Punch Shot: Better year - Mickelson or McIlroy?

Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy make their 2014 debuts at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the European Tour. Mickelson, who turns 44 this year, won three times around the world, including the British Open. McIlroy, who turns 25, was winless on the two major tours in '13, but claimed the Australian Open in December. So, which one will have a better campaign this year? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in.


With a monsoon of respect for Phil Mickelson, who may be bound for a historic and emotional U.S. Open victory this year to complete the career Grand Slam, 2014 will be Rory McIlroy’s rebound year.

It was roughly 12 months ago when the Ulsterman made his theatric debut as a Nike Golf staffer, complete with a laser light show, in Abu Dhabi and he fell off the rails almost immediately – missing the cut in his first start, getting bounced in Round 1 at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and succumbing to a tooth ache at the Honda Classic.

Along the way he posted just five top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, but as the year slowly progressed his life, both on and off the golf course, began to realign.

As fall turned to winter, numerous legal issues with former sponsors and managers started to be resolved, he was engaged to longtime girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki and he closed the season with top-10 showings in Korea, China (WGC-HSBC Champions), Dubai and at the Australian Open, where he outdueled hometown favorite Adam Scott for his first - and only - victory of 2013.

Without the pressure of a multi-million dollar endorsement contract hanging over him, McIlroy is poised to reassert himself; while the pressure facing Mickelson may turn out to be the most intense of his career.


Barring another legal snafu, this is shaping up to be a monster bounce-back season for Rory McIlroy, an opinion emboldened by his late-season play that saw him get off the schneid in Australia. After a year of turmoil and transition – the new clubs, the spotlight as world No. 1, the battles in the courts – McIlroy should be decidedly more at peace as he begins his 2014 campaign this week in Abu Dhabi.

Finally, the questions lobbed at McIlroy should have little to do with his new equipment, or whether he’s distracted by the relationship rumors, or who is making his off-the-course decisions. No, it is simply this: whether the 24-year-old can return to the form that saw him nab majors in consecutive years, and in record-setting fashion.

The boy wonder has dropped all the way to seventh in the world, the lowest he has been ranked since June 2011. With finishes of 11th or better in five of his last six starts, however, it’s looking increasingly likely that he won’t be ranked that low for long. 


While I expect both players to have successful campaigns in 2014, I’m giving the edge to the elder statesman – Phil Mickelson.

You have to go all the way back to 2003 to find a PGA Tour season in which Lefty didn’t record at least one victory. That’s a remarkable stretch of consistency, one that Rory McIlroy failed to emulate last season. While Mickelson will likely judge his season as a success or failure based on his outcome at Pinehurst No. 2, a year that ends without the elusive U.S. Open trophy will still likely include at least one win and a handful of title contentions, even on an abbreviated playing schedule.

McIlroy no longer has the pressure of the world’s top ranking around his shoulders, and he’s had a year to grow more familiar with his new equipment. Both factors should help him return to form in 2014. But it feels like more than 18 months have passed since the Ulsterman was dominating the PGA Championship and FedEx Cup Playoffs, and his upcoming year will not be without distraction, whether fielding questions about his recent engagement, getting his fledgling agency off the ground or fighting courtroom battles with his former representatives.

Both will certainly show signs of brilliance across the next nine months, but Mickelson’s body of work will prove more impressive by year’s end.


Rory McIlroy didn’t hit a lot of greens and didn’t putt well most of last year. He was 86th on the PGA Tour hitting greens in regulation. He was 122nd in strokes gained-putting.

Of course, when you’re playing in a fog, it’s not unexpected you might get lost along your way. That’s really what last year was like for McIlroy, with a battle going on over his management and with lawsuits following. You factor in the ratcheted expectations after signing a huge new deal with Nike, and there was a lot of haze and mist to play through last year.

With a year’s transition behind him and with a victory late last year in Australia, McIlroy is too talented not to find his way out of the fog. While Phil Mickelson, 43, is perfectly capable of delivering something big again this year, McIlroy, 24, has already shown he has the tools to dominate, to deliver a Player of the Year performance. Mickelson has never been POY.


Rory McIlroy will have a better season than Phil Mickelson.

If for no other reason, this will happen because Mickelson has already announced he will dial back his appearances by about 25 percent, while the younger McIlroy should be primed to compete as much as ever on two different tours. Wisdom tooth permitting, of course.

There are other reasons, too.

Simply put, Rory is too talented to duplicate a 2013 that saw him win just one late-season event and finish top-10 “only” nine times in 25 starts. How quickly we forget that this is a player who in the two previous years not only won majors, but won them each by eight strokes. Now that he’s got his equipment, management team and love life in order, the fewer distractions should lead to greater successes.

Meanwhile, Phil is at a point in his career where he’s going to place all of his eggs in four baskets. It’s no secret that he’d give up however many more regular-season PGA Tour wins for another major – especially if that major is the U.S. Open. More than ever before, expect these other events to serve as warmups for the bigger ones, which means we should expect less from him when playing ‘em.

They are two of the game’s most proficient players, but their careers have reached an intersection. Expect McIlroy to start playing even better, while the slight beginning of a decline happens for Mickelson this year.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”