Phil's win in Scotland means momentum for British

By Randall MellJuly 14, 2013, 9:31 pm

Phil Mickelson’s hopes of finally breaking through his long history of Open Championship frustration were emboldened Sunday with his first victory in Europe in 20 years.

In winning the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links, Mickelson takes two essential assets to Muirfield this week in his bid to win his first British Open. He takes confidence and momentum. He’ll need them in reserve to break through in an event that has made him look so ordinary over the years.

Mickelson has won on so many different venues over the years, but, until Sunday, he practically looked allergic to links courses overseas. The heather, gorse and fescue were pieces of a maddening puzzle he could never quite figure out. Same with the humps, hollows, knobs and swales over there. And the seaside winds? Forget it. They routinely blew away whatever pieces he did manage to figure out.

In 19 British Open starts, Mickelson has just two top-10 finishes, by far his worst record in the major championships. Two years ago, he tied for second at Royal St. George’s, his best finish in that major, only to come back and miss the cut last year.

Scottish Open: Articles, videos and photos

Photos: Mickelson through the years

If the only time you ever saw Mickelson play was in a British Open, you wouldn’t believe he was a Hall of Famer. He has too often looked clueless trying to play the ball along the ground over there.

Not anymore, we think.

With his victory Sunday, on a Scottish seaside course, Mickelson’s belief that he is finally piecing together the puzzle of links golf is emboldened if not entirely confirmed.

Mickelson always has an angle. It’s what so many love about him. Whether it’s five wedges, two drivers or no drivers in his bag, he sees the game differently than the rest of us. That’s why the British Open so frustrates him. He can’t see the angles, literally. Or he hasn’t been able to see them, but he believes that’s changing. Instead of only seeing how a course can best be attacked through the air, he is beginning to see the routes along the ground and how that dramatically changes the angles of attack.

Winning at Castle Stuart meant a lot to Mickelson.

“It's important to me, and it's probably the biggest challenge of my career hitting the shots that are required here,” he told reporters afterward. “And so to win here and to play well here, finally win on a links golf course, it really means a lot to me, and it also builds my confidence heading into future Scottish and British Opens.”

Despite the deep disappointment of his sixth second-place finish at the U.S. Open last month, and the aggravation of failing to close out the Scottish Open in regulation this weekend, Mickelson says he’s excited about the state of his game. At 43, he goes to Muirfield armed with the arsenal he believes gives him a strong shot at breaking through to add the claret jug to his Masters green jackets and PGA Championship trophy.

Mickelson loves the way he is driving the ball. He navigated so well through Merion’s narrow corridors last month. He was also good making his way along Castle Stuart’s more generous fairways this weekend. Mickelson also loves the way he’s putting.

“The weaknesses in my game the last four or five years has been, especially, driving the golf ball and putting, and those two areas have become strengths right now,” Mickelson said before teeing it up at the Scottish Open.

Of course, Mickelson was the only player among the top 25 in the world playing the weekend at the Scottish Open. The favorable weather most of the week also wasn’t typically what you expect in a Scottish event played along the sea. And if you watched Sunday, you saw just enough untidiness in Mickelson’s game to make you wonder if he’ll find another detour to the prize. Mickelson, as is his modus operandi, made his victory more wildly entertaining than even he would have liked. There was the double bogey at the opening hole, where he had to gouge his way out of the rough and then missed a 3-foot putt for bogey. There was that chip at the third hole, where the ball never quite reached the green before rolling back to his feet. And there was that bogey at the last, where a simple par at the par-5 closing hole seemed a foregone conclusion until he three-putted from 20 feet to force him to beat Branden Grace in a playoff.

“This is really cool,” said Mickelson, whose only other title in Europe came in a Challenge Tour event in Paris in 1993. “I have been coming here for some time and had some opportunities and I almost let it slip away today. To come out on top was terrific.”

It was terrific in fortifying the confidence and momentum Mickelson will need at Muirfield.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.




Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”

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Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

"Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

"I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

"I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

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Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

"Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

"I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."