Is This Man Houdini

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.

AND....EXHALE....: Phil Mickelson rolled in a 9-foot birdie putt on the final hole to edge Tim Clark and Rod Pampling to win the Crowne Plaza Invitational. Mickelson has now won at both of Hogan's Alley's - Riviera and Colonial ' this season.
Backspin It might be a stretch to say this was Phil's wildest win ever, but not by much. And only watching the event live on TV can do it justice - Phil standing on the 18th tied for the lead; Phil going all 'Winged Foot' on everybody and blasting his tee shot waaaaay left; Phil standing practically in a forest trying to figure out if he even had a chance to advance his approach shot toward the green; Phil going into full 'Phil the Thrill' mode and hitting a near miracle shot to within 10 feet of the cup; Phil draining the birdie putt to close out the tournament in a fashion that would make Houdini proud; a Phil-fanatic going nuts with excitement jumping into the 18th's greenside pond. In just one hole, Mickelson summed up his golfing career. It was even better than those Mickelson Crowne Plaza commercials.
SEE YOU AT TORREY: Tiger Woods will not return to action until the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Woods, still rehabilitating after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, will return to action for the second major of the year after an eight-week break..
BackspinThe last time Tiger had such a layoff was two years ago when he sat out nine weeks while dealing with the death of his father Earl. Woods went on to miss the cut in a major for the first time as a professional in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. We dont mean to suggest that Tiger will miss the cut, but to play your first competitive golf in two months at a U.S. Open is going to be tough. Then again, its not like Woods hasnt surprised us before.

B-R-U-T-A-L: Jay Haas won the Senior PGA Championship by a stroke over Bernhard Langer to win the Champions Tour's first major of the season. Haas' four-round 7-over total marked one of the highest winning scores in the history of the tour.
Backspin Talk about brutal. Although the media guide will forever state Haas as the victor, it was famed Oak Hill that seemed to come out on top. The 36-hole cut line was a staggering 12 over. And by the end of the tournament not only didnt a single player come close to even breaking par, but only a handful were able to keep it to single digits over par. So hats off to Haas who - how shall we say this? - got beat up less than the rest of the field.

DOES ANYONE HAVE A LIGHTER?: Miguel Angel Jimenez emerged from a two-hole playoff with Oliver Wilson to win the BMW PGA Championship in England. It was the Spaniard's 15th career European Tour title and makes him almost a lock for this year's Ryder Cup team.
Backspin Jimenez, perhaps known better for that famous ponytail and his cigar chomping, should also be recognized as a model of consistency. Only once in the past 10 years has he not finished in the top-20 in the European Tour's Order of Merit list. And with his big win at Wentworth, he now sits atop the money list, ahead of the likes of Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson and Trevor Immelman. Enjoy that victory cigar Miguel!

FEEL THE PRESSURE: Leta Lindley birdied the first playoff hole Sunday to defeat Jeong Jang and win the Corning Classic. Lindley shot a 5-under 67 in the final round to grab her first career victory in 296 starts.
Backspin The story, however, may have been what happened to 54-hole leader Erica Blasberg, who had put herself into position to scoop up her first win, only to collapse in the final round with a 7-over 79 to finish in a tie for 37th. Blasberg, who was listed on GOLF CHANNELs show of Top 10 sexiest golfers, will now still have to fight off the style-over-substance arguments, fair or not. Maybe she can start asking Natalie Gulbis how to deal with ' and overcome ' such questions.

RULES ARE RULES?: Lorena Ochoa was fined $25,000 for not being in the field for this past week's Corning Classic in New York. The LPGA Tour has what they call the 1-in-4 rule, in which each player must compete in every event on the tour's schedule at least once every four years.
Backspin Ochoa, who last played in the Corning in 2004, was a victim of a good rule gone bad. Simply put, Ochoa became the victim because of her own incredible play and winning percentage. The world No. 1 not only has eight title defenses on her schedule this year, but the four majors and two events in Mexico as well. There are only so many places Ochoa can be throughout the year without her game suffering from burnout and fatigue.

STAGE FRIGHT: The European Tour announced last week that they will start random drug testing beginning in July. The R&A wont, however, have testing at this years British Open at Royal Birkdale.
Backspin In an era in which sports have been forced to go down this road, it is methodically starting to include the world of golf. Often trumpeted as a gentleman's game - a game where players call penalties on themselves - a not so gentlemanly pee cup will become part of the process. Almost all players have stated that they believe the sport is still squeaky clean; it is now becoming just a matter of time to see if their beliefs will be backed up by the drug testing. And one can just imagine the glare Tiger will give the guy who first hands him a cup.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Southern California won the NCAA womens golf championship, edging cross-town rival UCLA by six strokes, while Arizona States Azahara Munoz won the individual honors; Jeff Klauk birdied the 72nd hole in regulation to win the Nationwide Tour's Melwood Prince George's County Open in Maryland.
Backspin USC's victory snapped an incredible run by the Duke Lady Blue Devils, who had won three straight NCAA women's titles; Klauk, whose victory all but assures him of earning his PGA TOUR card for the 2009 season, summed up the thought succinctly, 'It's been a dream my whole life.'

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Crowne Plaza Inviational
  • Full Coverage - BMW PGA Championship
  • Full Coverage - Sr. PGA Championship
  • Full Coverage - Corning Classic
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    Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

    SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

    Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

    ''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

    Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

    ''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

    Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

    Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.

    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

    He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

    ''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

    Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

    ''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

    Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

    Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

    But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

    ''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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    LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

    LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

    Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

    Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

    Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

    ''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

    That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

    ''Too many,'' Park said.

    The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

    ''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

    The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

    Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.

    Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

    Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

    Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

    ''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

    Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

    She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

    ''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

    ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

    Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

    Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

    The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

    Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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    Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

    By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

    Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

    While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

    The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

    "I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

    With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

    "Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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    Three years later, PXG launches new iron

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

    Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

    “Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

    PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

    The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

    Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit