Mickelson's 60 a great round, but comes up short

By Jason SobelJanuary 31, 2013, 11:06 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Unless you have three Masters titles to your name and $67,681,223 in official career on-course earnings and the adulation of millions of fans and a power game off the tee mixed with a finesse game around the greens and a buttery putting stroke and a great family life and your own charitable foundation, you probably don’t know what it’s like to be Phil Mickelson.

So here’s a clue.

On Thursday, in the first round of his 468th start on the PGA Tour, Mickelson tied the best score of his career. His 11-under 60 was equal to the sixth-best score in history, four strokes better than anyone else in the Waste Management Phoenix Open field and 10 strokes better than any of his four rounds at Torrey Pines a week ago.

Afterward, he was asked about it. Myriad questions about what went right and why he scored so low and how excited he was about the day. Mickelson looked each questioner in the eye, shook his head in that patented “aw, shucks” way of his and this is what he said:

“Man, you just don't get those opportunities very often…

… I’m very disappointed…

… it's crushing…

… it's unfortunate…

… it kind of mortifies me…

… that one was heartbreaking…”

There is something that separates the great players from the good and the elite players from the great. And no, that something isn’t deer antler spray.

Most players would be performing cartwheels down the fairways after a 60. They’d be ecstatic about the accomplishment, proud of the way they started low and went even lower.


Phil Mickelson

Photos: Mickelson through the years


Not that Mickelson wasn’t, but his tone said otherwise. To him, this was an opportunity wasted. There have been five scores of 59 posted in PGA Tour history and the excitable lefty wanted to join that list. No, he wanted to better it. He wanted to become the first player ever to post lower than 59. The first player to make the impossible possible.

This was different than the last time he shot 60 in an official tournament, right here at TPC-Scottsdale. Eight years ago, in the second round of this event, Mickelson birdied the final five holes to post that score. It was like a race car driver stepping on the gas pedal over the last few laps to sneak across the finish line in impressive time.

Sure, there were missed chances and botched putts, but on that day 60 felt like an emphatic success.

On Thursday, it felt like failure.

It’s all in the way it happened, of course. He opened with a birdie on his first hole – the 10th on the course – and then followed with another and another and another. When he made the turn, Mickelson was at 7-under 29 and not just thinking about 59. He was thinking about 58.

“For the whole back nine I'm thinking, let's go,” he later said. “I made that putt on 1, I'm thinking it. I hit a shot on 2 that had action; it went a little long, but made a good par. [Then] I birdied 3 and 4. Done deal. I'm going to get this done.”

He needed two birdies in his last five holes. Then he needed one birdie in his last two holes. Just one little birdie for a man who averages 4.75 each round so far this season – or one every 3.78 holes.

On his second-to-last hole, Mickelson had a mere 17 feet for that birdie. His read was true, but he left it short, recalling an old axiom in the game: Never leave your putt for a potential 59 short.

And so it came down to the final hole. After another drilled drive and green in regulation, 25 feet separated him from history. Mickelson stroked the putt, watched it, walked after it, pointed at it, saw it hit the lip of the cup and somehow stay out of the hole, horseshoeing back toward him mockingly.

He held his head and muttered to himself. Just a few feet away, his longtime caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, fell to his knees. They hadn’t mentioned the score between them – Mackay compared it to “a pitcher in the middle of throwing a no-hitter” – but each man knew what was at stake.

“Well, 60 is awesome,” Mickelson explained. “But there's a big difference between 60 and 59. Not that big between 60 and 61, there really isn't. But there's a big barrier, a Berlin Wall barrier, between 59 and 60.”

In all realms of the game, Mickelson succeeded on Thursday. He played better than everyone else in the field; scored better than almost everyone else to ever play a PGA Tour round. And yet, he couldn’t climb that wall. He couldn’t break the barrier from great to historic, leaving him shaking his head and muttering and using words like “disappointed” and “mortified.”

This is what it’s like to be Phil Mickelson. To be so proficient at your craft, such an elite competitor, that shooting one of the lowest scores in history isn’t good enough, for the simple reason that it’s not the lowest. This is what it’s like to feel failure – even when you find success.

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.

 

-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.


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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.

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DeChambeau gets foursomes, fourball mixed up

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 3:31 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bryson DeChambeau is an accomplished player when it comes to match play, having captured the U.S. Amateur and starred on a Walker Cup team. But don’t ask him to explain the semantic difference between the formats in play at this week’s Ryder Cup.

DeChambeau became crossed up Tuesday at Le Golf National when he was asked about the intricacies of foursomes play – better known to many Americans as alternate shot.

“Fourball, foursomes, I always get those mixed up,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just easier for me to say alternate shot.”


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Thankfully for DeChambeau, he still has some time to make a distinction between the two before the matches begin in earnest. And when they do, it’ll be fourballs for the morning sessions both Friday and Saturday, with foursomes in the afternoon – a change from the 2016 matches when DeChambeau was on the grounds at Hazeltine as a spectator.

While the foursomes format brings with it added pressure in an already tense environment, one of the biggest concerns is how well players can adjust to using the ball of their partner on a given hole. DeChambeau is known to leave nothing to chance in his preparation, and he’s already circled that particular factor as he gets set to make his Ryder Cup debut.

“It’s key because we want to be comfortable. Each player needs to be comfortable with the ball that they are playing,” DeChambeau said. “So for compatibility reasons, it’s one of the most important things out there in regards to alternate shot. It is the most important.”