Mickelsons shot great but not the best

By John HawkinsApril 14, 2010, 1:54 am
It was the defining moment of the 74th Masters, the biggest shot in a week that began with hearty storylines and never let up. A 6-iron from the straw just right of Augusta National’s 13th fairway, a pair of Georgia pines framing Phil Mickelson’s line to the green, his first lead of the tournament coming just minutes earlier after a birdie at the par-3 12th vaulted him one ahead of K.J. Choi.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson hits his approach shot from the 13th hole Sunday at Augusta. (Getty Images)
Those circumstances, plus Philly Mick’s mixed history in terms of pursuing the aggressive route to a victory, all played a role in amplifying the importance of the 6-iron. A miss short would virtually guarantee no better than a par, and if his ball tumbles into Rae's Creek, the subsequent mess could have been enough to knock Mickelson out of contention. If he plays it ultra-safe, he’s looking at a difficult two-putt, and quite possibly, ground lost to those on his tail. There is very little room right of the pin, a troublesome bail-out left.

The window of opportunity was small, the margin for error both broad and severe. “A great shot is when you pull it off,” Mickelson would say upon claiming the green jacket for a third time in seven years. “A smart shot is when you don’t have the guts to try it.”

As impromptu quotes go, it was a line as brilliant as the shot itself, spoken by a man whose outrageous skill is accompanied by an abnormally high level of self-confidence, which is derived from his ability to assess situations quickly, clearly and objectively. Mickelson’s decision to hammer that 6-iron off a quirky lie from 207 yards – a shot that seemed to hang in the air for most of the afternoon before stopping about 4 feet from the flag – was a huge risk with a massive reward, a stroke of genius some would instantly describe as one of the greatest in golf history.

There’s just one little problem.

He missed the putt.

Mickelson had a 4-footer for eagle and walked away with a birdie, the same score as fellow competitor Lee Westwood, who also played his second from the right trees, laid up, then knocked a wedge to 10 feet. Much like Corey Pavin’s approach on the 72nd hole of the 1995 U.S. Open, Lefty struck one of the most memorable and important shots of the modern era, then forgot to blow out one of the candles before slicing the cake.

You say it doesn’t matter? How can it not? In a game where score is the only barometer of success and failure, the historic value of Mickelson’s second at the par-5 13th is at least partially compromised by his overall result on the hole, which should have been a 3 but was instead a 4. Otherwise, we’re talking about sheer artistry, which requires a panel of judges similar to those in ice skating and “Dancing With the Stars.”

The greatest shots of all-time must directly affect the balance of competition, especially when they occur late in the game. Tiger Woods’ chip-in from behind the 16th green at the 2005 Masters is a perfect example. From a spot where he should have made a 4 and might have made a 3, Tiger made a 2. Was it a lucky birdie, as Woods himself admitted? Absolutely, but the ball still fell in the hole, and good for him that it did, because Woods bogeyed the 17th and 18th before overcoming Chris DiMarco in a playoff.

If Tiger loses, is the chip still remarkable? Sure, but it doesn’t rank as highly on the Greatest Ever list, regardless of where you have it now. Speaking of which, Y.E. Yang’s hybrid over the trees on Hazeltine’s 18th at last summer’s PGA was awfully good – it gave him the cushion he needed to defeat Woods, a historic triumph capped by a swing as clutch and productive as any you’ll find in any decade.

For my money, Larry Mize’s birdie chip to beat Greg Norman in 1987 remains the best shot in Masters history. Jack Nicklaus’ long iron nto the 15th, which led to an eagle and launched the Miracle of ’86, is no more than a half-length behind, followed by Tiger’s chip, Mickelson’s birdie putt on the 18th to beat Ernie Els in 2004 – a first Masters title for a guy who, at the time, was the Much Maligned One – and the 6-iron last Sunday.

Nobody in the Golf Channel newsroom howled louder than me when Mickelson’s stopped just right of the flag. Nobody groaned louder when the eagle putt slid past the hole.
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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.

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Playoff streaks in jeopardy for Garcia, Haas

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:12 pm

Since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007, only 13 players have managed to make the playoffs each and every year. But two of the PGA Tour's stalwarts head into the regular-season finale with work to do in order to remain a part of that select fraternity.

Sergio Garcia has rarely had to sweat the top-125 bubble, but the Spaniard enters this week's Wyndham Championship 131st in the current standings. Left with even more work to do is former FedExCup winner Bill Haas, who starts the week in Greensboro 150th.

Garcia got off to a strong start in the spring, sandwiching a pair of top-10 finishes in WGC events around a fourth-place showing at the Valspar Championship. But quality results largely dried up after Garcia missed the cut at the Masters; he has made only two cuts in 10 Tour starts since April, including early exits in all four majors.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Garcia has some history at Sedgefield Country Club, having won this event in 2012 to break a lengthy U.S. victory drought. He also finished fourth in 2009 but hasn't played the Donald Ross layout since a T-29 finish as the defending champ in 2013.

It's been a difficult year for Haas both on and off the course, as the veteran was involved as a passenger in a car accident on the eve of the Genesis Open that killed the driver. He returned to action three weeks later in Tampa, and he tied for seventh at the RBC Heritage in April. But that remains his lone top-10 finish of the season. Haas has missed 11 cuts including three in a row.

While the bubble will be a fluid target this week at Sedgefield, Garcia likely needs at least a top-20 finish to move into the top 125 while Haas will likely need to finish inside the top 5.

One of the 13 playoff streaks is assured of ending next week, as Luke Donald has missed most of the year with a back injury. Other players to qualify for every Tour postseason include Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore.

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Airlines lose two sets of Olesen's clubs in 10 days

By Grill Room TeamAugust 15, 2018, 7:50 pm

Commercial airlines losing the golf clubs of a professional golfer is not exactly a groundbreaking story. It happens.

But European Tour pro Thorbjorn Olesen is on quite the roll, losing two sets of clubs and five suitcases in the span of 10 days.

Olesen, the reigning Italian Open champ, claimed his primary set of golf clubs were lost last week. Having little faith they'd be found before this week's Nordea Masters, he decided to bring his backup set for the event in Sweden.

A veteran move by the 28-year-old, unless, of course, those clubs were lost too. And wouldn't you know it:

After pestering the airlines with some A+ GIFs, Olesen was reunited with at least one of his sets and was back in action on Wednesday.

He also still plans on giving his golf bag away to some lucky follower, provided it's not lost again in transit. Something he's no longer taking for granted.

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Podcast: Brandel compares Tiger and Hogan's comebacks

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 15, 2018, 6:48 pm

Tiger Woods on Sunday at Bellerive recorded his seventh runner-up finish in a major and his first in nine years.

A favorite guest of the Golf Channel Podcast, Brandel Chamblee joins host Will Gray to compare and contrast Tiger's return to competitive golf with that of Ben Hogan and Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the 1950s.

Chamblee also discusses Brooks Koepka's major dominance, Bellerive as a major venue, Tiger and Phil as Ryder Cup locks, and who else might be in line to receive Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn's remaining captain's picks.

Finally, Brandel shares what it was it was like to qualify for the Senior Open Championship and compete for a major title on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Listen here: