Our Phil of Stories Here Leads Back to Mickelson

By Kraig KannApril 11, 2002, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Of the 12 first-timers who will tee it up on Thursday at the 66th Masters Tournament, perhaps Jerry Kelly said it best when talking about this special place. 'It's bigger than the game itself', he said. 'Pretty cool.'
 
Pretty cool indeed. And pretty cool that this wonderful slice of golf heaven can withstand changes but still off the same appeal to players and patrons alike.
 
Not that anyone should condone such activity, but the very fact that a handful of folks have already been arrested for scalping tickets and stolen tournament badges is proof enough that this year is big. As in really BIG.
 
Tiger goes for his third green jacket, and by the way, if he does win he gets to choose who will put the new coat on him. Usually that duty is reserved for the defending champion, but considering that person is also Tiger Woods, he can either do it himself, or handpick someone else.
 
Frankly, there are so many stories to tell already. Things like reigning United States Amateur Champion Bubba Dickerson's decision not to spend a full week in the famed 'Crow's Nest', instead choosing to spend a few nights with his fiance. When non-amateur Jerry Kelly, who won this year's Sony Open in Hawaii, was asked about taking his place, he said, 'I don't think the other guys would like it too much. I snore pretty loud. They'd be throwing stuff at me.' Missed opportunity, I'd say!
 
On Wednesday Nick Price and Mark Calcavecchia fired 9-hole rounds of 22 to force a playoff at the Par-3 Contest. Price won it on the second playoff hole, stealing the top crystal in an event that saw a record five aces, including two in a row by Japan's Toshi Izawa. It was great.
 
But that aside, and with hopes that the raining weather doesn't become more than just a passing fad, the real buzz this week has been about two things really. Course changes for one, where the '19th hole' might include a lot of chat about the lengthened 18th hole. And Phil Mickelson for another.
 
He's been third here before but strives to be first. Let me make one thing clear. I'm no person to judge his style of play. I can barely hold on to a lead in a $5 nassau, let alone a two-shot lead in a PGA Tour event. What I can judge is his sincerity. And based on each and every one of the conversations I've had with him over the past eight years, I feel like he's doing everything he can to be accommodating. And that's not always easy when the tough gets going at major championships.
 
Phil has a handle on the game inside the ropes, and perhaps more importantly the game outside the ropes, where he knows that putting his words in print or his face in front of the cameras is not only good for the game, but good for his own career. Publicity is rarely a bad thing in sports.
 
But while Mickelson's 20 wins are truly awesome, unfortunately, he's being likened to athletes like Barry Bonds, Dan Marino or Charles Barkley. Each was or is as gifted as they come. They've given everything to their sport and given us every thrill possible - without winning the ultimate prize. Mickelson says he's not bitter about the recent backlash over his comments about 'doing it my way.' And he says he truly believes he will break through soon. Sundays are the key he says.
 
But as I see it, he has every right to harbor a few grudges. Why must we care so much about how a professional chooses to do his job? Especially when we are not his boss. If he says he can't sleep at night and won't until he gets a major, then it's worth noting. But until then, lets talk about him as the World's No. 2 player, who's doing his darndest to become No. 1.
 
Tour professionals are independent contractors. And with the exception perhaps of sponsors or high-paying manufacturers, they really need not play for anyone but themselves.
 
So I say do Phil Mickelson a favor this week. While he's not out trumpeting for our support, root for him if you like, but don't root against him. Appreciate him as the game's best-ever left-hander. And realize that he cares about the game just as much as he cares if he wins himself a major. If it doesn't work out, then so be it. But don't rip him for trying the best way he knows how.
 
I heard a good line the other day. 'Don't try to be better than someone else. Just be the best you can possibly be,' they said. Pretty good thought. And while most would agree that Mickelson would love to unseat Tiger Woods as the game's No. 1 ranked player, I think what Phil honestly wants more than anything right now is simply to reach the next level of his ultimate potential.
 
And that just happens to be winning a green jacket this week at Augusta National.
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”