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. 

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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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Davies leads Inkster after Day 1 of Senior LPGA Champ.

By Associated PressOctober 16, 2018, 1:10 am

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies opened with a 4-under 68 despite finishing with two bogeys Monday, giving her a one-shot lead over Juli Inkster after Round 1 of the Senior LPGA Championship.

Davies, who earlier this year won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open, had a lost ball on the par-5 18th hole on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. She still salvaged a bogey in chilly, windy weather that had the 55-year-old from England bundled up in a blanket between shots.

Inkster, runner-up to Davies at the Senior Women's Open, made eagle on the closing hole for a 69.

Jane Crafter was at 70. Defending champion Trish Johnson opened with a 73.

Temperatures were in the high 40s, but the damp air and wind made it feel even colder.

Inkster made a bogey on the 17th hole by missing the green with a 9-iron.

''As old as I am, I still get made and I crushed that drive on 18,'' said Inkster, who followed with a 3-wood to 15 feet to set up her eagle.

The 54-hole event concludes Wednesday.

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Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 15, 2018, 9:14 pm

After nearly 30 years in the broadcast booth, Johnny Miller is ready to hang up his microphone.

Following a Hall of Fame playing career that included a pair of major titles, Miller has become one of the most outspoken voices in the game as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports. But at age 71 he has decided to retire from broadcasting following the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Miller was named lead analyst for NBC in 1990, making his broadcast debut at what was then known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. He still remained competitive, notably winning the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at age 46, but made an indelible mark on the next generation of Tour pros with his frank and candid assessment of the action from some of golf’s biggest events.

Miller’s broadcasting career has included 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, nine Presidents Cups, three Open Championships and the 2016 Olympics. While he has teamed in the booth with Dan Hicks for the past 20 years, Miller’s previous on-air partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.

His farewell event will be in Phoenix Jan. 31-Feb. 3, at a tournament he won in back-to-back years in 1974-75.

“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is the gold standard,” said NBC lead golf producer Tommy Roy. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA Tour’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”

Miller was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998 after a playing career that included wins at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont and The Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. Before turning pro, he won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and was low amateur at the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic, where he tied for eighth at age 19.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Miller now lives in Utah with his wife, Linda, and annually serves as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

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Randall's Rant: Tiger vs. Phil feels like a ripoff

By Randall MellOctober 15, 2018, 7:45 pm

Usually, you have to buy something before you feel like you were ripped off.

The wonder in the marketing of Tiger vs. Phil and “The Match” is how it is making so many people feel as if they are getting ripped off before they’ve shelled out a single penny for the product.

Phil Mickelson gets credit for this miscue.

Apparently, the smartest guy in the room isn’t the smartest marketing guy.

He was a little bit like that telemarketer who teases you into thinking you’ve won a free weekend getaway, only to lead you into the discovery that there’s a shady catch, with fine print and a price tag.

There was something as slippery as snake oil in the original pitch.

In Mickelson’s eagerness to create some excitement, he hinted back during The Players in May about the possibility of a big-money, head-to-head match with Woods. A couple months later, he leaked more details, before it was ready to be fully announced.

So while there was an initial buzz over news of the Thanksgiving weekend matchup, the original pitch set up a real buzzkill when it was later announced that you were only going to get to see it live on pay-per-view.

The news landed with a thud but no price tag. We’re still waiting to see what it’s going to cost when these two meet at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, but anything that feels even slightly inflated now is going to further dampen the original enthusiasm Mickelson created.

Without Woods or Mickelson putting up their own money, this $9 million winner-take-all event was always going to feel more like a money grab than real competition.

When we were expecting to see it on network or cable TV, we didn’t care so much. Tiger's and Phil’s hands would have felt as if they were reaching into corporate America’s pockets. Now, it feels as if they’re digging into ours.

Last week, there was more disappointing news, with the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that tickets won’t be sold to the public, that the match at Shadow Creek will only be open to select sponsors and VIPs.

Now there’s a larger insult to the common fan, who can’t help but feel he isn’t worthy or important enough to gain admittance.

Sorry, but that’s how news of a closed gate landed on the heels of the pay-per-view news.

“The Match” was never going to be meaningful golf in any historical sense.

This matchup was never going to rekindle the magic Tiger vs. Phil brought in their epic Duel at Doral in ’05.

The $9 million was never going to buy the legitimacy a major championship or PGA Tour Sunday clash could bring.

It was never going to be more than an exhibition, with no lingering historical significance, but that was OK as quasi silly-season fare on TV on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23), the traditional weekend of the old Skins Game.

“The Match” still has a chance to be meaningful, but first and foremost as entertainment, not real competition. That’s what this was always going to be about, but now the bar is raised.

Pay per view does that.

“You get what you pay for” is an adage that doesn’t apply to free (or already-paid for) TV. It does to pay per view. Expectations go way up when you aren’t just channel surfing to a telecast. So the higher the price tag they end up putting on this showdown, the more entertaining this has to be.

If Phil brings his “A-Game” to his trash talking, and if Tiger can bring some clever repartee, this can still be fun. If the prerecorded segments wedged between shots are insightful, even meaningful in their ability to make us understand these players in ways we didn’t before, this will be worthwhile.

Ultimately, “The Match” is a success if it leaves folks who paid to see it feeling as if they weren’t as ripped off as the people who refused to pay for it. That’s the handicap a history of free golf on TV brings. Welcome to pay-per-view, Tiger and Phil.

Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State University athletics

Trial date set for drifter charged with killing Barquin Arozamena

By Associated PressOctober 15, 2018, 7:28 pm

AMES, Iowa – A judge has scheduled a January trial for a 22-year-old Iowa drifter charged with killing a top amateur golfer from Spain.

District Judge Bethany Currie ruled Monday that Collin Richards will stand trial Jan. 15 for first-degree murder in the death of Iowa State University student Celia Barquin Arozamena.

Richards entered a written not guilty plea Monday morning and waived his right to a speedy trial. The filing canceled an in-person arraignment hearing that had been scheduled for later Monday.

Investigators say Richards attacked Barquin on Sept. 17 while she was playing a round at a public course in Ames, near the university campus. Her body was found in a pond on the course riddled with stab wounds.

Richards faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.