Phil's Masters confidence comes from past triumphs

By Jason SobelApril 8, 2014, 9:03 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – There are times when Phil Mickelson starts brooding while competing here at Augusta National Golf Club. Perhaps he can’t pull off one of his patented holy-cow-did-you-see-that?! shots. Or maybe he isn’t able to convince a short putt to drop into the cup. And so, like any of us trying desperately to play better golf, he becomes rattled. He loses his composure. He gets frustrated.

Then he turns to his longtime caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, who always offers up the perfect reminder.

“He'll say, ‘Remember, you've already won this thing,’” the three-time Masters champion said Tuesday. “And it's a good point.”

There’s a sense within the game that while anyone – OK, almost anyone – can win a major, it’s much more difficult to win more than one. This is the standard by which we separate the legends from the one-hit wonders. This is the line of demarcation between superstars and fleeting stars.

The numbers help support these claims. In the history of the four major championships, 133 players have won exactly one title, while only 77 have won multiple titles. The gap is even wider at the Masters, which has featured 32 one-time winners and just 15 multiple champs.

So, armed with all of these statistics and all of these facts, it stands to reason that winning a second or third green jacket is way more difficult than winning the first.

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Nice try, but you know what they say: Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

And the story here is that winning – and especially winning a Masters – gets easier the more times you do it.

“Unequivocally, yes; absolutely it does,” Mickelson agreed. “Because you want it as a player, as a kid growing up, so bad to win the Masters and to be part of the history here that sometimes you get in your own way. 

“Sometimes you force things when you shouldn't. Sometimes your mind goes where it shouldn't and start seeing what you don't want to have happen and it's sometimes difficult to control your thoughts.”

He would know.

It took Mickelson 46 career major starts – and 11 at Augusta National – before claiming his first victory back in 2004. Two years later, he did it again. And four years after that, he did it for a third time.

This has little to do with luck and everything to do with attitude.

A famously aggressive player by nature, Mickelson will forever be able to freewheel it around this course without having to worry about repercussions. After all, he might not win another title, but they’ll never take those three away. Basically, he’s playing with house money.

It’s an invaluable ace up his sleeve on a Sunday afternoon in April against fellow competitors who are white-knuckled and nauseous at the prospect of trying to join golf’s most exclusive club.

He’s not the only one who feels this way, either.

“I was always grateful to know that I could do it again,” said Nick Faldo, who won three of his six majors at the Masters. “I would say to myself, ‘I can still do it.’ There are a lot of guys trying to win their first who can’t get out of their own way.”

With more first-timers (24) in this week’s field than past champions (19), being able to rely on memory recall down the stretch could prove to serve as an important commodity.

Those who have won here on multiple occasions understand this phenomenon. It probably bucks the facts and the stats and even common sense in a way, but they know that winning begets more winning. The first one is always the toughest.

Mickelson will enter this week’s tournament armed with that knowledge as he chases Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods to become the third player ever with four Masters titles, tied for second behind Jack Nicklaus. Don’t underestimate how important a role that could play.

“I have won this thing,” he said. “I know how to win it and it's a confidence and momentum‑builder when you can look back on that. It's a huge thing to have already done it.”

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U.S. Amateur playoff: 24 players for 1 spot in match play

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2018, 1:21 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer and Daniel Hillier were tied at the top after two rounds of the U.S. Amateur, but the more compelling action on Tuesday was further down the leaderboard.

Two dozen players were tied for 64th place after two rounds of stroke play at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. With the top 64 advancing to match play, that means all 24 will compete in a sudden-death playoff Wednesday morning for the last spot in the knockout rounds.

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They'll be divided into six foursomes and start the playoff at 7:30 a.m. on the par-3 17th at Pebble Beach, where Tom Watson chipped in during the 1982 U.S. Open and went on to win.

The survivor of the playoff will face the 19-year-old Hillier in match play. The New Zealander shot a 2-under 70 at Spyglass Hill to share medalist honors with the 18-year-old Hammer at 6 under. Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas who played in the 2015 U.S. Open at age 15, shot 68 at Spyglass Hill.

Stewart Hagestad had the low round of the day, a 5-under 66 at Pebble Beach, to move into a tie for 10th after opening with a 76 at Spyglass Hill. The 27-year-old Hagestad won the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur and earned low amateur honors at the 2017 Masters.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

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On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

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"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."