Lefty Looking to Take Major Stride

By Mercer BaggsAugust 9, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 PGA ChampionshipSPRINGFIELD, N.J. ' Much of the attention at the 87th PGA Championship is focused on Tiger Woods and his pursuit of another three-win major season.
 
And so it is that just about every one of the other 155 players in the field this week have been asked for their assessments of what Woods has already accomplished ' two wins and a runner-up in three major starts this year, and what might be should he win yet again.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson hopes his game plan will result in winning a second major title.
Lets answer that one a little later, responded Phil Mickelson with a wry smile.
 
Mickelsons concern this week is not with Woods. Hes well aware that he has no control on how well his rival will play. His concern is solely with himself ' and judging by his performance in the majors this season, there is concern to be had.
 
A year ago at this time, Mickelson was preparing at Whistling Straits with thoughts of capping his greatest-ever major campaign. Now hes at Baltusrol Golf Club trying to avoid one of his worst.
 
Mickelson has yet to contend for a major championship this year, having finished 10th at the Masters, tied for 33rd at the U.S. Open and tied for 60th at the Open Championship ' a combined 36 strokes behind the winners.
 
His results gradually depreciated last year as well; though, they went from a win to a runner-up to a third-place showing to a tie for sixth. In the three majors in which he didnt prevail, he was a combined five strokes removed from those who did.
 
Mickelson began this year strongly with three PGA Tour victories before the Masters, providing great hope and greater expectations in relation to the major championships.
 
But not only has he yet to perform up to his elevated standards in the elite events, he hasnt procured a top-5 finish anywhere since the Masters precursor, the BellSouth Classic.
 
I had a great start to the year, and (felt) like I was playing very well. I just didnt play the best during the summer, he said. But I think that things are turning around and Im looking forward to finishing off the year right.
 
Its been a great three weeks since the British Open for me. Ive had some great ideas on how to start playing the way I feel I can and know that I can.
 
While his results in the majors this season may be different from that of 2004, his preparations have yet to change.
 
Just as he has done since last years Masters ' where ended his 0-for-46 streak in the majors, Mickelson arrived on site at Baltusrol in advance of tournament week.
 
Mickelson prepped at length on the Lower Course the Sunday and Monday before last weeks International. He then competed in the Colorado event with thoughts of Jersey in the forefront of his mind, using the Jack Nicklaus-designed Castle Pines course as training grounds for Baltusrol.
 
A Nicklaus course favors a left-to-right shot, and all last week I was hitting right-to-left fades, because thats all Ill hit here. Youll see me hit fade after fade on this course because I want to take the right side out of play on most every hole. So I was trying to hit those exact shots last week that I was going to hit here, he said.
 
I want to put everything that I have into this one championship.
 
Having played the 7,396-yard, par-70 Lower Course on multiple occasions, Mickelson knows what it will take to contend this week: I think length could be a factor (given the soft conditions), but I think the most important thing is just to play well and hit the shots.
 
'Put it in the fairway.'
 
But its what hes done ' or hasnt been able to do ' in the seasons first three majors that has taught him what he needs to do in order to win this week.
 
If I look statistically, my putting has been the one area on these quick, fast greens in the majors, that has not been to the same level as last year, so thats something Ive been working on and hopefully have figured it out, he said. The greens here, I feel like I have a pretty good feel on, and they roll so true and perfectly. I feel very confident on them.
 
'Putting is really a tough thing,' said Dave Pelz, Mickelson's short-game instructor. 'This year his rhythm hasn't been very good. It's a little surprising after how well things went last year.'
 
Mickelson is the eternal optimist. And as much as success in the majors means to him, hes trying not to overemphasize their importance ' something hes tried to do his entire career.
 
The ultimate evaluation of his season ' this one or any other, he says, will not be determined in these four events ' let alone in just one week.
 
I wouldnt put it to that degree, no, he replied when asked if this event would make or break his year, but it could certainly make my perception of the way I feel about my performance (in) the four majors do a 180 this year.
 
But I would not wrap up the whole year into how I played in the four majors, because starting the year I felt that I had achieved a couple of things in my game that I had been wanting to do for a while.
 
I feel like there were some good strides taken in 2005.
 
Just no major strides ' at least not yet.
 
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    Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

    Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

    European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

    Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


    Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


    Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

    Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

    Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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    Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

    By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

    Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

    Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

    ''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

    The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

    ''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

    Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.


    Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


    ''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

    Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

    ''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

    The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

    ''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

    The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

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    After Further Review: American success stories

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

    Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

    After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

    Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

    It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray


    On the resurgence of American women  ...

    American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

    The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

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    In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

    By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

    Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

    Anxiety.

    Frustration.

    Anger.

    Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

    “I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

    Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

    It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

    “I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

    “I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

    Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

    “Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

    Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


    Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


    “I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

    Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

    This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

    Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

    Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

    Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

    Kang did.

    “Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

    Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

    “I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

    “More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”