Hawk's Nest: Feeling better about Phil's chances

By John HawkinsJuly 15, 2013, 11:40 am

Twenty swings. That’s how long the honeymoon lasts after purchasing a new club – doesn’t matter whether it’s a 60-degree wedge or a $299 driver. You take the stick for a test-drive and it behaves wonderfully. You walk into the pro shop and hear all the right things. Optimism rules. Life is about to get a lot better.

And for a couple of rounds, life does, but like a college girlfriend or your first real job, things begin to go south soon after you make the commitment. What worked last weekend doesn’t work anymore. Those 15 extra yards? Twelve are heading dead-right. That backspin out of the bunker disappears like someone who has fallen two car payments behind.

You see, golf clubs are people, too. They are moody and opportunistic. They have friends back in the pro shop who haven’t been bought – all that stuff about birds of a feather is true. Before long, distress leads to disgust, which yields a hapless realization. Maybe you’re just not very good.

You’ll be back, of course. Golf has a way of recycling the pain, a method of turning sheer incompetence into 20 gallons of hope. Some would call that perverse. The rest of us call it an industry.

DID SOMEONE SAY pain? Phil Mickelson has a few war wounds in his medical history. Six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open, a near-impossible accomplishment when you think about, but also four major titles and 41 PGA Tour victories while trading elbows with the most prolific winner the game has ever seen.

Over the duration of his stellar career, however, no tournament has given Mickelson more trouble than the Open Championship, which is why Sunday’s triumph at the Scottish Open came decked out in so much intrigue. Does beating Branden Grace in a playoff instantly vault Lefty onto the short list at Royal Muirfield? Has he finally found an antidote for his links-golf allergy?

Before we delve into the immediate future, let us quickly review Lefty’s hefty past. Only twice has he seriously factored at the British – a T-3 in 2004, a T-2 with Dustin Johnson behind Darren Clarke in 2011. Neither featured one of Mickelson’s late faltering acts, so this is a very different animal than the one he dealt with at Merion last month.

That said, emotional baggage really doesn’t exist in Mickelson’s world. I’ve known the guy for the better part of two decades. My wife worked with him when he was wearing Hugo Boss apparel back in the late 1990s, and for a while, we were all fairly close. The baby gifts we received from Phil and Amy upon the birth of my oldest daughter remain prized family possessions.

I can only laugh when I host my live chats and come across suggestions that Mickelson is “done.” He’s like those “Friday the 13th” movies in that he never stops coming – we’re talking resiliency as an art form. Would I wager on Philly Mick making big noise or even winning at Muirfield? No, but I wouldn’t be shocked. The win at Castle Stuart certainly makes his case a better one, and there are other reasons to believe he can bust out a run for the claret jug.

• No question, Mickelson is a happier guy and more productive player when his family is around, as is the case on this overseas trip. Some might find that notion silly, but for many years, he traveled without his wife and kids to play in the British. I realize he’s a grown man and all, but that doesn’t mean it was a trip he was dying to make. Removed from the comforts of his native culture, I think Mickelson used to get a little bored Over There, and his competitive edge would suffer.

• When you’re born and raised in Southern California, you don’t play much golf on breezy, rainy, 53-degree days. The same could be said of Tiger Woods, whose three British Open titles all came in nice weather – two of the weeks were absolute scorchers. Mother Nature was in good spirits again at Castle Stuart, which certainly helps explain why Philly Mick hung around until Sunday, then snatched a victory when others began stumbling.

Lord only knows what fun stuff they’ll play in this week, but at age 43, Mickelson has gotten to the point where he knows he doesn’t have a ton of major championship starts left in his career. Mentally, he’s more prepared for anything thrown at him. His focus is sharper, his attitude healthier. His appreciation of the links dynamic has become obvious, which wasn’t exactly the case a decade ago.

• He may not be the greatest wind player who ever lived, but more than perhaps any top-tier tour pro, Mickelson is a right-brain type who relies on shot-making instinct and visualization to be successful. His legendary short game hasn’t been such an asset at the British, where the ground causes the ball to do different things, but for years, he’s been flying over early to play in the Scottish Open, looking not only to get acclimated, but for a competitive spark.

This year, he finally got it. I still can’t say I fancy his chances as much as I do some others, but I like them a lot more than I did five years ago. Or last week, for that matter.

THE IDEA OF a 19-year-old winning a PGA Tour event doesn’t blow my mind. I’m actually a bit surprised that Jordan Spieth became the first teenager to do it in 82 years, given the number of weak fields on the schedule and the evolution of kids capable of competing at the highest level in every sport. Sergio Garcia almost won a PGA Championship when he was 19. Fourteen years later, he’s still looking for that first major.

What I find more impressive is the body of work Spieth has compiled in his rookie season: the win at John Deere, a runner-up in Puerto Rico and four other top 10s. Just four missed cuts in 16 starts – that’s not something you see very often from an honest-to-goodness, first-year pro. For all the hotshots that come and go, Spieth is the closest thing to a lock for stardom since Rory McIlroy.

OK, so McIlriches isn’t exactly a grizzled vet. Put it this way: I think Spieth will win more tournaments than Keegan Bradley. He has a premium pedigree – Tiger Woods is the only other player to win multiple U.S. Junior Amateurs. He is an ultra-driven young man, having left the University of Texas after his freshman year, a move many thought questionable.

Then you look at Spieth’s stats. Eighth in the all-around category? That’s crazy for a rookie. Eleventh in total driving, 20th in driving accuracy? Most fellas his age can’t find the fairway with two detectives and a 4-wood. That Spieth ranks 113th on Tour in putting doesn’t bother me in the slightest. He’s playing almost all of these courses for the first time, trying to make birdies on greens he’s never seen.

As highly as I think of Bradley, which isn’t quite as high as many others, I’m interested to see how he’ll perform once the anchored-putter ban goes into effect. The longer I think about it, the more 6-footers I miss myself, the greater the impact I think the ban will impart on the competitive landscape. Meanwhile, nobody will remember this next line:

Jordan Spieth will win a U.S. Open at some point over the next five years. Feel free to tell me what a genius I am after it happens.

True story: I’m covering the 2009 Presidents Cup in San Francisco, my last event at Golf World, and the United States has just crushed the Internationals yet again. It’s about an hour after the final putt, the news conferences have just ended, and I run into Mickelson in the Harding Park parking lot.

“Man, you’re getting fat,” he tells me. “You need to get on a treadmill or something.” Needless to say, I bit my tongue, but only because it doesn’t contain any calories. Mickelson was right – I’d gotten wider than a three-car garage and probably gained a few more pounds just looking at my favorite lefthander.

So I followed his advice. I changed my eating habits, at least for a while, and found a way to exercise without entertaining thoughts of suicide. Hey, if I can lose 22 pounds, Phil Mickelson definitely can win a British Open.

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Ko part of 5-way tie for Mediheal lead

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:20 am

DALY CITY, Calif. - Lydia Ko was back on top at Lake Merced.

Ko shot a 4-under 68 on a chilly Thursday morning at the LPGA Mediheal Championship for a share of the first-round lead. Jessica Korda, Caroline Hedwall, In-Kyung Kim and Su Oh joined Ko atop the leaderboard in the LPGA's return to Lake Merced after a year away.

''This is a golf course where you need to drive the ball well and putt well,'' said Ko, the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic winner at the course in 2014 and 2015.

Ko eagled the par-5 fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. The New Zealander has 14 LPGA wins, the last in July 2016.

''It's nice to come back to a place where you feel super-welcomed,'' Ko said. ''It just brings back a lot of great memories. ... My family and friends are here this week, so I'm hoping that I'm going to continue the solid play.''

She turned 21 on Tuesday.

''I don't think I feel a huge difference, but I know turning 21 is a huge thing in the U.S.,'' Ko said, ''So, I'm legal and I can do some fun things now.''

Korda, playing alongside Kim a group ahead of Ko, also eagled the fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. Korda won in Thailand in February in her return from reconstructive jaw surgery.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

''The score says one thing and my hands say another,'' Korda said. ''It was really cold out there today, so it was good that I stuck to kind of my process. ... Actually, this is still some of the nicer conditions that we've played in compared to the past. I'll take the cold as long as there's no rain.''

Hedwall and Kim each had five birdies and a bogey.

''I just love the city. It's really nice,'' said Hedwall, from Sweden. ''It's sort of a European-style city with all the shopping going on downtown and stuff. I love it here. I even like this weather, suits me really well, too.''

Oh had a bogey-free round. The Australian was the only one of the five players tied for the lead to play in the afternoon.

''It was cold and pretty windy out there and, because it's got a lot of elevation, it kind of swirls in the middle like in the low areas, so it was tough,'' Oh said. ''I hit the ball really solid today. Then the ones I missed, I made really good up-and-downs.''

Lexi Thompson, Sei Young Kim, Charley Hull and Celine Herbin shot 69.

''This course is very challenging, especially when the wind picks up,'' the third-ranked Thompson said. ''It's chilly, so it's a little longer of a course. Some of the par 5s are reachable, so you try to take advantage of that, but pars were good and just take the birdie chances as you can get them.''

Moriya Jutanugarn, the winner Sunday in Los Angeles for her first LPGA title, had a 71 playing with former Stanford student Michelle Wie and ANA Inspiration winner Pernilla Lindberg. Wie had a 74, and Lindberg shot 79. Ariya Jutanugarn matched her sister with a 71, playing in the group with Ko.

Top-ranked Inbee Park matched playing partner Brooke Henderson with a 72. The third member of the afternoon group, second-ranked Shanshan Feng, shot 73.

Juli Inkster shot 72. The 57-year-old Hall of Famer grew up in Santz Cruz, starred at San Jose State and lives in Los Altos. She won the last of her 31 LPGA titles in 2006.

Stacy Lewis had a 74 after announcing that she is pregnant with a due date of Nov. 3. She plans to play through the Marathon Classic in July and return for a full season next year.

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Glover, Reavie share Zurich lead with Chinese pair

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:04 am

AVONDALE, La. - Chez Reavie had quite a few good moments at TPC Louisiana on Thursday. So did teammate Lucas Glover.

In best-ball format, the most important thing was those moments came on different holes.

Reavie and Glover teamed to shoot a 12-under 60 for a share of the Zurich Classic lead with China's Zhang Xinjun and Dou Zecheng.

''Chez started well and I picked it up in the middle of the back nine,'' Glover said. ''He closed it off and then we both played really well on the front. Just kind of ham and egged it, I guess, as they would say.''

Reavie and Glover each had six birdies in the best-ball format, pushing through soggy weather early in the round before conditions cleared at TPC Louisiana. Six teams are two shots back in a tie for third after shooting 62.

''We were just rolling,'' Reavie said. ''I think we're comfortable. We like to laugh and have a good time when we're playing golf, and it definitely helps.''

Zhang and Dou birdied four of their final five holes. Dou made a 31-foot putt on No. 9 to cap the impressive rally and jump into the lead with Reavie and Glover.

Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos

Tony Finau-Daniel Summerhays, Chris Paisley-Tommy Fleetwood, J.J. Henry-Tom Hoge, Michael Kim-Andrew Putnam, Kevin Kisner-Scott Brown and Troy Merritt-Brendon de Jonge shot 62. Jason Day and Ryan Ruffels shot 64.

It's the first time since last year's Tour Championship that the reigning champs of all four majors have been in the same field. None of them were among the leaders after the first round.

Masters champion Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay had a 65, and British Open winner Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer were at 66.

''I didn't feel like there was really any rust,'' Reed said. ''I felt like I hit the ball all right today. I felt I hit some good quality putts. A couple of them went in, a couple of them didn't.''

This is the second year that two-player teams have competed at the Zurich Classic. The unusual tournament features best-ball play in the first and third rounds and alternate shot in the second and final rounds.

U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and Marc Turnesa shot a 67. PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley shot a 70.

There are 80 teams in the tournament and the top 35, along with ties, will make the cut after Friday's second round.

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Lewis says she's expecting first child in November

By Randall MellApril 27, 2018, 2:18 am

Stacy Lewis is pregnant.

The 12-time LPGA winner confirmed after Thursday’s first round of the Mediheal Championship that she and her husband, University of Houston women’s golf coach Gerrod Chadwell, are expecting their first child on Nov. 3.

Lewis learned she was pregnant after returning home to Houston in late February following her withdrawal from the HSBC Women’s World Championship with a strained oblique muscle.

“We're obviously really excited,” Lewis said. “It wasn't nice I was hurt, but it was nice that I was home when I found out with [Gerrod]. We're just really excited to start a family.”

Lewis is the third big-name LPGA player preparing this year to become a mother for the first time. Suzann Pettersen announced last month that she’s pregnant, due in the fall. Gerina Piller is due any day.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

Piller’s husband, PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, withdrew from the Zurich Classic on Thursday to be with her. Piller and Lewis have been U.S. Solheim Cup partners the last two times the event has been played.

“It's going to be fun raising kids together,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, they're best friends and they hang out. But just excited about the next few months and what it's going to bring.”

Lewis, a former Rolex world No. 1 and two-time major championship winner, plans to play through the middle of July, with the Marathon Classic her last event of the year. She will be looking to return for the start of the 2019 season. The LPGA’s maternity leave policy allows her to come back next year with her status intact.

“This year, the golf might not be great, but I've got better things coming in my life than a golf score.” Lewis said. “I plan on coming back and traveling on the road with the baby, and we'll figure it out as we go.”

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Coach scores in NFL Draft and on golf course

By Grill Room TeamApril 27, 2018, 1:47 am

To say that Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had a good day Thursday would be an understatement. Not only did his team snag one of the top defensive players in the NFL Draft - Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith, who the Bears took with the eighth pick of the first round - but earlier in the day Fangio, 59, made a hole-in-one, sinking a 9-iron shot from 125 yards at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis.

Perhaps the ace isn't so surprising, though. In late May 2017, Fangio made another hole-in-one, according to a tweet from the Bears. The only information supplied on that one was the distance - 116 yards.