Mickelson has sights set on U.S. Open win in 2014

By Jason SobelNovember 5, 2013, 5:30 pm

This probably isn't the first column you've read about Phil Mickelson's upcoming quest to claim the career Grand Slam. And it certainly won't be the last.

Everyone's favorite lefty has officially entered the 2013-14 season with a singular goal in mind – becoming the sixth player in the game's history to win all four modern major championships. That’s not rhetoric or hyperbole or a writer exaggerating the theme for the sake of a story.

Take it from the man himself.

“Of course it would be,” Mickelson recently said. “There's no hiding the fact that winning the U.S. Open would be my career goal of completing the career Grand Slam, and that's the final leg that I have. I'll be putting most of my focus into winning the U.S. Open.”

The confluence of storylines will leave soap opera writers drooling with jealousy.

Mickelson and the U.S. Open have forever been star-crossed lovers. This is a tournament where he's out-heartbroken Sam Snead for ‘Most Snakebitten’ honors with six runner-up finishes. The wounds have barely healed from the last of those heartbreakers, a 54-hole lead parlayed into a Sunday afternoon loss at Merion. If that wasn’t enough, next year it will be played on the course where Payne Stewart once grabbed him by the cheeks and consoled him by extolling the virtues of his impending fatherhood.

Lefty sheds light on scaled back 2014 schedule

Photos: Mickelson through the years

But he isn't going to let fate or karma or the golf gods intervene this time. He's changing the script in an attempt to rewrite the familiar ending.

Mickelson has already revealed that he will cut back his 2014 schedule by about 25 percent. While staying home with his family a bit more and resting his 43-year-old body might have been factors, he hasn't minced words as to his biggest reason for making the change.

It’s to finally win the U.S. Open.

And it’s a fascinating concept.

We’ve long heard elite players – most notably Tiger Woods, but more recently the likes of Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy – maintain that they’d like their games to peak four times per year. It’s difficult enough to nail that strategy even one-quarter of the time, meaning that Mickelson’s assertion that he’d like to peak just once next year is even less forgiving.

At the very least, it raises some debatable questions.

Can a professional golfer actually prepare for an individual tournament and improve his chances? Can he successfully build his schedule around just one week? In such a mental pursuit, are there notable disadvantages to proverbially putting all your eggs in one basket?

Don’t get him wrong. It’s not as if Mickelson won’t care about the Masters or the Open Championship or the PGA anymore. It’s not like he won’t be trying to win in places like Houston or Memphis when he tees it up there, either. Or even Abu Dhabi, for that matter, where he revealed Wednesday he would be competing.

There is a definitive plan of action now, though. We can easily imagine the political cartoon of a hopeful Mickelson standing on the side of a highway, golf bag on his back with two drivers and five wedges in clear view, Sharpie in one hand as the other holds a sign which reads: “Pinehurst or Bust.”

Either he’s setting himself up for the greatest moment in a career that’s been filled with them, or he’s setting himself up for the most disappointing moment in a career that’s been filled with them.

If nothing else, it’s endearing. Not that the eminently popular Mickelson needed more fans to support his cause, but it’s encouraging to hear a professional athlete not simply go through the familiar “let’s take things one day at a time” narrative that we’ve heard so often.

Instead, he’s stated a clear goal and he’s going after it. Consider it the ultimate risk-reward from a player who has never shied away from attempting the most low-percentage shots on the course.

It will be intriguing to watch Mickelson over the next seven months and examine how he prepares for the U.S. Open. Will playing in fewer tournaments mean, like for Steve Stricker this past year, that he’s even sharper when he does compete? Will he get in an extra trip or two to Pinehurst? Or five? Ten?

The guess is that he will leave no inch of Pinehurst’s tiered terrain unplotted, that he’ll know the exact combination of drivers and wedges necessary to hit any and every shot on the formidable track. That doesn’t, of course, mean he will prevail. But he does have the right mindset.

“To use an analogy,” he said, “when I am putting well, not every putt goes in, but I catch lots of lips; the ball comes close. And the when it's close, I know that eventually they are going to fall in. And I use the same analogy for the U.S. Open. I've come close so many times. I've played well so many times in that tournament, that I believe it will happen soon.”

It could finally happen for Mickelson in 2014. If it doesn’t, it certainly won’t be for a lack of preparation.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.