Evidence says Mickelson a Hall of a guy

By Jason SobelMay 7, 2012, 9:10 pm

For many of us, insight into a celebrity occurs within the narrowest of windows during personal encounters. A smile and autograph can deliver a devotee for life; failure to offer greetings in a cramped elevator may lead to years of antagonism.

As a journalist, the role is often to bridge the gap between those who are universally known and those who universally want to know more. And so we try to provide a sliver of inference and observation that can be cataloged and ingested by the masses, leaving the consumer with a better understanding of the person than was previously available.

I’m certainly not complaining about the structure of the profession, but providing perspective about story subjects isn’t the simplest task.

To wit: Covering professional golf, I’ve written dozens of columns about Phil Mickelson. About courageous 6-irons threaded through thick tree branches and sliced drives that ping the roofs of corporate hospitality tents. About golf bags transporting five wedges or a belly putter or two drivers or no drivers. About playing golf while worrying about the health of his wife and mother; about deciding not to play golf for the very same reason.

I have spent countless hours watching him in the act of competition. I have asked him questions in press conferences and outside scoring trailers, in locker rooms and in parking lots of tournament venues.

And yet, as he is inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and I pause to reflect on Mickelson as a person, it strikes me that I don’t know him much better than the fan who’s received a smile and an autograph or one whose acknowledgement was rebuffed in a crowded elevator.

The truth is, I know him about as well as you know the guy in your office who sits three cubicles down. Seems like a nice fellow in the workplace, but without much interaction with him outside of that arena, you can only ascertain that it also extends into his non-business persona.

I do know that Phil has always signed autographs until his hand cramps, win or lose. I know that he smiles and high-fives and pounds knuckles with his legions of fans. I know that he rewards beaned spectators with signed golf gloves containing cash prizes and annually leads the PGA Tour in presenting used golf balls to small children.

I also know that amongst some circles within the game, he’s earned the boastful nickname FIGJAM, of which the final five letters stand for, “I’m Good, Just Ask Me.” I know that his thoughts and opinions are sometimes infiltrated by an agenda, whether the given topic is clubhead grooves or golf course design.

But of course, like any celebrity there is more to Mickelson than meets the public eye. And so when we judge him as a person, when we look at his body of work that represents more than what’s witnessed inside the ropes and tallied on the scorecard, we must attempt to see that which isn’t so visible.

There’s the story about Phil paying college tuition for the daughter of former NFL lineman Conrad Dobler, whose family was financially strapped – not because there was a preexisting relationship, but only, as Dobler once called it, “a random act of kindness.”

There’s the “Start Smart” initiative that he and wife Amy founded years ago, annually inviting some 1,500 underprivileged schoolchildren into a Wal-mart store, buying them clothing and school supplies that they otherwise couldn’t have afforded.

There’s the “Birdies for the Brave” program that Mickelson kick-started with a goal of supporting troops injured during combat by raising money with each under-par score posted in competition – a concept since joined by many of his PGA Tour brethren.

There are undoubtedly many other stories, too, more “random acts of kindness” that will never be reported publicly but have no less of an impact on others.

This isn’t to suggest that Phil Mickelson is a better person or more giving than any of his peers. It’s not a competition. It does, however, help us glean some insight into what one of the newest members of the Hall of Fame is really like off the course, opening that narrow window into his celebrity ever so slightly.

Just last month, Mickelson showed up to the first tee at Augusta National Golf Club more than six hours before his opening-round afternoon tee time. He was the only competitor present to watch golf legends Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player hit the ceremonial first tee shots, later justifying his actions by explaining, “They are the Big Three and they have brought the game to where it is.”

It is occasions such as these on which debates are waged in 19th holes and on Internet message boards around the world. Is Phil really this sentimental and considerate? Or is it all just part of an act, his public image the main priority behind his volunteerism?

As a golfer, I know him as a Hall of Fame talent. Off the course, I don’t know him any more than anyone else. What I do know is that nobody consistently interacts with fans and donates to charity and unexpectedly shows up to honor his heroes based on phony premises. Anybody can fake his way through a day or a week or a month, but nobody fakes his way through a lifetime of generosity and conscientiousness.

It’s the biggest reason why everything that I do know about Phil Mickelson leads me to believe he’s not just a Hall of Fame golfer, but also a Hall of Fame person.

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Runner-up McIlroy: 'I should have closed it out'

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 5:18 pm

After taking the 36-hole lead by three and taking a share of the 54-hole lead into the final round, Rory McIlroy failed to keep pace with Francesco Molinari on Sunday at the BMW PGA Championship.

Struggling with a two-way miss throughout the weekend, McIlroy fell four down to Molinari through 10 holes.

The Ulsterman attempted to mount a late charge, with birdies at 12 and 17, but when his eagle putt at the 72nd hole came up inches short, and when Molinari's ball opted not to spin back into the water, the comeback bid came to an end.

His final round of 2-under 70 left him in solo second, two shots behind the champion.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

"I’m just disappointed I didn’t play better over the weekend," McIlroy said. "I was in a great position after two days and struggled yesterday and sort struggled today again, as well. I just couldn’t get it going. I let Francesco get a few shots ahead of me, and I couldn’t claw that back.

“I played some good golf coming down the back nine, hit some better shots, but I need to work on a few things going forward."

McIlroy ended an 18-month worldwide winless drought earlier this year with his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but hasn't claimed victory on the European Tour in two years, since the Irish Open in May of 2016.

"I get a bit down on myself because my expectations are high, and with a 36-hole lead, I should have closed it out this week," McIlroy said. "But that’s not taking anything away from Francesco. He played a great weekend and bogey-free around here is some playing. He deserved the win, I need to do a little more work, and I’m looking to forward to getting right back at it at Memorial next week."

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Molinari holds off McIlroy to win BMW PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 3:20 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England - Francesco Molinari's path to the biggest win of his career at the BMW PGA Championship was drama-free until he sized up his approach to the 72nd hole.

Rory McIlroy, his closest rival three strokes back, had just hit to 20 feet to set up an eagle chance. Molinari was between clubs for his third shot and faced a delicate wedge over the water protecting Wentworth's pretty 18th green.

His ball landed short of the pin and span back toward the water. The spectators held their collective breath - so did Molinari - but it came to rest on the fringe, just short of trouble.

''Just a bit of luck at the right time,'' Molinari said, with a smile.

After McIlroy came up inches short with his eagle putt, Molinari rolled in for par from 6 feet for a 4-under 68 that secured a two-stroke victory at Wentworth on Sunday. It was the fifth win of his career, and his most satisfying.

''If I could pick one tournament to win in my career, it would be this one,'' the Italian said at the prizegiving ceremony.

A Sunday shootout between Molinari and McIlroy at the European Tour's flagship event never really materialized.

They entered the final round tied for the lead on 13 under but while McIlroy sprayed his drives left and right, Molinari was the model of consistency and established a three-shot cushion by the turn after birdies at Nos. 3, 4 and 8.

From there on, it was a clinic in front-running from Molinari, who laid up when he needed to and picked up his only shot on the back nine with a tap-in birdie at the par-5 12th.

McIlroy birdied the par 5s at Nos. 17 and 18 but mounted his victory charge too late.

''I didn't feel intimidated at all,'' Molinari said of his head-to-head with the former world No. 1. ''It's just the last couple of holes, he's basically thinking eagle, eagle. I'm thinking par, par, and that makes the whole difference.

''Sometimes I just get too drawn on what the other guy is doing, and I was really good today, hitting good shots and focusing on my process and not worrying about anything else.''

Molinari played his final 44 holes bogey-free. He only dropped two shots all week, one of them coming on his first hole.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

He will likely climb into the world's top 20 on Monday and has moved into the automatic qualifying places for the European team for the Ryder Cup, which he hasn't played since 2012 when Europe beat the United States in the so-called ''Miracle at Medinah.''

''I'm playing well enough that I shouldn't really worry too much about that,'' Molinari said. ''I should just keep doing my own thing and hopefully things will take care of themselves.''

Molinari previously had five top-10 finishes in the last six years at Wentworth, including being runner-up to Alex Noren last year.

On that occasion, Noren closed with a 10-under 62 and the Swede embarked on another last-day charge 12 months later, a fifth birdie of the day at No. 12 briefly drawing him to within two shots of Molinari.

It was the closest he came, with a bogey at the next virtually ending his bid for victory.

With a 67, Noren was tied for third with Lucas Bjerregaard (65), a stroke back from McIlroy.

McIlroy, the 2014 winner at Wentworth, played what he described as one of his best rounds of 2018 on Friday, a bogey-free 65 that left him with a three-shot lead.

He struggled off the tee in shooting 71 on Saturday and started the final round with errant drives on Nos. 1 and 3 (both right, into spectators) and No. 4 (left). After a bogey at No. 10, he was the only player in the top 10 over par but he birdied the three par 5s coming home to salvage what was otherwise a disappointing Sunday.

''With a 36-hole lead,'' McIlroy said, ''I should have closed it out this week.''

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”