Bunker Shots Remedy for a slow start

By Randall MellJanuary 26, 2010, 8:21 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from Lefty’s debut to another strong event in the Middle East.

Farmers Insurance Open

The PGA Tour’s sluggish start might have a remedy this week.

Dr. Phil’s making a house call.

That’s the role Phil Mickelson served on the U.S. Presidents Cup team last fall. Captain Fred Couples kept throwing players who needed some medicinal aid at him and Mickelson kept providing the remedy required. Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard and Sean O’Hair all got healing help hitching their games to Mickelson’s in the team event. Nobody lost while paired with Mickelson in that week's victory against the Internationals.

Mickelson could give the entire PGA Tour a booster shot this week with a quick start.

Though Mickelson likes to play himself into shape early in the year, he knows fast starts. He’ll be looking to win his season opener for the fifth time in his career when he tees it up in Thursday’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. He’ll be looking to do it for the first time since he won the Bob Hope Classic six years ago.

If Mickelson can pull it off, he’ll have achieved a first in his 19-year professional career. Though he has claimed 40 titles worldwide since turning pro in 1992, he’s never won three tournaments in a row. Mickelson won his last two starts in 2009, the Tour Championship and the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Stance: With Tiger Woods turning Torrey Pines into his traditional first start, the event has come to feel like the start of the PGA Tour season the last few years. Woods made it a big-bang start winning his season debuts there in ’06, ’07 and ’08, but his recovery from knee surgery kept him away in ’09 and the troubles in his personal life are keeping him away again this season. He isn’t the only big name staying away this year. Mickelson is the only top-10 player in the world rankings in the event.

Takeaway: Four events into the new year, with January coming to a close, it still doesn’t feel like the PGA Tour season has begun in earnest. The PGA Tour’s season-opener may never feel like Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, but the Tour could use a big event earlier in its schedule. Why not move the Accenture Match Play Championship to this week, a week before the Super Bowl? The Accenture feels like an All-Star Game with some March Madness bracketing creating office pool fun. The action-packed first two rounds of Match Play and all their upsets rank among the most crazy days of the season. The game could use the energy earlier in the year.

Bunker shot: Mickelson believes his work with Butch Harmon is paying off with his driver becoming more dependable. He believes Dave Stockton’s making his putter more reliable. He made believers of fellow Tour pros beating Woods at the Tour Championship and whipping him head-to-head in the final round of the HSBC Champions in China. There’s evidence he’s poised for his best season yet.

Commercialbank Qatar Masters

Back in the day, pros used to say the golf season didn’t begin until the Florida Swing.

You could argue now that it begins with the European Tour’s Middle Eastern Swing.

The start feels so much more important over there.

The game’s highest ranked players are testing their games against each other in the desert yet again this week.

Stance: Eight of the top 14 players in the world teed it up at the Abu Dhabi Championship last week. By comparison, the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic didn’t feature a single player among the top 14. The Qatar Masters boasts seven of the top 14 players in the world this week, nine of the top 20. Mickelson’s the lone player from the top 14 at the Farmers Insurance Open, with just three of the top 20 competing.

Takeaway: South African Charl Schwartzel will be looking to win his third consecutive European Tour start. After winning back-to-back events in his homeland, he took last week off. With a stiffer test this week, we get a better gauge of what to make of his start. Long-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros is the defending champ.

Bunker shot: With his victory against a strong field at Abu Dhabi last week, Germany’s Martin Kaymer continued to build on his swelling reputation, leaping eight spots to No. 6 in the world rankings. He’s 25 but has won three European Tour events in the last six months, five for his career. He tied for sixth in his last major, the PGA Championship. His record over the last six months might be even more impressive if he hadn’t missed two months after breaking three bones in his right foot in a go-kart accident last August. Kaymer looks like the next European star in the making.

And also . . .

The Nationwide Tour’s 21st season begins with Thursday’s start to the Michael Hill New Zealand Open at the Hills Golf Club in Queenstown.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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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.”