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.


The Greenbrier: Articles, videos and photos


“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.”

Getty Images

Descending into golf's depths, and trying to dig out

By Brandel ChambleeApril 23, 2018, 3:05 pm

Watching Alvaro Quiros finish second this past week in Morocco, I was reminded of just how rare it is for player to come back from the depths of golf hell.

Quiros, a player of immense ability, hype and length, won the Dubai World Championship – his sixth win in four years – to close out 2011 and then went down the rabbit hole of trying to change his golf swing. He would miss 11 cuts in 2012 and either miss the cut or withdraw in another 41 European Tour events over the next four years. Because he hadn’t won a major championship, his epic backwards slide in the world rankings (435th prior to this past week) mostly went unnoticed – but it was far from unusual.

Ian Baker-Finch won the 1991 Open Championship, but just three years later, when he played 20 events on the PGA Tour and missed 14 cuts, he no longer looked anything like a recent major champion. In 1995, he played in 18 events and either missed the cut, withdrew or was disqualified from every one of them. In 1996, he missed the cut in all 11 events he entered on the PGA Tour; and in 1997, he shot 92 in the first round of The Open, withdrew from the championship and stopped playing professional golf.

Like Quiros, Baker-Finch’s downfall came after his biggest win, when he finally thought he had the time, because of the 10-year exemption he received, to change his golf swing.

David Duval won the 2001 Open Championship and just two years later he shot 83-78 in the same event and missed the cut, which was one 16 events he either missed the cut or withdrew from that year. In 2005, he missed 18 cuts in 19 starts. Duval’s competitive demise may well have been precipitated by injuries and an existential malaise after winning golf’s oldest championship, but it was accompanied by queries far and wide as to how to correct his swing and thinking, just like Baker-Finch before him and Quiros thereafter.

These desperate searches for help, like the indelible ink stains on dyer’s hands, are the one common thread amongst those who suffer from the absolute negation of their technical and then creative abilities. Those who take as indisputable the theories of others are, in the deepest sense, wounding their own intuition. They are controverting the evidence of their own senses in such a way that is comforting to the insecure player, but tragic to the artist. To quote Carl Jung: “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”

As I write this, PGA Tour winners Steven Bowditch (1,885th in the world) and Smylie Kaufman (337th) are in similar downward spirals in their careers and no doubt are desperate for, and susceptible to any suggestion.

One player they can look to who made it back from the frantic madness that accompanies losing one’s game, is Henrik Stenson. He put his trust in one man, Pete Cowen, even though while working with Pete he missed 14 cuts in 2002, followed by 15 missed cuts in 2003, and 11 in 2004. What Stenson did not do was panic and run from teacher to teacher, from shrink to shrink, as the missed cuts piled up.

Stenson, with Cowen’s help, slowly built one of the most reliable swings in the history of the game. A swing that regularly leads events in fairways found and greens hit in regulation. A swing that authored the lowest score ever shot in major championship history. A swing that is a far cry from the OB-launching swipes he was taking in late-2001 and 2002.

Given the soul-eating depths of where he came from, a place from which few have dug themselves out of, I watch Stenson play golf with a far great admiration than I otherwise would, and similarly was pulling for Quiros in Morocco. The same way I am pulling for Bowditch and Kaufman to find their games again.

Getty Images

Langer skipping Senior PGA for son's HS graduation

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 2:53 pm

Defending champion Bernhard Langer will miss this year’s Senior PGA Championship to attend his son’s high school graduation.

Langer made the announcement Monday, during Senior PGA media day at Harbor Shores in Michigan. The event will be held May 24-27.

“I won’t be able to defend my title this year because my son graduates from high school that very same weekend,” he said. “Family comes first in my life, so I have to be there to celebrate.”

Langer said that his son, Jason, will play golf for the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. Langer and his family live in South Florida.

Langer won last year’s event at Trump National outside Washington, D.C. The 60-year-old has no wins but three runners-up in eight senior starts this season.  

Getty Images

Landry reaches OWGR career high after Valero win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:40 pm

After notching his first career PGA Tour win at the Valero Texas Open, Andrew Landry also reached unprecedented heights in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Landry shot a final-round 68 at TPC San Antonio to win by two shots, and in the process he cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time at age 30. Landry started the week ranked No. 114, but he's now up to 66th. The move puts him within reach of a possible U.S. Open exemption, given that the top 60 in the May 21 rankings will automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills.

Trey Mullinax went from No. 306 to No. 169 with his T-2 finish in San Antonio, while fellow runner-up Sean O Hair jumped 29 spots to No. 83 in the world. Jimmy Walker, who finished alone in fourth, went from No. 88 to No. 81 while fifth-place Zach Johnson moved up five spots to No. 53.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


Alexander Levy took home the title at the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II, allowing the Frenchman to move from No. 66 to No. 47. With no OWGR points available at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Levy is guaranteed to stay inside the top 50 next week, thereby earning a spot in The Players.

Idle since an MDF result at the Houston Open, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood dropped two spots to No. 100 this week. It marks the first time Westwood has been ranked 100th or worse in nearly 15 years, ending a streak of consistency that dates back to September 2003.

The top 10 in the rankings remained the same, with Dustin Johnson leading off at No. 1 followed by Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose. Rickie Fowler remains No. 6 with Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia rounding out the top 10.

With no starts announced until the U.S. Open in June, Tiger Woods dropped two more spots to No. 91 in the latest rankings.

Getty Images

What's in the bag: Valero Texas Open winner Landry

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 12:34 pm

Andrew Landry won his first PGA Tour event at the Valero Texas Open. Here's a look inside the winners' bag.

Driver: Ping G30 (9 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 65X shaft

Fairway woods: Ping G (14.5 degrees adjusted to 15.5), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 75X shaft; (17.5 degrees), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 85X shaft

Irons: Ping iBlade (3-PW), with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 105 S shafts

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (52, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts

Putter: Ping PLD ZB-S

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x