Explanations or excuses? Phil walking fine line

By Randall MellSeptember 28, 2016, 10:07 pm

CHASKA, Minn. – Phil Mickelson keeps making the autopsy public, and there’s a danger in that.

There was an unpleasantness to exhuming the body of yet another failed American Ryder Cup captaincy the way Mickelson did Wednesday that makes people outside the European team uncomfortable. Mickelson carved up Hal Sutton’s captaincy as an example of why the American Ryder Cup culture is flawed. It’s a 12-year-old corpse.

As Mickelson seeks to justify the American mutiny at Gleneagles two years ago and the American Ryder Cup task force’s work, he threatens to alienate a segment of fandom. He threatens to go too far.

Where does the explanation end and the excuse-making begin?

How much are past captains to blame for the American woes and how much are players to blame?

Dragging Sutton back into this, Mickelson makes that the defining question this week.

Sutton was 0-1 as a captain. American teams are 2-8 with Mickelson on the roster.

Mickelson isn’t a playing captain at Hazeltine, but he might be the first playing spokesman in Ryder Cup history. It’s a big job trying to win and sell how it’s being won.

The Europeans know it, and you wonder how much they’re relishing watching Mickelson juggle the tasks.

“You don’t win Ryder Cups with your mouth,” Sergio Garcia said this week. “You win them out there on the golf course.”

Garcia wasn’t talking about Mickelson specifically, but this whole American Ryder Cup overhaul is the story that can’t be explained enough this week.

Twelve years removed from his controversial decision to pair world No. 1 Tiger Woods and No. 2 Mickelson at Oakland Hills, Sutton is back at the Ryder Cup. Sutton was so bitter about the blame he got for that loss at Oakland Hills, he went into a self-imposed exile for four years. Apparently, he has made his peace with his history, because he mingled with players in the American team room Tuesday night, joining former captains Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Lanny Wadkins and Corey Pavin.


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That’s what made Mickelson’s autopsy of Sutton’s captaincy awkward. He made Sutton an example of why the American system required change, of how captains in that antiquated system could put players in position to fail. Mickelson explained that Sutton set him up to fail telling him two days before the Tiger pairing that he was going to play with Woods and he was going to have to play Woods’ Nike ball.

“It forced me to stop my preparation for the tournament, and stop sharpening my game, and stop learning the golf course in an effort to [take a] crash course and learn a whole different golf ball,” Mickelson said. “Had we had time to prepare, I think we would have made it work.”

American captain Davis Love III was asked in his news conference Wednesday if Mickelson’s calling out Sutton again was appropriate. Love indicated Mickelson is in some ways playing defense.

“Unfortunately, some analysts just keep bringing it up over and over and over again, things that have happened in the past,” Love said. “Sometimes, you have to set the record straight.”

Mickelson’s effort to overhaul the American team construct is all about the nature of leadership. It’s something he’s passionate about, because he wants to win the Ryder Cup. It’s just that in defending the American overhaul he can come off as if he’s making the captains scapegoats for the American mess.

“It all starts with the captain,” Mickelson said. “That’s the guy that has to bring together 12 strong individuals and bring out their best and allow them on a platform to play their best. That's the whole foundation of the team.”

The essence of Mickelson’s message when he challenged Tom Watson’s leadership after the loss at Gleneagles two years ago is that the captain’s most important function is to put players in position to succeed.

“When players are put in positions to fail, most of the time they tend to fail,” Mickelson said.

The Americans have been trying so hard to create a team construct the Europeans make look so easy.

“What a massive pat on the back and confidence booster it is for Europe that Team USA needs to create a task force!” Lee Westwood tweeted when the task force was formed.

Mickelson has acknowledged the Americans are trying to create a model similar to what has worked so well for the Europeans, a model that is more “inclusive,” allowing players to have more “input,” and a model that creates more “continuity” from one American team to the next.

“We saw that Europe was a little bit more organized than us and a little bit more thinking long-term, and we decided to change our game plan,” Love said.

European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke is flattered the Americans are trying to model their team after Europe’s construct.

“I think the highest compliment that anybody can pay, is to try and maybe copy, or take a look at a few of the components that make up our success,” Clarke said. “The task force I look at as a huge compliment to the European Tour.”

Come Sunday, the American effort may be judged on whether another autopsy is needed and whether the players deserve the lion’s share of credit or blame.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

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Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''


Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.