Mickelson thumps Woods in Sunday duel

By Jason SobelFebruary 13, 2012, 3:32 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One after the other, the game’s two biggest stars ascended into one of the game’s most hallowed arenas. Their measured footsteps revealed a familiar path from the practice green, past a sculpture of Pebble Beach founder Samuel F.B. Morse and various weathered plaques, including one listing every champion of what for years was so lovingly referred to as the Crosby Clambake, but now goes by the corporate code of AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

If either man stopped to inspect the plaque, he would have found his own name etched into the presentation. This was no time to stop. Each bounced up the 13 stairs carpeted in Masters-green Astroturf, reaching the first tee box to the hushed reverence of hundreds of spectators. It was a telling reaction from the gallery. Others may have cheered wildly or continued casual conversations amongst themselves. This one just watched collectively, waiting, hoping, knowing that it was about to be treated to a performance that would have made Morse proud.

The specter of optimism permeated the air. Hopefulness isn’t an easy commodity to pinpoint; the simplest way to describe it is that you’ll know it when you feel it. And you could readily feel it on this opening tee box.

Phil Mickelson strode in first. Head held high, famous grin faintly emerging across his face, a look of determination in his eyes. He needed to play well in this final round – no, he needed to win. To prove wrong those doubters who believed he was washed up. But more importantly, to prove it to himself. Over the first month of the season, Mickelson struggled with carrying his game over from practice to competition, later intimating, “I started to wonder if I'm going to be able to bring it to the golf course.”

Tiger Woods followed. Eyes tunneling forward, chest puffed in a display of what masqueraded as indignance, but wholly existed as focus. He needed to win, too. In a career that paralleled that of Mickelson only in chronological arc, Woods’ string of 71 career victories had been halted nearly two-and-a-half years earlier. This day would serve as his next unmitigated opportunity to correct that pattern, his latest chance to make a grandiose statement that he is indeed back – back amongst the game’s upper echelon and back within the consciousness of every other competitor.

Optimism is a funny thing. It can ebb and flow, rise and fall based on momentum. Standing on the first tee at exactly 9:29 a.m. local time on Sunday morning, there was no way to tell what each player’s optimism would wreak. There was no way to tell that almost six full hours later, on the 18th green about a 4-iron away from the Morse sculpture and the plaques and the 13 stairs and that opening tee, one player would be enveloped by it, his entire body language screaming its virtues, while the other would be utterly devoid of those positive feelings.

Without further suspense, it was Mickelson who waltzed down the final fairway with panache, that famous smile now stretched across his face. When he curled in his last birdie putt to solidify a bogey-free 8-under 64 that netted his 40th career PGA Tour title, the mercurial lefthander acknowledged the fans, hugged his caddie, kissed his wife and kept on smiling.

He smiled not only because he won, but because he proved to the doubters that he could still reach such an accomplishment. No, because he proved it to himself.

“It's one of the more emotional victories for me that I've had and the reason is, I've had some doubt these last couple of weeks,” Mickelson confided. “This gives me a lot of confidence and erases the doubt.”

His post-round celebration on the final green was a crescendo of the optimism that permeated the air before he started. He birdied the second hole and the fourth and the fifth, optimism giving way to comfort, comfort giving way to exuberance. By the time he eagled the par-5 sixth hole, Mickelson – and his bevy of supporters behind the ropes – was downright euphoric, building on the momentum with every footstep across the venerable coastal links.

By the time he posted a brilliant par save on the 12th, consecutive birdies on 13 and 14, and another irrepressible par save on the 15th, Mickelson was billowing with enthusiasm, armed with the knowledge that his long-awaited victory was all but assured.

Let’s not pretend that the triumph wasn’t made even sweeter by the fact that it came over his longtime nemesis. Mickelson would only allow afterward that, “He seems to bring out the best in me and the last four or five years, I've played some of my best golf playing with him and I really enjoy it.” He really enjoys beating him, too. Enjoys checking the leaderboard and seeing his name ahead, enjoys celebrating on the final green while Woods can only watch with contempt.

Yes, by that point in the proceedings, Woods’ pre-round optimism had dissolved into the mighty Pacific. He trudged off the course, brow furrowed, lips downturned to display a world-class frown. He waited for an interview with a television reporter in uneasy silence, then answered a few more questions from the awaiting throng of media members before being whisked away from the venue.

“It was a fun day to be out there,” he claimed, “but also in the end, it was very frustrating at the same time.”

From the time he made five pars to start his round to the three consecutive bogeys to conclude his front nine to the back-to-back bogeys on 14 and 15, Woods exuded that frustration. Even more telling, he appeared uncertain. He admitted later that he could never get comfortable with his swing and his putting stroke looked fiercely inconsistent, missing five putts of less than 6 feet during the round.

When the debris settled, it all added up to a 3-over 75, a whopping 11 shots worse than his playing partner and good for a share of 15th place.

And just as Mickelson’s win gratified him more because it came against Woods, Woods’ loss hurt more because it came against Mickelson. Neither will concede that fact. You’ll just have to believe it.

Just as you’ll have to believe that optimism once reigned in the minds of both players on this day. It’s a funny thing, those ebbs and flows of hopefulness. They led to one of the most important wins of one man’s career on Sunday and dissolved during one of the most crushing losses for another.

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Chamblee: Like Tiger in '13, Mickelson should've DQ'd self

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 2:46 pm

Two days after Brooks Koepka left Long Island with the U.S. Open trophy, the third-round antics of Phil Mickelson are still garnering plenty of discussion.

Mickelson became a lightning rod of opinion after he intentionally hit a moving ball on the 13th green Saturday at Shinnecock Hills, incurring a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification. In the aftermath, he explained that he made a conscious choice to take the penalty to avoid playing back and forth across the crispy putting surface, and he tied for 48th after a final-round 66.

Speaking Tuesday on "Morning Drive," Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee shared his view that Mickelson would have been well-served to disqualify himself ahead of the final round. He also compared it to Tiger Woods' incident at the 2013 Masters, when he took an incorrect drop and, like Mickelson, received a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

"I think Tiger, at least it's my opinion that his year would have been less distracting if he had done so," Chamblee said. "And I think the same of Phil Mickelson. If he had withdrawn from the championship and said, 'Look. This is a little sketchy. It didn't play out the way I thought. I've given it some thought and it's in the best interest of the championship that I withdraw.'"

Chamblee added that Mickelson's antics were "really distracting" on a day filled with drama as the USGA lost control of course conditions, noting that Mickelson and playing partner Andrew "Beef" Johnston were the only tee time where both players failed to break 80 despite the difficult conditions.

But having had time to review the situation and having surveyed a number of peers, Chamblee is as convinced as ever that Mickelson made a mistake by showing up for his final-round tee time.

"What Phil did, I haven't run into a single person that hasn't said he deserved to be disqualified," Chamblee said. "Under any interpretation, a serious breach - if gaining an advantage is not a serious breach, I don't know what is. And he clearly said he was gaining an advantage and doing it for strategic reasons."

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Norman to pose in ESPN's 'Body Issue'

By Grill Room TeamJune 19, 2018, 2:05 pm

Professional golfers have, from time to time, appeared in ESPN's "Body Issue," which features athletes strategically posed in the nude. The list includes: Belen Mozo, Carly Booth, Gary Player, Camilo Villegas, Sandra Gal, Christina Kim, Anna Grzebien, Suzann Pettersen and Sadena Parks.

And now, Greg Norman.

Modesty has never been an issue for Norman, who has an affinity for posing without a shirt (and sometimes without pants) on his Instagram account.

He joins a list of athletes, in this year's edition, ranging from professional wrestlers (Charlotte Flair) to Olympians (Adam Rippon) to WNBA stars (Sue Bird). Click here for a full list of the athletes to appear.


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DJ listed as betting favorite for The Open

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 2:00 pm

With the U.S. Open officially in the books, oddsmakers quickly turned their attention to the season's third major.

Minutes after Brooks Koepka holed the winning putt to successfully defend his title at Shinnecock Hills, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published its first set of odds for The Open. Jordan Spieth, who opened at 14/1, will defend his title as the tournament shifts to Carnoustie in Scotland for the first time since 2007, when Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in a playoff.

Joining Spieth at 14/1 is 2014 Open champion Rory McIlroy, but they're both listed behind world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Johnson, who was a runner-up at the 2011 Open at Royal St. George's and just finished third at the U.S. Open, opened as a 12/1 betting favorite. Koepka, now a two-time major winner, is listed at 20/1 alongside U.S. Open runner-up Tommy Fleetwood.

Here's a look at the first edition of odds, with The Open just five weeks away:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

14/1: Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy

16/1: Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas

20/1: Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Phil Mickelson, Branden Grace, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Marc Leishman

50/1: Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Tyrrell Hatton

60/1: Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick

80/1: Tony Finau, Zach Johnson, Thomas Pieters, Daniel Berger, Xander Schauffele, Bubba Watson, Shane Lowry

100/1: Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker

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Golf Channel, Loch Lomond Partner on Claret Jug Tour Ahead of 147TH Open

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJune 18, 2018, 9:35 pm

Award-Winning Independent Scotcb Whisky Sponsoring Tour to Select U.S. Cities; Will Include Special Tastings and Opportunities for Fans to Engage with Golf’s Most Storied Trophy

Golf Channel and Loch Lomond Group are partnering on a promotional tour with the Claret Jug – golf’s most iconic trophy, first awarded in 1873 to the winner of The Open – to select U.S. cities in advance of the 147TH Open at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. Loch Lomond Whisky’s sponsorship of the tour further enhances the brand’s existing five-year partnership with the R&A as the official spirit of The Open, initially announced in February.

“We are proud to partner with Golf Channel to support this tour of golf’s most iconic trophy,” said Colin Matthews, CEO of Loch Lomond Group. “Whisky and golf are two of Scotland’s greatest gifts to the world, and following the news of our recent partnership with the R&A for The Open, being a part of the Claret Jug tour was a perfect fit for Loch Lomond Group to further showcase our commitment to the game.”

“The Loch Lomond Group could not be a more natural fit to sponsor the Claret Jug tour,” said Tom Knapp, senior vice president of golf sponsorship, NBC Sports Group. “Much like the storied history that accompanies the Claret Jug, Loch Lomond’s Scottish roots trace back centuries ago, and their aspirations to align with golf’s most celebrated traditions will resonate with a broad range of consumers in addition to golf fans and whisky enthusiasts.”

The tour kicks off today in Austin, Texas, and will culminate on Wednesday, July 11 at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe one week prior to The Open. Those wishing to engage with the Claret Jug will have an opportunity at one of several tour stops being staged at Topgolf locations in select cities. The tour will feature a custom, authentic Scottish pub where consumers (of age) can sample Loch Lomond’s portfolio of whiskies in the spirit of golf’s original championship and the Claret Jug. The Claret Jug also will make special pop-up visits to select GolfNow course partners located within some of the designated tour markets.

(All Times Local)

Monday, June 18                    Austin, Texas              (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, June 19                    Houston                      (Topgolf, 5-8 p.m.)

Wednesday, June 20               Jacksonville, Fla.        (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Monday, June 25                    Orlando, Fla.               (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Wednesday, July 4                 Washington D.C.        (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m. – Ashburn, Va.)

Monday, July 9                       Edison, N.J.                (Topgolf, Time TBA)

Wednesday, July 11               Lake Tahoe, Nev.       American Century Championship (On Course)

Fans interacting with the Claret Jug and Loch Lomond during the course of the tour are encouraged to share their experience using the hashtag, #ClaretJug on social media, and tag @TheOpen and @LochLomondMalts on Twitter and Instagram.

NBC Sports Group is the exclusive U.S. television home of the 147TH Open from Carnoustie, with nearly 50 live hours of tournament coverage, Thursday-Sunday, July 19-22. The Claret Jug is presented each July to the winner of The Open, with the winner also being given the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year” until the following year’s event is staged. The Claret Jug is one of the most storied trophies in all of sports; first presented to the 1873 winner of The Open, Tom Kidd. Each year, the winner’s name is engraved on to the trophy, forever etched into the history of golf’s original championship. It is customary for the Champion Golfer of the Year to drink a favorite alcoholic beverage from the Claret Jug in celebration of the victory.