Bunker Shots Phils Waste Land

By Randall MellFebruary 23, 2010, 7:55 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from the wildest stage in golf to LPGA Player of the Year ramifications in Singapore . . .

Waste Management Phoenix Open

Just six weeks to the Masters, and we’re still looking for confirmation Phil Mickelson’s the man to beat at Augusta National this spring.

Coming into the season, Mickelson looked like a good bet to win his third green jacket whether Tiger Woods was teeing it up or not.

Mickelson poses with trophy after WGC-HSBC Champio
Mickelson poses with the trophy after his one-stroke victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions (Getty Images)
Mickelson registered two pretty good knockdowns of Woods in head-to-head duels last year that got our attention. There was that pairing in the final round at Augusta National in the spring that felt like a heavyweight undercard with both players too far back to truly challenge. Still, it was great theater, Mickelson shooting 67 to Woods’ 68.

And late last fall, Mickelson added to the feeling he was more game than ever to challenge Woods in the biggest events. His win at the Tour Championship, his dazzling play at the Presidents Cup and his head-to-head trouncing of Woods in the final round of the HSBC Champions in China gave him terrific momentum heading into the new season.

Though Mickelson has yet to pick up where he left off last season – Mickelson has one top-10 finish in three starts this year – his next two starts are prime venues to begin his upswing to peak at the Masters.

Mickelson, an Arizona State graduate, has won twice at the TPC at Scottsdale and finished second there another time. He’ll be the defending champion at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral in two weeks.

Stance: There will be no preparing Germany’s Martin Kaymer for the wildest stage in golf, a.k.a. the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. He’s the highest-ranked first-timer being introduced to the hole this week at No. 8 in the world. The 16th hole  is a stadium with a 162-yard par 3 in the middle of it. “It’s like hitting a shot in the Rose Bowl,” Tom Lehman once said. For pros, playing there is like playing through a frat party.

Takeaway:  Three of the top eight players in the world rankings will be playing this week: No. 3 Mickelson, No. 5 Ian Poulter and No. 8 Kaymer. Throw in Fred Couples, Geoff Ogilvy, Anthony Kim, Davis Love III and Camilo Villegas and there’s ample star power to cheer.

Bunker shot: Apologies to Mickelson, but J.B. Holmes rules the TPC at Scottsdale. He’s the man to beat this week. Combine his all-or-nothing record on that course with his recent form, and Holmes has to be favored to win his third title at TPC Scottsdale in five years. He’s coming off a tie for second at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and a tie for third at the Northern Trust Open. In the last four years of this event, Holmes has alternated between missing the cut and winning.


HSBC Women’s Champions

If Lorena Ochoa and Jiyai Shin are going to resume the close contest they waged for Rolex Player of the Year honor last season, this is a good event to make their first moves.

Two years ago, Ochoa won the HSBC Women’s Champions on the Tanah Mera Country Club’s Gardens Course in Singapore by a whopping 11 shots. She dusted runner-up Annika Sorenstam, sending a powerful message early in the year.

Last year, Shin won on the same course, beating Katherine Hull by two shots with Ochoa tying for sixth.

Stance: Suzann Pettersen wants to rise to No. 1 in the world before her career ends. She looked capable of making a quick move to the summit when she won five LPGA events in 2007, but she didn’t follow up, going winless in ’08 and claiming one title last year. With her runner-up finish to Ai Miyazato in the season-opener last weekend, Pettersen looks as if she might be ready to begin making that climb to the top in earnest.

Takeaway: Paula Creamer’s withdrawal from last week’s season opener is troublesome. She fought through the mysterious stomach ailment last year, and when she finally began feeling better, she was derailed by a left thumb injury. She aggravated the injury last Thursday, withdrew after the first round in Thailand and flew back to Detroit to see a hand specialist last weekend. She’s off to see a second specialist in Cincinnati later this week. It’s troubling news for the American women’s game, which could use a boost to rebound from last year’s poor showing. The Americans won five LPGA events in ’09, fewest in any season since the LPGA was formed in 1950.

Bunker shot: The LPGA could use a big story this week to jolt its 2010 storylines to a big start. After this weekend’s HSBC Women’s Champions finish, the LPGA will go silent again for three weeks. An American victory in Asia would elevate anticipation of the American start to the tour schedule at the Kia Classic March 25-28 at La Costa in Carlsbad, Calif.

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Watch: Highlights from Tiger's first round at East Lake

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 20, 2018, 8:30 pm

Tiger Woods is back at the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013, and he provided the fans in Atlanta with some highlights on the first day of competition.

Still looking for his first win of the year after coming close on numerous occasions, Woods started the day off by splitting the fairway on the first hole with the driver, not even bothering to watch his ball land.

Despite the picture-perfect opening tee shot, Woods would go on to bogey the first hole, but he rebounded with back-to-back birdies on 5 and 6, making putts from 26 and 15 feet.

Tiger's best shot on the front nine came on the par-4 seventh hole after he found the pine straw behind a tree with his drive. The 14-time major champ punched one under the tree limbs and onto the green, then calmly two-putted for par from about 40 feet en route to a front-side 1-under 34.

Woods added two more birdies on the par-4 12th and 14th holes, rolling in putts of 3 feet and 7 feet after a couple of great looking approach shots.

Woods finished his round with a vintage eagle on the par-5 18th hole, finding the green with a 5-wood from 256 yards out and then sinking the 28-foot putt.

The eagle at the last gave Woods a share of the early first-round lead with Rickie Fowler at 5-under 65.

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 20, 2018, 8:20 pm

Tiger Woods is looking to close his season with a win at the Tour Championship. We're tracking him this week at East Lake Golf Club.


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Garcia (66) peaking for Ryder Cup?

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 20, 2018, 6:17 pm

Sergio Garcia might be finding his form just in time to terrorize the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Garcia made seven birdies during an opening round of 5-under 66 to sit just two shots off the early lead at the European Tour’s Portugal Masters.

It was Garcia’s fifth consecutive round of par or better, a stretch that includes rounds of 66-65-67-70-66. That solid play at the Wyndham Championship wasn’t enough to extend his PGA Tour season – he didn’t qualify for the FedExCup playoffs – but the Spaniard is starting to round into form with the Ryder Cup on deck.


Full-field scores from the Portugal Masters


A few weeks ago he was a controversial selection by European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. After missing the cut in all four majors, Garcia could have been left at home in favor of such players as Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matt Wallace (a three-time winner this season who, once again, is at the top of the leaderboard in Portugal), Matt Fitzpatrick or Thomas Pieters. But Bjorn tabbed Garcia, noting his Ryder Cup experience, his sterling foursomes record and his influence in the team room. If Phil Mickelson is the U.S. player under the most pressure to perform in Paris, all eyes will be on Garcia next week – especially since it could be one of his final opportunities to wear a European uniform, as he’ll be 40 for the 2020 matches.

Garcia’s 66 matched his lowest opening round of the year and puts him in position to secure just his second top-10 since March.

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Watch: 100mph storm destroys tent at St. Andrews

By Grill Room TeamSeptember 20, 2018, 4:25 pm

The Old Course at St. Andrews has endured all sorts of wacky weather over the years, but things ratcheted up a notch this week with the arrival of Storm Ali.

The first named storm of the season struck Wednesday, bringing 100 mph gusts, killing two people and leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power in parts of Ireland, Scotland and England.

According to the Courier no one was injured in the St. Andrews area, but a video posted from the home of golf shows just how powerful the storm was as wind absolutely destroyed one of the hospitality tents set up in advance of the Dunhill Links Championship:

While plenty of clean-up is sure to be needed, officials say the Dunhill Links, which also be conducted at Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, will go on as scheduled October 4-7.