Getty Images

Phil's long ride in the top 50 coming to an end?

By John AntoniniJanuary 31, 2018, 1:30 pm

Phil Mickelson took a two-week trip to Japan in November 1993, ostensibly to play in a few golf tournaments, but ultimately it was the beginning of an incredible 24-year stretch.

Mickelson finished eighth in the Dunlop Phoenix event and followed that with a runner-up finish to Tom Lehman in the Casio World Open. Those top-10s were enough to move him from 60th to 47th on the Official World Golf Ranking.

He hasn’t since fallen outside the top 50, but that streak is hanging tenuously in the balance as he is currently No. 49.

Nothing lasts forever, and as Mickelson’s nearly quarter-century streak of being ranked among the world’s top 50 is in jeopardy of ending, what better time to examine Lefty’s history in the ranking, and his love-hate relationship with the game’s signature hierarchy; an interaction that has both cemented his status as one of the greatest players of all time and teased him – oftentimes tantalizingly so – by keeping him from the top spot.

“[T]hose are things that I try not to think about, because I know that if I play good enough golf, it will take care of itself. “ – Phil Mickelson, November 2008

Mickelson was 23 when he first ascended into the top 50, and it took him three more years to reach the top 10. The day Phil reached that pinnacle – August 25, 1996 – is a memorable one, not especially for Mickelson, who moved to ninth after winning the World Series of Golf, but because it was the day Tiger Woods won his third straight U.S. Amateur. Woods turned professional one day later.

It wouldn’t be the last time Tiger overshadowed Lefty.

Mickelson spent much of the next 15 years in the top 10, and never fell out of the top 20. For much of that time he was looking up at Woods. During that period, Mickelson was No. 2 on in the world on eight different occasions, spanning 270 weeks. For every one of those weeks Woods was No. 1.

Current Official World Golf Ranking

Mickelson has credited Woods ascendancy as one of the reasons his own career has been so successful. “I feel as though had Tiger not come around, I don't feel I would have pushed myself to achieve what I ended up achieving, because he forced everybody to get the best out of themselves,” Mickelson said at the 2017 PGA Championship. “He forced everybody to work a little bit harder.”

Mickelson did indeed work hard, but for most of his more than five years at No. 2, Woods was so far ahead of Phil that the latter had no chance to reach No. 1. Woods’ ranking points were often more than double that of Mickelson. When Phil first reached No. 2 on Feb. 11, 2001, Woods had a whopping 16-point lead. On Jan.5, 2003, the last of 100 straight weeks that Phil was No. 2, Woods’ lead was 7.84 points. (For comparison sake, at the end of 2017, No. 1 Dustin Johnson was 1.2 points ahead of second-ranked Jordan Spieth.)

But by the end of the new millennium’s first decade there was an opening for Mickelson.

“Looking back on my career, I think that it would mean a lot to me to be able to say at one point I was No. 1, even if it was for a week, a month, what have you, whatever the time period was, to say I climbed to the top. The goal of all of us would be to say that would be pretty cool, and what I'm striving to accomplish.” – Phil Mickelson, May 2009

Mickelson is not one to enjoy ranking his career accomplishments, at least not for public consumption. He would, on occasion, take to task reporters who beseeched him to “itemize” his career, talking around their questions. And even though he often protested – perhaps too strenuously – that he didn’t understand the inner workings of the world ranking, he always knew where he stood. And by the summer of 2010 he was ohsoclose to pushing himself to the mountaintop.

Woods was not at his best during that time frame, a combination of personal issues and a neck injury combined to put his No. 1 rank in jeopardy. Seemingly every week from the 2010 Masters through the end of September, second-ranked Mickelson had a chance to move up. And seemingly every week he was asked about it.

Mickelson used a variation of the phrase “it’s not an area I focus on,” so often that summer that he was sometimes accused of not caring about the ranking. But he did care, admitting as much prior to the Open Championship. By not focusing on the ranking, he wasn’t saying he didn’t recognize that the No. 1 spot was within his reach, he was saying the tournament was the thing, that getting ready to play challenging golf courses and succeeding would bring their own rewards. “If I were able to win, it would be great to be able to get that ranking,” he said that week at St. Andrews. “But what I care more about right now is trying to win the Open Championship.”

In the end, however, Mickelson always came up short. Lesser players such as Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald eventually replaced Woods at No. 1 and Mickelson was left to contemplate his lot.

Notable events and numbers the last time Phil Mickelson was outside the OWGR Top 50
  • No. 1 movie: "Mrs. Doubtfire"
  • No. 1 song: "I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) - Meatloaf
  • Heavyweight champion: Evander Holyfield (def. Riddick Bowe, Nov. 7)
  • Snoop Dogg releases debut album "Doggystyle" (Nov. 23)
  • Jordan Spieth: Age, 4 months old
  • Top 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking (in order): Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Nick Price

Mickelson finally moved ahead of Woods in April 2011. Mickelson was third, Woods was seventh. “It would really mean a lot if he was No. 1 at the time when I passed him,” Mickelson joked prior to the Masters. “Yeah, that would be really cool.”

But in celebrating Mickelson’s tenure in the top 50, the fact he never reached No. 1 should not depreciate the accomplishment, just as the fact he has not won a PGA Tour Player of the Year award hasn’t diminished his Hall-of-Fame legacy.

Consider that in addition to Lefty’s 270 weeks at No. 2, Mickelson spent 567 weeks in the top five, 786 weeks in the top 10 and 1,085 weeks – an astonishing 20 years and 10 months – in the top 20. That’s more than 2½ years longer than Woods spent in the top 20. Who says Phil never caught Tiger?

Getty Images

Koepka: Second-place finishes becoming 'annoying'

By Al TaysMay 28, 2018, 12:02 am

Brooks Koepka didn't go down without a fight.

Trailing Justin Rose by four shots going into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational, Koepka shot his second 7-under 63 of the week - and made up precisely one shot. He finished solo second at 17 under par, three shots behind Rose.

He could only marvel at the Englishman's performance in closing with a 6-under 64.

"It was pretty impressive," he said. "Justin played well. Hat's off to him. Any time you can come into a lead with four shots and play the way he did today, that's impressive."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Although Koepka was pleased with his own play - especially his putting - he said it felt "annoying" to come in second. Again.

"I feel like we've had so many second-place finishes," he said. "Always seem to run into a buzz saw, whatever it is."

Since May of 2016, Koepka has five solo second-place finishes and one T-2. But he also has a U.S. Open title, won last year at Erin Hills. He'll attempt to defend that title June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills. "It's nice to finally be playing well and get going into the season," he said. "Kind of peaking right where I need to be."

Getty Images

Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee's task was simple: A birdie on No. 18 would win her the tournament. It was a manageable par 5, the easiest hole on the course in the final round.

After a good drive, her second shot came closer to trouble than much of the gallery probably realized.

''I almost clipped the tree,'' Lee said. ''I overcut it a little bit, but it finished out in a good position.''

Lee's shot came to rest just to the right of the green, and from there it was a simple chip and putt for the birdie that gave her a one-stroke win over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship on Sunday. Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, won for the first time since 2016. It was the Australian's fourth career victory.

Lee three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round about the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18. The 18th hole was 470 yards Sunday. There were 44 birdies there in the final round.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

''The tee was up,'' she said. ''I was pretty confident that I could get there in two if I had a good drive.''

Lee made her winning putt from about 3 feet. She finished at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

''I kind of knew that 16 was the number and I mean, I give my best,'' Kim said. ''I make some good shots and birdies.''

Moriya Jutanugarn (65) finished third at 14 under.

Lee took a two-stroke lead into the final round, and that was her margin over playing partner Stacy Lewis before Lewis (71) bogeyed No. 7 and 8. Kim emerged as the biggest threat to Lee when she birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine. Lewis is playing four months' pregnant with her first child.

Kim and Lee were briefly tied at 15 under, but then Lee made a tap-in birdie on the par-5 14th, while Kim bogeyed 15. Lee saved par on 15 despite a wayward drive into a bunker.

''I wasn't sure where I was score-wise then. That par 5 is reachable in two, so I think a lot of people would have made birdie there,'' Lee said. ''The next tee shot I just pulled into the bunker. ... I think that was really important for me to hole that par putt just to keep the momentum going.''

Lee had gone 38 consecutive holes without a bogey before making one on the par-4 17th. That, combined with Kim's birdie on 18, left the two golfers tied, but Lee still had the 18th to come.

Su Oh (68) and Lindy Duncan (69) finished at 13 under, and Megan Khang (67) was another stroke back. Lewis finished at 11 under along with Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and Danielle Kang (70).

Lewis birdied three of the first six holes, but Lee did as well.

''It's hard to get close when somebody does that,'' Lewis said. ''She played great all day and played solid. When she needed to make a par putt, she did, and didn't make any mistakes.''

Lee lost this event by one stroke last year. Shanshan Feng, the 2017 winner , finished tied for 21st this time.

The LPGA has had a different winner in each of its 13 tournaments this year. The U.S. Women's Open starts Thursday at Shoal Creek.

Getty Images

Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

Getty Images

Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst wishes he had played this well in his 23 years on the European Tour.

''I know a lot more about my swing now and I guess you get that with age and experience,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said after shooting an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

Broadhurst finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round co-leaders Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory and moved to the top of the money list. He won six times on the European Tour, was a 1991 Ryder Cup player for Europe and has three European Senior Tour victories.

''It was really a special week,'' he said. ''It got a little bit tense out there. I knew I was playing well but I didn't seem to making any progress against Tim Petrovic. He was side-by-side on the back nine it seemed.''

He learned his lead was three strokes standing on the 18th tee when his caddie asked a television announcer.

''So we put my driver away and reached for the rescue club,'' he said. ''If I made a 5 there that would be fine.''

Broadhurst started the round two strokes behind Petrovic and McCarron, birdied the first hole and was tied with Petrovic for the lead by the turn. He took his first lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, led by two after 16 and birdied the final two holes, including a dramatic 40-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole.

''I guess it would have been a bit of anti-climax if I would have three-putted the last green, but that would have given Tim a chance of holing his second shot,'' he said. ''I actually spoke to my caddie about that going down the last - we don't want to three-putt and five him the opportunity because stranger things have happened in golf. To see it go in the middle of the hole was just a special feeling.''

Petrovic said missed birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 8 were costly, but it might not have mattered with the way Broadhurst was playing.

''In hindsight it was all for naught,'' he said. ''He was so far ahead of us. Hat's off the guy. It was a great week - we just got beat. When he made the putt on 18 ahead of us I almost started clapping in the fairway and waving a white towel. It was well-deserved. That was great playing. He won the championship for sure.''

Broadhurst shot 72 in the first round, started rolling in putts with a 66 in the second round and was 15 under on the weekend. In addition to the leading 26 birdies, he topped the putts per greens in regulations numbers for the tournament as well with a 1.574 average.

''I wasn't aware I made that many birdies,'' he said. ''That's pretty impressive around this course.''

He said his game has long been unpredictable.

''I'm not blessed with a consistent swing like Bernhard Langer, but when it's on, it works,'' he said. ''If I'm putting well, then anything can happen, really.''