to ’14.

While there is some frustration for McIlroy over his two-shot penalty in failing to take full relief on Saturday, and for Mickelson with his double hit out of a bush on Sunday, there’s a lot to build on for both players knowing their games are already in good places.

McIlroy’s confidence is coming back. Mickelson’s never really seems to leave him. So give McIlroy the slight edge for the more encouraging start, another big step in the right direction.


By JASON SOBEL

Rory McIlroy is a momentum type of player. When he’s hot, he’s hot – and when he’s not, well … you know the rest. He can go for months looking extraordinary, then quickly turn extra ordinary.

Granted, that same description could be written for Phil Mickelson, but with two more decades of experience, the unsinkable lefty is more accustomed to these highs and lows. He’s already gotten his sea legs under him.

By comparison, McIlroy can still feel a little seasick when his boat keeps rocking back and forth so vigorously. Last year was a perfect example. He started with an MC in Abu Dhabi, followed with a first-round L at the Match Play, then hit the alphabet soup trifecta with a WD at the Honda. Had such a start happened for Mickelson, we would have collectively rolled our eyes and declared, “Oh, that’s just Phil being Phil!” Rory’s failures instead made international headlines.

All of which brings us to his runner-up finish in Abu Dhabi this week. Remember, he’s a momentum player. Even coming off an Aussie Open win last month, McIlroy needed this result more than Mickelson. He needed a good start, not only for his own confidence, but to keep the “begrudgers” - as he calls them – safely at arm’s length.

That doesn’t mean the second-place finish will launch McIlroy to bigger and better successes over the next 12 months, nor does it mean the result won’t vault Mickelson toward prosperity, either. But if this week was more encouraging for one of them over the other, that honor certainly goes to the guy who’s still trying to get his sea legs under him from all these highs and lows.


By RYAN LAVNER

Phil Mickelson’s runner-up finish in Abu Dhabi showed me that his head is in the right place as he enters arguably the most important year of his career.

After all, where was his motivation this week? He was 8,500 miles from home. He was collecting an appearance fee. He hadn’t played in two months.

But Lefty showed plenty of fight and played brilliantly in stretches, and he should be brimming with confidence as he returns to the West Coast. Yes, he’s scaling back late in the season and gearing up for Pinehurst. But if Abu Dhabi was any indication, he’s committed to making 2014 more than just a one-major success. 


By REX HOGGARD

In this case, a tie really isn’t a tie.

Although Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson finished their weeks at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship all square at 13 under par, one stroke behind the champion, it is the Northern Irishman who took away the moral victory.

Remember, at this time last year it was McIlroy who was starting an inexplicable slide, missing the cut in Abu Dhabi with rounds of 75 on his way to the most difficult year of his young career.

Mickelson’s third-round rally after opening cards of 73-70 was impressive, maybe even historic. Lefty’s third-round 63 was his lowest round in a season debut since 2004 at the Humana Challenge, which is much more scoring friendly than the Abu Dhabi layout.

But it was McIlroy who will take the most from his 2014 debut. Following a season of inconsistent play the Ulsterman was downright machine-like in Abu Dhabi by comparison, carding rounds of 70-67-70-68.

McIlroy’s runner-up showing was his best finish on the European Tour since winning the DP World Tour Championship in 2012 and the best sign to date that he has emerged from last year’s troubles.

The leaderboard says McIlroy and Mickelson tied in Abu Dhabi, but considering how far the 24-year-old has come over the past year he easily takes the moral victory.

Getty Images

Ko part of 5-way tie for Mediheal lead

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:20 am

DALY CITY, Calif. - Lydia Ko was back on top at Lake Merced.

Ko shot a 4-under 68 on a chilly Thursday morning at the LPGA Mediheal Championship for a share of the first-round lead. Jessica Korda, Caroline Hedwall, In-Kyung Kim and Su Oh joined Ko atop the leaderboard in the LPGA's return to Lake Merced after a year away.

''This is a golf course where you need to drive the ball well and putt well,'' said Ko, the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic winner at the course in 2014 and 2015.

Ko eagled the par-5 fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. The New Zealander has 14 LPGA wins, the last in July 2016.

''It's nice to come back to a place where you feel super-welcomed,'' Ko said. ''It just brings back a lot of great memories. ... My family and friends are here this week, so I'm hoping that I'm going to continue the solid play.''

She turned 21 on Tuesday.

''I don't think I feel a huge difference, but I know turning 21 is a huge thing in the U.S.,'' Ko said, ''So, I'm legal and I can do some fun things now.''

Korda, playing alongside Kim a group ahead of Ko, also eagled the fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. Korda won in Thailand in February in her return from reconstructive jaw surgery.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship


''The score says one thing and my hands say another,'' Korda said. ''It was really cold out there today, so it was good that I stuck to kind of my process. ... Actually, this is still some of the nicer conditions that we've played in compared to the past. I'll take the cold as long as there's no rain.''

Hedwall and Kim each had five birdies and a bogey.

''I just love the city. It's really nice,'' said Hedwall, from Sweden. ''It's sort of a European-style city with all the shopping going on downtown and stuff. I love it here. I even like this weather, suits me really well, too.''

Oh had a bogey-free round. The Australian was the only one of the five players tied for the lead to play in the afternoon.

''It was cold and pretty windy out there and, because it's got a lot of elevation, it kind of swirls in the middle like in the low areas, so it was tough,'' Oh said. ''I hit the ball really solid today. Then the ones I missed, I made really good up-and-downs.''

Lexi Thompson, Sei Young Kim, Charley Hull and Celine Herbin shot 69.

''This course is very challenging, especially when the wind picks up,'' the third-ranked Thompson said. ''It's chilly, so it's a little longer of a course. Some of the par 5s are reachable, so you try to take advantage of that, but pars were good and just take the birdie chances as you can get them.''

Moriya Jutanugarn, the winner Sunday in Los Angeles for her first LPGA title, had a 71 playing with former Stanford student Michelle Wie and ANA Inspiration winner Pernilla Lindberg. Wie had a 74, and Lindberg shot 79. Ariya Jutanugarn matched her sister with a 71, playing in the group with Ko.

Top-ranked Inbee Park matched playing partner Brooke Henderson with a 72. The third member of the afternoon group, second-ranked Shanshan Feng, shot 73.

Juli Inkster shot 72. The 57-year-old Hall of Famer grew up in Santz Cruz, starred at San Jose State and lives in Los Altos. She won the last of her 31 LPGA titles in 2006.

Stacy Lewis had a 74 after announcing that she is pregnant with a due date of Nov. 3. She plans to play through the Marathon Classic in July and return for a full season next year.

Getty Images

Glover, Reavie share Zurich lead with Chinese pair

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:04 am

AVONDALE, La. - Chez Reavie had quite a few good moments at TPC Louisiana on Thursday. So did teammate Lucas Glover.

In best-ball format, the most important thing was those moments came on different holes.

Reavie and Glover teamed to shoot a 12-under 60 for a share of the Zurich Classic lead with China's Zhang Xinjun and Dou Zecheng.

''Chez started well and I picked it up in the middle of the back nine,'' Glover said. ''He closed it off and then we both played really well on the front. Just kind of ham and egged it, I guess, as they would say.''

Reavie and Glover each had six birdies in the best-ball format, pushing through soggy weather early in the round before conditions cleared at TPC Louisiana. Six teams are two shots back in a tie for third after shooting 62.

''We were just rolling,'' Reavie said. ''I think we're comfortable. We like to laugh and have a good time when we're playing golf, and it definitely helps.''

Zhang and Dou birdied four of their final five holes. Dou made a 31-foot putt on No. 9 to cap the impressive rally and jump into the lead with Reavie and Glover.


Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


Tony Finau-Daniel Summerhays, Chris Paisley-Tommy Fleetwood, J.J. Henry-Tom Hoge, Michael Kim-Andrew Putnam, Kevin Kisner-Scott Brown and Troy Merritt-Brendon de Jonge shot 62. Jason Day and Ryan Ruffels shot 64.

It's the first time since last year's Tour Championship that the reigning champs of all four majors have been in the same field. None of them were among the leaders after the first round.

Masters champion Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay had a 65, and British Open winner Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer were at 66.

''I didn't feel like there was really any rust,'' Reed said. ''I felt like I hit the ball all right today. I felt I hit some good quality putts. A couple of them went in, a couple of them didn't.''

This is the second year that two-player teams have competed at the Zurich Classic. The unusual tournament features best-ball play in the first and third rounds and alternate shot in the second and final rounds.

U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and Marc Turnesa shot a 67. PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley shot a 70.

There are 80 teams in the tournament and the top 35, along with ties, will make the cut after Friday's second round.

Getty Images

Lewis says she's expecting first child in November

By Randall MellApril 27, 2018, 2:18 am

Stacy Lewis is pregnant.

The 12-time LPGA winner confirmed after Thursday’s first round of the Mediheal Championship that she and her husband, University of Houston women’s golf coach Gerrod Chadwell, are expecting their first child on Nov. 3.

Lewis learned she was pregnant after returning home to Houston in late February following her withdrawal from the HSBC Women’s World Championship with a strained oblique muscle.

“We're obviously really excited,” Lewis said. “It wasn't nice I was hurt, but it was nice that I was home when I found out with [Gerrod]. We're just really excited to start a family.”

Lewis is the third big-name LPGA player preparing this year to become a mother for the first time. Suzann Pettersen announced last month that she’s pregnant, due in the fall. Gerina Piller is due any day.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship


Piller’s husband, PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, withdrew from the Zurich Classic on Thursday to be with her. Piller and Lewis have been U.S. Solheim Cup partners the last two times the event has been played.

“It's going to be fun raising kids together,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, they're best friends and they hang out. But just excited about the next few months and what it's going to bring.”

Lewis, a former Rolex world No. 1 and two-time major championship winner, plans to play through the middle of July, with the Marathon Classic her last event of the year. She will be looking to return for the start of the 2019 season. The LPGA’s maternity leave policy allows her to come back next year with her status intact.

“This year, the golf might not be great, but I've got better things coming in my life than a golf score.” Lewis said. “I plan on coming back and traveling on the road with the baby, and we'll figure it out as we go.”

Getty Images

Coach scores in NFL Draft and on golf course

By Grill Room TeamApril 27, 2018, 1:47 am

To say that Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had a good day Thursday would be an understatement. Not only did his team snag one of the top defensive players in the NFL Draft - Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith, who the Bears took with the eighth pick of the first round - but earlier in the day Fangio, 59, made a hole-in-one, sinking a 9-iron shot from 125 yards at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis.

Perhaps the ace isn't so surprising, though. In late May 2017, Fangio made another hole-in-one, according to a tweet from the Bears. The only information supplied on that one was the distance - 116 yards.