Mickelson in position to end U.S. Open drought

By Jason SobelJune 16, 2013, 1:56 am

ARDMORE, Pa. – Phil Mickelson owns sole possession of the lead entering the final round of the U.S. Open.

Those words cannot stand alone. (Right?) They are the precursor to tragedy, a suggestion that the bewitching hour is nearly upon us. (Aren’t they?)

We’ve been here, done this before. So many times, in fact, that following Mickelson in contention at this event is like participating in one of those old-timey whodunit murder mysteries.

There was Phil with the putter at Shinnecock. Phil with the driver at Winged Foot. Phil with the putter again at Bethpage.

In each instance, there’s one common variable. Whatever the weapon killing his chances, wherever the scene of the crime, Phil has been guilty of fantastic failures at this tournament. It’s a record that is both awesome and agonizing: He owns five career runner-up finishes, each one more tormenting than the last.

He is the Buffalo Bills of the U.S. Open. 

113th U.S. Open: Articles, videos and photos

And yet, somewhere in the pessimistic punchbowl an optimistic bubble is emerging from beneath the surface. It causes us to think, “Well, maybe this time could be different…” and “He’s learned from those past experiences…” and even “One man doesn’t deserve to be snakebitten like this so many times…”

So we accentuate the positive. We look at his scores of 67-72-70 on venerable Merion Golf Club and believe he can keep it going. We take note of his penchant for late birdies this week and think he might have another important one coming on Sunday. We play the percentages and figure the law of averages is finally on his side.

This isn’t about being a Mickelson fan.

This is about compassion.

This is about not wanting to see a man repeatedly punched below the belt after the bell has rung.

“I love being in the thick of it,” he said. “I've had opportunities in years past and it has been so fun, even though it's been heartbreaking to come so close a number of times and let it slide.

“But I feel better equipped than I have ever felt heading into the final round of a U.S. Open. My ball-striking is better than it's ever been. My putting is better than it has been in years. And I feel very comfortable on this golf course. I love it.”

There’s that optimistic bubble surfacing. It’s only part of the story, though. It’s only part of this layered tale of regret and hope.

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Earlier this week, Mickelson flew home to San Diego to attend the eighth-grade graduation of his oldest daughter – the same daughter born one day after his first U.S. Open runner-up, when Payne Stewart grabbed him by the cheeks and testified, “There’s nothing like being a father.” It was hardly an act of heroism. He sneaked back to Merion on his Gulfstream V, proud of Amanda and pleased with the decision he’d made.

It’s only fitting that the man who added to his Father of the Year resume will celebrate Father’s Day trying to win the one tournament that has eluded him for so long. As if the storylines were lacking, it’s also his 43rd birthday.

Call it kismet. Or serendipity. Or the perfect storm.

“It's got the makings to be something special,” he admitted, “but I still have to go out and perform and play some of my best golf.”

We can allow ourselves to look ahead, to wonder what the next 18 holes of Mickelson’s life will reap. If he keeps striping the ball the way he’s done over the first three rounds, if he keeps holing crucial par-saving putts, this could join his 2004 Masters victory as a career-defining moment.

They’ll have mock parades in Philadelphia, if not a real one, cheering a man who is as unsinkable as one of their own, celebrating the irony of his name in their city. Those famous plaques for Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan will someday be joined by one for a fellow Hall of Fame member, maybe on the 17th tee if he can replicate “one of the best shots I’ve ever hit” from the third round, or near the 18th green if he can hole another lengthy putt like he did one day earlier.

But if he doesn’t? If Mickelson suffers through another “I’m such an idiot” moment? If he ends up with a sixth career runner-up result?

There will be more heartbreak. More torment and regret. We’ll remember this one like all the others, another U.S. Open Sunday when Phil just wasn’t good enough. Another final round when the man with three green jackets and a Wanamaker Trophy doesn’t have what it takes to win his national championship. He will continue being the Buffalo Bills, ill-fated and doomed no matter the scenario.

On Saturday evening, though, as he prepared to leave Merion and spend the night trying not to think about 18 of the biggest holes of his life, Mickelson wouldn’t let himself consider such disaster.

“It would certainly mean a lot to me,” he said. “This is a tournament for years I've had opportunities, I've come close to, and it would mean a lot.”

There it is. The optimistic bubble enveloping the punchbowl. Mickelson is hoping it doesn’t burst this time.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.

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Football coach hates golf: Don't need practice swearing

By Jason CrookApril 20, 2018, 10:15 pm

Some football coaches are a little more talkative than others. On one side of the spectrum, there's Bill Belichick. On the other sits Washington State football coach Mike Leach.

Leach always delivers the goods, and when asked recently if he liked golf, he didn't hold back:

As wrong as the 57-year-old is on the topic (golf is awesome), the man makes some hilarious points:

• “It’s boring. I don’t care where that ball goes.”

• "Golfers are always practicing their swing. But you know what I never did? I never practice fishing in my living room.”

• "They'll line up over the ball and they'll say they're going to do something that you can't do with a sniper rifle and a scope, but they're going to do it with a stick and a ball."

• “Golf’s pretty much for people that don’t swear effectively enough or need practice. And so there are people that need golf, and I don’t think I do.”

So in conclusion, it's confirmed: Mike Leach - not a golf guy.

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Quiros takes 1-shot lead in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 8:22 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Alvaro Quiros shot a solid 2-under 70 in windy conditions to push into a one-shot lead after two rounds of the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco on Friday.

Quiros fought the elements, carding seven birdies and five bogeys to move to 7 under overall and take the outright lead at the halfway point of the European Tour event.

The Spaniard was one clear of Andrew Dodt, who moved into contention with a 4-under 68 at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course. Dodt dropped two shots in his first six holes but the Australian recovered from that shaky start to collect four birdies and an eagle.

Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II

Erik van Rooyen of South Africa was another shot back in third on 5 under after his 71.

Bradley Dredge of Wales, who shared the first-round lead with Quiros, slipped off the pace with a 1-over 73. He's tied for fourth with Austin Connelly of Canada (71), 4 under par and three shots behind Quiros.