Phil being Phil, adds bit of buzz to low-key Ryder Cup

By Jason SobelSeptember 24, 2014, 4:20 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Phil Mickelson will speak about any topic. Really. Just ask him. Want to chat politics? He’ll offer a position on tax reform. The big game? He’ll tell you to take the underdog at home. Outer space and dinosaurs? Both subjects are right up his eclectic alley.

In a world where participants’ words are often used as extinguishers, Mickelson has never been afraid to fan a few flames. On Wednesday, he started a virtual brushfire here in the Scottish Highlands, causing commotion at a Ryder Cup where the previous biggest controversy revolved around three letters shaved into a player’s head.

When asked about competing alongside his United States teammates, Mickelson fired a shot that was almost immediately heard ‘round the world.

“Well, not only are we able to play together, we also don't litigate against each other,” he said. “And that's a real plus, I feel, heading into this week.”

That missive was a not-so-thinly veiled reference to the ongoing legal battle between European opponents Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

Forget that Mickelson made the comment with a smile plastered across his face. Or that he quickly retreated from those words by following with, “I couldn’t resist. Sorry.” During an emotionally charged week that had yet to charge many emotions, Mickelson’s playful jab was enough to generate plenty of buzz.

“Phil's always Phil,” grinned teammate Rickie Fowler. “That's why we love him. We hear a lot of those one-liners in practice rounds in Tuesday games, so it's nothing new to me.”

There’s little doubt Mickelson tried this line on for size in the team room before springing it upon the world. Because if we’ve learned anything from his choice of words over the years, it’s not just that he has an opinion on every topic. It’s that each of these opinions is also tinged with some sort of agenda.

What’s the agenda here? Maybe he wanted to pump some life into festivities that were clearly lacking. Maybe he wanted to take the heat off his teammates who have been continuously – and tiresomely – answering questions about being overmatched this week.

Or maybe this was a public dig at McIlroy, who hasn’t held back from opining about Mickelson lately.

Only two weeks ago, the world’s No. 1-ranked player said, “Phil's 43 or whatever he is and Tiger's nearly 40. So they're getting into the sort of last few holes of their career.” A correct statement, but a needling one nonetheless. And just Wednesday morning, when comparing his own pre-Ryder Cup equipment change with that of Mickelson’s a decade ago, he offered, “Phil Mickelson nearly hit me off the tees in 2004 … so I'm very aware of what he did that week.”

Neither comment was incendiary, but then again, neither was Mickelson’s own jab.

And yet, here at Gleneagles, where the famed tabloids have been frothing at the mouth while awaiting the slightest salacious material, it’s already being treated like another shot heard ‘round the world – the one that started the Revolutionary War.

How will this affect the Ryder Cup?!?

Will it fire up the Europeans?!? Embolden the Americans?!?

What impact will this have?!?!?!?

All of those questions will be laboriously asked, batted around by pundits like a kitten playing with a ball of yarn. They’ll have the same effect, too, going around and around until they get bored and move on to some other plaything.

It has already been pointed out that Mickelson, who was embroiled in an FBI investigation earlier this year, shouldn’t throw stones from his glass house. And that would be a fair point, if he was the type who more often used his words to extinguish rather than inflame.

Instead, he knew exactly what he was doing, taking some team room jocularity public, unleashing the first bit of xenophobic emotion into an event which will produce so much more of it beginning on Friday.

“Phil's been there and he's a leader,” explained U.S. captain Tom Watson. “He's the guy that talks. He talks smack. He talks the way you're supposed to be talking in the locker room. He talks the locker room talk and he gets people talking back to him. That's what you have to do.”

He didn’t, though, have to do … this. He didn’t have to fan those flames. He didn’t have to give the rivalry its first piece of bulletin board material this week.

No, he didn’t have to. But he wanted to.

Remember, there’s always an agenda when it comes to Mickelson’s comments. Even though this one was mentioned in a playful manner, it wasn’t a mistake. It didn’t slip out by accident. He knew what he was doing.

The reaction to this public brand of banter was swift and, in some cases, spiteful. There was a hidden rationale behind it, though, one which only he knows. As for the rest of us, well, at least it gives us a veritable ball of yarn to bat around for a few days until the real shots start being fired.

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.

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Woods fires shot into crowd: 'I kept moving them back'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It added up to another even-par round, but Tiger Woods had an eventful Friday at The Open.

His adventure started on the second hole, when he wiped a drive into the right rough. Standing awkwardly on the side of a mound, he prepared for a quick hook but instead fired one into the crowd that was hovering near the rope line.

“I kept moving them back,” he said. “I moved them back about 40 yards. I was trying to play for the grass to wrap the shaft around there and hit it left, and I was just trying to hold the face open as much as I possibly could. It grabbed the shaft and smothered it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I was very, very fortunate that I got far enough down there where I had a full wedge into the green.”

Woods bogeyed the hole, one of four on the day, and carded four birdies in his round of 71 at Carnoustie. When he walked off the course, he was in a tie for 30th, six shots off the clubhouse lead.

It’s the first time in five years – since the 2013 Open – that Woods has opened a major with consecutive rounds of par or better. He went on to tie for sixth that year at Muirfield.