Latest U.S. Open near-miss motivates Mickelson

By Jason SobelJuly 3, 2013, 6:57 pm

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – It’s been two and a half weeks since Phil Mickelson’s latest and – by his own admission – greatest chance of winning the U.S. Open, another opportunity that turned into a soul-crushing defeat on a sullen Sunday. He’s had two and a half weeks to ponder the events that transpired at Merion Golf Club that fateful afternoon. Two and a half weeks to mourn. Two and a half weeks to lament.

When he is asked about the dark days that came after a sixth career runner-up Open finish, a number which extended his own personal record, he smiles. Not a forced smile or a polite smile, but a genuine smile at the recollection of the time that followed.

“We had such a great time,” he says. “Oh, my goodness.”

Believe it or not, Mickelson didn’t spend the last two and a half weeks curled up in the fetal position, getting up only to kick himself at the memory of unforced errors. He returned to San Diego for two days at home, then took a family vacation to the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Mont.

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“It’s the greatest place on earth,” he maintains unabashedly. “We did fly fishing, the kids did trap shooting, archery – like, real archery, shooting these awesome arrows – whitewater rafting, ziplining. My oldest daughter is big into paleontology, loves dinosaurs and history. The most world-renowned paleontologist is there. His name is Jack Horner. We ended up having a chance to spend time with him for an hour on Amanda’s birthday and it was the first time I’ve seen her star-struck. It was so cool.”

There is no correct way to overcome a loss like the one Mickelson suffered at this year’s U.S. Open. No singular method of rebounding from yet another torturous blow.

Three times during the final round his name was atop the leaderboard. All three times he quickly retreated from that position. When the dust settled and the horizon cleared, he had finished two strokes behind winner Justin Rose, another white-knuckler in a career filled with them.

With time to ruminate on his personal list of “The One That Got Away,” he ranks it No. 1, behind even the 2006 edition of the tournament, when he let a lead slip away on the final hole at Winged Foot.

“I was playing so well and the golf course is suited for me and everything just set up perfectly,” he says. “Winged Foot, there’s no way I was going to hit that last fairway. I hadn’t hit a fairway all day. That would have been pretty cool to win that one having driven it as badly as I did. It would have been unheard of. But Merion I was playing really well. Still am.”

Therein lies perhaps the greatest takeaway from Mickelson’s defeat: It’s actually motivated him to continue playing better golf.

“I’m disappointed,” he acknowledges. “It took me a few days to just not do much, but the fact is, in the last few months I’ve had some breakthroughs in my game. I’m playing better than I have in years. My putting hasn’t been this good in four or five years. My driving is off the charts. I mean, I’m hitting fairways at the U.S. Open and I’m moving it out there a decent amount. So I’m excited to keep playing, because I keep putting myself in good positions and I’m playing better than I have in a long time. In years.”

Just because he’s looking ahead to the future doesn’t mean Mickelson has been able to completely block out the past.

When he looks back at that final round, he points to wedge shots on 13 and 15 as his ultimate undoing. Each led to an untimely bogey and undeterred irony – one of the game’s all-time great wedge players failing to win the tournament he’s wanted for so long because of faulty wedge play.

“I misclubbed on 13,” he admits. “I never should have hit a pitching wedge; I should have hit a gap and take the back out of play. Because if I overcook to the pin, it goes long, so that was a misclub. … We had a lot of wind. We had wind swinging in and left to right. It picked up when we got there. I thought, ‘Gosh, if I hit a gap wedge into this wind, I wonder if it will carry.’ It just kind of came up at a bad time. That’s when the rain came. I started putting on 12 and the wind and the rain picked up. We got to the 13th tee box and I ended up taking one more club.

“And then I quit on 15. I had a perfect gap wedge. If I hit it hard and fly it, get it past the hole, it should come back down that hill. I quit on it and put it in such a bad spot.”

With that, Mickelson pauses and shrugs. “Oh, well,” he sighs. It’s not a measure of carelessness or insensitivity. Just the concession of a player who has felt this heartache before and grown accustomed to it again over the past two and a half weeks.

“It happens,” he says. “Golf is a game that you end up losing so much more than you win. You have to deal with losing a lot more. Even the highest-percentage winners of all time lose more than they win. It’s like batting in baseball. The best hitters still fail a majority of the time. It happens. But it’s time to move on, you know?

“I had a good chance to win and I’m certainly bummed that I didn’t, but I can’t wait to get back out and play. It’s exciting for me, because I’m just starting to play at the level I always knew I could.”

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Koepka primed for CJ Cup win and world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 6:00 am

Brooks Koepka wants a 2-for-1 at the CJ Cup. If he can collect his second non-major PGA Tour victory he can become world No. 1 for the first time in his career.

He’s in great position to accomplish his goal.

Koepka eagled the par-5 18th en route to a 7-under 65 in the second round at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea. At 8 under par, he is one back of 36-hole leader Scott Piercy (65).

Koepka, currently ranked third in the world, began the day three shots off the lead, but rapidly ascended the leaderboard. He birdied four of his first eight holes before finding trouble at the ninth. Koepka hooked his tee shot out of bounds, but the ninth is a par 5 and he was able to salvage bogey.

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That was his only dropped shot of the day.

The reigning Tour Player of the Year birdied the 12th and 14th holes in his bid to keep pace with Piercy. Koepka was two back as he played his final hole, where he knocked his second shot to 10 feet. He deftly converted the eagle effort to tie Piercy and earn a spot in Saturday’s final twosome. Piercy later pulled a shot ahead with a birdie at the ninth, his final hole of the day.

Koepka has officially won four PGA Tour events, but three of those are majors (2017, ’18 U.S. Open; 2018 PGA). His lone non-major win was the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

He can still reach world No. 1 with a solo second place, assuming Justin Thomas, currently world No. 4, doesn’t win this week.

That will take a mighty weekend effort by the defending champ.

Thomas also eagled the 18th hole to go from 1 over to 1 under. He shot 2-under 70 in the second round and is seven shots off the lead.

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'Go in'? Yes, JT wants an ace at the par-4 14th

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 5:11 am

Justin Thomas didn’t hesitate after hitting his tee shot on the 353-yard, par-4 14th in Round 2 of the CJ Cup.

“Go in,” he immediately said.

“Please go in,” he added.

Thomas’ tee shot was on a great line, but it landed just short of the green. Surprisingly, it took three more shots for his ball to "go in." After birdies on Nos. 12 and 13, Thomas parred the 14th.

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Watch: Dufner makes six (!) fist pumps after birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 4:53 am

Jason Dufner makes Ben Stein seem like Jonathan Winters. Dufner often looks mighty miserable for someone who plays golf for a living.

But not on Friday at the CJ Cup!

Dufner made a 20-footer for birdie at the 16th hole and “celebrated” with one-two-three-(pause)-four-five-six fist pumps. There could have been more, but the camera cut away.

That was Dufner’s third birdie on the back nine, which offset a triple bogey at the par-3 seventh, en route to an even-par 72. Good times.

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Watch: Paul C-ace-y makes hole-in-one at CJ Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 2:35 am

Par-par-par-par-par-par. It was a boring second round over the first six holes for Paul Casey at the CJ Cup.

And then he aced the par-3 seventh.

Casey's tee shot from 176 tracked straight towards the hole and rolled in near the final revolution. That got him to 2 under par for the tournament. He was five off the lead, held by Chez Reavie, but bogeyed the ninth and 10th holes to give back those two strokes.

Hey, it's a no-cut event and a guaranteed paycheck. Drinks on Casey!