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Rosaforte Report: The Phil-Tom Brady connection

By Tim RosaforteMarch 5, 2018, 7:20 pm

Jimmy Dunne was playing with Tom Brady and Rory McIlroy at Seminole on Sunday when he predicted a Phil Mickelson-Justin Thomas playoff in the WGC-Mexico Championship. Afterward, the club president got a text from Brady saying, “You called it Dunne man.”

The scenario at Chapultepec is what the 40-year-old Brady faces every week in the NFL. At 47, Mickelson is 23 years older than Thomas. But age didn’t matter, or if it did, it mattered in Mickelson’s favor. He looked past the 2017 Player of the Year and FedEx Cup champion in the drawing of straws, and made par on the first hole of the playoff for his first win in 102 tournaments, a streak that goes back to the 2013 Open Championship.

The Patriots would have retired Brady had he gone that long without a victory, but this is golf and Mickelson kept making Cup teams and using those as motivation. As Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk told me recently, “You could see it in Phil’s eyes, hear it in his voice.” The same way with the same desire that Brady shows every season.

Mickelson and Brady had been friends before Dunne invited them to Augusta National prior to last year’s Masters, but that’s when they really hit it off. Brady would throw spirals to Mickelson outside their cottage and they discussed the concept of sports science that Brady believes in, where ‘overload, overload’ is a way of creating body speed. Whether it’s throwing a bullet to Danny Amendola or smashing a 300-yard drive on the PGA Tour, it’s what coaches in the NFL and PGA Tour call ‘using the ground’.

Phil worked hard this offseason, but didn’t want anybody to know how hard. When I called in early January he didn’t want a big deal made out of his condition (under 220 pounds) or ball speed (currently in the ballpark with Alex Noren, Jamie Lovemark and Rickie Fowler at 172.89 MPH).

People, opponents, media would have expected too much – especially after splitting with swing instructor Butch Harmon and caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay. All he would share was, “I’m physically a lot stronger. I’ve been practicing and working to get my game sharp. I don’t know how it’s going to start out, but I’m very optimistic.”

Based on his winter, with three top-six finishes on the West Coast, that included a second-place finish at Pebble Beach, Mickelson was already right where he wanted to be in peaking for the Masters. The win in Mexico validated the work he put in to get his game back.

This is Phil’s 27th season on Tour. It’s also his third with swing coach Andrew Getson and second with brother Tim Mickelson on his bag. One year older than when Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters, Phil heads into Augusta predicting, “there’s a lot more to come.”

I talked to Dunne early Monday, who concurred, “TB feels exactly the same.”

A real game-changer for India?

Shubhankar Sharma didn’t get the win he wanted, but the experience of playing with Mickelson on Sunday in the WGC-Mexico Championship was valuable. The 21-year-old native of India returned home for his country’s national open this week in Delhi after witnessing Mickelson’s hall-of-fame lesson on how to close for the 43rd time.

Prior to Sunday, there was some debate as to whether a victory by Sharma would have been a game changer for golf in the world’s second-largest country, with 1.3 billion people.

“Everybody thought when I won, it was going to be a big deal,” said Arjun Atwal, the first player from India to win on the PGA Tour. “But nothing really happened in India. Even though it was a really big deal, our country is so big and so overpopulated, how do you get through to the masses, because nobody really follows golf? I hope (Sharma’s performance) does in any small way, but we’ll see.”

Atwal followed in the footsteps of Jeev Milkha Singh, who won 20 events as a pro including four times on the European Tour. Atwal did what Singh could never accomplish, winning the 2010 Wyndham Championship by a shot over David Toms.

Anirban Lahiri has recorded the best finish by an Indian player in a major (T-5 in the 2015 PGA) and became the first native of India to compete in the Presidents Cup (2015 and 2017). He saw the performance by Sharma as the biggest game changer there’s been so far – but that was before his final-round 74. Coming off wins in the Joburg Open and Maybank Championship, the test will be how Sharma rebounds from a T-9 finish in his first WGC.

“He’ll have a huge reception back home regardless of what happened,” Lahiri said. “We’re all so proud of him.”

Wie's body of work

Knowing she’s a chronic tinkerer, David Leadbetter made a bet with Michelle Wie about whether she would make changes to what they worked on over the winter. He wasn’t talking about the color of her hair.

Leadbetter wouldn’t give me the amount, only going far enough to say it was “substantial.” He had been getting text messages from Wie even before her victory in the HSBC Women’s World Championship saying, “I’m still doing it. The bet looks good.”

What exactly did they change that led to Wie’s first win in 1,365 days? To take pressure off Wie’s torso and back, Leadbetter modified Wie’s leg action, softening her stiff right knee through impact. That created more control of a left-to-right ball flight.

“She’s still taped up like a boxer,” Leadbetter said. “But the major goal, trying to produce action that doesn’t put stress on her body and create injuries.”

Although not the longest player on the LPGA, Wie is still a big hitter so they also focused on wedge play, keeping the blade squarer through the ball. From a putting perspective, they went with more performance drills rather than technical instruction. While it’s early, Wie leads the tour in putting average with 26.45 putts per round that includes the 36-footer she made on the 72nd hole to win by a stroke. She did this with three different putting grips in the final round, but that was not part of the bet.

They worked together in January at the Bears Club near Wie’s home in Jupiter, Fla., and again before Wie headed to Thailand.

“I could see this coming,” Leadbetter said. “If she can just stay healthy, I think she’ll have a fabulous year.”

I Love the '90s, fashion edition

This week’s Valspar Championship won’t be Tiger Woods’ first competitive trip to the Innisbrook Resort. In 1996, Woods and Kelli Kuehne finished second in the JCPenney Mixed Team Championship.

Kuehne and her brothers, Hank and Trip, grew up playing AJGA and USGA amateur events, with Kelli winning the U.S. Junior Girls, two U.S. Women’s Amateur titles and the British Ladies Amateur.

“We were both just kids,” Kelli said of her ’96 teammate. Kids with a lot of money: Kuehne was recuited by Tiger’s father Earl to sign with IMG, which negotiated a six-figure deal for Kuehne with Nike.

I talked to Kuehne from her home in Texas on Monday. Her favorite memories of that week include the contest she had with Tiger over who would wear the most Nike logos, plus the pleated pants and men’s extra small golf shirts that draped over her since Nike didn’t have a women’s line back then.

“They were so gigantic,” Kuehne said. “When you look at them on Facebook, they’re pretty amazing.”

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.