Mickelson spectacular in success failure

By Randall MellJune 16, 2010, 4:16 am
2010 U.S. Open

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Phil Mickelson is golf’s version of a theme park ride.

Thrills and spills.

That’s what we’ve come to expect when Lefty puts us in tow as he careens around the game’s spectacular stages.

His history is dizzying.

His fans could feel their hearts in their throats with Mickelson’s ball in the air after he threaded that 6-iron off the pine straw and through a narrow gap in the trees at the 13th hole at Augusta National in the final round of his Masters victory in April. The shot barely cleared the tributary to Rae’s Creek in setting up his two-putt birdie. Even Mickelson cracked on the risky nature of the play saying “What was I doing?”

Nobody today hitches more important outcomes to riskier plays.

Nobody is capable of the widely spectacular dimensions Mickelson brings to major championship golf.

Spectacular success and spectacular failure.

The gambling nature of Mickelson can leave him looking brilliant or stupid. He has the bravado to relish the high-wire nature of that proposition.


Phil Mickelson U.S. Open practice round
A win this week would bump Mickelson up to No. 1 in the world. (Getty Images)
That’s based on Mickelson’s own analysis.


“I’m such an idiot.”

Those, of course, were the famous words that tumbled out of his mouth after he lost the U.S. Open at Winged Foot with his bold play at the 72nd hole of the 2006 U.S. Open.

Much is made of Mickelson hitting driver off the hospitality tent with his final tee shot there, but the risky play was his second shot, the refusal to take his medicine and punch out from behind a tree. The bold play in that loss was his attempt at a spectacular recovery in trying to carve his approach around that tree. Instead, he cracked the shot off a branch on his way to a double bogey and a heartbreaking loss.

With the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach this week, Mickelson’s nature as a player promises to be severely tested once more.

“I think when I started out as a young pro, not many people, maybe even myself included, thought this would be a tournament I would play well,” Mickelson said Tuesday. “Yet I’ve been able to. So because of that, I still have a sense of pride in the way I’ve played, but, again, I would like to win my National Open.”

With a record five second-place finishes, nobody’s quite sure if this is a championship Mickelson’s meant to win. Or if he’s meant to endure the agonizing fate of Sam Snead, to live with coming so close but never seizing the prize he craves.

Conventional thinking says you win U.S. Opens playing conservatively.

Conventional and conservative aren’t qualities we associate with Mickelson’s game.

Mickelson was asked Tuesday if he fights his nature more in a U.S. Open than any other major.

“No, I don’t,” Mickelson said. “And the reason is I want to play aggressive into the green. I don't want to play aggressive off the tee, per se. I want to play aggressive at the pin. And when I play No. 6, I want to play more conservative off the tee, so that I can play more aggressive into the green. If I hit that fairway, even if it's with a 5- or 6-iron, I can play more aggressively into the green. I can hit 3-wood up by the green and make birdie with my wedge. If I miss that fairway, trying to hit 3-wood or driver, now I can't even get up on top of the hill. Now I'm playing conservative. So I approach U.S. Opens as how can I be most aggressive into the pin, not necessarily off the tee.”

Curtis Strange, who won back-to-back U.S. Opens, concedes Mickelson probably does fight his aggressive nature in a U.S. Open, but he sees the analytical nature of Mickelson winning out this week.

“He might fight [his nature] a little bit, because he is very aggressive,” Strange said. “But I also think he’s a smart player, and with him pushing 40, he realizes consciously or subconsciously, he’s only going to have so many more chances to win and this could be as good as any chance he’ll have.”

Strange also believes Pebble Beach’s severe U.S. Open setup plays into Mickelson’s hands. Mickelson turns 40 Wednesday.

“I like Phil more based on what I see out here this week,” Strange said. “There are so many layups off the tees, where Phil doesn’t have to hit driver.”

Pebble Beach will play to 7,040 yards, short by U.S. Open standards.

“If you were playing Bethpage Black, where you had to hit driver, his lack of accuracy could hurt him,” Strange said. “Here, he has to lay back and put it in the fairway. I counted seven or eight layups out there.”

But can Mickelson consistently resist the urge to go for it with risk and reward warring in his head?

At the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2001, Mickelson needed birdie at the final hole to get into a playoff. From the middle of the fairway, he decided to hit driver and go for the green in two. Driver off the deck’s a risky play there with the Pacific Ocean left, and that’s exactly where Mickelson’s shot ended up. He could have made birdie laying up.

Will Mickelson remember that shot this week? Or will he remember his threading the needle at the Masters last April?

Can Mickelson win a U.S. Open making himself lay up time and time again?

“I’m like every other fan out there,” Strange said of watching Mickelson thread the needle from the pine straw in his Masters’ victory this year. “I think it was a great shot now.”

Strange, like so many others, marveled at Mickelson bravado in going for it.

“The ability to hit that shot, knowing full well it’s a dangerous shot, takes a lot of guts,” Strange said. “A lot of people can go for it and screw it up, but he pulled it off. Sometimes, you have to man up, you have to be a man. Sometimes, there’s no backing off. That takes a lot of guts.”

Sometimes, guts win championships. But sometimes they lose them.

“Tiger [Woods] and Phil, you want to watch them because they’re so much fun,” Strange said. “They’re going to hit great shots, and they might have a train wreck. They’re going to have some trouble, but they recover better than anyone else. That’s just fun to watch.”

Ultimately, Mickelson knows the most fun is winning.

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Mann, LPGA HOFer, former tour president, dies at 77

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 4:46 pm

Carol Mann, an LPGA Hall of Famer, made a lasting impact on the women’s game beyond her 38 LPGA titles. She was a former tour president in the 1970s who helped develop the LPGA’s corporate structure.

Mann, 77, died in her home in Woodlands, Texas, on Monday.

She leaves a legacy as a player, teacher, TV broadcaster, writer and businesswoman.

“Carol was a significant player in the growth of the LPGA,” LPGA Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. “She was involved when some big changes came to the tour. She was a talented woman beyond her golf.”

Mann, who towered over the game as a physical presence at 6 feet 3 inches tall, was dominant in her prime. She won 10 LPGA titles in 1968 and claimed the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. She won eight titles in ’69. Her first LPGA title was a major championship, the 1964 Women’s Western Open. She also won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1965.

As the LPGA’s president from 1973 to ’76, Mann oversaw the hiring of the tour’s first commissioner, Ray Volpe, a former NFL marketing executive. Mann and Volpe helped take the tour from a struggling business venture at the time to a more profitable one.

“It is always difficult to lose a member of your family,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “Carol Mann was a tremendous competitor, but an even  more amazing person.  She was special in every way, and she certainly left the game and the LPGA better than she found it. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”

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Sponsored: Callaway's 'Insta Tips'

By Grill Room TeamMay 21, 2018, 4:35 pm

Want to improve your game? Want a quick lesson? And by quick, we mean, 5-10 seconds quick.

Joe Compitello, the director of instruction at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J., teamed up with Callaway to provide a series of Insta Tips. These quick and easy lessons will help your game, from tee to green, and keep your attention.

Click here for the full series of videos and check out a few clips below:

Aaron Wise, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods Getty Images, @TGRLiveEvents

Monday Scramble: This is their jam

By Nick MentaMay 21, 2018, 2:00 pm

Aaron Wise asserts himself, Trinity Forest draws mixed reviews, Tiger Woods hangs out in Vegas, and somebody punches somebody else - maybe. All that and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble.

Aaron Wise's learning curve lasted exactly 17 starts. That's how many events he had played as an official PGA Tour member before breaking through for his maiden win Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson. A kid plenty ready for the moment, the 2016 NCAA Division I individual champion entered the final round tied for the lead and ran away from Marc Leishman with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch. Once firmly in control, Wise made eight straight pars on his way into the clubhouse. Heady stuff for a 21-year-old.

You need look back only a couple weeks for evidence that Wise was ready for something like this. Saturday at the Wells Fargo Championship, he could have melted down on the 18th hole. With his ball sitting on a steep bank inside the hazard line, Wise thought about taking a drop next to the green but ultimately chose after minutes of indecision to play it where it was. And he whiffed. He went right under it. He thinned his next shot over the green and looked as though he was going to throw away three days of fabulous play all at once. Instead, he steeled himself and chipped in to save his bogey-5.

Although Wise couldn't run down Jason Day a day later, his tie for second played a vital role in propelling him to victory just two weeks later. Wise said he felt "oddly calm" in the final round and that his experience at Quail Hollow had filled him with the self-belief he needed to close out his first win.

Mark down Wise as yet another young force to be reckoned with, as if there was somehow a shortage of those on Tour.

1. Let's go to the golf course. The Nelson's move to Trinity Forest was met with plenty of skepticism from players, some of whom simply stayed away.

The event's OWGR winner's points and strength of field dropped to 34 and 178, respectively, from 50 and 335 one year ago. The Nelson's strength of field was the lowest for a PGA Tour event in 2018 (excluding the opposite-field Coarles) and looked more in line with what you might expect during the wraparound portion of the schedule.

It's certainly possible top players are taking a wait-and-see approach to the course, but if the Nelson does wind up sandwiched between the Wells Fargo and the PGA, Trinity Forest is not going to be any kind of warmup for a Bethpage Black or a Harding Park or an Oak Hill, not when Quail Hollow is a PGA Championship layout. 

2. And if players are waiting on positive reviews to lure them to a venue that bares little resemblance to any other course on the PGA Tour schedule, they're not going to hear anything positive from Matt Kuchar. Asked on Thursday about the layout, Kuchar answered, "If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” before adding, "I really liked Las Colinas. That place was great. I really, really enjoyed Las Colinas.” After missing the cut, Kuchar admitted his distaste for the layout negatively affected his play, leaving architecture enthusiasts surely enraged.

Objectively, Las Colinas was an immaculately conditioned TPC devoid of character, and Trinity Forest is a rugged, minimalist tract with so much character it could border on caricature under certain conditions. The two designs have nothing in common, and Tour types are generally resistant to change, a sentiment summed up well by Adam Scott: “Majorities just don’t like different, do they? This is just different than what we normally roll out and play." On the plus side, Jordan Spieth, a Trinity member, said that many of the guys who did show up enjoyed the course more and more after each round. Architect Ben Crenshaw is hoping good word will spread. 

There's nothing wrong with Trinity Forest. It was actually nice to see something a little different on Tour. But the Nelson's place on the schedule may prove an obstacle to attracting the game's best regardless of where the event calls home.

3. As for the top talent who did show up, Spieth - say it with me now - was once again let down by his putter. The club that played such a pivotal role in his three major victories has abandoned him this season. Spieth entered the week second on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green and 183rd in strokes gained: putting. When he walked off the final green Sunday at Trinity Forest he was third in the field in SG: off-the-tee, fourth in SG: tee-to-green, fourth in proximity to the hole and 72nd in SG: putting. Those numbers left him 12 shots behind young Mr. Wise.

Remember when Spieth was a 21-year-old dusting the best in the world? Those were the days.

In all seriousness, the putting will get better, and when he finally matches general competence on the greens with his elite ball-striking, he'll finally capture his first trophy of the season. Don't be surprised if it happens this week at Colonial in another hometown event, one he won in 2016.

4.The aforementioned Scott remains - by the slimmest of margins - unqualified for the U.S. Open. Needing to crack the Official World Golf Ranking's top 60, Scott appeared to have done enough when he closed a final-round 65 with a birdie to pull into a four-way tie for sixth. Unfortunately, just moments later, he'd drop into a three-way tie for ninth, missing out by a single shot. 

Scott has played the last 67 majors in a row, dating back to 2001. It's a streak bested by only Sergio Garcia. Having missed this week's cutoff, he'll need to either head to sectional qualifying on June 4 or be inside the top 60 on June 11.

5. I understand golf is different than basketball and football, but the concern over how gambling might negatively impact the game feels a little like pearl-clutching. Yes, some idiot with money on the line could yell in somebody's backswing on the 72nd hole. That absolutely could happen. And yet, somehow we survive every Open Championship and every other tournament played in countries that allow gambling.

Then again, fans outside the U.S. don't yell mashed potatoes or baba booey.

I take it all back. We've made a huge mistake.

6. You might not be familiar with the name Adrian Otaegui, but that could change in a hurry if he keeps up his current form. The 25-year-old Spaniard just backed up a runner-up at the Volvo China Open with a win at the Belgian Knockout.

He's finished in the top 20 in each of his last six European Tour starts and he hasn't finished worse than T-40 in nine events. Both of his wins in the last year have come via match play (or something close enough in the case of the Knockout). With the victory, Otaegui is now up to 77th in the world, making him the fourth-highest Spaniard behind Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia, and Rafa Cabrera Bello. 

7. While we're on the subject of the Belgian Knockout, two notes about the format. First, credit again goes to Keith Pelley and company for being unafraid to try something other than 72 holes of stroke play.

The rechristened Belgian Open, which had been dormant since 2000, featured 36 holes of normal stroke play qualifying before giving way to nine-hole, head-to-head stroke play in the knockout rounds. Considering how divisive the WGC-Match Play's round-robin format has become, early-stage stroke play does seem like an easy enough solution when it comes to both cutting the field and protecting the game's biggest stars from a Day 1 exit.

8. For the second time in as many events, the LPGA shortened an event due to weather.

At least the circuit was able to finish three rounds this time. Two players actually got in 56 holes, with Ariya Jutanugarn defeating Nasa Kataoka in a playoff. The victory is Ariya's first of 2018, but the Jutanugarns' second, following Moriya's breakthrough last month in L.A.

9. The Most Interesting Man in the World, Miguel Angel Jimenez, captured his first senior major at the Regions Tradition, but how about Steve Stricker's start to his PGA Tour Champions career? He's gone T5-1-1-T2-T2. Look out, Langer.

Didn't mean to shortchange Jimenez there. Just figured this image summed up the moment.

10. It never ceases to be amazing, by the way, the fine line between the wilderness and a PGA Tour card. Michael Arnaud had made just one Web.com start this year, and he shot an 81. He made only two of five cuts on the Web all last year. On Tuesday, he was in Oklahoma preparing to play an Adams Tour event when he was informed that he had been moved up to first alternate at the BMW Charity Pro-Am. So he took his chances and raced to South Carolina. He was the very last man into the field. And now he's a Web.com winner, inside the top 25 on the money list. All it takes is one great week to rejuvenate a career. 

Our Ryan Lavner normally writes this column, but he's on NCAA duty the next couple weeks. That said, he is checking in with this story about an alleged fist fight at the Florida Mid-Am! Here's a little taste:

In a one-paragraph post on its website, the Florida State Golf Association declared Marc Dull the winner of the 37th Mid-Amateur Championship on May 13 after his opponent – in a tie match with two holes to go – was unable to return because of an “unfortunate injury” sustained during a lengthy weather delay.

Left unreported was what allegedly happened.

According to a police report (see below) obtained by GolfChannel.com, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office received a call that afternoon from Dull’s opponent, Jeff Golden, who claimed that he’d been assaulted in the parking lot at Coral Creek Club, the tournament host site in Placida. In a statement provided to police, Golden said that he was sucker-punched in the face by Dull’s caddie, Brandon Hibbs.

You know you want more. Click here.

This week's award winners ...

A master class in big timing: Hosting his annual Tiger Jam event at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, Tiger Woods "challenged" World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a showdown, but rather than wait and see who won, Woods got up on the tee, unleashed a drive, and simply walked away, going full mic drop.

This may have been a savvy play by Tiger, considering Mullins won a WLD event last summer with a drive of 374 yards.

Life is just a party and parties weren't meant to last: We compiled a photo gallery of some of Woods' best celebrity interactions at Tiger Jam over the years, but this image tops them all:

Who needs local knowledge? Tip of the cap to Hideki Matsuyama and his caddie for this read. "I think we start this a good 10 feet left, let it funnel right, and then it should take a hard left at the hole."

Kuchar should have just done that.

Belgian Wave: Is this the opposite of a Belgian Dip?

New rule: Backstopping is absolutely fine as long as we stop marking balls altogether.

And finally:

I like to think we have a lot in common, as I randomly pick up this column, quickly put it back down, and then try to (not-so) casually slip away. Cheers, buddy.

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What's in the bag: AT&T Byron Nelson winner Wise

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 1:52 pm

Aaron Wise won the AT&T Byron Nelson for his first PGA Tour victory. Here's a look inside the winner's bag.

Driver: Callaway Rogue (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Pro 75X shaft

Fairway woods: Callaway Rogue (15 degrees), with Fujikura ATMOS Black 8 X shaft

Irons: Callaway X Forged UT (2), with KBS Tour prototype Hybrid shaft; Apex 16 (4), Apex MB (5-PW), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 Tour Issue shafts

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (50, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts

Putter: Odyssey O-Works Red V-Line Fang CH

Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X