Tiger Tracker: Tiger, Phil Sunday at Pebble

By Jason SobelFebruary 12, 2012, 6:22 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson competed together for the 29th time in official PGA Tour competition Sunday in the penultimate pairing of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am final round.

In their previous 28 head-to-head meetings, Woods owns a 13-11-4 advantage, but Mickelson has bested his opponent to the tune of 4-3-1 on Sundays.

Mickelson shot 8-under 64 to Woods' 3-over 75 en route to his 40th PGA Tour victory.

Jason Sobel was inside the ropes providing hole-by-hole analysis (Full Tiger Woods coverage | Tiger Tracker, Day 1 | Tiger Tracker, Day 2).

No. 18 (par 5, 543 yards): Phil has previously admitted the tee shot at 18 intimidates him, but he finds the fairway without difficulty, as does Tiger. Tiger knocks his second on from 239 yards while Mickelson lays up and knocks his third to within birdie range. Phil sinks his putt for a 64 and Tiger three-putted the 18th for a 3-over 75. (Overall: Tiger 8 under; Phil 17 under. Leader: Mickelson - 17 under)

@JasonSobelGC: Phil Mickelson makes birdie at the last to clinch his 40th career victory. Only the tenth player in PGA Tour history to reach the milestone.

No. 17 (par 3, 178 yards): Another easy par for Mickelson and he'll only need to navigate the par-5 18th and victory will be his. Woods makes par, too, remains 10 behind his playing partner for the day. (Overall: Tiger 8 under; Phil 16 under. Leader: Mickelson - 16 under)

@JasonSobelGC: Fan: 'I love you, Phil!' He smiles and waves. Fan: 'I love you, Tiger!' No response. If their scores were reversed, same reaction from each.

No. 16 (par 4, 401 yards): Nice low-maintenance par for Mickelson, as he hit the fairway and green, then two-putted. Exactly what he needed to do. Woods made par, too, but missed a short birdie. Looks completely disinterested at this point. (Overall: Tiger 8 under; Phil 16 under. Leader: Mickelson - 16 under)

@JasonSobelGC: Phil leads Tiger by 10 strokes today. Maybe the next time they play, he'll offer up five a side. Wonder how that would go over.

No. 15 (par 4, 396 yards): Needing only to avoid mistakes coming in, Mickelson nearly makes one, but gets up and down from the greenside bunker, draining a 20-foot putt to remain bogey-free for the day. Woods airmails the green, then lips out yet another par putt. (Overall: Tiger 8 under; Phil 16 under. Leader: Mickelson - 16 under)

@JasonSobelGC: Not gonna say Tiger's checked out of this one, but I think he just called his pilot and asked him to gas up the jet.

No. 14 (par 5, 572 yards): Yes, it's a par-5, but this is one of the most dastardly par-5s of the PGA Tour season. It didn't look like it for Mickelson, though, as he spun a wedge to five feet and holed the birdie to extend his lead to three with four to play. This likely also spelled the end of any potential run for Woods, as he two-chipped from the left side of the green and made bogey. (Overall: Tiger 9 under; Phil 16 under. Leader: Mickelson - 16 under)

@JasonSobelGC: This thing could be all over but the engraving. Phil Mickelson leads by three with four to play. So much for that slow start to the season.

No. 13 (par 4, 399 yards): Woods played the course's final six holes in 5 under yesterday, but this stretch started with some Mickelson magic today. The lefty his his approach to within a foot for a kick-in birdie to extend his lead to two. Woods' drive landed in a divot, from which he could only find the front of the green. His long birdie putt nearly dropped, but stayed out, resulting in par. (Overall: Tiger 10 under; Phil 15 under. Leader: Mickelson - 15 under)

@JasonSobelGC: Let's remember: Tiger Woods played holes 13-18 in 5-under-par during yesterday's round. If he does it today, it could mean victory. Big ask.

No. 12 (par 3, 202 yards): Talk about drama, some great stuff on the 12th today. Mickelson's tee shot on the par-3 landed short of the bunker and he could only manage to chip within 25 feet. Woods, meanwhile, was in that greenside bunker, but holed it for just his second birdie of the day. Could have been big for momentum and a two-shot swing, but Phil poured in the par putt on top of him. The crowd is now buzzing more than it has all day. Electric atmosphere. (Overall: Tiger 10 under; Phil 14 under. Leader: Mickelson - 14 under)

@JasonSobelGC: And just like that... Tiger holes his bunker shot for birdie on 12. Would be an epic turnaround if he can make a serious run from here.

No. 11 (par 4, 380 yards): Another hole, another fairway, green and two-putt par for Mickelson, whose scorecard may suggest he's being conservative, but is still aiming at flagsticks. For Woods, it was finally a low-maintenance par, but could have been more. His birdie attempt slid just barely to the right and stayed out. Would have been a very important birdie for him at this point in the proceedings. (Overall: Tiger 9 under; Phil 14 under. Leader: Mickelson - 14 under)

@JasonSobelGC: Of the top 18 players on the current leaderboard, only three are over par for the day. The two guys in the final pairing and Tiger Woods.

No. 10 (par 4, 446 yards): Things have gone south for Tiger Woods in a hurry - and they didn't get any better on the first hole of the back nine. His drive found a fairway bunker on the left, his approach landed well short of the green and he could only chip to 12 feet. From there, he holed the par effort to avoid a fourth straight bogey. Meanwhile, Mickelson finally missed a green in regulation, but lipped out his chip for birdie. Easy par for Phil to remain atop the leaderboard. (Overall: Tiger 9 under; Phil 14 under. Leader: Mickelson - 14 under)

@JasonSobelGC: Kevin Streelman. Ricky Barnes. Aaron Baddeley. Just wanted to mention those names. You know, just in case.

No. 9 (par 4, 466 yards): Another hole, another routine two-putt par for Mickelson. Nothing wrong with that on this lengthy par-4. Meanwhile, Woods' struggles continued here. For a second consecutive hole, he punctuated his approach shot by dropping the club on his follow-through. This time it landed him in the greenside bunker and from there he couldn't get up and down, misreading a 6-foot putt on the low side for a third straight bogey. (Overall: Tiger 9 under; Phil 14 under. Leader: Mickelson - 14 under)

@JasonSobelGC: Dropping the club in his follow through. Missed short putts. Not looking good right now for Tony Romo's amateur partner.

No. 8 (par 4, 418 yards): The score certainly isn't awful, but Woods is being outplayed right now by amateur partner Tony Romo. On what Jack Nicklaus called the most daunting second shot in golf, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback stuffed one to six inches. Meanwhile, his partner missed the green to the right, dropping his club - and an expletive - in the process. From there, Tiger chipped on, but missed a 4-footer to save par - his second straight hole missing a short putt. Mickelson, on the other hand, continued to roll. He came up short of the green, then nearly chipped in, tapping in for an easy par. (Overall: Tiger 10 under; Phil 14 under. Leader: Mickelson - 14 under)

@JasonSobelGC: No joke. No hyperbole. No exaggeration. Tiger Woods is being outplayed by amateur partner Tony Romo right now. Seriously.

No. 7 (par 3, 106 yards): Mickelson playing his first hole as solo leader, knocked his tee shot on the famous par-3 to 15 feet and missed the birdie putt, then nearly missed the two-foot bunny for par. There was no 'nearly' in this instance for Woods, who followed birdie on the last hole with a bogey here, lipping out a two-foot putt to drop a shot for the first time today. (Overall: Tiger 11 under; Phil 14 under. Leader: Mickelson - 14 under)

@JasonSobelGC: Tiger Woods misses short par putt on 7. Not sure what's more surprising: That he missed or that his putter isn't swimming with sea lions? 

No. 6 (par 5, 513 yards): Mickelson Mania is overtaking Pebble Beach. He hit his second shot on the par-5 to within 15 feet of the hole, then drained the eagle attempt to move to 5 under for the day and take a two-shot lead. Feels like the crowd is now behind him, too, audibly celebrating this rally. Tough going for Woods, who played the hole well and two-putted for birdie, but still dropped a shot to his playing partner. (Overall: Tiger 12 under; Phil 14 under. Leader: Mickelson - 14 under)

@JasonSobelGC: Disappointed that Phil didn't reprise his famous 'Entourage' line when he saw Tiger and Romo: 'Is this whose ass we're going to kick today?'

No. 5 (par 3, 188 yards): Phil Mickelson is officially on fire. Just stiffed his tee shot on the par-3 to tap-in range for his third birdie in five holes to move to within one of the lead. Woods hit a nice shot into the green, too, but his 12-foot attempt from below the hole slid to the right and he remains even-par for the day, one behind Mickelson. (Overall: Tiger 11 under; Phil 12 under. Leader: Wi 13 under)

@JasonSobelGC: Top of the leaderboard reads: 'Wi Na.' Sounds like a Boston guy asking for a hotdog.

No. 4 (par 4, 331 yards): Tees moved up on the seaside par-4, but Mickelson then Woods both lay up into the fairway. From there, Woods finds the front edge of the green, but hits an indifferent putt that stays short of the hole. He really hasn't looked comfortable with the flatstick today. Mickelson hits his approach above the hole and counters by making his birdie effort. They are now tied on the leaderboard at 11 under, in a four-way split for third place. (Overall: Tiger 11 under; Phil 11 under. Leader: Wi 13 under)

@JasonSobelGC: Tiger and Phil find No. 4 fairway. From same tees, Tony Romo goes for it. He's like the Bubba Watson of amateurs -- without the pink driver.

No. 3 (par 4, 390 yards): Woods finds the fairway and green, but his 25-foot birdie putt just barely misses. Mickelson was in a bit of trouble of the tee, but recovered to make par, as well. Lots of red numbers on the leaderboard so far today; only one from this twosome in six combined chances. (Overall: Tiger 11 under; Phil 10 under. Leader: Wi 13 under)

@JasonSobelGC: Tony Romo's wife is walking inside the ropes today. Never let it be said again that he doesn't know how to handle the rock under pressure.

No. 2 (par 5, 502 yards): Interesting to see some casual conversation between Woods and Mickelson as they stroll off the second tee box. Before they reached their second shots, Charlie Wi made a mess of the opener, carding double bogey and helping to tighten things up. On the par-5 second, Woods drove into a fairway bunker, was forced to lay up, then hit a wedge shot to 3 feet, but missed his right-to-left birdie bid and took par instead. Mickelson, meanwhile, was able to reach in two, then lipped out his eagle attempt and and made birdie. (Overall: Tiger 11 under; Phil 10 under. Leader: Wi 13 under)

No. 1 (par 4, 381 yards): Maybe it's the addition of amateurs Tony Romo and Skip McGee in the group, maybe it's the subtraction of the surly Steve Williams, but there's a decidedly more casual vibe between Woods and Mickelson than there's been in previous meetings. Each makes routine pars on the opener to break the ice. (Overall: Tiger 11 under; Phil 9 under. Leader: Wi 15 under)

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

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Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

So much for that.

Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

What’s the difference now?

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

“I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

“I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”