Phil winning in return to Pinehurst would be fit for Hollywood

By Jason SobelJune 10, 2014, 8:59 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – You can easily see a screenwriter walking into the office of a major Hollywood producer and pitching this big idea …

“So there are these two superstar golfers – one is a veteran, a family man, a practical joker who’s almost universally beloved; the other is younger, on the verge of becoming a father for the first time, still trying to win the big one. You with me so far?

“OK, so these two guys are paired together in one of the year’s biggest tournaments. It’s back-and-forth all day. More dramatic with each hole. Finally, at the end, the veteran makes an improbable putt on the last hole to win! But instead of running off to celebrate, he grabs the younger guy by the cheeks and tells him that he’s going to love being a father! I mean, how amazing is that?

“The very next day, his first child is born. Happy ending, right? Wrong. Four months later, tragedy strikes. The veteran player dies in a plane crash. Incredibly sad. The entire golf community mourns, including the guy who lost to him that day.

“Well, fast forward 15 years. That younger player isn’t so young anymore. He’s almost the exact same age as the veteran when he died. He now has three children. He’s also won every big tournament there is – except the one he lost that day. He keeps coming in second place! But now, this time, he’s back at the EXACT SAME COURSE where he lost to the veteran and …”

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By comparison, “Tin Cup” seems more plausible than the potential story of Phil Mickelson returning to Pinehurst No. 2 so many years after losing to Payne Stewart and finally claiming that elusive U.S. Open title.

It’s a script layered with so much drama, so many inconceivable plot twists, that a Hollywood producer might decline on the grounds that it just sounds too unrealistic.

And yet, here we are. The entire script has been written, except for the final act.

“To do it right here where Payne and I had this moment,” Mickelson said Tuesday, “where he we talked about fatherhood, but he also talked about winning future U.S. Opens, although I haven't won one yet, I'm still fighting hard and this would be a great place to break through and do it.”

In major championship golf, we’re often lucky if the champion has one major storyline going for him on Sunday evening. Mickelson owns a confluence of them, the likes we’ve rarely – if ever – witnessed packaged together and wrapped in one neat bow, waiting to be ripped open.


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He would vanquish all those U.S. Open close calls of the past – six of them, to be exact, where he finished behind just one other player.

He would triumph at Pinehurst No. 2, the first of those runner-up results, the one that started this chain of painful memories.

He would fulfill the prophecy of Stewart, who told him that day, right on this course, that he would someday win this tournament.

He would become just the sixth player in the game’s history to record a career grand slam, winning each of the four major championships.

With such a combination of delicious narratives, even Mickelson admits that it has been impossible not to allow his mind to wander and think about what it would be like to win the U.S. Open this week.

“I try not to,” he said, “because I don't want to get ahead of myself. But it's only natural that it's going to. Occasionally I'll catch myself, but I really try not to, because I really just want to focus on what I need to do to get ready for Thursday. If I can do that, hopefully I'll give myself a chance on the weekend. But when I jump ahead, that never really works out good, at least in the past.”

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“… and this time things are different! This time, he goes out there and …”

“Let me guess,” interrupts the Hollywood producer, in between prolonged puffs on a Cohiba. “He wins the tournament, thanks the veteran player in memorium, then skips off into the sunset and lives happily ever after. The end.”

“Well, yeah,” the screenwriter answers. “I mean, isn’t that what everyone wants to see?”

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 12:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch.


Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.


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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.