Wasted West Coast

By Mercer BaggsMarch 1, 2010, 12:24 am

Phil Mickelson

PHIL-LING EMPTY: Phil Mickelson bogeyed three of his first six holes Saturday to fall out of contention at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. A Sunday 67 netted him a tie for 24th. Mickelson finished the first two months of the year with just one top-10 in four starts, during a period of time in which he usually has great success. In his 18 years on the PGA Tour, Mickelson has reached the Southern Swing winless only four times.

BackspinIt's going to take a lot for Mickleson to NOT be the favorite at Augusta, but he's doing his best to make that happen. Of course, as soon as we start casting doubts and focusing on other players, Mickelson will start winning again. Trying to figure out this man is harder than trying to comprehend why some people think Jay Leno is funny.

Hunter Mahan
HUNTER AND THE PREY:  Hunter Mahan had four birdies, an eagle and no bogeys for a final-round 65 and a one-stroke victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He began Sunday four shots off the lead, but rallied for his second career PGA Tour victory and first in nearly three years. Mahan edged Tour rookie Rickie Fowler, who missed a 20-footer to force a playoff on the final hole of regulation.

BackspinMahan is one of only a handful of players leaving Phoenix happy. Aside from the aforementioned Mickelson, there was: Camilo Villegas, who opened in 62 and finished T-8; Y.E. Yang, who was 6 under on the back nine Sunday and leading the tournament before yanking one into the water on 17; Anthony Kim, who was one off the 36-hole lead, but shot 76 in Round 3 and tied for 24th; and Brandt Snedeker, the 54-hole co-leader who finished bogey-double bogey-double bogey for a 7-over 78 and a tie for 43rd.

Ai Miyazato

Ai Miyazato won the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore to become the first player since Marilynn Smith in 1966 to win the first two tournaments of the LPGA season. Miyazato, who also won in Thailand, closed in 3-under 69 for a two-stroke triumph over Cristie Kerr.
It was Miyazato's third career LPGA win, all three of which have come outside of the U.S. [she won the Evian Masters in France last year]. On the PGA Tour this might be a problem, but on the LPGA – aside from the majors – this isn't much of a concern. The ladies have 26 official tournaments in 2010; 12 of them are contested outside of the States. Miyazato will have plenty of time to celebrate her early success, as the LPGA doesn't return to action until March 25 – in California.
Rosie Jones

FEELING ALL ROSIE: Rosie Jones was named the 2011 U.S. Solheim Cup captain. The 50-year-old, 13-time LPGA winner was a member of seven Solheim Cup teams. She was 11-9-2 with a 3-3-1 singles record. The 2011 matches will be contested Sept. 23-25 at Killeen Castle in County Meath, Ireland.

BackspinSo who's up for consideration the next time the matches are staged in the U.S., in 2013? Just Dottie Pepper, Juli Inkster and Meg Mallon. Pepper thinks she has no shot due to her infamous 'choking freaking dogs' comment regarding the U.S. team in 2007. She's could be right, but if so that's a shame. Pepper is more well-known for her Solheim spirit than any of her major wins. She deserves to lead a team.

Tiger Woods

NO ADE TO OFFER: Gatorade announced Friday that they were ending their endorsement deal with Tiger Woods. Nike, on the other hand, said they were sticking by Woods, while Procter & Gamble, parent company of Gillette, said they will continue to keep him out of their commericials for the time being

BackspinThat's now three major sponsors who have dropped Woods in the wake of his scandal [Accenture, AT&T]. Apparently, the people at Gatorade weren't overly impressed by his mea culpa the week prior. Guess they didn't have room in their hearts to one day believe in him again.    
John Daly

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: John Daly is set to endorse Slix Closer boxer briefs. ... Laura Davies won the New Zealand Women's Open for her 73rd career worldwide win. ... Fran Quinn won the Nationwide Tour's Panama Claro Championship ... Former PGA Tour caddie Greg Rita died Saturday night on his 54th birthday.
Things I hope to never see: a horse's head in my bed; the IRS at my door; John Daly in his underwear. ... Somebody put this lady in the World Golf Hall of Fame, please. ... Quinn earned his PGA Tour card last year by finishing 25th on the Nationwide Tour's money list. He couldn't get into the field at Phoenix, so he dropped down a level and picked up an extra $108,000. ... Rita, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2007, caddied for Curtis Strange during his back-to-back U.S. Open titles and for Daly during his 1995 Open Championship win. He is survived by his wife, Kelley, and their 4-year-old son, Nicolas.

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Six players named in the race for Tour Player of the Year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 11:26 am

The PGA Tour announced six nominees for the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award on Tuesday; although, to many, it won’t be a competition.

Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Justin Thomas have been nominated for the Jack Nicklaus Award.

DeChambeau won three times this season, including the first two playoff events; Johnson was also a three-time winner and had 12 top-10 finishes; Molinari had two victories, including The Open; Rose won the FedExCup, and Thomas had three victories. But if player reaction last week at the Tour Championship was any indication, they are all vying for second place behind Koepka.

Although Koepka only had two victories they were both majors, the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, after missing a good portion of the season with an injury.

The Tour also released the five nominees for the Rookie of the Year Award, although that race appears to be a foregone conclusion as well. Aaron Wise was the only member of the rookie class to advance to the Tour Championship and also won the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Voting for both awards ends on Oct. 1.

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Promise kept as Poulter - and his fire - return to Ryder Cup

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 11:14 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – In December 2016, in one of his lowest moments as a pro, Ian Poulter sat on stage at a PGA of America dinner and fielded questions from the audience.

One of the queries was this: What’s left for you in golf?

“I feel I’ve got more wins in me,” he replied that day. “And I’m going to make the team in Paris.”

That much appeared in doubt. 

Earlier that year, Poulter underwent foot surgery and missed the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. Relegated to a vice-captain role, he could only watch as the Europeans got dismantled and saw their three-match winning streak come to an end.

Poulter’s own game suffered, too. Before the injury he’d already slipped outside the top 75 in the world – his lowest position since 2003 – and his freefall continued into early 2017, when he plummeted all the way to No. 207.

Then came a surprise runner-up finish at The Players that helped him secure his PGA Tour card for the next season, and then, at age 42, he enjoyed one of his best years. In April he won the Houston Open for his third PGA Tour title (and first since 2012) and then posted solid finishes at The Players, U.S. Open, Canadian Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Though he lacked the necessary points to qualify for the European team automatically, he was as much a lock for a captain’s pick as a healthy Tiger Woods on the U.S. side.

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“There’s a little voice in the back of your head that says: ‘You might not get back to as good as you once were,’” he said. “But that’s been a goal for the last 20 months. It’s been something that has kept me going from a motivational standpoint.

“It was difficult being a vice captain last time, knowing how much I’ve helped the team in the past, and I wanted to help the team in any way I could. But I felt like this time around, I really wanted to make the team. I’m pretty proud.”

Poulter and Sergio Garcia are the heartbeats of the European side, veterans have who seen everything in the Ryder Cup, who have plenty of pull in the team room, who know how to handle the most stressful situations.

With a 12-4-2 record, no European Ryder Cupper has a better win-loss mark than Poulter. At Medinah, he seemed to single-handedly bring the visitors back from the dead, teaming with Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy to win three matches, then capturing a point in singles, as well, as the Europeans matched the largest final-day comeback in tournament history.

“He’s a legend,” said European teammate Tyrrell Hatton.

Poll any U.S. team member, and Poulter is still the guy they most likely want to beat – not necessarily because he’s the best player on the European side, but because his success seems to fuel his teammates.

“I take it as a huge compliment,” Poulter said. “It’s a daunting position to be in to know that everyone really wants to take you down, but quite frankly, I want to take them down just as much.”

Poulter was the first European player out on the range on Monday – he didn’t qualify for the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship – and captain Thomas Bjorn joked that Poulter “wanted to go midweek last week, if he could.”

“He looks forward to this,” Bjorn said. “We all know Ian’s history and feelings about the Ryder Cup. He wanted to get out there. He’s that type of guy. He’s certainly ready to go.”

Some brave reporter asked Poulter whether he’s preparing for this to be his final home Ryder Cup, whether he’s trying to “drink it all in.”

It was a reasonable question – he will be 46 during the 2022 matches in Italy – but Poulter stared a hole through him.

“It won’t be,” he said flatly.

Then he softened.

“I’d like to think I’ve got more in me, I’ll say that,” he said. “I think how I’ve played this year is hopefully the start of me kicking forward again to play in some more. The reason I answered it that way is I don’t want to think this is my last hurrah.”

But if it is, well, you can guarantee that Europe’s fieriest player will try and go out in a blaze of glory.

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Molinari reflects on beating Woods at Ryder Cup, Open

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 9:11 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Francesco Molinari might be a useful resource for the European Ryder Cup team.

He’s already beaten Tiger Woods, head to head, at a Ryder Cup and a major.

Molinari was in the anchor match at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Woods conceded on the final hole to give the Europeans an outright victory in the incredible comeback at Medinah. He said the last hole was a “blur,” and it remains the last Ryder Cup that both Molinari and Woods played.

“I’ve improved a lot as a player since 2012,” said Molinari, who lost his previous singles match against Woods in 2010, 4 and 3, “and I hope to show that on the course this week.”

The proof is the claret jug that he now keeps at home.

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To win his first major he needed to not only endure the circus that a Woods group brings, but he needed to outlast the 14-time major champion and a host of other worthy contenders to prevail at Carnoustie.

Reflecting on that momentous day Tuesday, Molinari said he initially was dreading the final-round date with Woods.

“If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t exactly hoping to be paired with Tiger, not because I don’t like to play with him, but because, obviously, the hype and with him being in contention in a major, it’s going to be noisy and it’s going to be a lot of people," he said. 

“So the most challenging part was probably that moment when the draw came out, but then I quickly managed to think, You know, whatever. I don’t really care. I’m here to do a job, and they can’t really influence how I do my job.”  

To thrive in that situation gave Molinari a lot of confidence – especially heading into a pressure-cooker like the Ryder Cup.

Asked whether it’s more pressure trying to win a major or a Ryder Cup – since he’s now done both – Molinari said: “You won’t believe me, but it’s nowhere near. Carnoustie was nowhere near Medinah or in any matching ways. It’s hard to believe, but it’s probably because you play for a team; you play for a continent in our case, and you know about the tradition and what players have done in the past.”

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Woods 25/1 to break Nicklaus' record by age 50

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 9:05 am

With his victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods crept closer to Sam Snead's all-time PGA Tour wins mark. But he also got fans thinking about whether golf's most famous record is once again in play.

Woods has been stuck on 14 career major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open, although he had a pair of close calls this summer. But now that he's again a winner on Tour, oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook created bets on where Woods' career major haul will end up.

The line they drew in the sand? Dec. 30, 2025 - when Woods, now 42, will turn 50 years old.

According to the Westgate, Woods is a -150 favorite to win at least one more major by that time. He's 2/1 to win at least two more, 5/1 to win at least three more and 12/1 to win at least four more. But it'll take five more majors to break Nicklaus' record haul of 18, and the odds on Woods doing that by age 50 are set at 25/1.

There are also odds on Woods' 2019 major prospects, as he's already the betting favorite for the Masters at 9/1. Woods' odds of winning any major next year are listed at +225, while the pessimists can wager -275 that his major victory drought will extend to at least 2020.

There's even a bet for those expecting some serious history: the odds of Woods sweeping all four majors next year at age 43 are 200/1.