What We Learned: Waste Management Phoenix Open

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 4, 2013, 12:08 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. This week, our writers weigh in on Phil Mickelson's wire-to-wire win in Phoenix and Vijay Singh's use of deer-antler spray.

I’ve been coming to the Waste Management Phoenix Open for the past six years and I always spend a decent amount of time at the famous 16th hole. I love the scene. From fans serenading players on the tee box to players handing out swag to the caddie races, it’s a fun atmosphere for one hole during one week each year. But it’s teetering on the brink. There’s a fine line between boisterous and unruly, and the festivities at 16 crossed that line at times. When the final group played the hole on Saturday, Keegan Bradley was nearly pelted by a flying banana and Phil Mickelson – yes, the same Phil Mickelson who is the crowd favorite and had just nearly made a hole-in-one – had a cup of ice hurled at him. There are rumors that Tiger Woods stopped coming to this event years ago after a similar incident and if these types of things continue, you can bet the list of elite players coming back will start dwindling. The problem is, there’s no way to police it without scaling back the full environment. The hole has become such a party that a few fans can spoil it for everyone – and it will be spoiled even further if actions such as these prevent some of the top players from returning to this tournament year after year. – Jason Sobel

Tiger may still be a TV exec’s best friend, and Rory may be tomorrow’s transcendent star, but there remains no better showman in golf than Phoenix Open winner Phil Mickelson. In a mere 96 hours in the Arizona desert, Lefty nearly shot 59, kissed his new driver, double-bogeyed the last hole to miss smashing a Tour record and came within 16 inches of making a hole-in-one on the most raucous hole on the Tour schedule, on a day that drew the biggest crowd in golf history. Along the way, he flashed more goofy grins and gave more thumbs-up than a slick-haired politician. Phil may be maddeningly inconsistent, but there is no debating that our sport is better when he excels. – Ryan Lavner

That something as comically clichéd as deer-antler spray would usher into golf the era of doping. With apologies to Doug Barron, the only player to ever be suspended for violating the PGA Tour’s anti-doping policy for taking testosterone and beta blockers that were prescribed by his doctors, it’s hard to imagine the forty-something was seeking a competitive advantage. Although it’s still dangerously early in the process for Vijay Singh, his use of the Ultimate Spray seems every bit an attempt at performance enhancement. – Rex Hoggard

Phil Mickelson isn't ready to get out of Rory McIlroy's way as the most compelling foil to Tiger Woods.

A week after Woods wins at Torrey Pines, Mickelson answers with a victory at TPC Scottsdale. It's an exciting development with the Masters just nine weeks away. Woods and Mickelson know how to win at Augusta National better than anyone playing today and this bodes well for folks who want to see a showdown there in April. If Woods is ready to win his 15th major, Mickelson looks ready to deny him. Can we speed up the clock? – Randall Mell

While a lot of talk this week has focused on Phil Mickelson’s impeccable driving with a new Callaway club in the bag, I was more impressed with Lefty’s mastery of the shortest holes at TPC Scottsdale.

Starting his week with birdies on each of the four par-3 holes Thursday en route to a sizzling round of 60, Mickelson ended up playing the par-3s this week in 9 under. When Brandt Snedeker began to put some heat on him early in Sunday’s final round, Lefty used a pair of well-timed birdies on each of the front-nine par-3s to pad his advantage and keep the rest of the field at arm’s length. His ability to make the occasional 60-footer through the fringe as he did today at No. 7 was remarkable, but my takeaway will be that most of his par-3 birdies came from iron shots that barely left the flag, as his proximity to hole stats were unrivaled all week. With the calendar turning to February and The Masters appearing ever-closer on the horizon, this week made me quickly remember that when Mickelson’s game is in a groove tee-to-green, few can keep pace –  let alone beat him. – Will Gray

Getty Images

Thomas donating to hurricane relief at East Lake

By Jason CrookSeptember 19, 2018, 9:20 pm

Much like in years past, Justin Thomas is using his golf game to help with relief of a natural disaster.

The world No. 4 announced on Twitter Wednesday that he’d be donating $1,000 per birdie and $5,000 per eagle at the Tour Championship to a charity benefiting the victims of Hurricane Florence, which ravaged the Carolinas last week.

At a fan's suggestion, Thomas, who has averaged 4.35 birdies per round this season, also pledged to donate $10,000 for a hole-in-one.

Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday just south of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and has left much of the area flooded and without power. At least 37 people have died in storm-related incidents.

Getty Images

Rose realizes his No. 1 ranking is precarious

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

ATLANTA – Asked how he would like to be identified when he was finished playing golf, Justin Rose didn’t hesitate – “major champion, Olympic gold medalist, world No. 1.”

He’s had only a week to enjoy the last accomplishment, but the Englishman is aware of what it means to his career to have finally moved into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It's a moment in your career that you always remember and cherish,” said Rose, who overtook Dustin Johnson with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said he took some time last weekend with family and friends to relish the accomplishment and will play his first event this week at the Tour Championship as the world’s best, but he also understands how tenuous his position atop the ranking is at the moment.

“I accept it's really tight up top. It could easily switch this week,” he said. “I just feel that if I go to [No.] 2 or 3 this week, if Dustin and Brooks [Koepka] both play well, I have an opportunity the week after and British Masters, and going to China and Turkey, there's going to be opportunities to get back there.”

Johnson, Koepka and Justin Thomas could unseat Rose atop the ranking this week depending on their finishes at the Tour Championship.

Getty Images

Likely ROY Wise not looking past 'special' East Lake

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:05 pm

ATLANTA – Much like the PGA Tour Player of Year Award, voting for the Rookie of the Year Award is very much a rubber stamp this season.

Brooks Koepka is a lock to win the Jack Nicklaus Trophy after winning two majors - the U.S. Open and PGA Championship - despite missing a portion of the season with an injury. Similarly, Aaron Wise, who won the AT&T Byron Nelson, is the only rookie this year to advance to the Tour Championship, which is normally the threshold players use for voting for Rookie of the Year.

“I knew with the rookie class that we had it was going to be tough, and the players still have to vote but it’s definitely something that was important to me,” he said on Wednesday at East Lake. “My focus is just finishing strong this week and giving them a reason to vote for me.”

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

For Wise, who had four top-10 finishes this season and begins the week 21st on the FedExCup point list, the chance to win the award is gratifying, but being among the best 30 players on Tour, and securing his spot in all four major championships next season, is an accomplishment worth savoring.

“To win Rookie of the Year you have to have a solid season, but to make it to East Lake, so many guys don’t get this far. You really have to have a special season and this is really special,” Wise said.

Getty Images

Stanford returns home to share Evian celebration

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2018, 5:33 pm

Angela Stanford’s eyes welled with tears when her flight touched down at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in her return from winning the Evian Championship.

When she lands from the south, as she did Monday, she always looks for the towering grain elevators in her Saginaw hometown. She also always looks for downtown Fort Worth’s skyline.

She got teary with the replica of the Evian Championship trophy in her carry-on in the luggage bin above her seat, knowing she wasn’t bringing it home just for her.

But for her mother, Nan, who’s battling a second bout with breast cancer.

For her father, Steve, who got her started in the game.

For other family and friends.

For Shady Oaks, the club Ben Hogan made famous, where she is a member.

And for TCU, her alma mater.

She realized how empty she felt in so many returns from major championships.

She’s 40 now.

She won in her 76th try in a major.

For so long, Stanford believed she had what it took to win a major, but that only made the string of disappointments harder.

“So I remembered what it felt like coming home from so many disappointments, but not this time,” Stanford said. “This time I got to bring something home for everyone to see.”

When Stanford got off the plane, her parents were among a group of family and friends waiting to greet her. So was her TCU coach, Angie Larkin, who brought along the Horned Frogs mascot, Superfrog.

Tour pros Kristy McPherson, Dori Carter, Kendall Dye and Emory University coach and former tour pro Katie Futcher were all in Fort Worth helping Stanford celebrate.

“It was pretty cool,” Stanford said. “Of course, I asked them all if they wanted to see the trophy.”

She pulled it out of her carry-on and never put it back.

“It’s a heavy trophy, but I told them I’m carrying this everywhere,” Stanford said.

There was a celebration dinner with family and friends Monday night, and another celebration with friends on Tuesday.

“I think it’s just the start of many celebrations with more friends to see,” Stanford said.

Stanford went to work with a new swing coach about a year ago, Todd Kolb, from Sioux Falls, S.D. In her flight home, she thought about how grateful she was for all the help poured into her game, not just the good work Kolb is doing, but the foundation important figures in her life helped to lay. She thought about the lessons and wisdom Amy Fox, Mike Wright and Joe Hallett passed along.

“I’m still using things I learned from my first instructor,” Stanford said. “Amy Fox is a huge reason I’m playing on tour. Mike Wright is a huge reason why I’ve won on tour. Joe Hallett helped me navigate through a tough time in my career.

“They were all important to my winning Sunday. They all gave me building blocks, and they’ve all helped lay the foundation to what I’m learning now from Todd.”

Stanford said being able to share her gratefulness made her return home special.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. “It’s been everything you could imagine it would be.”