Wild Ride on the Phil Roller-Coaster

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 19, 2007, 5:00 pm
Phil Mickelson is a living, breathing roller-coaster. And watching him play is like being a blind-folded passenger, never knowing which way its going to zig or zag, or when its reached its peak and is ready to plummet downward.
Mickelson took us for another wild ride Sunday at Riviera Country Club (Is it even legal to refer to Riviera without famed or historic preceding it?).
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson will likely play in three events before the Masters Tournament. (WireImage)
He had a three-shot lead, blew it, regained a two-stroke advantage, and then gave it all away again. He made birdie with a utility club from off the green and made bogey after stubbing a wedge from ON the green. He hit a tree and still made par, but couldnt hit a 3-foot putt to do the same.
Sidebar: Watching Mickelson stand over anything inside of 3 feet is like listening to a Miss USA contestant answer a random question during the Interview portion of the pageant: You have absolutely no idea what's going to happen. All you can do is grit your teeth, hold your breath, and hope it's not all too bad or embarassing.
Speaking of bad, this wasn't just classic Phil Mickelson on Sunday; it was plain bad golf down the stretch.
Despite everything that had happened over the course of 17 holes in the final round of the Nissan Open, Mickelson still held a one-shot lead. All he had to do was make par and he walks away a winner. But instead of doing so and having us lavish him with praise, he left us scratching our heads wondering what had happened.
Sound familiar?
This was the first time since the 2006 U.S. Open that Mickelson had reached the 72nd hole with no margin for error.
Hell never admit if that Winged Foot debacle was on his mind while standing on the 18th tee box ' and it likely wasnt ' but the end result didnt do anything to help exorcise any demons.
Another blocked tee shot into the left rough. Another poor decision on his second shot. A bad chip. A poor putt. And viola: another Mickelson disappointment.
It was kind of like a Mini Me version of Winged Foot, with everything being a little less severe, but nonetheless leading to failure.
Its easy to dog pile on Mickelson when hes down; kick him a little and poke fun. But, we shouldnt forget the fact that he won just one week ago and came within a swing of making it two-in-a-row.
Without question, he sometimes deserves the negative criticism (this is one of those cases, as he played terribly over the final hole of regulation and the three playoff holes). Other times, however, its a gross overreaction.
Thats just something Mickelson has dealt with his entire career. Before he won the 2004 Masters, he was a guy who couldnt win the Big One. All of those runner-up finishes and top-5s were viewed in an unflattering light. But then he finally gets it done, and, all of a sudden, all of those previous close calls justify a tremendous major championship record.
When he wins, like he did at Pebble Beach, he receives glowing reviews. But when he doesnt, particularly when it comes as a result of his own doings, he gets panned.
Everyone gets applauded in victory and criticized in defeat, but Mickelson gets hailed and railed; our emotions in regards to him and his actions are much more extreme.
Compare him to someone like Jim Furyk, for example. Had Furyk won the AT&T and then had a Phil-like performance at the Nissan, it would have been viewed as a very good two-week run. People would have said that he just ran out of steam down the stretch ' good effort. On the other hand, we consider what Mickelson did a total implosion. In fact, we almost forget that he even won a week ago.
We don't jump on Furyk for the fact that he has 27 top-10 finishes over the last two-plus seasons, but only three victories ' and hes supposed to be the second best player in the world.
But we just love to gang up on Phil.
Why is that? Why are we more critical of Mickelson than of any other player chasing Tiger?
It could have to do with the fact that Mickelson is closer to Tiger in terms of raw talent than anyone else and we hold him to a different standard. It could be because Mickelson is truly Tiger's chief rival, particularly in the majors. Or, it could be because Tiger and Phil don't really get along and, for the most part, you're either a Tiger fan or a Phil fan, but not both.
It's probably all of these things; along with the fact that Mickelson has a knack for beating himself, often doing so in dramatic fashion.
He did it once again Sunday. While Charles Howell III deserves credit for hanging in there and making enough pars to win, this was much more of a Mickelson loss.
This will prove to be a disappointment for Phil, but hardly a major setback. Compared to this last time he blew a one-stroke lead with one hole to play, this is a celebration.
He now has six weeks and three tournaments in which to play before he defends his title at the Masters. And it's absoutely impossible to know what Phil will do before then, or even what, as the commercial said, he will do next.
The Mickelson roller-coaster has more twists and turns than San Francisco's Lombard Street. And the good news is that it never stays down -- or up, for that matter -- very long. So whichever way it's headed now, it won't be long before it's going in a totally opposite direction.
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Nissan Open
  • Getty Images

    Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

    By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

    NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

    Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

    The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

    Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

    The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

    Getty Images

    Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

    By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

    It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

    Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

    The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

    The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

    For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

    Getty Images

    Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

    By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

    After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

    But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

    Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

    Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

    Getty Images

    Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

    Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

    The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

    “There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

    “To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

    Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

    “To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.