Mickelson, caddie not surprised by performance

By Jason SobelFebruary 3, 2013, 12:52 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – You may be excused if you didn’t see this coming. You’re off the hook if you looked at Phil Mickelson’s 37th- and 51st-place finishes in his first two starts of this year, with only three of eight rounds in the 60s, and figured he was headed toward another week of mediocrity here at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

In fact, you’re probably part of the majority if you had lowered expectations for his season, at least in the short term. So far this year, he was hitting it short and crooked – and not just with his driver. Even the putter wasn’t going in the right direction. Based on all that evidence, who in their right mind would think he was on the verge of not only success, but potentially record-setting success?

Here’s who: Mickelson himself. And his caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay.

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“We talked a little bit in the offseason,” Mackay said after his man posted a 7-under 64 to grab a six-stroke lead entering the final round. “He played really well in Asia, then he went home and told me he was continuing to play really, really well. Then he got pretty darn sick right before the Hope; I actually didn’t think he was going to play. So I think he had to get better and had to get it back a little bit. It took a little longer to knock the rust off, but I don’t think he’s surprised he’s playing as well as he is this week.”

“Before the season started, I had been playing really well, kind of like I am this week as far as iron play and so forth; I had been putting well,” Mickelson maintained. “Then I started at Humana and shot 72 at La Quinta and putted terribly and hit some bad shots, and it progressively got worse. I knew it wasn't far off. There was just a fraction, whether it was in the address position, setup, or whatnot.”

So he called instructor Butch Harmon and asked for help.

“We spent an hour and 15 minutes on the range, and it was just a minor tweak, and all of a sudden the club is back on plane and I'm hitting it the way I was,” Mickelson continued. “Certainly tying for 37th and 50-something doesn't really indicate this kind of play coming the next week, I understand that, but it did not feel far off. I felt like I was ready to click.”

He’s clicked with some video-game type of numbers, the kind found only on the easy mode in the most benign conditions. But the lefthander has made them all too real.

Saturday’s round of 64 followed opening scores of 60-65 and left him within one shot of the PGA Tour’s all-time 54-hole scoring record.

He also nearly made history of another kind.

If there’s a defining moment at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, it’s a 21-year-old Tiger Woods, in a baggy shirt that covered his elbows and barely looking old enough to shave, dropping a hole-in-one at the famous 16th hole that made the earth shake and beer come raining from the sky.

That moment nearly had to make room on the top shelf for another on Saturday afternoon, when Mickelson stepped to the very same tee box, pulled out his 9-iron and hit a shot that stopped a mere 20 inches from becoming the ninth tournament ace at that hole.

Most players hand out hats or sunglasses or T-shirts at 16. Mickelson handed out goosebumps.

“It was a pretty good shot,” he later said with a knowing smile.

Pretty good shots and knowing smiles have become the theme of the week for Mickelson, whose near-ace at 16 was part of a four-birdie closing stretch that extended his lead from four entering the day to six when it was over.

If that doesn’t sound impressive, just listen to his fellow contenders.

“Being in the lead is probably the hardest thing to do in professional golf, there's no doubt about it,” said Padraig Harrington, currently in a share of third place. “You've got to try and keep going forward. The pressure is on not to mess up. You know, I truly admire front runners who can keep true at that stage, because it is a difficult proposition to keep hitting, keep going at the flag.”

“For the most part, you will have a stretch where your stuff doesn't go in or you get a few bad breaks,” added Brandt Snedeker, in second place. “I guess Phil hadn't gotten that, or if he had, he played right through it.”

He’s played right through a lot of things in his career, so dusting himself off after a couple of disappointing results shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

And it doesn’t, at least not to Mickelson and the man who has been with him every step of the way.

“It’s so hard to compare it to playing a major, because it’s a completely different setup. The first two rounds at Baltusrol in ’05, he basically won it those rounds because he played so well,” Mackay said. “But this is way up there in terms of the golf he’s played. I mean, driving it like he’s driven it. Distance control has been outstanding. All of that stuff. He’s played really well.”

You probably didn’t see this coming. Mickelson and Mackay, though, knew this type of golf wasn’t far off, even when the scores said otherwise.

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Paisley (61) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

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''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Web.com Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

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“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

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“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”

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Fowler 'pain free' and tied for Tour Championship lead

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:01 pm

ATLANTA – The most important member of Team USA at next week’s Ryder Cup may be the team trainer.

Justin Thomas began the season finale nursing a case of tendonitis in his right wrist and Rickie Fowler skipped the first two playoff events after being slowed by a right oblique injury.

Neither player seemed impacted by the injuries on Thursday at the Tour Championship, with Thomas tied for fifth at 3 under and Fowler tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at 5 under par.

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“I needed the 2 1/2 weeks or so of just sitting around really not doing a whole lot,” said Fowler, who tied for eighth last week at the BMW Championship. “It was definitely the right call. If I would have played through the first or second playoff events, there was really no benefit, especially looking at the ultimate goal being ready for the Ryder Cup and to have a chance to be here at East Lake.”

Being rested and pain-free is a vast improvement over how he felt at the PGA Championship last month, when he underwent therapy before and after each round and had to wear tape just to play.

“It's nice to be back swinging pain-free because I wouldn't have wanted to deal with how it felt during PGA week for a continued amount of time,” said Fowler, who finished his day with a bogey-free closing nine to secure a spot in Friday’s final group with Woods.