Mickelson all smiles at WGC recalling Open triumph

By Jason SobelJuly 30, 2013, 10:06 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Phil Mickelson can’t stop smiling. The man with golf’s most ubiquitous grin hasn’t quit flashing those pearly whites since nine days and one continent ago. When inquired about the result of his Tuesday practice round match here at Firestone Country Club, the smile only dissipates slightly at the mention of a tough battle, then immediately reappears when he remembers the big picture.

“But you know what?” he says beaming. “I’ve still got the claret jug!”

You get the feeling Mickelson has delivered these words pretty frequently over the past week, not only in response to others, but as a reaffirmation to himself. As a man who has not only won five major championships, but found despair in even more, it only makes sense that he’d require a gentle self-reminder every so often that he really did win the one he always believed would elude him.

It makes even more sense if you listen to the story he revealed in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational interview room.

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Articles, videos and photos

“I'm going to share something with you...”

Anytime a player of Mickelson’s caliber is about to reveal a secret, every ear in the room perks up.

“I had something happen to me Sunday morning of the U.S. Open that was really weird,” he continues. “When I woke up, I had dreamt that I had already won the U.S. Open, and so I had the same feelings and excitement that I had won. I finally won the U.S. Open. It was such a great feeling. And it took me over a minute to realize that I haven't played the final round and that I've got to go out and still do it.”

He didn’t, of course. Mickelson could only parlay the 54-hole lead into a sixth career runner-up result at the event, later calling it the most heartbreaking loss in a series of heartbreaking losses.

But that dream of finally winning it prior to the final round has led to him being a little gunshy in the aftermath of winning the Open Championship.

“Every day I wake up in the last nine days, honestly, I look at the trophy to make sure that I haven't just dreamt that, that I actually did win it and I already played the final round,” he admits. “It's just one of those little weird things that we all go through.”

Sure, we all may have dreams of winning a major, but most of ours don’t come true a month later.

And most of us don’t have the ultimate dream come true twice in one lifetime. There are some definitive ways of comparing and contrasting Mickelson’s first major win – the 2004 Masters – with his most recent one, each in itself the fulfillment of a figurative dream, if not a literal one.

“You can make a comparison in terms of the big picture,” explains Jim “Bones” Mackay, his trusty sidekick for the entirety of his professional career. “The ’04 Masters for me was great, but it was also a relief that he wasn’t going to have to answer that major question anymore. Now, a few majors later, the British Open this year, I think was a reward for how hard, at his age, he continues to work, because he works as hard at 43 as he did at 23.”

While Phil and Bones have worked in concert for more than two decades, occasionally a player and caddie will have a disagreement. This is one of those times. On Tuesday, each man was asked the following question:

When you look back 20-30 years from now on everything that’s been accomplished on the course, what is the one most indelible image or lasting memory?

Mickelson: “I think it will always be '04 Masters and showing off my Olympic jumping ability.”

Mackay: “It would definitely be his arms raised at the British Open. Without question.”

The disagreement doesn’t last long, as they each wax poetic on the recent win at Muirfield.

“For me personally, the British Open is the greatest accomplishment I could ever get in my career because of the shots that I had to learn and the challenge that it created for me over the course of my career,” Mickelson said. “It was so difficult for me to play my best golf in the British Open under those conditions than any other tournament that to win that is the greatest accomplishment for me in my career.”

“I was there in person and everything happened so fast,” Mackay added, “but when you go back and watch the highlights and you see his arms go up then you see everyone else’s arms go up in the grandstands, I find that to be pretty cool.”

It’s a nice problem to have, not being able to agree upon which major championship title will endure as the most lasting memory in a career.

For now, Mickelson will keep on smiling – and keep on reminding himself that winning the claret jug wasn’t just a dream. It was a dream come true.

Getty Images

Haas nearly shoots age in taking Champions playoff opener lead

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 10:05 pm

RICHMOND, Va.  -- Jay Haas shot a 7-under 65 - missing his age by a stroke - to take a two-shot lead Saturday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Trying to become the oldest winner in tour history, the 64-year-old Haas birdied the par-5 16th and 18th holes to get to 11-under 133 on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''I've been out here too long to know that I can learn to expect anything,'' Haas said. ''While I'm hopeful every day and I've been playing OK, the last couple weeks have not been very good, but this week has been much better. I love this golf course and it looks good to my eye. Most of the holes look like I'm going to hit a good shot, so I enjoy playing here.''

Mike Fetchick set the age record of 63 years to the day in the 1985 Hilton Head event. Haas is second on the list, taking the 2016 Toshiba Classic at 62 years, 10 months, 7 days for his 18th senior title.

''That's a good way to say I'm old, 'experience,''' Haas said. ''I think I'm very nervous most of the time when I play and today was no exception, but I continued to hit good shots and, hopefully, I can put one foot in front of the other, one shot at a time, do what I tell my son to do every time, you know? See if I can put some of those adages to work tomorrow.''

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

Stephen Ames and Scott Dunlap were tied for second after the round that started in light rain. Ames had a 67, and Dunlap shot 68.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer had a 66 to join Billy Mayfair (67) and Woody Austin (68) at 9 under. Langer won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the season points lead. The 61-year-old German star has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, was tied for 23rd at 4 under after a 71.

Getty Images

Sergio leads by 4 entering final round at Valderrama

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 9:26 pm

Sergio Garcia closed with three straight birdies to shoot a 7-under 64 on Saturday, taking a four-shot lead into the third and final round of the Andalusia Valderrama Masters.

The tournament, which Garcia has won  twice (2017, 2011), was reduced to 54 holes because of numerous weather-related delays.

With his bogey-free round, Garcia moved to 10 under, four shots clear of Englishman Ashley Chesters, who shot a 1-under 70.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

"Hopefully we'll be able to play well tomorrow and get another win at Valderrama," Garcia said. "Hopefully I can finish it in style."

Chesters, however, is conceding nothing. "There's always a chance," he said. "There's not a lot of pressure on me."

Getty Images

Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

Getty Images

Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."